Thursday, November 30, 2006

Convoy Inbound

17 May 1942
1851 local time
A message came in from BdU detailing the location of an inbound convoy west of Ireland. A quick glance at the charts and I knew it was within reach! Only 250km northeast of our position! I plotted a course to intercept and rang up full speed ahead. We would have to backtrack a little from our intended destination, but if we can find that convoy it will be well worth the time.

18 May 1942
4:04 local time, West of the Irish coast
Carl called over to me as I lay napping in my bunk, "Excuse me sir, I can hear multiple contacts bearing 348; distant!" I took a few moments to gather my wits about me and put on the headset. Definitely a convoy; there was a whole confusion of noise spread out over a few degrees. taking note of the bearings I headed to the chart table to see our position and begin tracking their progress. We were definitely in a good position already, now I just needed to make a few minor adjustments to line up our course with the convoy's track and get the crew ready for an attack.

4:52 local time
Just a quick note to calm my nerves. The lead destroyer has just passed over us without giving any indication of detection! We're through the front door and ready to make our attack run. The weather is terrible, which is working to our advantage despite the difficulty in trying to identify ships with the periscope dipping under the waves. As long as the convoy doesn't change course within the next twenty minutes we should have a good shot at her middle column. We're coming back up to periscope depth now.

8:00 local time
Success! The central column had three large ships; a C3, a troop transport, and a T2 class tanker. We waited patiently while they plodded by and then launched our attack. I sent our aft torpedo to the lead ship, two towards the tanker, then my remaining two at the transport in the middle. Timing was perfect and multiple explosions erupted up and down the line! The tanker took a critical hit and broke apart amidst giant fireballs, both eels exploded on contact with the transport and the C3 took a hit. The men were already frantically reloading tube #1 as we began to slip towards the rear of the convoy.
We surfaced behind the trailing cargo ship in time to see the bow of the transport going under! I launched our remaining torpedo at the C3; it was a long shot and likely missed as the ships changed course. The lead escorts were already plucking survivors from the water while the other two were both wide of our position. I decided not to press my luck and ordered the boat deep to reload and slip out of the area before the destroyers had a chance to find us. I think my crew has made enough of a difference in the war effort for one day.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Escort

15 May 1942
9:26 local time
Sailing into the western approaches to the English Channel we crossed paths with a type 34 destroyer. I took the opportunity of their cover to run on the surface and recharge our batteries. Within an hour the first Sunderland appeared and was promptly dealt with by the 34's arsenal of guns! Two Swordfish biplanes were also quickly dispatched. The sound of friendly artillery and watching the planes go down did wonders for the crew's morale, but the possibility of losing another sailor weighed heavily on my mind. When the third flight showed up we said our goodbyes and slipped silently under the sea, batteries fully charged and the men feeling better after the show of force.

16 May 1942
5:30 local time
The lookouts spotted a lone cargo ship at 3:12 this morning. We managed to close to within 2000m of the C3 by 4:22 undetected and fired two electric torpedoes at her. Only one hit, but that was not enough to slow her down. I fired the other two bow eels and was rewarded with two explosions that broke the ship's back. We surfaced to look for survivors but aircraft were already inbound on the radar. If anyone was left out there they should have help arriving soon. As for us, any relief efforts would be to our disadvantage. Estimated 8000 tons sunk with four torpedoes; not a good ratio, but we did get her in the end.

This morning we were greeted by typical foul Atlantic weather. Even a year ago I would curse having to stand watch in the stinging cold rain, but with the dramatic increases in British air cover this year a storm means cover for the u-boat force. We should have some reprieve from the constant crash dives of the past two days.

17 May 1942
6:00 local time
The storm has not left us yet. I'm chilled to the bone after spending only two hours in the tower, but the crew has been able to rest for a day. At least the ones who are not seasick from the constant motion of the boat. We've made some progress towards our patrol zone and are lying off the southwest corner of Ireland looking for any traffic.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hurricanes Inbound!!!

14 May 1942
2:54 local time Brest, France
The British are getting bolder in their aircraft attacks! Just as we were slipping out of our berth two aircraft, presumably on a recon mission, flew overhead. The night sky lit up with AA fire from several ships lying at anchor. You have to admire a pilot who would take on such a mission with little hope of return.

