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View Full Version : Patrol Diary of Herbert Altmeier Part 4 (long)



paulhager
10-15-2005, 10:10 PM
10 Apr 1944
Storms delayed our departure from Bergen for several days. Sailed early morning today.

Since I€m a supernumerary, I€m continuing to fill the Chief Gunner billet €" that position will be filled when we get back to base. I am pulling some duty as an assistant Navigator. This latter role puts me in the control room more and brings me in direct contact with the Old Man on a regular basis.

12 Apr 1944
We€ve been hit by an Atlantic Gale €" heavy seas and rain with virtually zero visibility. We spend most of our time submerged at 100 meters. The snorkel is useless in this sea state so we have to surface to recharge our batteries. The only good thing about this weather is that it grounds the enemy€s planes.

13-17 Apr 1944
The gale continues, unabated. I wrote two letters to Yvette and started reworking problems in the calculus book.

I reread some of my earlier diary entries. What I wrote about portents and an Odyssey now seems prophetic. When will we ever get back?

18 Apr 1944
The gale finally let up. It€s still overcast €" seas have moderated somewhat.

I was relieving the Navigator when the SO announced screw sounds at long range €" a merchant. The Old Man called for regular sonar range checks and I began charting the merchant€s course. The Old Man adjusted our course so as to intersect the target€s path at 90 degrees.

Typically, the Old Man turns these kinds of attacks over to the XO. However, I think that he, like the rest of us, was bored and frustrated by the inaction and felt he needed the mental exercise.

The attack ran like a drill. Our target was a large cargo vessel. The solution was obtained and the Old Man fired a spread of two T3€s at 800 meters, depth 3, impact pistol. The expected explosions were heard and the ship sank in 10 minutes. We surfaced and retired from the area.
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19 Apr 1944
Largely routine today. Had to crash dive once to avoid aircraft.
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21 Apr 1944
Light cloud cover, seas remain moderate €" we€ve entered the Bay of Biscay.

Crash dived in the morning to avoid aircraft, which dropped depth charges that fell far astern.
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22 Apr 1944
Spent most of the day submerged. Surfaced for final run and docked at St. Nazaire 1651 hours.

Most of the crew had already left the boat when I went to the Old Man€s cabin €" he was always the last to leave. He was hunched over his writing desk, no doubt completing the final log entry. €œCaptain?€ He looked up. €œYes, Jr. Lieutenant Altmeier €" is there something you need?€ It was a heady feeling to be addressed by my title €" I think the Old Man€s formality was his way of saying that I had come of age, that I was now a €œgray wolf.€

€œSir, I just wanted to say what a great honor it has been to be a member of your crew.€
€œThe honor is mine, Herbert. Good luck on your new assignment.€
€œThank you sir.€ I saluted and left.

I found out that the U-1197 had returned from patrol and that I should report for duty 1200 hours tomorrow. That left me free for the rest of the evening. I took the 2300 autobus to Pontchâteau.

€œSeaman€s€ was half-full of submariners when I arrived €" most of them would be gone soon to catch the last autobus of the evening. Dominique looked up as I came in and then returned to what she was doing with no change of expression. Yvette came out of the kitchen, carrying a tray. She saw me and immediately set the tray down in the middle of an occupied table. She ran over to me, calling my name over and over. We embraced. We kissed.

€œYou were gone so long.€
€œDidn€t you get my letters? I posted them in Bergen.€ She shook her head.

I took her hands and held her away so that I could look at her €" something was different and I said so. €œYou look €¦ healthier,€ it was an idiotic thing to say in retrospect. €œHerbert, dear, can€t you see?€ I stood in puzzled silence. €œI€m pregnant!€ I think I realized it just before she said it. She was definitely beginning to show. We looked at each other and simultaneously said, €œParis€ except that mine was a question and hers a declaration.

My mind was speeding. I needed to secure us a place to live. Arranging for married quarters on base seemed the logical choice. That also meant that we couldn€t waste any more time €" we€d have to marry as soon as possible. €œWe need to find a hotel for the night.€ The planning could wait until tomorrow.

23 Apr 1944
I arrived on base at 1015 and immediately set about securing new living quarters. I submitted the paperwork and then went to meet my new Captain.

Jr. Lieutenant Hans Von Augsburg appears to be a couple of years older than I. He€s 16 or 17 centimeters shorter. His hair is blond and close-cropped, razor cut above the ears, rather in the style of Field Marshall Rommel. He has a Schmiß on his left cheek but it€s small and very regular €" I suspect it is a counterfeit. He has a deep voice for a small man and he speaks rather more loudly than necessary.

