PDA

View Full Version : Patrol Diary of Herbert Altmeier (Part 2) - long



paulhager
10-12-2005, 07:17 PM
4 - 5 Jan 1944
Großman and I passed the word to the rest of the FLAK crew that everyone had a 24 hour leave good until noon tomorrow. We were going to Pontchâteau €" did they want to join us?

A half-hour later we were riding in an autobus for the 15 minute trip to Pontchâteau. Other than the German workers and the naval personnel, Saint Nazaire proper was deserted and had been since a big enemy air raid last year. For entertainment of any kind, the nearest venue is Pontchâteau. The €œSeaman€s Tavern€ is located there. It€s an odd amalgam of a bistro and a beer hall. €œSeaman€s Tavern€ was not the original name. There is still a sign over the bar that reads €œCochon Rouge€ €" Red Pig. Most of €œSeaman€s€ clientele come from the port so changing the name was a prudent business decision. The owner of the tavern is a woman in her thirties named Dominique. Her married son and teenage daughter work there along with several locals. The teenage daughter is named Yvette.

Yvette of the coin flip. Her hair is raven-black. Sometimes she wears it drawn back in a bun, sometimes she wears it down. Her eyes are large and brown €" they have a feral, gypsy quality to them. Her eyes are her power and she is quite aware of it. Großman fancies himself a man of the world €" maybe he is €" but when she fixes him with her eyes, the ubiquitous cigarette pasted on his lower lip betrays a tremor €" there€s a slight quaver in his voice. He is always the first to drop his gaze. Großman came up with the nickname €œangel thighs€ €" a place he has visited only in his imagination €¦ as have we all.

The photograph of Yvette I took really doesn€t do her justice. Static, she might be described as plain. Her beauty and sensuality is in her movement, full of ripe fecundity.

Her mother, Dominique, is objectively beautiful. Titian-haired, blue-eyed, bee-stung lips, a voluptuous body €" yet, nothing about her is engaging. There is a hardness in her eyes and her smile lines suffer from disuse. As the proprietress of the tavern, she is no more convivial than she absolutely has to be.

Geissler, Zahn, Clausen, and Holtzer accompanied us to €œSeaman€s€ but only long enough to be companionable. In short order they excused themselves - they were off on a grand carouse that would end at the brothel. Großman and I were nursing our second beers when Yvette came, unbidden, over to our table. €œHello gentlemen sailors. Are you doing well?€ Her German was barely passable and heavily accented but quite adorable. Großman answered, €œVery well, beautiful lady.€ He was ladling it on thick. €œHerbert here is doing very well indeed,€ nodding in my direction. €œHe€s a hero. Stared death full in the face. They€re going to give him a medal.€ She looked puzzled for just an instant. Then she placed her hand on my arm and said, €œYou are a very brave man, no? I am glad that you are safe.€ She gave a light squeeze for emphasis. Her hand lingered for a moment, then she turned and walked over to another table.

€œWell comrade, I did my part. You are now on your own.€ Großman hoisted himself from the table and then leaned over to quietly declare, €œI have several women who need my special attention.€ He turned and walked away.

On beer number three, Yvette returned and sat in Großman€s vacated seat. €œHello,€ she said in German. €œHello,€ I said in French. I asked her if she would like to go with me for a walk €" could she get away from work? She tilted her head and fixed me with her eyes. I felt weak €" I broke eye contact. She said diffidently €" in French, €œPerhaps in a half-hour or so I could leave if it is not too busy.€ With that, she got up and walked into the kitchen. I caught a glimpse of Dominque behind the bar, glaring at me with a basilisk stare.

After 45 minutes Yvette emerged from the kitchen and came over to tell me that I should wait for her outside. She would join me soon. She did, 15 minutes later - walking with gently swaying hips over to where I leaned against a lamp post. €œShall we walk now?€ She took my arm and we proceeded along the sidewalk.

We walked and talked for several hours €" I wasn€t keeping track. I related my experiences on the patrol. That quickly gave way to a discussion about the war itself. I found out her father died in June 1940, fighting against us. She didn€t seem to hold this against me personally. Rather amazing, and I told her as much. I hated every Englishman and every American, especially the airmen. Fighting man-to-man was fair and just €" firebombing whole cities and killing innocents was immoral. But, wasn€t each man just doing his duty to his country, she asked. Perhaps the immorality was placing duty above one€s obligation to humanity. €œRemind me again how old you are?€ Seventeen, she answered.

We talked about Paris. She had only been once, as a little girl before the war. I told her that Paris was truly an international city, a center of art and culture, and that I would love to take her there and show it to her. She didn€t discern the irony in my offer €" a French girl learning about Paris from a German - she simply said that she would like that very much.

We must have circled the immediate vicinity of the tavern and her home just above it a score or more times before she said that she best go home €" her mother was probably beginning to worry. As we turned the corner for our final time, she lightly reached up and brought my face down to hers and kissed me. I was surprised and intoxicated. Then she abruptly said in her broken German, €œI must go now. Please, you will come see me again?€ As she spoke she looked up and fixed me with those brown eyes. My thoughts became confused: yes, yes I€ll come and see you if I have to crawl. Before I could give voice to these thoughts and utterly embarrass myself, she turned and dashed up the stairs to the second floor landing, opened the door, and disappeared inside.

I walked aimlessly until dawn. When the shops opened I found a pâtisserie and had breakfast consisting of coffee and a pastry. I made my way to the bus station and thence back to base.

After getting a few hours of sack time I showered, shaved, and walked over the mess hall for a late lunch. The whole crew was sitting at a table conversing and laughing. Holtzer was the first to see me €" he motioned me to come over. Großman looked me up and down, paused for effect, and said, €œWell?€

€œThe eternal feminine leads us upward,€ I quoted.

€œI€ll take that for a €˜yes€, college boy.€ The rest of the guys laughed uproariously.

7 Jan 1944
The XO told me the Old Man wanted to see me, post haste. I jogged over to his office. The door was open and I knocked twice on the sill. He looked up. €œCome in, Altmeier.€ I took two steps, brought my heels together and saluted smartly, €œReporting as ordered, Captain.€ He responded with a salute that was half wave, €œYes, yes €" please be seated.€

Now shaved and groomed the Schmiß on his left cheek was quite prominent. At least it looked like a Schmiß. Someone told me that it was a scar he got when he was slammed against a bulkhead during a depth charge attack. A mark of bravery nonetheless.

