CVE21/A16-2                                                                                                        OF10/Ad  
 
U. S. S.  BLOCK ISLAND
       
                                                                                                                                
   
 
From: The Commander Task Group 21.16 (Commanding Officer, U.S.S. BLOCK ISLAND).
To: The Commander in Chief, United States Fleet.
Via: The Commander Fleet Air, Norfolk.
     
Subject: German Prisoners of War Taken 19 March 1944 from U-boat X-U-G, Report on.
     
References: (a) ALLANT 241740 of July 1943.
  (b) VCNO conf. ltr. Op-16-F-9, AL-2(4), serial 01227316 of 19 May 1942.
     
Enclosures: (A) Prisoner Survivors of Submarine Sunk 19 March 1944, List of as Furnished by U.S.S. CORRY (DD463).
 
     
          1.        Task Group 21.16 had destroyed U-boat 801 in latitude 16°42' N, longitude 30°28' W, at 1325 on March 17, 1944, recovering the majority of its crew, as described in report accompanying this.  
     
                    Again the commander of the task group plotted the probable position of other subs in the suspected refueling area and search operations for the morning of the 19th were moved southwesterly in accordance.  
     
                    Within ten minutes after sunrise, March 19, at 0826Z, a TBF and an FM returning from the first leg of their early morning search, sixty miles south of the ship, sighted a fully-surfaced submarine lying dead in the water, latitude 13°10' N, longitude 33°44' W.  The fighter pilot's impression was that it was a 740-tonner.  
     
          2.        The successful attack which they delivered is described fully in VC-6 report No. 7, and in the operational report of CTG 21.16 for that date, along with successive operations that day and on March 23 that bear direct relation to the same action.  
     
                    For the purpose of this report it is sufficient to say, concerning the attacks, that the fighter plane first strafed the surprised U-boat, with the TBF following to deliver a perfect depth charge attack.  Almost before the plumes had died down, the fighter strafed again and this time reported seeing a bright flash aboard.  Broken by the explosions, the sub sank, stern first, within a minute and a half.  
     
                    One minute later, the TBF which had executed the kill, spun into the water a half mile ahead of the submarine, while making a tight turn.  
     
 
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  CVE21/A16-2                                                                                                        OF10/Ad  
     
                                                                                                                    
   
 
Subject: German Prisoners of War Taken on 19 March 1944 from U-boat X-U-G, Report on.
 
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                    The fighter, orbiting over the scene, reported the situation by radio to the Commander of the Task Group who dispatched CORRY to the scene at full speed, and turned the task group toward the area, as well as vectoring other sections of the flight to the FM's relief.  
     
          3.        The fighter pilot counted fifteen to sixteen survivors struggling in the oil and debris that marked the sinking.  None of them had life belts.  Alongside the spot where the plane had crashed, he saw a pilot in a life raft.  A shark was circling in the area.  
     
                    An hour and a half later relief planes could count only eight survivors from the submarine.  A couple of floating torpedoes had been sighted.  
     
                    CORRY arrived, lowered a boat to start picking up survivors, and scouted the area for sound contacts.  She recovered one of the torpedoes and destroyed the other.  (Interim report on the torpedo is included as an annex to the operational report of CTG 21.16.  The machine itself is to be turned over to Bureau of Ordnance officials upon CORRY's arrival in port.  
     
                    Five Germans were found clinging to wreckage, or swimming in the middle of the oil slick where the sub had gone down.  A nude body was floating nearby.  At the life raft, which had floated to a distance of a mile or more by then, Ensign M. E. Fitzgerald, A-V(N), USNR, a pilot who had been riding as gunner-observer in the TBF, had found himself host to the U-boat captain and two other members of the crew.  
     
