View Full Version : Patrol Diary of Herbert Altmeier - Part 5a

10-16-2005, 06:39 PM
30 Apr 1944
From the standpoint of the mission, our first full day has been uneventful. Therefore, I€m going to devote this entry to a discussion of some things about which I need to unburden myself

The first is this diary €" why do I keep it? My reasons have changed over time. Initially I just wanted to capture the patrol itself. I€ve discovered that the entries say something about the writer as well. I can hardly recognize the person who began this diary 5 months ago as me.

I sometimes feel as though I am nothing more than the diary€s servant: the diary has become a minor deity that demands regular offerings. If I neglect it, the deity lets me know by making me increasingly uncomfortable until I give it an entry.

Life ashore €" Yvette €" quickly began to intrude upon these pages. Even as I write it, the distinction seems silly €" life ashore and life at sea is just €¦ life. Is life just a sequence of events of no particular significance? As I reread the entry in which I described the war as a trial by combat, I was led to reflect on the fact that, because of Hamburg, I joined the Kriegsmarine. I met Yvette as a consequence of that choice. Soon, I€ll be a father. Out of evil comes good. There does seem to be a purpose to things €" a plan or destiny that lies before each of us. But it only becomes clear in retrospect €" at best we see God€s plan through a glass, darkly. His will be done.

Who is my audience? Most obviously, me. I haven€t shared the diary with anyone, including Yvette. She gets the part of me I put in the letters. Perhaps, someday, I€ll share the diary €" or parts of it - with my son.

I want to put down my revelation about Dominique that may better explain her behavior. Dominique cannot control someone as strong-willed as her daughter €" Yvette was going to do what Yvette wanted to do. I first assumed that Dominique was bowing to the inevitable. Later, when she began asking me about what I did and when I would be leaving, I now believe I misread the origin of her curiosity. Dominique expects me to die out here €" not a bad bet. The sooner I leave, the sooner the problem that is me will be eliminated. But, I think it even goes beyond that. Dominique was unable to disguise her joy at the prospect that events are going to punish Yvette for taking up with a €œpig€ like me. It€s anticipatory schadenfreude. Patriotism as a motive, even if it puts your family at risk, is at least comprehensible €" wishing to revel in your daughter€s pain is utterly diabolical.

A final note for the day: today is my 21st birthday. I don€t feel noticeably more mature than I was yesterday. The only birthday I€m interested in is the one coming in late September or early October. I hope I€m there to see it.

1 May 1944
Received a coded message from BdU: our patrol zone is grid square AL19. This area is roughly 1000 kilometers SSW of Reykjavik and 1800 kilometers WNW of Ireland. It sits astride the great circle route east-west convoys follow and should provide us ample hunting opportunities. I€ve charted a course that should consume minimum fuel while skirting enemy air cover as much as possible.

Von Augsburg is no longer his ebullient self. He€s nervous and sullen. On the positive side, the incessant bragging has stopped.

The U-1197 and her crew, excepting me, is farther in harm€s way than they€ve ever been. Moreover, they€ve never fired a torpedo in anger. How well will they perform when it counts? How well will Von Augsburg?

2 May 1944
I was awakened just after 0400. We had been running surfaced slow ahead all night. The radar operator announced a contact, long range bearing 172. Why was Von Augsburg using the radar in good weather? Our most important weapon is stealth €" radar is a beacon that flashes our presence to the enemy. The Old Man used the radar sparingly, if at all.

Von Augsburg was already at the con. He ordered battle stations, altered course to engage. In short order Kessler called out, €œWarship, bearing 10.€ Von Augsburg had attracted a destroyer. €œDive, periscope depth,€ there was tension in his voice. The watch crew came below and headed to bow quarters. They wouldn€t be needed for awhile.

€œUp scope.€ Von Augsburg fixed the scope on the target. €œBring me the recognition manual!€ Hasselbach extracted it from the cabinet and took it over to Von Augsburg, who proceeded to fumble with it. He looked back through the scope for a moment and returned to the book, finally pronouncing, €œBritish River Escort. Prepare to engage the enemy, starboard turn, 10 degrees.€

He lowered the scope and walked over to the chart table to examine the recognition manual further. Finally he said, flood tubes II and III, magnetic pistol, depth 5.0. Von Augsburg was going to make a down-the-throat shot with the T3€s. He returned to the scope. €œRange 2000, set gyro angle zero. Spread 1.5. Prepared to fire.€ This was nonsensical. If the destroyer continued straight ahead the torpedoes would miss. If the destroyer began to zig-zag, it would be the wildest sort of luck that would produce a hit. Why was he not using the Wren in Tube IV?