€œYou went to Eberhard-Karls Univerity, Tübingen, correct?€ Yes, sir, I answered. He wanted to know what I majored in and why I quit before graduating in order to join the Kriegsmarine. I said I felt it was my duty to serve the Fatherland in its time of need. €œAnd your major?€ Prompted, I said physics and mathematics. The Old Man pursed his lips. Then he asked me if it had occurred to me that my duty to the Fatherland might have entailed finishing my degree and becoming an engineer or scientist. €œI considered that,€ I answered, €œbut I felt a need to engage the enemy directly.€

€œYou afraid to die, Altmeier?€ Without hesitation I answered, €œYes. But my desire to kill our enemies is much greater than my fear of dieing in the attempt.€ The Old Man appeared taken aback by my fervor and candor. €œYou€re a remarkable young man, Altmeier. You are wasted as a gunner. Have you thought about becoming an officer €" perhaps commanding your own U-Boat?€ Until this moment, the thought had never
occurred to me. But I answered, €œYes I would, Captain. Very much.€

The Old Man said that he would put in a request that I be considered for officer training. The Fatherland was always in need of good officers and he was sure that I would be accepted.

He dismissed me. As I was walking out, I decided there was no better time than now to bring my ideas for improving the boat€s air defenses to the Old Man. I wheeled around: €œCaptain, have you considered the possibility of replacing the quad 20€s with the new twin 37€s?€ No, he hadn€t. I explained that the kinetic energy of the 37 was much greater than the 20 mm and it had more than twice the range as well. He countered that the 20€s threw up a lot more metal, and the boat could carry many more rounds of 20 mm ammunition. I acknowledged his argument but countered that a gunner could easily get a one shot kill with the 37. I reminded him how we peppered the B-24 and were lucky to kill it without being killed ourselves. I concluded by saying that if you had excellent gunners, the 37 would more than compensate for its lower rate of fire and ammunition storage penalty. €œGunners like you?€ Yes, I answered. One shot kills €" two at the most. €œHow would you accomplish that?€ €œI would aim for the cockpit €" for the pilots, Captain. Kill the pilots €" the plane can€t fly itself.€ I saluted, turned on my heel, and left.

14 - 17 Jan 1944
Four days leave €" Paris! I took Yvette to the see the usual sights: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre. We went to the opera - Wagner, of course. Die Meistersinger. I had secured a hotel room. It was an unspoken understanding that we would share it.

This part I must write about. The first night, in bed when I prepared to put on the prophylactic, she said, no. I don€t want you to. It was at that moment I knew I was in love. I€m not under any illusions - the odds that I€ll be alive a month from now are low. The odds that I will survive this never-ending war are close to nil. This woman, for she is a woman and not a girl, was saying that she is willing to carry some piece of me into the future. That Goethe quote I gave the crew was more true than they could have possibly realized.

30 Jan 1944
If the weather is good, we leave tomorrow.

31 Jan 1944
Departed St. Nazaire, early morning. I hit the bunk to get a little sleep before my watch.

Watch was routine. The Old Man was running at flank speed the entire time. I think he wants to clear the Bay of Biscay as quickly as possible.

Wrote a letter to Yvette.

1 Feb 1944
The Old Man is, if anything, even more austere than usual. His mood seemed to coincide with a coded message that came in this morning.

I wrote another letter to Yvette. Told her all about the practical joke Großman played on Zahn.

Writing all the time to Yvette makes me feel less like putting my thoughts down in this diary.

3 Feb 1944
Today started out as yet another boring day. Same routine.

The Old Man still has a sour look about him. The XO avoids him €" seems to be afraid that something may set him off. I€ve never seen the Old Man lose his composure €" maybe the others know something I don€t.

A few hours after sunrise, Holtzer spotted a fishing boat. This seemed to be of little import but the Watch Officer began issuing orders and the U-Boat leaped ahead. I turned to Holzer and pantomimed, €œwhat€s this all about.€ Holzer shrugged €" I wasn€t going to get an answer from him. The Watch Officer ordered a turn toward the fishing boat.

€œAltmeier, Holtzer €" man your FLAK mount.€

We moved to the number two quad €" the Old Man had not followed my suggestion.

€œTarget the fishing boat. Prepare to open fire on my command.€ I swiveled the gun and put the boat in my sight. €œOpen fire!€ I began firing short bursts into the boat€s hull. I switched to the waterline. Three more bursts and the boat started to list. A man jumped out of a hold and began to run to the stern. I hit him with a burst. His head disintegrated into a red mist. I switched back to the hull. Two more bursts. €œCease fire.€ The Watch Officer scanned the boat with his binoculars as it heeled over and sank.
http://tinypic.com/eiv408.jpg

€œSecure.€ As Holtzer and I secured the gun he said to me that the fishing boat probably radioed our position and we could expect €œspecial attention€ from the enemy soon. The whole FLAK crew was using Großman€s catchphrases now.

Holtzer€s prediction was validated an hour later. The radar detector began to sound and the Watch Officer ordered a crash dive. We leveled off and the SO began to provide a running commentary on the approaching warship. The Old Man ordered all quiet and turned the boat to bring the stern tube to bear. He was planning to engage. I stood in the corridor just outside the control room to observe.

The Old Man brought the boat to periscope depth, raised the scope and did a quick 360. He stopped, called out a bearing, and then downed the scope. This whole operation took less than half a minute. A short time passed and he raised the scope again. This time, he dwelled on the image of the target a bit longer. He called out a range, an angle, and a bearing and said, €œMark.€ The Weapons Officer started a stopwatch. A minute or so passed and back up went the scope. Another range, angle, and bearing and then, €œMark.€ Simple trigonometry. I did the math in my head and whispered to myself, €œ21 knots.€ The Weapons Officer called out €œ20 knots, Captain.€ He had made a mistake entering the values into the TDC. Should I say something?

€œFlood tube V.€ The Old Man was preparing to fire. He raised the scope again. €œFinal check.€ He again called out the range, angle, and bearing. The target was around 1,000 meters away and crossing our stern. The Old Man fired the Wren.

