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  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: They Served

article number 729
article date 08-02-2018
copyright 2018 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
The Nazi Submarine Nemesis as Presented to Our Troops: ’Yank’ Magazine, Summer 1942
by ’Yank’ magazine writers
   

U-Boats Plague U. S. Shipping

Adolf Hitler started playing around in our back yard again during June.

His own submarines, and maybe a few he got on axis-lend-lease from his friend Musso, sank 14 United Nations ships between June 3 and 14 in the Caribbean.

Five were U. S. vessels.

We hit back hard. The Navy disclosed that it has been convoying ships off the Atlantic coast for more than a month, and for the first time the role our own Army is playing in the Battle of the Atlantic was divulged. Army minesweepers, it is now disclosed, are plowing right alongside the Navy through the blue waters of the Caribbean.

They’ve gotten a number of subs, this Army and Navy maritime team, but how many we don’t know yet.

Being able as Americans to take these things in stride, Washington admits our losses but lets the axis guess how many of their corsairs will ever return to get the Iron Cross. We confess the loss of 242 merchant vessels sunk in the North Atlantic since Pearl Harbor. Including losses in Canadian and South American waters, the total is more than 300.

Inauguration of the convoy system has forced the axis to change its tactics, and they’re now on the defensive somewhere on a watery five-yard line, trying to punt for distance.

They’re planting minefields, and at least three Allied vessels have been sunk by such explosives.

An International News Service reporter aboard a sub chaser with the Atlantic patrol wrote vividly of the rescue of the American crew of a mine-stricken collier.

“We picked up eight survivors. The first man we hauled over the side was John N. Shea. of Baltimore, a quartermaster. Shea, who had been below deck when the mine exploded, was wearing a pair of pink and white striped shorts. From the minute he grasped the line thrown to him to the time he was on deck and had blown the salt water and oil out of his system, he cursed a steady stream—divided equally about the Nazis and the fact he had lost his papers.”

   
DEPTH CHARGE. U. S. naval vessel convoying merchant ships in Atlantic lets go with high-explosive in spot where enemy U-boat is believed lurking. Army minesweepers have now joined battle against submarines which have taken heavy toll in coastal waters.

Dawn Patrol

By CpI. Harry Brown

I have just come back from an anti-submarine patrol, bowling out over the Atlantic in a bomber.

The bomber was part of a Bombing Squadron, stationed at an East coast airfield.

The field is a war front, just as Egypt and Australia and China are war fronts, and it is on a complete war footing. The men are in a front line. Master mechanics, staff and technical sergeants slog along with .45’s strapped to their waists.



AT ANY HOUR of the day or night, planes from the field may wing over the ocean to unload a cargo of bombs on the submerged, brittle hull of one of Hitler’s subs. The planes are always ready to take off. Their guns and bomb racks are always loaded.

This alertness has paid dividends. An undisclosed number of Nazi submarines are now coffins for their crews at the bottom of the Atlantic.

Bombing subs, however, is not the only business indulged in by the men from the airfield. They must investigate everything on the face of the ocean. A quiet tramp steamer may be a disguised raider. There is always the possibility of locating a raft or lifeboat crowded with survivors of a torpedoed ship.

   

The day’s first flight is the Dawn Patrol, on which I went. It may take off at any hour from 3 o’clock to 6. The Air Force likes to stagger its patrols. If patrolling planes began taking off at set intervals it would not take the Axis long to discover that fact.

Enlisted men co-pilot planes at this field. The co-pilot on my plane was a tech sergeant.

The bombardier was a sergeant, and the radioman-engineer, a guy named Dietz, was a private.

   

This is a southern outfit. It has been dropping them on the target for a year and a half now. Most of its personnel come from Florida, and the pilots’ lounge and the hangars are heavy with southern drawls.

When the men go up they wear any old thing. They don’t go in for flying suits or flying boots or fancy helmets. The whole crew of our plane were in fatigue clothes, from the lieutenant on down.