                    After the plane crashed, Ensign Fitzgerald had been unable to find any trace of the pilot or radioman, except for a seat-pack life-raft floating nearby.  When he got his raft inflated and finally got aboard, he began to hear faint shouts from the direction of the area of the sub's sinking, which he believed to be a mile away and directly into the sun.  About an hour later when he saw the first man approaching, he was frankly "scared to death" for he didn't know how many he might have to cope with.  The fellow kept swimming toward him doggedly, however, in a sort of dog paddle across the calm seas.  When he was fifty yards away, Ensign Fitzgerald called him, asking if he could speak English.  The man answered in the negative.  
     
 
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  CVE21/A16-2                                                                                                        OF10/Ad  
     
                                                                                                                    
   
 
Subject: German Prisoners of War Taken on 19 March 1944 from U-boat X-U-G, Report on.
 
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                    As the German came alongside, the pilot of a relief TBF, which had arrived overhead, saw the man in the water, and, thinking that he might be another surviving American, dropped his own life raft nearby.  
     
                    Ensign Fitzgerald required the submariner to swim over to the raft and push it back to him.  Then he showed him how to open it, inflate it, and climb in.  When the German was aboard, the flyer brought the two rafts together, secured them, then turned his attention to the wounds of his captive, employing the bandages and medicine in his kit.  The German was overcome with surprise at such treatment.  
     
                    Presently there were more calls in the distance:  two more men moved into sight, swimming painfully toward the raft.  When they approached, Ensign Fitzgerald was astonished that men could stay afloat in their condition, much less swim a mile in the open sea.  
     
                    One, who identified himself as the commanding officer, Oberleutnant zur See Gunter Leopold, 23, had a gaping wound in his shattered knee, as well as head wounds that later took fifty stitches to close.  The captain climbed in the rafts, the other hung on.  
     
                    "Did you fire on my plane?" asked Ensign Fitzgerald, hitching his sheath knife around into easy reach.  
     
                    The captain of the lost sub looked at him cagily, "You mad?"  
     
                    "No, I'm not mad, just want to know."  
     
                    The young Nazi relaxed, "Sure, my gun crews shot at it.  We shot it down."  
     
                    Ensign Fitzgerald, indicating that he had been alone in the plane, proceeded to bandage up the captain's wounds and those of his fellow.  Leopold watched incredulously as his captor ministered to him and his mates, then stuck out his hand to shake.  "You good fellow.  Damn war!"  
     
                  Soon he was suggesting that the British and Americans should join forces with the Germans to fight the Russians, who were the real enemy.  
     
 
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  CVE21/A16-2                                                                                                        OF10/Ad  
     
                                                                                                                    
   
 
Subject: German Prisoners of War Taken on 19 March 1944 from U-boat X-U-G, Report on.
 
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                    The captain told Ensign Fitzgerald that he did not know opposing forces were in the area until the attack came.  He asked whether the planes were land-based or carrier-based.  The captives were anxious about the treatment they would be given aboard the ship, appearing vastly relieved to learn it would not be Canadian or British.  
     
                    A strange complex in the captain's make-up was indicated when he first got aboard the rafts.  "Were there any negroes on the plane?" he asked, showing plainly his fear of that race.  This was further evidenced aboard the CORRY later, when his eyes opened wide in terror upon a mess steward's walking through the compartment.  
     
                    The man hanging on the side of the raft appeared to be about ready to let go and give up, being completely exhausted and terror-stricken, mumbling to himself.  Ensign Fitzgerald asked the captain to relay to him that a ship would be there soon to pick him up.  That information braced the fellow up tremendously.  The ultimate appearance of the CORRY evoked cries of joy from the Germans.  
     
          4.        Enclosure (A) lists the names of the eight living Germans who were recovered by the CORRY.  The body which has ben seen floating in the water nearby was recovered late that afternoon when ships were once more in the area.  Bearing only flash burns as visible injury, he is thought to have been in swimming when the depth charges struck alongside the sub.  The body was identified by survivors as:  
     
                    KRITSCH, Herbert, Machinen Maat  
                    26 years of age; service number unknown.  
     