He lowered the scope and stood with his arms akimbo, waiting. Presently, he asked the Weapons Officer, €œTime?€ €œTwenty seconds, Captain.€ Up with the scope again. The Old Man watched intently.

An explosion.
http://tinypic.com/eiv481.jpg

The Wren had claimed another victim. The Old Man saw me standing in the corridor and motioned me over, saying, €œAltmeier, do you want to have a look?€ €œYes, thank you, Captain.€ The ship €" a River Escort €" was settling by the stern. It was a beautiful sight.

The Old Man ordered the snorkel raised and we retired from the area.

The Old Man told me to take over the observation scope while the watch officer took the attack scope. We made slow 360s. It was much more tedious than bridge watch.

I saw a speck and stopped my sweep. I went to higher magnification. It was an enemy plane, headed directly toward our position. €œALARM!€ I called out, aircraft spotted. We crash dived again.

We cruised for an hour or so submerged. I reclined in my bunk €" I started another letter to Yvette.

We returned to snorkeling. Two other men handled the watch so I was able to complete my letter.

Sometime in the early afternoon, a message came in. The Old Man told us there was a fast convoy in range and we were going to engage it. He ordered battle surface, flank speed. I went topside.

The diesels were straining €" the Old Man was pushing the boat to its limits to get into firing position. Our prow knifing through the light swell conveyed a real sense speed €" it was probably only 19 or 20 knots but it felt like more.

Someone sang out, €œAircraft spotted, bearing 300.€ I turned to look. Sunderlands. Two of them. €œFLAK crew to bridge.€ The Old Man was going to engage. If we had to dive, we might miss our speeding quarry.

The Watch Officer ordered a starboard turn to bring all our guns to bear but the enemy pilots were going to have none of it. They made a run toward our bow and then, inexplicably, turned away. The bow gun opened fire and there were two explosions from the trailing Sunderland, which went into a slow roll and crashed.
http://tinypic.com/eiv4bd.jpg

The second Sunderland continued what must have been the intended maneuver. It banked right and then approached our starboard side. Foolish, because all of our guns had a clear line of fire. The Sunderland exploded and crashed off our bow.
http://tinypic.com/eiv4hy.jpg

Our respite was brief. More Sunderlands appeared. Too many to deal with. The Watch Officer ordered crash dive. As soon as we submerged, the Old Man ordered a turn to port and continued the dive. The depth charges were not close.
http://tinypic.com/eiv4p4.jpg

We ran submerged at standard for a half hour and then surfaced. The Old Man again ordered flank speed. I returned to the bridge.

It wasn€t too long until sunset. I know that the Old Man prefers to attack at night - we€d probably be engaging the enemy in a few hours.

The order came to dive. We cleared the bridge. I was assigned to the observation scope. The snorkel was deployed. I knew from past experience that the Old Man was commencing his final run to set up the attack.

A half hour passed. There they were again €" more planes approaching. I announced aircraft spotted and we crash dived.
http://tinypic.com/eiv4vd.jpg

This time, the Old Man kept the boat at 50 meters, running ahead full. The SO began to call out target bearings. The attack was on.

The Old Man brought the boat to periscope depth. The Watch Officer relieved me and took over the observation scope. His job was to watch for aircraft while the Captain set up the attack.

The Old Man was all business: crisply calling out distances and bearings in a loud whisper. Scopes were lowered and raised several times. He was tracking 4 targets, two of them were tankers; two of them were escorts. He was planning on firing a FaT at one of the tankers, a spread of two T3€s at the other, and one Wren each at two escorts. Ambitious.

Finally, the Old Man ordered all 5 tubes flooded. He had a good solution on the convoy and was going to rely on the Wrens to make up for any deficiencies in his solutions on the escorts.

He fired the FaT first, then the spread of two. He swiveled the attack scope, made a final check and then fired the bow Wren. He swiveled again and, after taking a quick range and bearing, fired the stern Wren. Then it was down both scopes and dive.

It was amazing to watch the Old Man in action. Total concentration - no hesitation, no indecision. He seems more machine than man €" almost a part of the boat like the diving planes or the engines.

The Old Man€s tactics never seem to vary. After he fires, he dives the boat ahead slow, running silent. As we dive, we execute a turn to put us on the escape path he has mapped out for us. It is rather like a game of Kriegspiel. He knows the initial position of all the pieces but once the game is underway he must carry everything around in his head, adjusting the pieces minute-by-minute with such minimal hints as can be provided by the SO. Unlike Kriegspiel, he must work in the third dimension. I began to see the layout of the targets and our position based only upon what I€d heard from the Captain. In my mind were colored vectors representing the ships and our boat. The Old Man was right €" I should command a U-Boat. I was born for it. My reverie was interrupted by an explosion. One of the torpedoes had found a target. €œAhead one third.€
http://tinypic.com/eiv52h.jpg

There should have been more hits by now. Our first target began to emit the now familiar sinking sounds but, other than the hum of our electrics, there was nothing else to be heard. It was obviously a complicated attack, against fast targets. Still, I felt let down somehow. The Old Man was mortal after all.

A dull boom €" another hit! What was it? The FaT? One of the Wren? €œRelease decoy.€ We were passing 50 meters and the Old Man was throwing a false scent in front of the hounds.

We were now at 150 meters, running all quiet. It was around local sundown so red lights were switched on in the boat. The SO had been delivering a stream of reports about escorts €" I only just became aware of the fact that they were aimlessly milling about at long range. The Old Man had slipped the hunters yet again.
http://tinypic.com/eiv585.jpg

The SO announced intermittent freighter sounds, detached from the convoy. A cripple.
http://tinypic.com/eiv5tf.jpg

The SO said that the escort sounds were growing faint. They had left the freighter €" probably the other tanker €" to fend for itself. The Old Man ordered periscope depth, secure from all quiet.

Upon reaching periscope depth, the Old Man raised the attack scope, the XO the observation scope. The Old Man ordered the snorkel deployed. The protracted high speed running while submerged had severely depleted our batteries. €œWe€ll run on the snorkel until it gets dark, then surface to overhaul the cripple,€ he announced.

The Old Man turned the attack scope over to the XO and retired to his room.

I decided to go to crew quarters. Großman was there, surrounded by the rest of the FLAK crew. He was reading something to them. It was one of my letters to Yvette. I walked over: €œRobert, stand up, please.€ Very controlled. No trace of emotion. He said something €" still joking around. €œGunners-mate Großman, stand at attention.€ Command voice. He stood at attention. €œYou will come with me.€ I walked to the bulkhead between the crew quarters and the torpedo room, Großman trailing behind. I wheeled and got right in his face. Very quietly and evenly said, €œI€m disappointed in you Robert. You are an experienced sailor. You are supposed to set the proper example. There is a time and a place for levity €" this is neither. I think I have permitted too much familiarity between us €" you forget I am your superior officer. Never forget it again.€ Großman was completely cowed. €œMy letter.€ I held out my hand €" he placed the letter in it. €œReturn to your duties.€ Großman turned.

€œALARM, CRASH DIVE!€ It was the XO. I swung through the torpedo room hatch, followed by Großman. The rest of the men in the crew quarters rushed forward. Fortunately, the torpedo loading had been completed €" it wasn€t as cramped as it might have been. The first explosions weren€t close.
http://tinypic.com/eiv76r.jpg

The SO yelled out, €œDepth charges in the water.€ I thought I could actually hear the splashes. Explosions all around. I felt them through my entire body. The boat itself vibrated as though struck by a giant hammer. So, this was what it was like to be depth charged. More explosions €" not so close this time €" but startling because there was no warning.

€œDamage control party to the electric motor compartment.€ It was the XO. The boat had sustained damage. We continued to dive.

I realized that I was still clutching the letter in my hand. If I survived this mission, I would give it to Yvette and tell her the story of how it came to be crumpled.

We secured from the dive and everyone returned to their stations. The damage, whatever it was, had been repaired.

After a half hour, we returned to periscope depth and resumed snorkeling.

Some time later, the XO ordered Tube I flooded. The elusive tanker had been found - now dead in the water and down by the bow. A few more minutes of maneuvering and the XO fired. It was a clean kill.
http://tinypic.com/eiv7a0.jpg

By now, darkness had fallen and the XO surfaced, leaving the area at flank speed.

4 Feb 1944
Spent the day snorkeling. I pulled watch duty on the observation scope.

Late in the day, we received a merchant sighting report. It must have become separated from its convoy. To catch it, we€d have to make a high speed run on the surface. In short order, the radar warning sounded and we dived. More aircraft. Unbelievable. Where is the Luftwaffe?

We surfaced again after half an hour. We ran at flank speed until yet another alarm and crash dive. The enemy knew right where we were.

We snorkeled. More aircraft came nosing around but they passed to the south.

Finally, the hydrophone picked up the transport. It was now night and the XO maneuvered the boat into position. He fired two torpedoes. Both hit, leaving the ship €" a Liberty Cargo €" dead in the water.
http://tinypic.com/eiv7g0.jpg

The XO aimed to finish it off and hit it with another torpedo. The ship stubbornly remained afloat. He fired one more torpedo. This time there was a massive explosion and the ship disappeared in seconds.

We left area submerged. I went to sleep.

Sometime during the night we surfaced. While I was sleeping the Old Man radioed for instructions. We had only 3 torpedoes left, had been subjected to nearly continuous air attacks, and were running low on fuel. He was given permission to return to base without going to the patrol area. I€m reliably informed that the patrol area was somewhere NE of the Shetlands. No wonder the Old Man became so upset. What could BdU have been thinking? The patrol zone was far from the convoy routes and we would have been forced to cruise at a fuel conserving crawl in order to get there. That would have subjected us to air attacks for a period of weeks. Presumably, we could have gone to Bergen to rearm and reprovision but then we€d just have to run the gauntlet again to get home.

5 Feb 1944
An uneventful day. Ran ahead full on the surface. No action.

Wrote another letter to Yvette.

6 Feb 1944
The Old Man made the Bay of Biscay run at high speed €" we were unmolested. Arrived late in the evening.

This patrol was only a week but I€m not complaining. I€ll be seeing Yvette that much sooner.

paulhager
10-12-2005, 07:17 PM
4 - 5 Jan 1944
Großman and I passed the word to the rest of the FLAK crew that everyone had a 24 hour leave good until noon tomorrow. We were going to Pontchâteau €" did they want to join us?

A half-hour later we were riding in an autobus for the 15 minute trip to Pontchâteau. Other than the German workers and the naval personnel, Saint Nazaire proper was deserted and had been since a big enemy air raid last year. For entertainment of any kind, the nearest venue is Pontchâteau. The €œSeaman€s Tavern€ is located there. It€s an odd amalgam of a bistro and a beer hall. €œSeaman€s Tavern€ was not the original name. There is still a sign over the bar that reads €œCochon Rouge€ €" Red Pig. Most of €œSeaman€s€ clientele come from the port so changing the name was a prudent business decision. The owner of the tavern is a woman in her thirties named Dominique. Her married son and teenage daughter work there along with several locals. The teenage daughter is named Yvette.

Yvette of the coin flip. Her hair is raven-black. Sometimes she wears it drawn back in a bun, sometimes she wears it down. Her eyes are large and brown €" they have a feral, gypsy quality to them. Her eyes are her power and she is quite aware of it. Großman fancies himself a man of the world €" maybe he is €" but when she fixes him with her eyes, the ubiquitous cigarette pasted on his lower lip betrays a tremor €" there€s a slight quaver in his voice. He is always the first to drop his gaze. Großman came up with the nickname €œangel thighs€ €" a place he has visited only in his imagination €¦ as have we all.

The photograph of Yvette I took really doesn€t do her justice. Static, she might be described as plain. Her beauty and sensuality is in her movement, full of ripe fecundity.

Her mother, Dominique, is objectively beautiful. Titian-haired, blue-eyed, bee-stung lips, a voluptuous body €" yet, nothing about her is engaging. There is a hardness in her eyes and her smile lines suffer from disuse. As the proprietress of the tavern, she is no more convivial than she absolutely has to be.