Parachutes are not worn. The sole concession to safety is the life jacket, the “Mae West,” that each member of the crew puts on. When I got in No.4, Dietz threw an old parachute at me. “Sit on this,” he said.

   

I sat in the body of the bomber, on the latrine. A bomber’s latrine looks like an ordinary seat, even having a rubber cushion on it. But the top lifts off, and then there is nothing between the sitter and the ocean but very thin air. There are windows on each side of the latrine.

The motors make a hell of a noise. Before they really got going Dietz said, “Ever been up in one of these before?”

“No” I said “not this type.”

“Then hold on tight. She takes off fast, and it’s liable to knock you right out of your seat.”

Taking off at dawn is a weird experience. We roared down the runway toward the red horizon. The sun was not yet up, and everything is suffused with a faint glow that is light and yet isn’t light. We went into the air easily, gaining altitude slowly, swinging over highways and houses.

Now it was light enough that I could look down and see the sleeping houses nestling against each other. Here I was, in a loaded bomber, soaring out over the ocean to a possible battle, and below me people were sleeping peacefully, secure in the knowledge that because of planes like No. 4 they were safe.

As we approached the sea I could see the long sand bars and the shallows that are so numerous on this part of the coast. The air was smooth, and the transition from flying over land to flying over sea was unnoticable.

Flying over water is very deceptive. The plane seems to be only 100 feet off the water, when in reality t is much higher. I crawled forward to where Dietz sat. “How high are we? "Five thousand feet,’ he shouted back.

   

The sun broke over the horizon and we flew directly toward it. Below us the swells of the sea glowed red. I watched out the windows, searching for a ship. the track of a periscope, anything that showed life. All was quiet below.

There was mist on the sea, and visibility was only about three miles on each side. I watched Dietz. He was completely relaxed, reading a magazine. It was not his business to keep a lookout.

   

At the rear tip of the fuselage of our ship is a glass-enclosed observation bubble. I crawled back and peered down, looking back in the direction we had come. There was nothing on the sea. Behind us the mist closed down, hiding the coast. We were alone.

The roar of the motors drowned everything. I shouted, but I could not hear my voice. Yet the motors were warm and friendly. Their very sound gave courage, as though they were saying to the crew, “You fight, and I’ll bring you home.”

Suddenly one wing of No. 4 dropped as she veered on a new tack. I crawled back to my seat and Dietz came back to see me. “See anything?” he shouted. I shook my head. “Ever get anything on these trips?”

Dietz drew a cigar-shaped diagram in the air and then held up three fingers. No. 4 had sunk three subs.

Dietz crawled back to his position and picked up his magazine again. The face of the sea was tricky. A couple of miles away a rolling wave would take the shape of a sub, Conning tower and all, and I would stare at it for some time before the shape faded. Then below I saw an odd breaker, a school of porpoises, leaping and playing in the early sun, unconscious of the plane, unconscious of the war.

No. 4 veered again, and then settled down to a long, straight course. Nothing broke the surface of the sea. All was peace below. Yet there was tension in everything. Any moment we might sight a sub.

I crawled forward again and hoisted my- self into the rear gunner’s turret. There were two .50 caliber machine guns there, pointing their ugly muzzles back in the direction we had come.

Quarters here were very cramped. I could hardly turn my head, and I could not raise my arms. But the view was good, and the slipstream whistling through the gun openings was friendly.

I felt a tug on my leg and came down from the turret. Dietz was crouched below me with a G.I. breakfast—two bologna sandwiches and an orange. I crawled back to the latrine and ate.

When I had finished I didn’t know what to do with the sandwich wrappings and orange peel. I gestured helplessly at Dietz, and he grinned and came back to me. Dietz opened the camera port directly under my feet, a circular hatch a foot and a half in diameter. A great surge of air ripped into the fuselage. In spite of it, Dietz disposed of the debris of our breakfast.

Again the plane veered. “We’re on our way back,” Dietz yelled. “Pretty dull trip.”

   

The sun was quite high now, and at our backs. It was 7:30 A.M. It had been a quiet night and a quiet dawn on the Northeastern Atlantic.

