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View Full Version : First Patrol of Detlef Koch's U-653



ILikePortillos
11-16-2005, 06:01 PM
U-653 steamed up the western coast of France at a steady pace. The standard drills were practiced. The boat was ready for action. . .all too soon. Just before noon on the first day out, the Watch Officer called down, €œAircraft spotted!€ The watch crew came sliding down the ladder. Upon their descent, the anti-aircraft gunners raced up. They had just enough time to get to their stations and ready their guns when the lone British Hurricane flew low and fast over the sub, inspecting the craft. He made several passes, releasing a bomb on his third run, which fell 40 meters or so aft on the port side. As he made his out-bound leg, the twin gunners punctured his fuel tanks and he fell into the ocean in flames.

Less than 12 hours out and already the crew had witnessed their first casualty. But it wasn€t fully grasped. The crew on the guns was firing at movement. They were firing at machines. They never saw the man inside the Hurricane. To them, they had disabled and enemy weapon.

Once the gunners came back down, and the watch crew returned to their post, the rest of the crew interviewed them incessantly. They had heard the bomb explode and had heard the muffled pop the Hurricane made when it smashed into the water. They had question after question of the first crewmembers to see combat. Were they scared? Did they get shot at? Who got credit for the takedown?

They didn€t get much of a rest. Only 45 minutes later it had become apparent that the first British fighter had radioed home about what he found. This time the attacking Hurricane was shot down on its first run, again crashing into the water with the pilot inside. But it wasn€t over. This was the scout plane for the main force. Just then four more planes appeared over the horizon. They were British Sunderland seaplanes, equipped with radar, bombs and depth charges.

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y282/ILikePortillos/Detlef%20Koch/BritishSunderland4-8-1942.jpg

The Captain made the decision to stay on the surface. He worried that the sub would be vulnerable to depth charges should they decide to attempt the dive. They would shoot it out.

As the first two planes made their approach, it was apparent that this attack wasn€t like the others. Sunderlands had full gunner crews. As they approached, their nose gunner opened fire, and tracers sliced through the sky hitting the boat and digging into the ocean, kicking up thin towers of water. The gunners of U-653 held their composure, and fired back with accuracy, striking one of the planes and disabling one of the engines. Many passes were made with both sides hitting one another. During this, a maintenance crew was assembled, and between passes they would run out onto the deck and make quick repairs.

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y282/ILikePortillos/Detlef%20Koch/StrafingRun4-8-1942.jpg

After several passes two of the large British planes collided on an attack run and spiraled down into the ocean. Now there were only two planes left. Those two were shot down soon after. The maintenance crew scrambled to fix the holes made by the attacking British planes. The Captain gathered the crew. He explained that it was obvious that the British were now tracking U-653. They would have to be quick in their defense.

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y282/ILikePortillos/Detlef%20Koch/SunderlandsCollide4-8-1942.jpg

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y282/ILikePortillos/Detlef%20Koch/RemainingSunderlands4-8-1942.jpg

The next attack was different in that Captain Koch gave the order to dive, rather than gun it out. The Hurricane bore down on the diving sub and dropped a bomb that exploded just above and aft of the rear torpedo room, causing damage that was quickly repaired.

There was a lull in the action as U-653 made its way past the port of Brest. The watch crew spotted their first surface contact since leaving the harbor at St. Nazaire. It was a Type II U-Boat, returning from patrol in the bay.

An hour and a half later the boat was again attacked, this time by two Hurricanes. U-653€s gunners shot them both down on first pass, a remarkable achievement! The crew could hear the broken craft crumbling as they sank nearby.

The boat was attacked at 18:46 by three more Sunderlands, and again at 19:34 by 3 more Hurricanes. The ship was now riddled with bullet holes, most of which were only damaging to the eye, as they didn€t effect the seaworthiness of the boat whatsoever.

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y282/ILikePortillos/Detlef%20Koch/DownInFlames4-8-1942.jpg

The night of the 8th offered much-needed solace. It had been a long day of attacks from the air. The crew welcomed the unmolested trip on the surface, as the sea was calm. But Captain Koch new that great danger still lurked ahead. They were just off the southwestern tip of England, a veritable highway for the Royal Navy. They were all pleasantly surprised to have traveled through the night without incident.

The morning of the 9th started bright and early for the crew of U-653. They were surprised at 05:50 when 3 Sunderlands came at them from the east. This time Captain Koch had the Anti-Aircraft crew fire at them all as they made their first pass, but brought them back down immediately afterwards as he ordered the boat to dive to 25 meters. He followed this command with an order to proceed at flank speed. Moments later he gave the order to hook left. His timing was impeccable, as the Sunderlands dropped their depth charges behind and a starboard of the boat. They continued to drop their munitions on U-653€s original course. Koch then ran the boat at standard to the northwest until the batteries drained to 25%. They sat in this position near the ocean floor until it was time to run in the red.

When they surfaced, they received their orders. Proceed to grid AM-19. This was near Ireland€s northwest end, at the crossroads of three separate convoy routes!

As they recharged their batteries, they were again attacked by a lone Hurricane, which dropped a bomb that missed, but caused damage to one of the AA guns and the 88 deck casing. These damages were quickly repaired.

At 20:19 things took a turn for the worse. Four more Sunderlands, two of which were shot down on their first pass, attacked them. One of them crashed so close, the edge of its wing broke over the bow of the boat. The crew inside felt and heard the smash and nearly panicked. As the third Sunderland was being shot down, its tail gunner strafed the deck of U-653, mortally wounding Senior Seaman Axel Ganzer, who was part of the quick repair team. He was dragged back inside and the Captain gave the order to dive.

