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|Luftpost - Extra, 24 November 1943 - New U-boat Catastrophe|
|World War II||German|
|P.W.E.||1943||2||21.5 cm x 26.5 cm|
|First Dissemination by Aircraft||Last Dissemination by Aircraft||Total No. Dropped by Aircraft|
|03/04 December 1943||14/15 January 1944|
Luftpost Special Edition
Doenitz' autumn offensive collapses
NEW U-BOAT CATASTROPHE
More U-boats sunk than merchant ships
Churchill: "The backbone of U-boat warfare has been broken."
60 U-boats Destroyed
The latest report on the subject of U-boat warfare, which is published regularly by official Anglo-American sources, tells of the following successes:
During the months of August, September and October approximately 60 U-boats were destroyed. This brings to more than 150 the number of U-boats destroyed during the last six months. The record of the last three months is particularly gratifying because during most of this period fewer U-boats were operating. Fewer targets were presented for our air and sea forces.
During August, September and October more U-boats were destroyed than Allied merchant ships sunk by U-boat action. The ratio of U-boat to merchant ship attrition during October was more satisfactory than in any previous month. Our tonnage losses from all causes in October were the second lowest of the war.
Merchant ship tonnage lost to U-boat action during the last three months was less then one-half the merchant ship tonnage lost during the previous three months, despite the fact that actual shipping increased.
The Germans have introduced new U-boat weapons and tactics. Thus far we have been able to cope successfully with the changing situation. The battle continues in full vigour.
The OKW is Silent
The OKW has completely concealed from the German people this paralysing defeat which has sealed the fate of the U-boat war. After the collapse of the great Spring offensive, which ended with the loss of 90 U-boats, the German public were promised that the U-boats would resume the offensive armed with new weapons. This happened in the course of September 1943. Since then the German public has heard hardly anything more about the course of the new U-boat offensive.
The result can now be given. The autumn offensive was undertaken with considerably weaker forces than the spring offensive, which ended in such a catastrophe. It has obviously been impossible for Admiral Doenitz to replace the losses of the spring. The U-boats were, in fact, armed with some new weapons. They had also improvised anti-aircraft equipment. Nevertheless, they proved just as helpless as their predecessors, who fell victim to the great May massacre, against the aerial torpedoes, depth charges and other offensive weapons of the Allied U-boat hunters. Although the number of U-boats which ventured forth into the Atlantic and thus into the net of the Allied U-boat defence was this time smaller than in the spring, the U-boat hunters again won a rich booty. Sixty U-boats were accounted for in the three months from August to October.
Running the Gauntlet
Although on the other hand shipping traffic on the Atlantic had become considerably greater than in the spring, less Allied merchant ships were sunk during these operations than German U-boats. That means: the initiative has finally passed from the U-boats to the U-boat hunters. The voyages of U-boats into the Atlantic are no longer offensive operations in the real sense of the word, but are running the gauntlet. In the present stage of the battle of the Atlantic the question is no more 'How much damage the U-boats can do to Allied shipping', but what crippling blows the Allied U-boat hunters can deal to the U-boats. The result of this 'gauntlet running' was summed up by Churchill when he said "We have broken the back of the U-boat war, which at one time had seemed our greatest peril." (10 November 1943)
A "Going Concern"
Admiral Doenitz recently stated to a PK reporter: "We are a going concern." This "Going Concern" is now working on the principle that not even one sunk Allied merchant ship is balanced against each U-boat sunk.
Less than one merchant ship for one U-boat! At this rate of exchange the bankruptcy of the "going concern" Doenitz & Co. is a mathematical certainty. In the time which lapses between the laying of a U-boat's keel until its first operational sortie (always supposing that it is not destroyed on the stocks by Anglo-American bombs) every American shipyard undisturbed by bombing, builds 10 merchant ships. In the period from January - October 1943 America built 80 percent of this year's programme of shipping, totalling 15,332,000 dead weight tons. To that must be added the shipbuilding of England and Canada.
The German engineer, shipbuilding expert and shipyard worker, who works today on new U-boats must rightly ask himself in these circumstances what point there really is in his work. It takes 15 months for a U-boat, including its future crew, to go through the several stages of its construction and training before it reaches operations. U-boats whose keels are being laid today, can thus be employed at the earliest in the spring of 1945.
In the meantime, the shipping which the United Nations dispose of for the prosecution of the war is growing by a million tons every month. Today the Allies dispose of well over 50 million brt of shipping. In the first nine months of the year 1943 alone, shipping increased by over six million tons. The shipping losses by U-boat operations have become so insignificant that they play no part at all in the general picture any more.
On the other hand, Germany's U-boat packs have been decreased by 150 vessels in the last six months - that is more than were sunk during the whole period of unrestricted U-boat warfare of 1917-18, which likewise failed in its job. At that time 132 U-boats were sunk in 22 months. Today, 150 are sunk in six months. And with these 150 U-boats, 7,000 officers and men were lost. A large proportion of these 7,000 German seamen are dead. For while the crews of sunk merchant vessels are usually rescued by other ships in the convoy, a sunk U-boat - especially when it is destroyed after it has dived - almost always takes a great part of its crew to the bottom.
The loss of 7,000 men does not appear much to the Germans of today. But these 7,000 are specialists whose training and replacement requires years. At any given time, the strength of trained personnel of the German U-boat service has in this war never exceeded 20,000 men by very much. That means: in the six tragic months from May - October 1943 Admiral Doenitz has lost more than one third of his entire personnel.
When, after this catastrophic blow, Doenitz still maintains his "fanatical intention to continue the U-boat war to the greatest extent and with all available means" that means nothing more than that he desires to send to certain death the irreplaceable men who are entrusted to his care to the last man.
[Two pictures of sinking U-boat]
For defence against Allied aeroplanes, U-boats have been armed with new weapons. Here is the result.
First picture: On the 10th day of its first operational sortie, the boat of Lt Commander Speidel was attacked by Allied aeroplanes. Our picture shows the crew crowding helplessly round the conning tower. Why?
Second picture: Here is the explanation. The new weapon, the 4-barrelled AA gun, has been torn clean out of its mounting by a direct hit. A yawning hole can be seen in the place where it was mounted. Shortly after this the defenceless boat was sunk.
"Christ, I'm through..!"
THE STORY OF A U-BOAT MAN
"The newcomers could hardly wait for the day of our departure, but the old sweats look forward to the day with apprehension. They know what it means to sail against the enemy under a new commander. Nobody knows why the old commander left us. We have no real confidence in our new officers. Somebody remarks casually: 'They look like Hitler Youths'.
The voyage through the Bay of Biscay came off better than we had hoped. There was a certain amount of excitement in the boat. For nobody knew what we were really up to in the South Atlantic. Finally the wireless operator brought the solution: 'Individual operation in area X'. The old sweats are glad, for that is nowhere near so dangerous as operating in a group.
There follow days of pure pleasure-cruising. The newcomers grumble. 'Is that all there is in U-boat warfare?' The Commander is also in despair. He would so like to sink something because he does not want to go home on leave without his Iron Cross, 1st class.
On the fourth day suddenly the order is shouted: 'Silence in the boat - listening in progress.' The Commander springs out of his bunk and stands next to the wireless operator. At last comes the announcement: 'Noise of several screws on a bearing of 16 degrees.' Now order follows on order: 'Go to periscope depth.' 'Action stations', and finally: 'Boat is in the middle of a convoy.'
The Depth-charge Battle
A few of the newcomers cry out: 'At last'. But the older ones look into each others eyes. 12.30 in day time and in the middle of a convoy? Now we're for it!
New commands are heard. 'Clear tubes 1 and 3'. People run backwards and forwards in the bows. Sometime elapses before the two tubes are announced to be clear. There is growing excitement in the boat. Suddenly the voice of the Commander is heard: 'Tube 1 ready - fire!' The torpedo is off. We all hold our breath. Then - a crash. The torpedo has found its mark.