Had a ship been torpedoed, a shore station would have radioed us its position and we would have gone to investigate. If any subs were around, they had been asleep that night.

The sandy coast swung into view. As we came over it the air grew bumpy. The plane took sudden rises and sudden drops. Below us automobiles were crawling over roads and highways, and sometimes I could see figures moving on the lawns.

The plane circled the field twice, then made a beautiful landing. When the motors stopped there was an amazing silence. I said “Hello,” just to hear my voice, and it sounded very faint. Dietz opened the door in the floor of the plane and together we got out.

To my surprise, my legs felt very stiff, and I bent and massaged a thigh. “Sore?” Dietz asked.

“Very,” I said.

“You get used to it. Funny about flyers’ legs, though. They hate to use ‘em. Most of the guys in the outfit gripe because they have to walk from the hangar to the plane. They’re worse than cowboys. Think they ought to have little cars to get them around in."

“It was that bike saddle the rear machine-gunner sits on that did it,” I said.

“No, it wasn’t that,” Dietz said. “It was just sitting and watching. A lot of guys gets sore legs that way. It’s the watching that does it. You sit looking for subs and you get immersed in what you’re doing, and you forget to shift your position. It’s a quiet kind of excitement that gets you up there.”

   

Almost as soon as the plane stopped rolling mechanics came running out from the hangar. The B-24 had taxied up to a gas tank that was level with the floor of the field.

The mechanics started refueling her right away.

   

“Any luck?” one of them said to Dietz.

“I tell you, Charlie,” Dietz said. “We got seven subs. It was just like ducks in a shooting gallery. And on top of that we got seven Heinkels. They were lost, those Heinkels. The most amazing thing about it was that I only used one bullet to each Heinkel. I’m a marvelous shot. I’m a credit to the Army,” The mechanic said something cheerfully unprintable.

“Why do they load her up again so soon?” I asked.

“Because she’s going up again soon,” Dietz said. “We don’t want her to get out of practice. She’s a sweet old crate.”

We walked slowly back toward the hangar. “Sorry you had such a dull time,” Dietz said. “That’s the way it is, though. That’s the way all war is, I guess.

Duller than hell until there’s action, and then exciting as hell. All we do is watch and hope. Yeah, that’s it, watch and hope.”

He started to take off his Mae West.

   
B-24 bomber.

ARCTIC SUMMER

Axis aerial attacks on U. S, British and Russian shipping along the Arctic sea route to Murmansk and Archangel depend on the amount of sunlight.

In winter, when there are only a few hours of twilight daily. Convoys easily slip through the Arctic to Russian ports. When the summer comes and the days lengthen, however, the Arctic’s famous midnight sun allows Axis airmen to attack around the clock. Never was there a harder supply line to keep open.

In winter, when shipping can get through, the Russian ports are often ice-clogged; in summer when the ports are cleared of ice, shipping suffers from continuous attacks. Nevertheless, the Murmansk route is still the best line of supply to Russia. From U. S. ports to Murmansk is only 5,000 miles. whereas the southern route to Russia is all of 15,000 miles.

   
MAP: Route to Murmansk, July 1942.
   
German Bombers: ". . . the Arctic’s famous midnight sun allows Axis airmen to attack around the clock."
   
“Never Mind That, Men ― We’re About to Submerge”

Atlantic

After an American destroyer sank a Nazi submarine in a running fight, the bodies of 29 Germans were recovered. With a U.S. Army guard serving as pallbearers, the Nazis were buried at Hampton, Va., with military honors.

   
U.S. Army guard serving as pallbearers for 29 Germans recovered from sunk Nazi submarine.

Barents Sea

In the land of the midnight sun, Nazi torpedo planes swoop to attack a United Nations’ convoy bound for Northern Russia. In addition to the planes, ack-ack bursts and a balloon (upper left) can be seen in the sky.

   
"In the land of the midnight sun, Nazi torpedo planes swoop to attack . . ."

"Man All Battle Stations"

By CpI. David M. Cleary, Yank Field Writer.