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y282/ILikePortillos/Detlef%20Koch/LateAttack4-9-1942.jpg

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y282/ILikePortillos/Detlef%20Koch/NearMiss4-8-1942.jpg

After Seaman Ganzer had died, there was much debate as to what to do next. Koch wouldn€t hear of returning to base. They also couldn€t expect to keep Ganzer€s body aboard for more than a few days, given the wet conditions. It was decided that he would be buried at sea. After hearing a couple of warships pass the area, it was determined that the coast was clear, and the boat surfaced. Just after midnight, in the early morning of April 9, 1942, Senior Seaman Axel Ganzer was slipped into the ocean. A small ceremony marked the event.

Below deck, the morale of the crew had plummeted. Here was a man that began this journey with them less than 24 hours ago, and they had just lowered him into the Atlantic. The last day had been more than the crew had imagined they would see in months of war. It would take something big to bring them back.

As they steamed along on the surface in the early morning hours of the 9th, the radio operator picked up a signal. The radar had detected a ship moving slowly to the northwest of their position. It looked close enough for them to want to dive and get into a good position. As it got closer it was apparent that this contact was a warship; a destroyer that had either been tipped to their route, or picked them up on radar as well. As it came nearer, the Captain gave the order to fire a lone torpedo at it from the aft tubes. Just as the periscope was being lowered, a search light split the darkness and shone through the lens.

The order was given to dive to 25 meters. The Destroyer began an ASDIC search. It honed in on the U-Boat. It was getting louder; obviously beginning a Depth Charge run when an explosion was heard. €œTorpedo impact!€ the Weapons Officer cried. The Captain stared at him for a moment, almost in disbelief. He had discounted the torpedo he had launched before diving. It was fired some time ago and had apparently missed the target. But this was a new torpedo, an acoustic homing torpedo, and it had made its way back around again and struck HMS Fiddler aft. The boat quickly listed to port, came to a stop, and began to slip backwards into the ocean. A great cheer erupted from the men aboard U-653 as they quickly went from a state of extreme tension to extreme relief.

They surfaced nearby and sent a contact report to BdU. They would leave the area immediately so the British could attempt a rescue. They wouldn€t imagine taking on a Task Force alone.

Chrystine
11-16-2005, 09:13 PM
*

Excellent, ILP.

U-653€s been getting some good surface action & experience for the gunners.
Do be careful with that Allied ventilation system for the boat €¦

I must say, it€s 2 March, €40 for U-50 now, and we€re not looking forward to the Sunderlands and B-24€s starting to show up.

( What Class / Type Destroyer did U-653 take-out on the 9th? )

Best, & good hunting!
~ C.

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ILikePortillos
11-17-2005, 07:59 AM
Thanks C.

Yeah, this is more air traffic than I'd ever seen before. Granted, it's close to British soil, so that's no big surprise. The last witness I had to this area was when Helmut Schiller sailed around the northern tip of Ireland in mid-1940. Not a plane in sight! And all of those unprotected ships! Given the amount of fuel I'm likely to have left over after my patrol, I'll probably take a longer, safer route next time.

I'm at work right now, so I can't answer the question about the Destroyer, although I think it was a V & W. I'll check when I get home tonight. Scared the stuff out of me though as the sea was around 100 meters deep there!

Ratek
11-17-2005, 10:28 AM
It is a IXC?

It just seems as if you have a whole lot of AA on the boat.

Chrystine
11-17-2005, 10:48 AM
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*nodding agreement*

It€s seemed to me in the past, once the first few Sunderlands show up €" they just never stop multiplying and becoming more & more frequent €" until they€re just ubiquitous.

€œ..I think it was a V & W. I'll check when I get home tonight.€

Cool, thanks €" I€m just curious€¦ http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

€œScared the stuff out of me though as the sea was around 100 meters deep there!€

Well I can relate to that €" but honestly, €˜100 meters deep€ sounds to me right now like €˜10 miles deep.€
I€ve just spent the past 4 days crawling through the straights of the English Channel in €˜the storm of the century,€ weary beyond telling of hearing the report back €" €œdepth under keel is one-four meters€¦ one-two meters€¦ one-six meters€¦.€ etc etc €¦

Most unsettling & helped precious little by as many reports €" €œcontact, warship. Closing medium speed€¦€

I€m going to take up drinking whiskey when we get back to Wilhelmshaven€¦ http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

Best, as ever & more good hunting!
~ C.

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ILikePortillos
11-17-2005, 11:28 AM
Originally posted by Ratek:
It is a IXC?

It just seems as if you have a whole lot of AA on the boat.

U-653 is actually a Type VII-C (at least in this career game). I've upgraded my coning tower to hold 2 light AA machine guns. They're pretty good at teaming up on a target and causing some real damage, but they have a hard time with multiple targets coming from multiple directions. I usually dive in those instances.

f_e_n_r_i_r
11-17-2005, 04:41 PM
Congrats! Good work man!

ILikePortillos
11-17-2005, 07:44 PM
Danka f_e_n!

It was a Hunt II Destroyer, sunk in grid BF 16 at 20:47 on the 9th. Did I say early morning? It's all a blur. I should learn to keep a better diary.

http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

larrypenner67
11-17-2005, 09:27 PM
A good story, thanks.. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif