In early 1945 I was a Second Class Motor Machinist Mate. I had been a crew member of S-11 and we had just returned to the States and decommissioned the boat in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I had qualified in submarines in 1944 on S-11.
After S-11, I was transferred to the Subase in New London and assigned to what was called the Rainbow Division. This division was made up of skeleton crews that were to be ready to board a captured or surrendering submarine. The war in Europe was in its final days and the Navy was planning for the inevitable surrender of the German Navy. We were attached to Flag Allowances so we could continue to draw sub pay and we were on a one hour standby at all times with bags packed and ready to go.
As I recall, sometime in early March, at about 2200 hours, we were told to assemble and get ready to travel. We were loaded on busses and taken to the local civilian airport in Groton (it was a small place). We were placed on all kinds of planes, mostly small ones. The one I was assigned to only held about four passengers. We were flown to an air base in Maryland, put on Army bombers and flown out. There were about 150 of us including the officers. We stopped in Newfoundland for fuel and breakfast, then on to the Azores for fuel and another meal. Thence into Orly Field in Paris.
We had only expected to be gone a couple of weeks at the most when we left New London and did not bring service or pay records. We ended with about a six month trip.
Our stay was brief in Paris due to a misunderstanding with some of the locals. We were standing in line to change a few of the dollars we had for invasion money so we could get a beer, when one sailor asked a local in the same line how he felt about Paris being liberated. When he replied that our money didn’t spend any better than the Germans, we proceeded to clean the Frenchmen out of the airport-so we were flown to Plymouth, England, to a based called Vicarage. We stayed there for three weeks.
The stay to Plymouth was terrible. No money, cold and damp, and right next to a bridge the Germans were trying to buzz bomb. But the worst of it was the food. We were being fed by the British Army and let me tell you, they have lousy chow. Of course rumors flew like crazy-some had us going to Germany, some to France, others to Norway, and just about any place a submarine could go.
After three weeks we were flown to Londonderry, North Ireland on British bombers. We were taken to a base with many Quonset huts that had been used by the invasion forces. Some British, New Zealand, and Australian troops were there and the U.S. Navy had a radio station not far away. We were assigned living quarters in one end of the complex and set up our own mess, hired a local barber, and made arrangements for a canteen type store.
The German submarines had already started to come into the pier area and at one time there must have been about 80 boats in nests of about six. The crews were kept on board and the British brought rations down to them about once a week; and once a week, they marched prisoners up to the barracks area to take showers and get de-loused.
Our forces were commanded by Captain Sharp, and we were told that instead of getting six boats we would get only two and the crew to which I was assigned would get one of these. Captain Sharp did get one other older boat-it was a rubber covered one that had gone into some other port. One crew was sent to bring this one back and as I recall, most of the rubber washed off on the way back. Other crews were sent home.
Both crews were assigned an old Type VII; it seemed to me that it was similar to the old S boat I had come off of. We were very disappointed, but commenced to clean the thing up. It was extremely dirty and filthy. We took all the bedding out and everything else that could be removed, and cleaned and painted; learned the systems; charged batteries; jammed air and in general, operated alongside. About the time we thought we had it about ready to go, guess what? They pulled this boat and gave us a Type IX, a newer boat, one that had a schnorkel. It was in the same condition as the Type VII and we proceeded to do the same thing with this one. We didn’t get as far when this one was pulled and U-2513 was given to us. The other crew got U-3008. We finally had what we had come to Europe for, a pair of Type XXI U-boats.
These were the latest thing in Uboats and they were new and I don’t think any of them ever made a patrol. They had a very modem schnorkel system, the head valves of which were rubber covered to help defeat the Allies’ radar. They had a complete new hull design coupled with about twice the normal battery capacity that gave the boat a 16 know speed underwater. The boat also carried a noise maker that could be towed at a distance to thwart enemy sonar. This device was not very practical as it was too much trouble and time consuming to launch and recover. At this stage of the war, U-boats that were able to make one patrol and sink one ship were considered successful and worth the money. They were becoming almost like the Japanese Kamikaze pilots. A lot of boats were being lost on the first patrol.