CAMP BUTNER, N. C.—It was a hot night, and we three were inhaling a few beers in a cafe when he came in. He was a sailor.

Maybe it was the beer that had us in a good mood or because we hardly expected to see a sailor in a little inland Army town; or maybe it was the big grin he had on his face. Anyhow, we invited him over to our table for a beer. He wouldn’t touch it; settled for a hamburger and milk instead. Said he was too young. He couldn’t have been over 19 at that.

We talked of the many things service men talk about; of good times; of different cities; of women. Finally of the war and our desire to see action.

Then it turned out that the kid, although he’d been in the Navy less than seven months, was more of an old-timer than any of us. He’d already been in action!

At first he was loath to talk. We had to coax him along. At last, sensing he was among friends, he began to talk. First a word or two at a time, then in a flood of words as he began to get it out of his system, he told his story.

“Don’t let anybody tell you they weren’t scared when they first saw the enemy,” he said. “It just ain’t so. When I heard the call ‘Submarine Off the Starboard Bow’ my heart seemed to stop. I don’t remember a thing I did all during the engagement, but the old-timers told me afterwards that I had performed my duties just as I had so many times in practice.

“It seemed like an hour before the command ‘Man All Battle Stations’ came. It couldn’t have been more than seconds; it seemed like hours in my suspense. Then I could see the sub, its periscope above the water, cutting a spray at about 15 knots.

“Moving at about 20 knots, we were coming up on our target fast. At the rate we were going we would pass within forty yards. It seemed as if the sub crew must have been asleep; she kept to her course as we pulled abreast.

“I was shaking all over. At any minute I was expecting a torpedo to ram us; it all seemed unreal, too easy. Some of the boys claim it’s the excitement and not fear that makes a man tremble in action, but I think that’s just a hard guy’s way of covering up his weakness.

"I’m not afraid to admit it; I was just plain scared.

“The shakiness seemed to go away a little when we dropped our first depth charges. It returned, even worse than before, when they failed to disturb our target, which held her course like a liner on a pleasure cruise.

“We dropped two more charges and the sub suddenly put on speed to evade our deadly fire.

“Funny thing, it was that burst of speed that ended it all. We were ahead of the target by this time and our fourth charge was aimed a few yards ahead, planned to sink and then explode when the sub was directly overhead. The extra speed upset those calculations, but the result was the same. It was a direct hit!

“God! What a noise! Our own ship seemed to be thrown out of the water by the force of the explosion and the sub was broken in two, just as I might have snapped a match between my fingers. Oil and debris surfaced and churned in the turbulent sea.

“Hell, now that I look back at it, it don’t seem like so much. I’ll bet I won’t be afraid next time. I even wish I’d been in the Midway and Coral Sea Battles. Something like that’d really be a show for a man to go through!”

We all shook hands with the kid; we were proud to know him. He’d done something.

Even after he left, we still talked and thought about him. We agreed that he was right.

All of us would probably be scared to death when we first saw action. But that wouldn’t make any difference. After hundreds of hours of practice, we could do our jobs subconsciously, just as he did.

His story gave us a new slant on the tiresome hours of recruit training. Maybe the Army knows what it’s doing, after all, when it keeps guys back here to train the rookies.

   
“God! What a noise! Our own ship seemed to be thrown out of the water by the force . . ."

Atlantic Crossing

These pictures were taken by Sgt. Dave Breger, Yank cartoonist, heading overseas with Tech. Sgt. Burgess Scott, staff correspondent.

The one below shows how ingenious soldiers on this transport kept off the cold salt winds by nailing their shelter halves to the deck. GI pegs didn’t help here. Uncover those bundles between the pup tents and you’d find the individualists.

   
How ingenious soldiers on this transport kept off the cold salt winds by nailing their shelter halves to the deck.

In the next photo, the soldier in the center was probably cleaning his “best friend” for the second time that day. Salt air keeps a rifle in a fine state of rust. Others loaf on deck or hang on the rail, enviously watch the porpoises playing in the rough sea.

   
Soldiers on deck of transport . . . "soldier in the center was probably cleaning his “best friend” for the second time that day."

Incidentally, our author, Sgt. Breger is back ‘in the paper with a cartoon . . .

   
"Kin I help it if I never lived in the country an’ stole watermelons like you guys?" By Sgt. Dave Breger, Overseas.

Sea Fighters Without Uniforms

By Sgt. Walter Bernstein, YANK Staff Correspondent.

“We don’t want no medals,” say the men of the U. S. Merchant Marine. “All we want is to help win the war.”

TWO WIND-BURNED MEN sat in an office of the National Maritime Union. They wore no uniforms and no medals, and they wanted none in their present job. They were merchant seamen.

One had been part of the crew of an Army troop transport.

One had shipped with cargo to the Caribbean.

Both had been under fire during their trips. One had been sunk and one had been wounded.

Their trips were normal for the times; these are dangerous days. It was just too bad that their job was a little more fatal than usual.

Both were waiting to ship out again.

They sat around the office with a window looking towards the sea, two capable guys, and the first one to talk was Able-Bodied Seaman William Rubinoff of Brooklyn, N. Y.

   
WILLIAM RUBINOFF.

“I just come back from a trip to the Pacific,” he said. "We had a pleasure trip.” He shifted around in his chair and looked at the other man. “We only had two sub scares,” he said, apologetically.

“You’re lucky,” the other man said.

“None of the Army boys got excited,” Rubinoff said. “They were all a very healthy-looking bunch. We got to know them pretty well before the trip was over. The crew and the soldiers used to play cards and shoot crap together, but we cut it out when the soldiers got too cute. They had us outnumbered.

"During the day they’d show us how to work their guns and we’d tell them how to run a ship. They were all right guys. There were a couple of stinkers, but most of them were all right. We got along fine.”

The trip was long, but worth it when they came to their South Sea base. “I can’t describe it with words, that’s how pretty it was,” Rubinoff said. “It was like one of them Dorothy Lamour pictures. You can imagine after that long trip. When the guys saw them native girls in sarongs, they went nuts.”

When the men disembarked they weren’t allowed to talk to the natives. “That made them even more nuts,” Rubinoff said. They unloaded the ship and bivouacked under the palm trees. After a while they could talk to the natives and right away they began to swap things with them. “Half the silverware on that ship went for grass skirts,” Rubinoff! said.

The other man nodded. “They all do that,” he said. “You can buy those skirts at the five and ten.”

“Those natives drove them nuts,” Rubinoff said. “Once a week the natives would get together for a big feed and hula dance. All the guys were crazy to go, but they couldn’t. It was what you call off limits.”

The other man nodded again and said, “Tch.” Rubinoff continued: “We hung around until the ship was unloaded, then we pulled out. I sure was sorry to leave.” He sighed. “Those guys don’t know how lucky they were.”

“Did you have any trouble coming home?” the other man asked.

“Nothing to speak of,” Rubinoff said, shrugging. “One or two subs. Nothing to speak of really.”

“You were lucky,” the other man said again. “I told you it was a pleasure trip,” Rubinoff said. He leaned forward in his chair. “A friend of mine went out on another ship the same time. I almost went with him, so what happened? He gets planes, subs—everything hits him but tanks.”

“Did he get a bonus?” the other man asked. “Bonus-shmonus,” Rubinoff said. “Sure he got a bonus. He gave it all to the Navy gun crew.”

“Well, sure,” the other man said.

“I got a bonus, too, the trip before this one,” Rubinoff said. “I also got a hole in the arm.” He shoved back the sleeve of his shirt and showed a long, red gash. “A Heinie plane,” he said.

“We got him right after that. The chief steward got him. He come running up from below during the attack and starts yelling and grabs a gun and sure as hell he knocks the Heinie down. You couldn’t talk to him the whole rest of the trip.”

Rubinoff sat back and rolled down his sleeve. “It was pretty much of a trip,” he said, “but it wasn’t nothing on Archie’s.”

He turned to the other man, who was rolling a cigarette. His name was Archie Gibbs and he was an ordinary seaman from Roscoe, Texas.

“Well,” Gibbs said. He finished rolling the cigarette and lit it carefully. “I was out with stuff for the Caribbean,” he said. “I can’t tell you what the stuff was, but it don’t matter anyway since it’s all on the bottom of the ocean.

"We got a torpedo in us the fourth day out and I drifted around with 12 other guys in a lifeboat before we got picked up. We got picked up by a ship going in the same direction and the next night there is a crash and an explosion and I’m in the water again.”

Gibbs shook his head at the memory. “Holy cow,” he said. He shook his head again and continued. “It was night, but the ship burning lit up the whole sky. There are a lot of guys like me in the water and I am trying to make one of the boats when all of a sudden I see this thing. I thought it was a whale, rise up in front of me.”

He shook his head once more as if he still didn’t believe it. “It was the damned submarine,” he said. He put out his cigarette. “It pulled right up beside me and three men leaned over and pulled me aboard. Then they shoved me down below and before I knew it, there I was—right inside of a Nazi submarine!

   
ARCHIE GIBBS.
   
“It was the damned submarine. It pulled right up beside me and three men leaned over and pulled me aboard."

“They were all talking German and the captain came down and shoved a gun under my nose.

“‘You know what this is?’ he says in broken English.

“‘I sure do," I says.

“Then he asks me what was on the ship. I told him I didn’t know, it wasn’t my ship. Then he asks me what was on my ship and I told him planes and tanks. There weren’t planes and tanks, but he didn’t know that. He thought I was scared and telling the truth. I was scared, all right.

“By this time the sub had submerged and they put me up forward with the torpedoes. They had a big load of them—even under the floorboards as well as on the racks. The crew came in and looked at me from time to time and gave me something to eat. The food was terrible, all canned stuff. Even the bread was canned.

“Once one of the crew came in and started to talk to me in English. He said he had been a merchant seaman and had come to New York a lot. He said most of the crew were merchant men, which is probably why they didn’t kill me.

"This fellow asked me a lot of questions about New York. He wanted to know what movies were playing on Broadway. He couldn’t believe people were still eating butter and meat every day.

"After a while an officer came and bawled him out in German and he went away and never came back.

“I was on that sub for four days. They sank another ship the second day and once they stopped to take on more torpedoes. When they stopped I could feel the ground swell, so I knew it was somewhere near land.

"One night when we were below I went into the toilet and tried letting out air bubbles to the surface, but they caught me and the captain came up to me again with the gun. I thought that time they were going to kill me.

“On the fifth day we came to the surface and they told me to go on deck. We were right off land and there was a fishing boat alongside, with three men in it looking scared to death. The captain told me to get in the boat. One of the men who spoke English said they were letting me go.

"I got into the boat and the sub pushed off and went out of sight. The boat took me back to Curacao and I got in touch with the American consul, and there I was.”

Gibbs stopped and looked embarrassed at having talked so much. “I mean, that’s all,” he said.

“Now he’s waiting to ship out again,” Rubinoff said. “I ask you.”

Gibbs was silent and then Rubinoff stood up. “I got to get down to the dispatcher’s office,” he said. “You coming along?”

Gibbs rose and the two of them started to the door. When they got to the door, Rubinoff stopped and turned around.

“Put down that we don’t want no uniforms,” he said. “We don’t want no uniforms and no medals and no handouts.” He opened the door and stood in the doorway with Gibbs.

“All we want is to help win the war,” he said. The two of them went out, closing the door behind them.

   
This is how your ship looks if it’s unlucky enough to catch a U-boat’s torpedo.
   
This is how a man looks if he’s lucky enough to be fished out of the oily sea.

YANK, The. Army Newspaper, weekly publication issued by Headquarters Detachment, Special Service War Department, 205 East 42nd Street, New York. Copyright, 1942, in the U. S. A. Entered as second class matter July 6, 1942 at the Post Office of New York, New York under the Act of March 3, 1879. Subscription price $3.00 yearly.

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