My first objective for this patrol was to make a supply run to Manila. I wanted to sink ships so I fulfilled this mission by running at close to flank speed the entire time. At Manila I refitted then turned around and ran at flank back to Surabaya to refuel. I requested new orders and was sent to a grid square off the NW coast of Australia. I chose a route through the Flores Sea and Banda Sea to reach the objective in the Timor Sea: a location 200 nm hundred nautical miles from Darwin.
I made judicious use of scout planes along the way. Note that if one is running without TMO 2.0 and its family of mods, when scouts find ships, convoys, and TF’s, they are colored blue and red – friendly and enemy. The addition of TMO 2.0 eliminates all of that information. It’s a reasonable assumption that individual ships and convoys in enemy waters are enemy but that becomes less certain when a TF icon appears. But, more on this later in the narrative.
My first dawn in the Timor Sea was greeted by aircraft coming from the NW. NW of the boat were Japanese controlled islands. Was this a Japanese search plane or an allied one? I went to flank speed and changed course so that all my flak guns could bear on the target and ordered the flak crews to their stations.
The aircraft made straight for the sub – it was American. I made a 10° turn to starboard as it began its attack dive. The flak gunners opened up at close range – the plane merely buzzed the sub and continued on. I could see bombs on the hard points under the wings so it was definitely going to make another run. I again adjusted course so as to place maximum fire on the target and waited.
The plane came in for its second run and this time the gunners proved more accurate. The plane was hit and began to smoke. The gunners continued to pour accurate fire into the aircraft, which released its bombs while simultaneously rolling over and breaking up. Amid the debris showering into the ocean was the pilot, who had bailed out.
Curiously, the pilot’s chute never opened. He just plunged into the sea in a strangely relaxed pose as though kicking back on a lounge chair.
Attacked far from enemy airbases by a carrier plane meant there had to be an Allied carrier group in proximity. I added more air patrols and commenced a methodical search for the TF. It took the better part of a day and a half – doubtless protracted by having to dive several times to avoid aircraft – to find the TF and set up to attack it. When the radar detector indicated strong emissions to the West, I knew I had found it. I went to periscope depth to prepare for the attack. The CV, a Wasp class, came into range. As expected, it was heavily escorted. I went to full speed and sought the thermal. In the following SS, the arrow points to the sound trace of the target.
Tubes 1 & 4 were loaded with FaT’s – 2 & 3 T3’s. Seas were moderate – I set all torpedoes for impact. According to the last scout report, the TF was traveling at 17 knots, which I had verified. I slowed the sub as I approached my attack point and went to silent running, speed 1 knot. As the escorts went past, my plan was to rise to p-depth and fire a full spread with the FaT’s set on low speed.
The moment came and I ordered p-depth. I set up for a bearing 30° attack, with a 1° spread angle. All that remained was to watch as the CV approached the fire point.
I fired the spread and turned away.
At the first impact, I released a decoy – depth was around 40 meters. I went to full speed and continued on past the thermal, returning to silent running at 150 meters.
While I was attempting to evade the escorts, the CV absorbed 4 torpedo hits – 1 was a dud. The CV sank quickly.
The escorts were initially attracted to the decoy and were quite persistent in prosecuting their attacks. By this point I’d leveled off at 180 meters, moving away at 1 knot.
Though I was never attacked, the escorts remained in the area searching. I didn’t feel safe going to periscope depth until 4 hours had passed. After careful check, I surfaced and left the area, at which time I commenced torpedo reload.
I made it to the objective and was then given the task to sink 7000 tons of shipping. Again, relying on scout aircraft, I concentrated on finding a small convoy to attack. When a suitable one was sighted, I went after it. Once in range, I reported in to headquarters. This gave me the attack convoy objective. Thus, when I sank both ships in the small convoy, I simultaneously achieved two objectives.
I asked for new orders. This time I was to head to a grid square 250 nm SW of Perth.
In transit, scouts picked up another TF. Although it took me off course, it was worth pursuing. After the better part of a day, I was able to get into position. This attack would be made in daylight but seas were moderate, so odds were decent, particularly if I made the attack from longer range. The scout report gave the TF speed as 17 knots. This time I wouldn’t bother to validate the report – I’d just go to periscope depth and fire.
The TF consisted of a couple of BB’s and a CVE…Japanese.
I returned to course for the objective.
Along the way I attacked a small convoy that consisted of two T3 tankers – I sank both.
This netted me both the tonnage and a “sink tankers” objective.
I reached my objective and began hunting again. This time I found medium-sized convoy of 6 ships containing a T3 tanker and a Liberty ship. I radioed in the contact and got the sink shipping objective.
I selected 2 T3’s for the attack on the tanker and 2 FaT’s for the attack on the Liberty. The two T3’s found their target, detonating under the keel. The FaT’s somehow managed to miss at a range under 800 yards. The convoy was scattering, with the Liberty having turned 90° away from the torpedoes and my sub. Both of the FaT’s made their turns back toward the target track and the lead FaT and the Liberty converged on the same location. The FaT struck the Liberty, which exploded and sank.
When I set up the FaT’s it hadn’t occurred to me how close I was to the outer column’s track, the column containing the Liberty. I had also lost track of the second FaT. I went to the tactical map and it was approaching on a path parallel to mine and slightly port. I continued to watch as the FaT began its turn…toward the sub! I threw the sub into emergency reverse.
If I was going to end my career in an act of Selbstmord, I might as well get the screen shot. Given all of my actions to avoid the torpedo, when I went to the external camera and froze the action, I saw that it had missed. Here’s the shot I got:
As you can see, the FaT’s turn carried it just in front of bow. There’s a lesson here: when firing torpedoes designed to double back, make sure that you are well out of range.
The other ships in the convoy were unarmed. I was able to finish them off with the deck gun.
I made one more attack before deciding to return to base. That was on another small convoy. Once again, I made certain to get the sink ships objective.
I still had enough torpedoes for one more good attack but I wanted to make sure that I would have enough time to participate in the Marianas Turkey Shoot. Therefore, unless a target showed up close to my path, I was no longer going to hunt.
The target appeared: a TF moving “fast” at 17 knots. Just as had already happened before on this patrol, the TF was friendly.
I sailed with it for a few hours and then resumed course for home.
Other than a few dives on account of aircraft, the return trip was without incident. I docked on 26 March:
There followed an offer of a new command, which I accepted, a 3rd Knights Cross, and a promotion to Korvettenkapitän. The latter would give me access to a German cruiser.
As for the new command – when I sail out for Patrol 6, it will be in an experimental Type XVIII boat: the Walther Turbine.