20:58 local time
Two pairs of Hurricanes were spotted swooping down on our position breaking the peace of a warm Spring sunset. After the morning raid I was expecting more air traffic and had already posted men on the flak gun in case of attack. What I didn't expect was a flight of this size and speed. The first two came roaring in and our guns lit up damaging the leader and forcing him to peel away from his attack. His wingman pressed on though and unleashed the fury of his machine guns on us. The flak gun was knocked out and men scattered about the deck. We grabbed our wounded and hauled them inside as I ordered a crash dive; hoping that the hull had not been pierced.
To everyone's relief no depth charges had been dropped, though enough damage was wrought with their guns alone. Sadly, Sr. Seaman Egon Bahn, who was manning the flak, was killed. It is the price you pay in war, but nevertheless it stabs at your heart when one of your own men fall.
We surfaced for repairs under the cover of darkness to resume the long trek out to our patrol area.

15 May 1942
00:45 local time
Another aircraft was spotted, a biplane. The crew had the flak operational again and managed to take her down. Bittersweet vengeance for the sailor we had just buried at sea.

2:00 local time
The Swordfish pilot must have managed to send a message before going down. Two Sunderlands moved in on our position as we were completing repairs. The leader was able to drop a string of depth charges before we could all get inside and Sr. Seaman Axel Bauer was caught in the blast when one exploded too close to the boat. Another crash dive and some erratic manoveurs brouight us back to the relative safety of the dark sea. For a tense hour we all sat in silence listening to the explosions fade and diminish while reflecting on the two young men resting in the deep.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hard Work Paid Off

12 May 1942
10:58 local time
In light of our successful patrol, especially the sinking of three warships, my crew has been granted extended time off. This is mainly due to the extensive upgrades our boat has been undergoing. For nearly two months we have been enjoying our shore leave. Oh of course we still have plenty of work to do, but having your own warm bed to sleep in every night and three (or four) hot meals a day is as good a vacation as any of will ever find before the war is over.

On the technical side, U-588 has been thoroughly refitted for action. New batteries, regular engine maintenance, better hydrophones, sonar decoys, and upgraded active sonar. We are also going to be testing out some experimental equipment this patrol: radar and an exterior coating that should help prevent enemy detection. Anything to hide us from destroyers ranks high on my list! Sr. WO Gert Dobbert has been in training for the new hydrophone system and has earned his Radioman qualification. Now i have two qualified crew to rotate in the listening booth. I traded out two of my less reliable WOs a few weeks back to an outbound u-boat and managed to recruit two more experienced Sr. WOs to replace them. Hopefully Hessler and Mannesmann will mesh well with my already cohesive crew.

We sail in two days time, so I need to make the most of my comforts in between all the paperwork and loading provisions.

Patrol Number One Results

Patrol Number: One
U-Boat: U-588
1 April to 16 April 1942
Patrol Zone: AK57 North Atlantic
Merchant Ships Sunk: 3
Warships Sunk: 3
Gross Tonnage: 15674
Torpedoes Remaining: 1
Promoted to Lt. Sr. and awarded the Iron Cross Second Class
Promoted Herbert Reichmann to Chief Seaman

First Patrol Completed

12 April 1942
6:16 local time
With only one remaining torpedo and not a whole lot of fuel we've I've plotted a course to take us a bit south of the shipping lanes and back to Brest. This has been a highly successful first patrol as commander of my own u-boat and I want to get my crew back to port to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

15 April 1942
20:00 local time
We got a bit overzealous in our home waters tonight and surfaced a bit too early. At 19:10 we were cruising along, enjoying the relaxed swell and and warmer temperature when the lookouts caught sight of two Swordfish on patrol overhead! I kept a close eye on them through the observation scope while diving and saw them turn towards our direction, then drop into an attack run! Luckily I was already at full power and slipping steadily below the waves. i ordered a hard turn into them to close the distance quickly and retracted the scope. A depth charge exploded harmlessly a distance away; likely trying for a lucky shot. We laid low for quite a while after that just to be on the safe side. Too close a call so near to port!