In the same instant the Commander shouts: 'Submerge to 180 metres'. The boat sinks by the bows and slides into the depths. The Wireless Operator now announces strong ASDIC on his listening apparatus. The enemy is trying to find the U-boat. There is no more talking in the boat. We all now hear knocking on the hull and the noises of the screws of the enemy hunters. Half an hour passes. Is everything going to be all right? But the Wireless Operator says: 'They are trying to get the nut-crackers on us - look out!' he cries, and in the same instant we can hear the thunder and crash of the depth charges. The battle of the depth-charges has begun. They are not falling without ceasing. Charge after charge. No one is capable of clear thinking any more. The light fails. Some run in panic to the control room. But what use is that? - the boat is almost 200 metres deep.
'Both diving rudders have gone' cries the No. 1. From the stern comes the news: 'Port-E-Engine out of order'. And still the depth charges are falling. I watched the Commander sitting in the control room, incapable of giving a single order.
Chlorine in the Boat
Suddenly there is an inhuman yell: 'We have sprung a leak.' The First Officer of the Watch cries: 'Christ, I'm through…' and breaks down. The Commander has lost his nerve.
At the same instant a cry echoes through the boat, a mad cry: 'Chlorine in the boat, Chlorine gas!' The newcomers cry with horror. Chlorine gas! Seawater has got into the batteries owing to the leak and has there developed chlorine gas, which quickly spread from compartment to compartment. Men are coughing and spitting. An engineer comes suddenly and stands near me, dark red in the face, with drops of sweat on his brow. His eyes, it seemed to me - these eyes are starting from their sockets, they are staring at me. And then the man suddenly lets forth - a wild, bestial laugh.
Two others beside me collapse. My heart is beating madly. I am coughing. My head has become thick. I don't know how I come to be in the control room. The Chief Engineer collapses, groaning.
All of a sudden a shock goes through the boat - it takes an almost perpendicular slant and starts slowly rising. We all fall mixed up together. A few cannot stand any more and roll about in spasms of coughing on the floor. Nobody asks who has given the order to blow out the tanks.
Now the boat has surfaced. A hiss runs through the boat. The Commander has opened the conning tower hatch. 'Clear the dinghies' someone shouts. Panic breaks out in the boat. 'I must get out' I think, 'I must just get out'. I feel as though my heart were jumping out of my breast.
Now they are firing shells at us. Shell after shell lands on the boat. Nobody gives orders any longer. For the Commander is the first to leave the boat.
Suddenly the Commander shouts from his dinghy: 'Open the vents', so as to sink the boat. 'But that won't do at all', I think to myself, 'shall the 30 men who are still below decks simply be drowned?' And there, near the conning tower are five others. They cough and spit, poisoned by the gas. Now they collapse. Two are swept overboard. Like a giant's fist, a new salvo of shells strikes the boat. The mad command of the Commander has become superfluous. The boat breaks in two halves and sinks, with more than half its crew.
Only two of the three dinghies are able to put off from the sinking U-boat at the last minute. One of them is dragged down after the U-boat. The other boat, with the First Officer of the Watch in it, and two Petty Officers, manages to keep afloat. They are picked up by a British destroyer.
I make a few strokes. Darkness comes over my eyes. No, not darkness - greyness. My lungs must be burning, I think, burning in bright flames. Gas - of course, the gas. I lose consciousness.
When I wake up I am aboard an English corvette. She had fished me and three others out of the water. Two of them died of gas poisoning on the way to the English port."
Quotations in box, on front page:
"The success of the U-boats has grown from month to month. Our U-boats have surpassed all their achievements up to date, and I can only assure the gentlemen that this will not be altered."
Hitler, 30th September 1942
"It is just as impossible for the aeroplane to eliminate the U-boat as it is for a crow to fight a mole."
Admiral Doenitz, 4th August 1942
"England has us by the wrist with aerial warfare, but we have her by the throat with U-boat warfare."
Goebbels, 9th April 1943