As with the others, we started to learn the boat; re-label equipment, write operating instructions, reface gauges, clean and paint the boat, and run the systems and operate alongside. We were also given one other Type XX.I for spares. We had the German crew aboard for some time and then all but five men (one officer and four enlisted) on each boat was removed. These ten men came back to the States with us.
During this period of time, the British were removing prisoners, putting them on trains, and sending them home. However, the prisoners didn’t know where they were going and thought they were going to the Russian front. Some of the prisoners had fought on various fronts, had been wounded and after hospital treatment and convalescing, were assigned to a U-boat. I remember one in particular who had a very bad scar on his face and head from a wound he had received on the Russian front.
Some of these people were extremely glad they didn’t have to go to sea anymore or for that matter even once, as the odds at this stage of the game were the first trip out could also be their last, and they knew the submarine could be their iron coffin. As a result of the use of a lot of submarine non-trained personnel, the Germans developed a nice little book that was presented to each crew member. It was about three inches wide and a foot long and about 100 pages, and it bad colored piping diagrams of the various systems; descriptions and operating instructions for most of the systems on board and was a most helpful tool for us.
As I said, we had three Type XXI boats. They were in a nest on the north end of the long jetty at this base. At 9 PM each night, the hatches of the boat would be closed and the prisoners not allowed to come topside until the next morning when we arrived from the barracks. During the night they were guarded by a couple of U.S. Marines from the radio station. They would stay on the pier and keep watch on the hatches and as far as I can remember, we had no trouble. The British also guarded the other nests in this fashion. The prisoners were not allowed up until 9 AM. They did have one or two, after drinking some homemade booze or alcohol, stick their head u out of the hatch and were shot by the sentries.
When we were ready to leave and the excess prisoners were being transferred off, one torpedoman approached our First Class Torpedoman Kazzeta, and presented him with a fully loaded 9mm Luger. He said he was afraid the British would find it when they took custody of them. They were treated much better by us than the British and they received the same rations we did.
I can’t remember all the dimensions of the boat. Staring forward, you had one large torpedo room. It was elliptical in shape, had six 21 inch tubes and had electrically operated racks for fast re-load. I think it had a capacity of at least 24 fish with all the tubes loaded and racks full.
Next came the forward battery compartment. The upper deck here was the Officer’s Country, sick bay and I believe, radio and sonar. It had two levels below this for batteries. Sick bay was manned by a person who was the equivalent of an intern and he had to tools to operate and amputate, and the boat carried plasma for transfusions.
The next compartment was the control room with the pump room below and the conning tower above. It had the diving stations on the starboard side. This compartment also held the galley and ice boxes.
The next compartment was the after battery and this one was the crew’s quarters and mess on the upper deck.. Bunks had to be folded down and tables folded out at mess time and two levels of batteries below.
The next compartment was the engine room. It had two six-cylinder M.A.N. diesels. It also held two Junkers diesel air compressors and refrigeration equipment for heating and cooling.
The next compartment was the electrical maneuvering room where the propulsion was controlled. The main motors and the silent creeping motors were also in this room.
Next was the tiller room, primarily a small area for the hydraulic rams on the stem planes and rudder. It had a small lather, a bilge pump, and a head.
Topside there were anti-aircraft gun turrets fore and aft. Each turret had a pair of 20mm guns. We never did get to test these out.
The boat was not built for crew comfort; it was better than the VII and IX Types however. This boat had a telescoping schnorkel, the earlier types had horizontal units on the starboard side of the conning tower that was raised to the perpendicular with hydraulic ram. The vertical one we had was raised and lowered by an air operated motor using a rack and pinion arrangement. We should also note here that the engine exhaust was used as a low pressure air system to blow the water out of the ballast tanks when the boat surfaced.
Both periscopes were hydraulic operated. The attack scope (smaller of the two) was very unique. The Approach Officer sat on a bicycle seat and rode the scope. The right hand controlled the height of the scope and the left, the focus and stadimeter. It was a very good attack scope design.
The boat had been built in sections and then brought to a central yard and assembled. It was very apparent. The pipelines didn’t match too closely and had very sharp bends and configurations at the various bulkheads as well as the electrical wiring runs. The boat was well designed but was built near the end of the war and they were scraping the bottom of the barrel for materials and using slave labor to weld the thing together. We were not allowed to dive the boat until we returned to the States and inspected it in drydock. The prisoners fully agreed to this because they even suspected some sabotage and maybe a hidden charge or two.