Geissler, Zahn, Clausen, and Holtzer accompanied us to €œSeaman€s€ but only long enough to be companionable. In short order they excused themselves - they were off on a grand carouse that would end at the brothel. Großman and I were nursing our second beers when Yvette came, unbidden, over to our table. €œHello gentlemen sailors. Are you doing well?€ Her German was barely passable and heavily accented but quite adorable. Großman answered, €œVery well, beautiful lady.€ He was ladling it on thick. €œHerbert here is doing very well indeed,€ nodding in my direction. €œHe€s a hero. Stared death full in the face. They€re going to give him a medal.€ She looked puzzled for just an instant. Then she placed her hand on my arm and said, €œYou are a very brave man, no? I am glad that you are safe.€ She gave a light squeeze for emphasis. Her hand lingered for a moment, then she turned and walked over to another table.

€œWell comrade, I did my part. You are now on your own.€ Großman hoisted himself from the table and then leaned over to quietly declare, €œI have several women who need my special attention.€ He turned and walked away.

On beer number three, Yvette returned and sat in Großman€s vacated seat. €œHello,€ she said in German. €œHello,€ I said in French. I asked her if she would like to go with me for a walk €" could she get away from work? She tilted her head and fixed me with her eyes. I felt weak €" I broke eye contact. She said diffidently €" in French, €œPerhaps in a half-hour or so I could leave if it is not too busy.€ With that, she got up and walked into the kitchen. I caught a glimpse of Dominque behind the bar, glaring at me with a basilisk stare.

After 45 minutes Yvette emerged from the kitchen and came over to tell me that I should wait for her outside. She would join me soon. She did, 15 minutes later - walking with gently swaying hips over to where I leaned against a lamp post. €œShall we walk now?€ She took my arm and we proceeded along the sidewalk.

We walked and talked for several hours €" I wasn€t keeping track. I related my experiences on the patrol. That quickly gave way to a discussion about the war itself. I found out her father died in June 1940, fighting against us. She didn€t seem to hold this against me personally. Rather amazing, and I told her as much. I hated every Englishman and every American, especially the airmen. Fighting man-to-man was fair and just €" firebombing whole cities and killing innocents was immoral. But, wasn€t each man just doing his duty to his country, she asked. Perhaps the immorality was placing duty above one€s obligation to humanity. €œRemind me again how old you are?€ Seventeen, she answered.

We talked about Paris. She had only been once, as a little girl before the war. I told her that Paris was truly an international city, a center of art and culture, and that I would love to take her there and show it to her. She didn€t discern the irony in my offer €" a French girl learning about Paris from a German - she simply said that she would like that very much.

We must have circled the immediate vicinity of the tavern and her home just above it a score or more times before she said that she best go home €" her mother was probably beginning to worry. As we turned the corner for our final time, she lightly reached up and brought my face down to hers and kissed me. I was surprised and intoxicated. Then she abruptly said in her broken German, €œI must go now. Please, you will come see me again?€ As she spoke she looked up and fixed me with those brown eyes. My thoughts became confused: yes, yes I€ll come and see you if I have to crawl. Before I could give voice to these thoughts and utterly embarrass myself, she turned and dashed up the stairs to the second floor landing, opened the door, and disappeared inside.

I walked aimlessly until dawn. When the shops opened I found a pâtisserie and had breakfast consisting of coffee and a pastry. I made my way to the bus station and thence back to base.

After getting a few hours of sack time I showered, shaved, and walked over the mess hall for a late lunch. The whole crew was sitting at a table conversing and laughing. Holtzer was the first to see me €" he motioned me to come over. Großman looked me up and down, paused for effect, and said, €œWell?€

€œThe eternal feminine leads us upward,€ I quoted.

€œI€ll take that for a €˜yes€, college boy.€ The rest of the guys laughed uproariously.

7 Jan 1944
The XO told me the Old Man wanted to see me, post haste. I jogged over to his office. The door was open and I knocked twice on the sill. He looked up. €œCome in, Altmeier.€ I took two steps, brought my heels together and saluted smartly, €œReporting as ordered, Captain.€ He responded with a salute that was half wave, €œYes, yes €" please be seated.€

Now shaved and groomed the Schmiß on his left cheek was quite prominent. At least it looked like a Schmiß. Someone told me that it was a scar he got when he was slammed against a bulkhead during a depth charge attack. A mark of bravery nonetheless.

€œYou went to Eberhard-Karls Univerity, Tübingen, correct?€ Yes, sir, I answered. He wanted to know what I majored in and why I quit before graduating in order to join the Kriegsmarine. I said I felt it was my duty to serve the Fatherland in its time of need. €œAnd your major?€ Prompted, I said physics and mathematics. The Old Man pursed his lips. Then he asked me if it had occurred to me that my duty to the Fatherland might have entailed finishing my degree and becoming an engineer or scientist. €œI considered that,€ I answered, €œbut I felt a need to engage the enemy directly.€

€œYou afraid to die, Altmeier?€ Without hesitation I answered, €œYes. But my desire to kill our enemies is much greater than my fear of dieing in the attempt.€ The Old Man appeared taken aback by my fervor and candor. €œYou€re a remarkable young man, Altmeier. You are wasted as a gunner. Have you thought about becoming an officer €" perhaps commanding your own U-Boat?€ Until this moment, the thought had never
occurred to me. But I answered, €œYes I would, Captain. Very much.€

The Old Man said that he would put in a request that I be considered for officer training. The Fatherland was always in need of good officers and he was sure that I would be accepted.

He dismissed me. As I was walking out, I decided there was no better time than now to bring my ideas for improving the boat€s air defenses to the Old Man. I wheeled around: €œCaptain, have you considered the possibility of replacing the quad 20€s with the new twin 37€s?€ No, he hadn€t. I explained that the kinetic energy of the 37 was much greater than the 20 mm and it had more than twice the range as well. He countered that the 20€s threw up a lot more metal, and the boat could carry many more rounds of 20 mm ammunition. I acknowledged his argument but countered that a gunner could easily get a one shot kill with the 37. I reminded him how we peppered the B-24 and were lucky to kill it without being killed ourselves. I concluded by saying that if you had excellent gunners, the 37 would more than compensate for its lower rate of fire and ammunition storage penalty. €œGunners like you?€ Yes, I answered. One shot kills €" two at the most. €œHow would you accomplish that?€ €œI would aim for the cockpit €" for the pilots, Captain. Kill the pilots €" the plane can€t fly itself.€ I saluted, turned on my heel, and left.