                    The man was given burial at sea by the CORRY that afternoon, March 19.  
     
          5.        There follows copy of visual messages sent from the CORRY to CTG 21.16 during the days after the attack, giving supplementary information from the seven survivors as it was picked up:  
     
  CTG FROM CORRY 211950  
     
  SUB SUNK BY COOKIE EIGHT DOWTY CARRIED LIEUTENANT DOCTOR X CAPTAIN 23 YEARS OLD COMMA QUOTE YOUNGEST IN NAVY UNQUOTE X SIX OFFICERS COMPLEMENT X LARGE SUB ON FIRST WAR CRUISE OUT OF HAMBURG VIA ICELAND X NAME OF SUB XRAY UNIT GEORGE X OUT THREE MONTHS X  
     
 
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  CVE21/A16-2                                                                                                        OF10/Ad  
     
                                                                                                                    
   
 
Subject: German Prisoners of War Taken on 19 March 1944 from U-boat X-U-G, Report on.
 
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  CTG FROM CORRY 221550  
     
  TOO LATE TO TEY TO DIVE X TOO MANY MEN SWIMMING X PREFERRED TO FIGHT RATHER THAN DIVE X HATCH OPEN X SUB DEFINITELY SUNK X CAPTAIN BLOWN OFF SUB BY BOMBS X REGAINED CONSCIOUSNESS IN WATER WHILE SWIMMING X  
     
  CTG FROM CORRY 221620  
     
  MEN IN SWIMMING PARTY GOT ABOARD SUB ABOUT TIME MACHINE GUNNING STARTED X DEFINITELY DESTROYED TBF AND WOULD HAVE GOTTEN FIGHTER IF OTHER PLANES HADN'T SHOWN UP X PASSING AMMUNITION UP THROUGH HATCHES X IMMEDIATE EFFECTS OF ATTACK PUNCTURED BUOYANCY TANKS AND IMMEDIATELY SUB BEGAN TO SETTLE X  
     
  CTG FROM CORRY 231912  
     
  MAN BURIED WAS HEAD MACHINIST STATIONED AT BLOWING VALVES X WAS ON DECK AT TIME OF ACTION X ONE PRISONER STATES AFTER D/C EXPLOSIONS WHICH BLEW HIM OFF BRIDGE THERE WERE TWO EXPLOSIONS AFTER SHIP WENT DOWN X A SECOND VERY DEFINITELY STATED TORPEDO CAME FROM SHIP'S INTERIOR WHEN SHE SPLIT OPEN X DENIED THAT THEY WERE TOPSIDE X  
     
          6.        In view of the fact that most of the prisoners were severely wounded, and the fact that the BLOCK ISLAND already had forty-seven prisoners from U-801, the survivors of this second kill were kept on the CORRY, with the exception of one seaman, BOHNSACK, Walter, Obergefreiter who was bought over to the BLOCK ISLAND on the afternoon of the day of the sinking.  While the CORRY was alongside, Lieutenant Rey L. Swift, Ship's Intelligence Officer, and Ensign Roland L. Warren, Prisoner of War Officer, were transferred to the CORRY in order to interview the prisoners and also to ascertain some of the details of the rescue.  
     
                    Bohnsack was placed in sick-bay when he came on the BLOCK ISLAND, and although relatively communicative, did not seem to know a great deal about his ship of the circumstances of the attack.  In sick-bay he came into contact with some of the wounded prisoners from U-801, and his first few minutes with them were carefully observed, with negative results.  He was soon placed with the enlisted men from U-boat 801, because of limited accommodations, and spent the remainder of the trip with them, receiving the same kind of treatment which they did.  
     
 
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  CVE21/A16-2                                                                                                        OF10/Ad  
     
                                                                                                                    
   
 
Subject: German Prisoners of War Taken on 19 March 1944 from U-boat X-U-G, Report on.
 