16 April 1942
3:07 local time
Land always looks so beautiful after spending weeks, or even months, in a harsh sea and foul weather. I'm looking forward to a soft, dry, and warm bed and some fresh food! The crew has been frantically working to get everything in order for docking and you can hear the buzz of excitement in the air. Oh the fresh air! After being cooped up most of the night the breezes coming in from the land through the open hatches are most welcome! I can only hope to have at least a few days to rest before going back out there to face the mighty Atlantic again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Clearing the Path Home

9 April 1942
14:23 local time
We're heading for home with four eels left and a good amount of fuel in reserve. Hopefully we'll run across some merchant traffic. Nothing out there today except rain.

10 April 1942
6:12 local time
The weather finally cleared a bit during the night. I let the crew take turns up on deck to get a breath of fresh air. Being so close to British air cover we'll have to dive for the day.

11 April 1942
6:39 local time
Warships spotted! 5000m off the bow! The continued beautiful weather has given us a chance to find some prey. The ships were heading away from us and, luckily, we spotted them first being that we were still submerged. I identified them as two Black Swan frigates and two J-class destroyers. Our only chance of hitting them was to fire three of our last four eels. We were able to set a course to bring us just over 2100 meters from the nearest ship.

Two torpedoes hit the closest Black Swan and immediately began to flood. The rear torp scored a hit on a J-class, which burst into flames; a magazine hit! Time to run while the other ships turn to rescue their friends! We slipped out of the area and laid low all day, then made a run for it on the surface at night!

Patrol Zone Reached

6 April 1942
14:38 local time
With little likelihood of aircraft penetrating the dense rain and lightning; we stayed on the surface most of the day, except for periodic dips to listen in on the hydrophones and to let our stomaches settle. No signs of any activity today.

7 April 1942
16:40 local time
We reached the edge of our patrol zone today. Other than that nothing exciting to report.

8 April 1942
14:42 local time
We are nearly finished with our twenty-four hour patrol zone observation. I've been discussing the pros and cons of remaining in the zone or heading back to better fishing grounds with the other officers. The consensus is to leave as soon as our time is up here and see if our luckk holds out in the Channel on the way back to Brest.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Convoy Sighted!

5 April 1942
13:18 local time
I knew by the excited laughter coming from around the corner from my cabin what was about to happen. Carl ripped off his headphones, "Sir! I've picked up multiple contacts bearing 352! Sounds like merchants and I can hear at least one warship!" Time for action; at least a little.

We couldn't ask for a better scenario. Foul weather, no moon tonight, and deep water. Of course, things don't always work out as you think they should. We spotted the destroyer emerging from the fog just as he saw us! I would estimate that he was only about 3000m ahead and he began to fire just as our ballast tanks were filling for a crash dive. We spiraled down and away then went to silent running as we coasted to 168m. The weather was on our side tonight and he passed by us without a single DC drop.

We slowly came back up to periscope depth over an hour later near the rear of the convoy. We could make out at least a dozen ships, but I know there were more out there. There was one American liberty ship in the center of the group and instantly I knew my target. Firing solutions were quickly worked out (I have Frtiz Friederichs work them out separately to verify my numbers) and the order was given to let all four eels loose from the bow. We also fired off a quick solution for the stern torpedo in hopes of a lucky shot on a smaller cargo ship that was trailing behind.
At least two impacts were heard in the direction of the liberty and one on the smaller merchant as we slipped away. Raising the observation scope for a quick scan I saw the coastal ship breaking up and, to my relief, the liberty was in flames and going down by the stern!!! Now we just needed to get away!
The escorts seemed to be on the sides and front of the convoy, so we kept our nose pointed to the northwest and dove deep; surfacing only when the contacts were nothing but a faint memory.
Coastal merchant: estimate 2000 tons
Liberty Cargo ship: estimate 7000 tons
5 torpedoes expended, no damage, no crew injured. If we make it back to Brest I'm sure get get a promotion and, hopefully, pick up a few more experienced crew for my next patrol. I shouldn't think about hat though; no luck in it!


5 April 1942
10:37 local time
We have arrived at our best guess of a position to intercept the convoy. They must be heading towards the Channel, judging by the information we received, and we should be right in their way. Now the only thing we can do is sit, listen, and keep a few sharp sets of eyes looking for them. I have posted my best watchmen in the tower and my only qualified hydrophone operator has been listening intently.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Trial by Fire

3 April 1942
12:49 local time
The weather began to fail us as we sailed further into the Atlantic waters. The cold weather gear will be coming out for tonight's surface run. For now we are staying submerged to avoid the dense British air patrols. Just after noon we spotted a warship in the light fog; a British C class destroyer. I switched over to the attack scope and we waited, dead in the water, for him to come closer. As he presented his flank I launched two electric torpedoes so as not to give away the element of surprise. The first detonated under the screws and set her on fire, then the second slammed right into the side! As she began to list to aft we slipped away under 2/3 speed before any support could arrive to deal with us. Things are starting to shape up around here.