14 - 17 Jan 1944
Four days leave €" Paris! I took Yvette to the see the usual sights: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre. We went to the opera - Wagner, of course. Die Meistersinger. I had secured a hotel room. It was an unspoken understanding that we would share it.

This part I must write about. The first night, in bed when I prepared to put on the prophylactic, she said, no. I don€t want you to. It was at that moment I knew I was in love. I€m not under any illusions - the odds that I€ll be alive a month from now are low. The odds that I will survive this never-ending war are close to nil. This woman, for she is a woman and not a girl, was saying that she is willing to carry some piece of me into the future. That Goethe quote I gave the crew was more true than they could have possibly realized.

30 Jan 1944
If the weather is good, we leave tomorrow.

31 Jan 1944
Departed St. Nazaire, early morning. I hit the bunk to get a little sleep before my watch.

Watch was routine. The Old Man was running at flank speed the entire time. I think he wants to clear the Bay of Biscay as quickly as possible.

Wrote a letter to Yvette.

1 Feb 1944
The Old Man is, if anything, even more austere than usual. His mood seemed to coincide with a coded message that came in this morning.

I wrote another letter to Yvette. Told her all about the practical joke Großman played on Zahn.

Writing all the time to Yvette makes me feel less like putting my thoughts down in this diary.

3 Feb 1944
Today started out as yet another boring day. Same routine.

The Old Man still has a sour look about him. The XO avoids him €" seems to be afraid that something may set him off. I€ve never seen the Old Man lose his composure €" maybe the others know something I don€t.

A few hours after sunrise, Holtzer spotted a fishing boat. This seemed to be of little import but the Watch Officer began issuing orders and the U-Boat leaped ahead. I turned to Holzer and pantomimed, €œwhat€s this all about.€ Holzer shrugged €" I wasn€t going to get an answer from him. The Watch Officer ordered a turn toward the fishing boat.

€œAltmeier, Holtzer €" man your FLAK mount.€

We moved to the number two quad €" the Old Man had not followed my suggestion.

€œTarget the fishing boat. Prepare to open fire on my command.€ I swiveled the gun and put the boat in my sight. €œOpen fire!€ I began firing short bursts into the boat€s hull. I switched to the waterline. Three more bursts and the boat started to list. A man jumped out of a hold and began to run to the stern. I hit him with a burst. His head disintegrated into a red mist. I switched back to the hull. Two more bursts. €œCease fire.€ The Watch Officer scanned the boat with his binoculars as it heeled over and sank.
http://tinypic.com/eiv408.jpg

€œSecure.€ As Holtzer and I secured the gun he said to me that the fishing boat probably radioed our position and we could expect €œspecial attention€ from the enemy soon. The whole FLAK crew was using Großman€s catchphrases now.

Holtzer€s prediction was validated an hour later. The radar detector began to sound and the Watch Officer ordered a crash dive. We leveled off and the SO began to provide a running commentary on the approaching warship. The Old Man ordered all quiet and turned the boat to bring the stern tube to bear. He was planning to engage. I stood in the corridor just outside the control room to observe.

The Old Man brought the boat to periscope depth, raised the scope and did a quick 360. He stopped, called out a bearing, and then downed the scope. This whole operation took less than half a minute. A short time passed and he raised the scope again. This time, he dwelled on the image of the target a bit longer. He called out a range, an angle, and a bearing and said, €œMark.€ The Weapons Officer started a stopwatch. A minute or so passed and back up went the scope. Another range, angle, and bearing and then, €œMark.€ Simple trigonometry. I did the math in my head and whispered to myself, €œ21 knots.€ The Weapons Officer called out €œ20 knots, Captain.€ He had made a mistake entering the values into the TDC. Should I say something?

€œFlood tube V.€ The Old Man was preparing to fire. He raised the scope again. €œFinal check.€ He again called out the range, angle, and bearing. The target was around 1,000 meters away and crossing our stern. The Old Man fired the Wren.

He lowered the scope and stood with his arms akimbo, waiting. Presently, he asked the Weapons Officer, €œTime?€ €œTwenty seconds, Captain.€ Up with the scope again. The Old Man watched intently.

An explosion.
http://tinypic.com/eiv481.jpg

The Wren had claimed another victim. The Old Man saw me standing in the corridor and motioned me over, saying, €œAltmeier, do you want to have a look?€ €œYes, thank you, Captain.€ The ship €" a River Escort €" was settling by the stern. It was a beautiful sight.

The Old Man ordered the snorkel raised and we retired from the area.

The Old Man told me to take over the observation scope while the watch officer took the attack scope. We made slow 360s. It was much more tedious than bridge watch.

I saw a speck and stopped my sweep. I went to higher magnification. It was an enemy plane, headed directly toward our position. €œALARM!€ I called out, aircraft spotted. We crash dived again.

We cruised for an hour or so submerged. I reclined in my bunk €" I started another letter to Yvette.

We returned to snorkeling. Two other men handled the watch so I was able to complete my letter.

Sometime in the early afternoon, a message came in. The Old Man told us there was a fast convoy in range and we were going to engage it. He ordered battle surface, flank speed. I went topside.

The diesels were straining €" the Old Man was pushing the boat to its limits to get into firing position. Our prow knifing through the light swell conveyed a real sense speed €" it was probably only 19 or 20 knots but it felt like more.

Someone sang out, €œAircraft spotted, bearing 300.€ I turned to look. Sunderlands. Two of them. €œFLAK crew to bridge.€ The Old Man was going to engage. If we had to dive, we might miss our speeding quarry.

The Watch Officer ordered a starboard turn to bring all our guns to bear but the enemy pilots were going to have none of it. They made a run toward our bow and then, inexplicably, turned away. The bow gun opened fire and there were two explosions from the trailing Sunderland, which went into a slow roll and crashed.
http://tinypic.com/eiv4bd.jpg

The second Sunderland continued what must have been the intended maneuver. It banked right and then approached our starboard side. Foolish, because all of our guns had a clear line of fire. The Sunderland exploded and crashed off our bow.
http://tinypic.com/eiv4hy.jpg

Our respite was brief. More Sunderlands appeared. Too many to deal with. The Watch Officer ordered crash dive. As soon as we submerged, the Old Man ordered a turn to port and continued the dive. The depth charges were not close.
http://tinypic.com/eiv4p4.jpg

We ran submerged at standard for a half hour and then surfaced. The Old Man again ordered flank speed. I returned to the bridge.