€œFire.€ When the second torpedo was away, he ordered dive, 90 degree turn to port, and all quiet. We waited in vain for the sound of an explosion. The reports coming from the SO told the story: the destroyer had commenced high speed zig-zags that were going to bring it right over our heads. Von Augsburg was standing next to me at the chart table. I leaned over and whispered to him, €œSir, might I suggest that we present him our stern. I€d also recommend ahead standard.€ To his credit, Von Augsburg took the advice. He repeated my €œsuggestion€ as an order.

The destroyer began pinging us. A new experience for me. The Old Man was a master at eluding or killing enemy escorts. Again, I leaned over and whispered to Von Augsburg that as the destroyer passed overhead, make a knuckle turn. €œWhich way?€ he whispered back. €œOpposite the way you think he€s going to turn. I€d recommend port.€

We were passing 70 meters. €œDepth charges in the water.€ The pattern was starting behind us. Von Augsburg was gripping the edge of the chart table, staring down at nothing. €œSir?€ I whispered. €œKnuckle turn, port,€ he shouted.

The explosions began astern and marched along and past our starboard side.

The SO kept us informed of the destroyer€s movements: it was beginning to turn parallel to us. I€d guessed wrong. We were passing 100 meters. €œSir, level off, come to course 300 true€¦€ Von Augsburg was staring at me blankly. €œKnuckle turn, starboard, 125 degrees.€ He repeated the order €" his voice boomed in the constricted space of the control room. €œMake your depth, 110,€ he added. Deutschmeister was standing just behind the helmsmen and Braun had gone to the forward torpedo room so the fact that I was effectively maneuvering the boat was known only to me and von Augsburg.

The destroyer continued to turn. Right now, he was deaf €" the fast turning screws that gave him the maneuvering advantage also masked our sound. It was time to throw a bone to the hound.

Von Augsburg was rigid €" the tendons stood out on his bloodless hands. €œSir,€ I whispered, €œrelease decoy, continue turn, slow ahead, depth 170.€ Augsburg delivered the order crisply, in his rich baritone. Deutschmeister echoed the command to the helmsmen.

The destroyer continued to turn €" the SO lost him in our own screw noise. Von Augsburg turned and looked at me expectantly. I quickly drew vectors on the chart, representing the destroyer, our boat, and the decoy. He stared dumbly at the drawing.

The SO called out: €œDestroyer at 220, close range, traveling fast.€ He had taken the bone. I took the mechanical pencil with the heaviest lead and drew a thick line on the chart, showing the destroyer€s course. Von Augsburg finally understood. €œHelmsman, maintain course and speed, continue the dive€ unprompted. He relaxed his grip on the table.

The destroyer made another circle and commenced a depth charge run on our decoy. For the next quarter hour he made repeated attacks.

After expending his full inventory of depth charges the destroyer broke off the attack and headed east at high speed. It was just after 0500.

Von Augsburg called the XO forward and retired to his cabin. We secured from all quiet and began reloading tubes II and III.

A little later the radio operator came to tell me that the Captain wished to speak with me.

€œSir, reporting as ordered.€
€œAltmeier, your assistance was €¦ appreciated back there.€
€œThank you, sir €" I€m glad you found my suggestions helpful.€ I affected the most obsequious tone I could manage. He is my commanding officer - BdU has chosen him €" and duty requires that I carry out his orders to the best of my ability. If feeding his ego makes it easy for him to rely on my judgment when his own falters then I€m just doing my duty.

In Von Augsburg€s favor, he did listen to advice. And he has a magnificent command voice. Alas, that appears to be his only asset.

An hour later Von Augsburg returned to the con and ordered periscope depth. He raised both scopes and snorkeled for a half hour. Finally, he ordered surface to bring in a torpedo from external stores. Surface was at 0703.

10-16-2005, 06:46 PM
Dear readers - as you see, the saga continues. I'm off to Alaska on business. Back in a week.

Good luck and good hunting, all.

10-18-2005, 05:11 PM
Cant harldy wait till you're back.... http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

10-19-2005, 12:22 AM
Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/blink.gif http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/51.gif