4 April 1942
5:16 local time, SW of Ireland
The seas have picked up. It has been a cold and wet night with nothing but lightening to provide illumination. I'm looking forward to getting out of these damp clothes and getting some coffee put on once we begin our submerged run.

5 April 1942
5:37 local time, W of Ireland
As we were preparing to climb back into the warmth of our quarters the XO yell up the hatchway that a radio report had just come in! I left the soaked lookouts up in the tower for a little while longer as I headed down to decipher the message. My hands were shaking as much from cold as from my excitement. I ran to the plotting table. Yes! We were within range to intercept a large convoy coming in from America! I plotted our new course and headed to my cabin to get what rest I could.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Rocky Start

1 April 1942
19:00 local time
Everything was more or less stowed away and the decks cleared as we sailed out of port. Even at this relatively late hour a group of well-wishers and the local military band gave us a rousing sendoff! While we slipped our moorings and made the turn out towards the channel one thing kept nagging at me: the number two flak cannon was still not operational. At least we have one working properly and hopefully we won't have a need for them anytime soon!

21:12 West of Brittany
The weather was perfectly clear and rather warm for this time of year as we sailed out into the Atlantic. We laid out a course to take us around the tip of Brittany and just southwest of Cornwall. Hopefully we will run across some merchants making their way to Britain's southern ports.

2 April 1942
8:29 Southwest off the tip of Cornwall
Two ships were spotted on the southern horizon so we turned to intercept. A third ship was spotted and we were glad to identify them as friends; the Hipper heavy cruiser and two Type 34 destroyers as escort. As we moved closer to salute several aircraft were spotted! Now I know why I had that uneasy feeling about the flak guns! I ordered a crash dive and kept our heading so as to put us right under the Hipper. Depth charges were heard exploding, but nothing too close for comfort. We poked our attack scope out a half hour later to find that the strike group had dealt with the planes. We bid our friends a heartfelt goodbye (not likely to see any more support where we are headed) and continued on our way towards the Irish coast.

19:56 South of Ireland
A small merchant was spotted heading southwest. We tried to close but she was moving at a similar rate, I took us on a perpendicular course at high speed once we had a good idea of her course. Nearly two hours later the lookouts made contact again; right where I suspected! We dove to periscope depth and stalked in closer under cover of darkness and found that she was indeed an enemy target! I let loose a single TI that exploded right under the keel. Buckling from the explosion she sank quickly. One can only hope that some of the sailors made it off safely. The air cover is too thick for us to stick around and offer a hand.

First Patrol

U-599 has been ordered to patrol southwest of Iceland for British and American convoys. We will set sail on the evening of April 1st from our home port of Brest, France.

I have been lucky in both provisions and men so far. In fact, this will be U-599's first patrol as she has just joined the 1st Flotilla after serving as a trainer. As well as being fully loaded with fresh food, plenty of fuel, and an upgrade to dual flak emplacements, a friend in supply managed to score me four new homing torpedoes. Hopefully I'll have a chance to use them!

I also managed to recruit a few experienced crew members to help keep things running smoothly. Lt. jr. Carlewitz will be serving as my watch officer and brings with him two senior watch officers to assist with watch and gunner duties. I also managed to snag three experienced torpedomen and two machinists. In all my crew is a bit top heavy, but that's the way i prefer it to be: 5 officers, 16 petty officers, and only 21 sailors.

Preparing for my first voyage

I am Lieutenant jr. Jurgen Trompetespieler. While preparing to embark on my first patrol as a uboat commander I thought it best to record the experiences of myself and the crew of U-599.

It is March 1942 and the war in the Atlantic is in full swing withthe Americans now devoting their full attention to producing and shipping men and materials. My job will be to do what I can to stop them before reaching the British Isles. But first things first; the crew roster must be sorted out and provisions stowed.