It wasn€t too long until sunset. I know that the Old Man prefers to attack at night - we€d probably be engaging the enemy in a few hours.

The order came to dive. We cleared the bridge. I was assigned to the observation scope. The snorkel was deployed. I knew from past experience that the Old Man was commencing his final run to set up the attack.

A half hour passed. There they were again €" more planes approaching. I announced aircraft spotted and we crash dived.
http://tinypic.com/eiv4vd.jpg

This time, the Old Man kept the boat at 50 meters, running ahead full. The SO began to call out target bearings. The attack was on.

The Old Man brought the boat to periscope depth. The Watch Officer relieved me and took over the observation scope. His job was to watch for aircraft while the Captain set up the attack.

The Old Man was all business: crisply calling out distances and bearings in a loud whisper. Scopes were lowered and raised several times. He was tracking 4 targets, two of them were tankers; two of them were escorts. He was planning on firing a FaT at one of the tankers, a spread of two T3€s at the other, and one Wren each at two escorts. Ambitious.

Finally, the Old Man ordered all 5 tubes flooded. He had a good solution on the convoy and was going to rely on the Wrens to make up for any deficiencies in his solutions on the escorts.

He fired the FaT first, then the spread of two. He swiveled the attack scope, made a final check and then fired the bow Wren. He swiveled again and, after taking a quick range and bearing, fired the stern Wren. Then it was down both scopes and dive.

It was amazing to watch the Old Man in action. Total concentration - no hesitation, no indecision. He seems more machine than man €" almost a part of the boat like the diving planes or the engines.

The Old Man€s tactics never seem to vary. After he fires, he dives the boat ahead slow, running silent. As we dive, we execute a turn to put us on the escape path he has mapped out for us. It is rather like a game of Kriegspiel. He knows the initial position of all the pieces but once the game is underway he must carry everything around in his head, adjusting the pieces minute-by-minute with such minimal hints as can be provided by the SO. Unlike Kriegspiel, he must work in the third dimension. I began to see the layout of the targets and our position based only upon what I€d heard from the Captain. In my mind were colored vectors representing the ships and our boat. The Old Man was right €" I should command a U-Boat. I was born for it. My reverie was interrupted by an explosion. One of the torpedoes had found a target. €œAhead one third.€
http://tinypic.com/eiv52h.jpg

There should have been more hits by now. Our first target began to emit the now familiar sinking sounds but, other than the hum of our electrics, there was nothing else to be heard. It was obviously a complicated attack, against fast targets. Still, I felt let down somehow. The Old Man was mortal after all.

A dull boom €" another hit! What was it? The FaT? One of the Wren? €œRelease decoy.€ We were passing 50 meters and the Old Man was throwing a false scent in front of the hounds.

We were now at 150 meters, running all quiet. It was around local sundown so red lights were switched on in the boat. The SO had been delivering a stream of reports about escorts €" I only just became aware of the fact that they were aimlessly milling about at long range. The Old Man had slipped the hunters yet again.
http://tinypic.com/eiv585.jpg

The SO announced intermittent freighter sounds, detached from the convoy. A cripple.
http://tinypic.com/eiv5tf.jpg

The SO said that the escort sounds were growing faint. They had left the freighter €" probably the other tanker €" to fend for itself. The Old Man ordered periscope depth, secure from all quiet.

Upon reaching periscope depth, the Old Man raised the attack scope, the XO the observation scope. The Old Man ordered the snorkel deployed. The protracted high speed running while submerged had severely depleted our batteries. €œWe€ll run on the snorkel until it gets dark, then surface to overhaul the cripple,€ he announced.

The Old Man turned the attack scope over to the XO and retired to his room.

I decided to go to crew quarters. Großman was there, surrounded by the rest of the FLAK crew. He was reading something to them. It was one of my letters to Yvette. I walked over: €œRobert, stand up, please.€ Very controlled. No trace of emotion. He said something €" still joking around. €œGunners-mate Großman, stand at attention.€ Command voice. He stood at attention. €œYou will come with me.€ I walked to the bulkhead between the crew quarters and the torpedo room, Großman trailing behind. I wheeled and got right in his face. Very quietly and evenly said, €œI€m disappointed in you Robert. You are an experienced sailor. You are supposed to set the proper example. There is a time and a place for levity €" this is neither. I think I have permitted too much familiarity between us €" you forget I am your superior officer. Never forget it again.€ Großman was completely cowed. €œMy letter.€ I held out my hand €" he placed the letter in it. €œReturn to your duties.€ Großman turned.

€œALARM, CRASH DIVE!€ It was the XO. I swung through the torpedo room hatch, followed by Großman. The rest of the men in the crew quarters rushed forward. Fortunately, the torpedo loading had been completed €" it wasn€t as cramped as it might have been. The first explosions weren€t close.
http://tinypic.com/eiv76r.jpg

The SO yelled out, €œDepth charges in the water.€ I thought I could actually hear the splashes. Explosions all around. I felt them through my entire body. The boat itself vibrated as though struck by a giant hammer. So, this was what it was like to be depth charged. More explosions €" not so close this time €" but startling because there was no warning.

€œDamage control party to the electric motor compartment.€ It was the XO. The boat had sustained damage. We continued to dive.

I realized that I was still clutching the letter in my hand. If I survived this mission, I would give it to Yvette and tell her the story of how it came to be crumpled.

We secured from the dive and everyone returned to their stations. The damage, whatever it was, had been repaired.

After a half hour, we returned to periscope depth and resumed snorkeling.

Some time later, the XO ordered Tube I flooded. The elusive tanker had been found - now dead in the water and down by the bow. A few more minutes of maneuvering and the XO fired. It was a clean kill.
http://tinypic.com/eiv7a0.jpg

By now, darkness had fallen and the XO surfaced, leaving the area at flank speed.