When I reported for duty he had me sit down and we engaged in some get-acquainted small talk before moving on to the topic of my assignment. It was more of a monologue than a discussion. Von Augsburg delivered a extended recitation of his life story to date, beginning with his descent from a long and distinguished line of Von Augsburgs, extending through his graduation from Heidelberg where he was the captain of the fencing team (he ostentatiously rubbed the Schmiß), and culminating with the information that his father was €œAlbert Speer€s Director of Industrial Logistics€. Having relieved himself of this epic personal history, he then expatiated on the pedigree of his fiancée. He took her framed photo off his desk and presented it to me for inspection: €œHandsome woman, don€t you think?€ €œYes, Sir €" an elegant lady.€

Von Augsburg finally took me to see the U-1197, fresh from its first patrol. €œFresh€ is the operative word €" it looked utterly pristine. The external look was similar to the U-340 except that for air defense it had 2 quad 20€s and one Mk 42 Twin 37.

We met the other officers. Like Von Augsburg they are all new. Though senior to me in terms of when they were commissioned, with only one patrol under their belts they have less experience.

Von Augsburg wrapped up the tour and introductions by welcoming me aboard and saying that his door was always open if I had any questions or problems. He told me that there was going to be a meeting of the officers tomorrow at 0800 and left.

I met some of the other crewmembers on my own and I was able to get the story of what happened on the first patrol. About one day out from port they were attacked by an aircraft and forced to dive. The boat sustained light damage, which was quickly repaired. Nevertheless, Von Augsburg turned around and sailed back to port.

As an officer I was entitled to carry a sidearm. It seemed only prudent to do so given what I€d heard about the increasing tempo of terrorist attacks. I checked out a Walther P-38 from the base armory. It came with a flap holster and a manual. I€ll study the manual tomorrow. At some point I€ll have to arrange some time to practice with it.

24 Apr 1944
Von Augsburg was 10 minutes late to his own meeting. The main purpose seemed to be to finalize our assignments for the upcoming mission: Hasselbach - Weapons Officer; Kessler €" Watch Officer; Deutschmeister €" Chief Engineer; Braun €" Executive Office; me €" Navigator. Since this information was already in my and, I assumed, everyone else€s orders, the meeting seemed utterly pointless. That should have been the end of things but Von Augsburg had more on his mind. He asked each of us detailed questions about our duties in the manner of a quiz except that he himself had only the most rudimentary grasp on what our duties were. He spent 11 minutes regaling us with the story of the fencing match in which he received his Schmiß €" I know because I timed him on my watch. It was a little after 1000 when he ended the meeting. As we began to leave he said, by the way, we€ll be sailing on 29 April, weather permitting.

This was much sooner that I had expected. I immediately went to find Yvette, whereupon I told her we had to get married €¦ today. First we went to the town magistrate€s office to obtain a license. That took an hour. Then we went to Father Guillaume and asked if he would perform the ceremony. He refused. I was not yet a Catholic.

I told Yvette we could have a civil ceremony and then a proper Catholic service later. She agreed. Back we went to the magistrate. He was evasive and offered a series of excuses. It crossed my mind to pull the P-38 and threaten to blow his brains out if he didn€t marry us. I immediately rejected the idea as crazy but the mere fact I had thought it shows the state of mind I was in.

If I couldn€t get a Frenchman to marry us, what about a German? There were chaplains on base €" I should be able to find one, even if it was short notice. We rode the autobus to the gate. Yvette didn€t have the required papers to secure entry so I had her wait at the guard shack while I sought out a chaplain.

I found a chaplain but he refused to perform a ceremony at the gate: €œWhen her papers are in order, bring her here.€ The more I tried to explain the problem, the more adamant his refusals.

I finally hit on the idea of getting the Old Man to officiate. I wasn€t sure if it would be strictly legal but it should suffice to get Yvette on base as my wife.

I found the Old Man in his office. I quickly explained my predicament and then asked the big question: could he marry us? €œFor such a smart man, you€ve managed to get yourself in quite a mess.€ He smiled indulgently but then grew serious and said, €œOf course, Herbert €" I€ll help you out.€

On the way to the gate, I gave the Old Man the license €" everything appeared in order. Once there, he had us stand, hand-in-hand, while he delivered an extemporaneous sermon on the meaning and purpose of marriage in the eyes of man and God. It was an amazing performance €" one would have thought he did this sort of thing all the time. We finally said our vows and he pronounced us man and wife. The guard was a witness and the Old Man said that, since these two people are obviously married, you will permit them to come on base. We€ll have all of the necessary paperwork completed tomorrow. The guard acquiesced and we entered the gate. Once inside I thanked the Old Man and we shook hands. Yvette kissed him on the cheeks. He left us and we made our way to the married officer quarters.

25 Apr 1944
€œComfortable€ is the word I€ve come up with to describe my first night as a married man. It felt as though we had always been married.

I had been able to stock the larder with food in advance of our moving in so Yvette made us breakfast.

I completed the paperwork to obtain a pass for Yvette. They wanted a photograph attached. Yvette will need to come into the office tomorrow to have her picture taken.