The living compartments both fore and aft were divided off with a heavy oak veneer, and there were dozens of brackets on the sides of the battery room passageways to hold cans of acid neutralizer.
These cans were about 6 inches thick and 15 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The battery jars were very prone to breakage during a depth charge attack. The compartment was fitted with pipes that went to various levels and areas of the battery compartments. This allowed the “Caulkmilch” to be poured down the appropriate pipe to neutralize the acid. The electricians then went down and isolated the affected cell or cells.
Fresh water was limited. The boat had one very small evaporator and it was run strictly for battery water. Water to the heads was cold salt water and warm salt water from the engine cooling systems. The fresh water outlet was in the galley and was used only for cooking and drinking. A drink was obtained by a hand operated pump and this was locked at times, we were told.
The boat had forward and after trim tanks, two forward and two after These were in pairs, port and starboard, and connected with about a three inch line between the two on the starboard side and also on the port side. In the control room there was a plug valve that could be opened or closed rapidly. Also in the control room there was a manifold for each set of these tanks that permitted either the forward or aft one to be pressurized with about 10 pounds of air and the other one vented so on a dive, one side was pressurized forward and the other aft. The three inch line also had a meter installed so when the diving officer wanted to transfer water forward or aft, all that had to be done was open the appropriate plug valve until the specified amount had been moved. This was a lot quieter and quicker than starting up a pump. These tanks were cleaned out in port and fresh water filled. Thus they carried an extra amount, and when the fresh water tank was empty, one side of the time system was transferred to the water tank and they started using salt water in the trim tanks.
The boat had no emergency lighting. Instead, large areas of ventilation lines and areas around hatch coamings were painted with a luminescent paint, similar to the paint used on watch dials in the ’40s. It was determined in Portsmouth that this was unsafe and it was removed.
The galley was very small. There was a laminated chart on the galley bulkhead that told the contents of cans. The boat had canned goods everywhere by the hundreds! Bilges, lockers under bunks, in waterways-anywhere you could stick one. There were no labels, but the can had a number stamped on it and you could identify the contents using the chart in the galley. Cigarettes were canned, as were canned, Jots of dried potatoes, vegetables, and brown bread. The bread was not too bad and there were some meat products. We were still getting cans off the boat in Charleston at overhaul two years later.
The two Junkers air compressors in the engine room were very unique and except for the valves, were good equipment. The compressor was an opposed piston unit. The pistons were free floating and the air was compressed in four stages to 3,000. One piston had the first and third stage piston on one end and the other, the second and forth stages. The pistons were timed with a rack and pinion. The pistons came together in the middle and fired, pushing them apart, jammed air on both ends. At the end of the stroke, air forced the pistons back together and to fire again. The electric compressor located in the pump room was shock mounted and very modem. High pressure compressors on U.S. submarines were generally Hardy Tynes units, copied from the German World War I design and very little changes had been made. On the other hand, the German compressor had been updated and was very easy to work on. Bearings were inserts instead of the pour and scrape kind. Valves came apart with a twist of the wrist instead of a hammer and heavy tools. All in all, a very good piece of equipment.
During our time in Derry, one of the electricians wanted a spare part off another Type XXI that was tied up just aft of us. I can’t remember why he didn’t get the spare off the boat that was assigned for parts. In any case, he, his German counterpart, and an interpreter went to the other boat to get a part off the main motor control center. These boats did not have battery disconnect switches and when one of them dropped a wrench across the main battery buss, a hell of a fire developed with both batteries discharging into the room. The German went up the ladder in the maneuvering room and shut the hatch. The interpreter, a fireman by the name of Mann, ran aft, shut the door and was trapped in the tiller room. The fire was so hot that the pressure hull was red hot, cherry red above the waterline. Inside, you could not get beyond the control room. We had dragger masks on, but the heat was just too intense. We tried to flood down the bow enough to lift the stem out to permit us to cut a hole in the hull, but the stem was too low in the water, and the fire just burned itself out. We cooled the compartment and finally got the hatch open and sent Mann to sick bay. He was okay, just scared. The motor room was nothing but molten metal in the bilges. The sea valves would have melted except the outside water kept them cool enough to prevent melting. The cubicle, motors, and even the ladder and deck plates were melted.
Spare parts and the method of storing and keeping record of them was very good. For the most part, a box or metal reinforced chest with compartments and layers of trays held the parts so when you got the box or chest and took it to the job, it held all the necessary paper work and instructions as well as any special tools that were required.
As mentioned before, the food situation was not up to U.S. submarine standards, so once we got our pay records over and started having a little spending money, we looked for a place to get good food. Rationing was still on in the civilian world; but in town you could go to Mom Malloy’s. It operated like an old time speakeasy. Knock on the door and be identified through the peep hole. All they served was steak, fresh eggs, and potatoes-and the price was right. They had smuggling set up to bring anything across the border and I suppose fresh food was the most profitable. I also had them get some Irish linen goods for me.
Arrangements for a laundry service was provided with weekly service. We sorely needed this as our work clothes would really get greasy and oily, and no matter how dirty-they always cam back clean, starched, pressed, buttons, sewn on where needed, and rips and tears mended. If anything was left in the pocket, it was returned no matter what. .. even a nut, bolt, washer, stub of a pencil-anything at all. All this at a very reasonable price. We found out the story on this when one of our people made a special trip to the laundry. It was a convent! No machines, all hand labor from boiling pots of water in the yard and hand scrub boards to charcoal heated irons. The girls doing the laundry had been arrested or picked up in town on vice matters and sentenced to 30 days or more by the local judge to the convent to pray and repent. The good sisters made sure they had plenty to think about and not want to come back.
We finally got the go ahead to leave and head for home. The war was still on with Japan when we left Ireland. It took us 21 days to cross the Atlantic on the surface and escorted by an ATF; we could have made better time without him. While we were at sea, the atomic bombs were dropped. The was with Japan ended and the point system was put in place for troops going home. We made a brief stop in Newfoundland to offload a couple of very ill sailors. When we arrived in New London, a band met us and a lot of brass was on hand for the welcome. A lot of the crew was mustered out and in just a few days, we sailed for Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
In the yard, we got a new commander, Lieutenant Commander J.B. Casler, and other new members for the crew. On arrival in Portsmouth, the power-that-be decided to make U-2513 operational and keep U-3008 in the yard until later. At this time the boat was placed in commission as USS EX-U-2513. We drydocked and had a good inspection of the boat, made other repairs and modifications for several months, and then we sailed for Key West with a brief stop in New London.
In Portsmouth, they had several other U-boats in dock. One I recall was a cargo sub and supposedly it was on its way to Japan when the war was over, and a couple of Japs had committed suicide onboard. While in drydock, they drilled a small hole in the sealed flasks that was located in the ballast tanks to determine the contents. The flasks contained mercury.
As the months and days went by. we had started to let the prisoners be one of the crew. In fact, once a week the Master-At- Arms would take them up to the beer garden in the yard and let them drink beer. The CO figured the war was over and prisoners were going home, so why not let them have a beer. This went on for several weeks and someone told the admiral about it and we had to transfer the prisoners to Fort Devens the next day. I understand the machinist that I had working with me escaped but was caught and sent back to Germany with the rest.
On arrival in Key West, we operated for a short time out of the subase, then moved to the section base-I can’t remember why we moved. We did have a closer barracks, a work shed on the dock, and we installed a diesel generator on the dock to carry the auxiliary load in order to save the battery. The ASW forces operated the hell out of us. This boat could do 16 knots submerged for one hours, and was twice as fast as any of ours. Everyone wanted to operate with us. We would operate and repair, charge batteries, and operate some more. During this time we took President Harry Truman out for a ride.
Harry Cooper is president of Sharkhunters, the world’s largest research source (outside Germany) on the topic of German U-boals. lieutenant Commander Graham has been a member for many years and shares his memories of the war, answers questions, etc. for other members. For free information on how you may become a member and receive the monthly magazine, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Sharkhunters, P.O. Box 1539-AT5, Hernando, FL 34442,· phone (352) 637-2917,· fax (352) 637-6289,· website: www.sharkhunters.com.