4 Feb 1944
Spent the day snorkeling. I pulled watch duty on the observation scope.

Late in the day, we received a merchant sighting report. It must have become separated from its convoy. To catch it, we€d have to make a high speed run on the surface. In short order, the radar warning sounded and we dived. More aircraft. Unbelievable. Where is the Luftwaffe?

We surfaced again after half an hour. We ran at flank speed until yet another alarm and crash dive. The enemy knew right where we were.

We snorkeled. More aircraft came nosing around but they passed to the south.

Finally, the hydrophone picked up the transport. It was now night and the XO maneuvered the boat into position. He fired two torpedoes. Both hit, leaving the ship €" a Liberty Cargo €" dead in the water.
http://tinypic.com/eiv7g0.jpg

The XO aimed to finish it off and hit it with another torpedo. The ship stubbornly remained afloat. He fired one more torpedo. This time there was a massive explosion and the ship disappeared in seconds.

We left area submerged. I went to sleep.

Sometime during the night we surfaced. While I was sleeping the Old Man radioed for instructions. We had only 3 torpedoes left, had been subjected to nearly continuous air attacks, and were running low on fuel. He was given permission to return to base without going to the patrol area. I€m reliably informed that the patrol area was somewhere NE of the Shetlands. No wonder the Old Man became so upset. What could BdU have been thinking? The patrol zone was far from the convoy routes and we would have been forced to cruise at a fuel conserving crawl in order to get there. That would have subjected us to air attacks for a period of weeks. Presumably, we could have gone to Bergen to rearm and reprovision but then we€d just have to run the gauntlet again to get home.

5 Feb 1944
An uneventful day. Ran ahead full on the surface. No action.

Wrote another letter to Yvette.

6 Feb 1944
The Old Man made the Bay of Biscay run at high speed €" we were unmolested. Arrived late in the evening.

This patrol was only a week but I€m not complaining. I€ll be seeing Yvette that much sooner.

xefne
10-12-2005, 08:27 PM
Great stuff. Keep it up. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

WilhelmSchulz.-
10-13-2005, 11:27 AM
Not bad. Your geting beter and better. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

The_Silent_O
10-13-2005, 06:03 PM
how do you like the thump of those twin 37s!!!! it's like having your own subwoofer on the Sub!

Actually, this career I'm playing stealthy, I'm not putting any renown into auxillery offensive weapons, but all of it into sub perfomance and sensors. Perhaps that way I can save up for a type xXI

paulhager
10-13-2005, 06:47 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by The_Silent_O:
how do you like the thump of those twin 37s!!!! it's like having your own subwoofer on the Sub!

Actually, this career I'm playing stealthy, I'm not putting any renown into auxillery offensive weapons, but all of it into sub perfomance and sensors. Perhaps that way I can save up for a type xXI </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

The 37's will show up in #3, which I've just started. As Altmeir writes about the attack on the fishing boat above, "...the Old Man had not followed my suggestion." For this mission, the boat still had 3 quad 20's.

Actually, the Old Man did take the advice - Altmeier just doesn't know it. Requisitioning the 37's took longer than the boat was going to be in port. At least, that's the way I assumed things would operate in the real world.

joepie95
10-14-2005, 06:46 PM
I enjoyed reading this very much (also part 1).
Looking forward to #3 http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif
and some nice pics.

Chrystine
10-15-2005, 04:31 PM
*

Marvelous Paul!

Very nicely written piece €" through-&-through€¦
Love the Goethe quote (my favorite of his numerous).
I wonder how many miss, how many €˜catch€ and apprehend the larger irony of that quote considering the one quoting it, to whom and given the time, place and historical circumstances?

Well worth the wait, and am now even more pleased I waited to read these when having enough time to do so at leisure to fully enjoy it: which I certainly have.
I look forward to the next, as well.

I ought also comment that, despite your earlier reference to the matter, a great compliment of photos for embellishment.

I€m as intrigued as I am delighted with the somewhat existentialist character of the first person.
One almost anticipates his beginning to think and speak of the absurdities constantly revealed and unfolding all €˜round.
The meaningfulness into which his roots are planted is well presented in the dichotomy of Love & War€¦ but why do I suspect this bright, ambitious, eager young Altmeier, is not quite as €˜superficial€ as one may draw sizing him solely from his diary entries?

Wonderful read!
Much looking forward to the continuation €¦

Best.
~ C.

*

paulhager
10-15-2005, 11:40 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Chrystine:
*

Marvelous Paul!

Very nicely written piece €" through-&-through€¦
Love the Goethe quote (my favorite of his numerous).
I wonder how many miss, how many €˜catch€ and apprehend the larger irony of that quote considering the one quoting it, to whom and given the time, place and historical circumstances?

Well worth the wait, and am now even more pleased I waited to read these when having enough time to do so at leisure to fully enjoy it: which I certainly have.
I look forward to the next, as well.

I ought also comment that, despite your earlier reference to the matter, a great compliment of photos for embellishment.

I€m as intrigued as I am delighted with the somewhat existentialist character of the first person.
One almost anticipates his beginning to think and speak of the absurdities constantly revealed and unfolding all €˜round.
The meaningfulness into which his roots are planted is well presented in the dichotomy of Love & War€¦ but why do I suspect this bright, ambitious, eager young Altmeier, is not quite as €˜superficial€ as one may draw sizing him solely from his diary entries?

Wonderful read!
Much looking forward to the continuation €¦

Best.
~ C.

* </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Many thanks. To my knowledge, you are the only woman other than my wife who as read these pieces. Since my wife knows me, she had an interesting question: am I the "Old Man"? It never crossed my mind until she asked. I said I wasn't though, in the sense that I command the simulated sub, I suppose I am.

The most interesting character for me is not Altmeier - it's Yvette. What is it about Altmeier that attracts her? Altmeier hasn't a clue. She's obviously more mature and centered than he is, and Altmeier knows it. Most of the time he's thinking, how did I get so lucky. Truth be told, a lot of guys probably wonder the same thing where their women are concerned.

Episodes 3 and 4 now up.

One thing I can honestly say is that I have no idea where the character of Altmeier is going. As I told my wife, he may well get killed on his next patrol.

Monday, I'm off to Alaska on business - back Friday. Future installments will have to wait until then.