I went to the gun range to practice with the P-38. I obtained 300 rounds of 9mm parabellum ammunition and found a spot on the pistol range. I observed that the other shooters were firing at the 20 meter targets standing sideways, the pistol held at arm€s length and pointed at the target. I mimicked their stance and fired a clip into the target. To my surprise, I was appallingly bad. The difference between an anti-aircraft cannon and a pistol is I don€t have to hold the cannon €" I do have to hold the pistol. That was where the problem arose. I couldn€t keep my hand still €" even my heartbeat caused my hand to move. Two hundred rounds later and I was hardly better than when I started. That was when I realized the only thing that mattered was hitting the target, not the form you used in doing so. I tried supporting my pistol hand with my left and immediately, my score vastly improved. After I experimented with a few variations I settled upon a stance in which I my left arm was slightly crooked with my left hand gripping my right. At the end I was firing 1 cm groups.

26 Apr 1944
After breakfast I went to inspect the boat and bring some of my books and navigation instruments aboard. When I arrived at the pen, torpedo loading was underway. Hasselbach was following the process, periodically marking something down on a clipboard. I asked him how things were going €" fine, was his response. The loadout, I noticed, is the same as on the U-340.

While I was making sure that I had all necessary charts and that they were in correct order, Von Augsburg came aboard. €œEverything ship-shape, Altmeier?€ €œYes, Sir.€ €œGood,€ he said, €œcarry on.€ He made a great show of inspecting the boat €" he peered at the depth gauges, removed a handkerchief from his pocket, and cleaned imaginary smudges from the glass. He did the same thing with several other pieces of equipment. Eventually, he disappeared through the forward hatch. Not wishing to hear another installment in the Von Augsburg saga I put the charts away and made my escape.

I returned home. Yvette wasn€t back from the security office so I made dinner €" canned meat, boiled potatoes, and black bread. I was setting the table when she arrived.

Later, in bed, we tried out various baby names. We€ve settled on Konrad Etienne for a boy €" my father€s name and her father€s and brother€s name. Girls€ names are proving difficult. I like Maria €" Yvette€s middle name €" but for some reason Yvette does not. In fact, Yvette doesn€t seem to like any name I€ve suggested and offers none of her own. We fell asleep with the matter unresolved.

27 Apr 1944
I met with the FLAK crew this morning. They appear competent, nothing more. They don€t undergo anywhere close to the amount of drilling I had my crew do.

The impression I€m forming of the crew is that they are adequate €" barely so. Not enough time is spent training/drilling in my view. In the midst of battle you want your men to be able to act automatically €" to do that requires that they€ve rehearsed every possibility dozens of times.

28 Apr 1944
My last full day before sailing.

Yvette and I spent the day together. The weather was nice so we went to the beach and had a picnic.

I€ve begun reading €œThe Sorrows of Young Werther€ to Yvette, in German. Some might consider it depressing €" I think it is a brilliant psychological study. In any case, Yvette needs to improve her German and reading novels is an entertaining way to do it.

We made love for what could be the last time. It could be argued that any day might be one€s last and to live life accordingly. I disagree €" in probabilistic terms, someone who is young generally stands a better chance of seeing tomorrow than someone who is old. War makes everyone old and we who serve in U-boats are the oldest of all.

Von Augsburg is everything the Old Man is not: vain, ignorant, sloppy, and maybe even cowardly. Von Augsburg may not be Charon but I€m afraid he will end up ferrying the lot of us across the River Styx.

29 Apr 1944
Departure day. Weather is excellent so we will sail. I said goodbye to Yvette. She teared up but didn€t actually cry. She was so brave and so sweet. Walking away I felt a deep ache in my chest as though that part of me was being ripped out and left behind. I suppose it actually was.

Cast off occurred at 20:07 €" we are underway.

baggygreen
10-16-2005, 05:46 AM
stone the flaming crows mate, you're fantastic at this! i love it!

paulhager
10-16-2005, 06:48 PM
Originally posted by baggygreen:
stone the flaming crows mate, you're fantastic at this! i love it!

Thanks, cobber.

Chrystine
10-18-2005, 01:05 AM
*

Superb!

Best,
~ C.

*

doug.d
10-18-2005, 01:52 AM
29 Apr 1944
Departure day. Weather is excellent so we will sail. I said goodbye to Yvette. She teared up but didn€t actually cry. She was so brave and so sweet. Walking away I felt a deep ache in my chest as though that part of me was being ripped out and left behind. I suppose it actually was.
Cast off occurred at 20:07 €" we are underway.
Hey!! You can't stop there m8!! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-mad.gif Don't tell me U-1197 is going to be lost with all hands, or that there's going to be a Das Boot ending, or Yvette gets killed in an air raid on the base! http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_eek.gif When will the next chapter be released? http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/blink.gif
Pro job, exceptional. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

Tigerboat
10-18-2005, 02:42 AM
Great stuff. I look forward to the next chapter!

Stuntcow
10-18-2005, 03:52 PM
Great read, cant wait to see whats going to happen next. Please do more.....