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          7.        The "youngest U-boat captain in the navy" is pretty much of a man.  He underwent an operation aboard the CORRY, requiring the complete removal of the shattered fragments of his knee-cap.  His scalp was pieced back together as well.  But less than an hour after he came out from under anesthesia he talked alertly and cheerfully to the interviewer, mourning chiefly "the loss of my beautiful ship."  
     
                    Captain Leopold declared that he was below when the attack came, that two guns were out of commission when he reached topside.  His statement concerning the shooting down of the plane, as quoted in the visuals above, that he "would have gotten fighter too if other plane's hadn't shown up," shows that he was either entirely confused or lieing, for everyone was blown off the decks by the depth charge explosion; the TBF crashed a full minute later after the sub had sunk; and no other planes showed up for fifteen or twenty minutes.  
     
                    Captain Leopold at first energetically denied that the sub was dead in the water when surprised, claiming that it was making eight to ten knots.  The only explanation of this is that perhaps he was trying to cover up the obvious: that the ship was probably lying to for a rendezvous with the refueler.  (The operational report, CTG 21.16, for this date shows evidence from later attacks that a refueler was submerged within a miles of the scene at the time).  The swimming party mentioned was most likely simply taking advantage of that situation.  
     
                    The only other significant information obtained from the prisoners which the CORRY retained was that there were fifty-nine to sixty members of the crew.  
     
          8.        Walter Bohnsack, the man brought aboard by BLOCK ISLAND, was described by the ship's doctors as "a perfect 4-H type in any branch of our service."  His mentality is low, his coordination poor.  After three years in the navy, this was his first time at sea.  
     
                    He "didn't know" whether the sub was dead in the water, since he was working below.  There was a swimming party, though he remembered!  The fellow was genuinely astonished at the proposition that the sub may have been waiting for a refueler.  "But of course, it might have been so.  That is the officers' business.  A seaman wouldn't know."  
     
                    His account of his experience was to this effect:  
     
 
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  CVE21/A16-2                                                                                                        OF10/Ad  
     
                                                                                                                    
   
 
Subject: German Prisoners of War Taken on 19 March 1944 from U-boat X-U-G, Report on.
 
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                    "My general quarters station is in the conning tower, as an ammunition passer, so when the alarm rang, I had to run there.  I was on the platform, where I was to pass ammunition to the guns above; thus I could not see what damage was done by the strafing.  Perhaps because I was bending down I was not wounded.  
     
                    Then the explosion came.  I was thrown twenty meters through the air, landing stunned in the water.  A moment later there were more explosions aboard the sub.  I thought it was more depth charges, but now I remember there was no plume of water, only fire and pieces of things flying high in the air.  It jolted my stomach and chest.  
     
                    It was my ship, so I had to watch.  The submarine bent or broke in the middle and the mid-section went out of sight first.  Then the two ends sank quickly."  
     
                    Bohnsack saw nothing of other survivors except the four with whom he was found by the CORRY.  He was the only unwounded man of the lot.  
     
                    He tacitly confirmed that the designation of the sub was "X-U-G," but showed some evidence of security-consciousness in refusing to tell from what port it sailed, or when.  
     
          9.        The only gear aboard the BLOCK ISLAND from the sinking of the "X-U-G" is as follows:  
     
                    (a)  Two pieces of deck planking, now lashed together and labeled.  
     
                    (b)  Bohnsack's clothing, so labeled but stowed in the same sea-bag with the clothing from U-801.  
     
                    (c)  A flashlight, so labeled but included with gear from U-801.  
     
                    A docket contains photographs and available data on the man buried at sea, along with miscellaneous notes and photographs pertaining to the sinking.  
     
 
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  CVE21/A16-2                                                                                                        OF10/Ad  
     
                                                                                                                    
   
 
Subject: German Prisoners of War Taken on 19 March 1944 from U-boat X-U-G, Report on.
 
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          10.        In accordance with reference (b) the prisoner of was, Bohnsack, and all the material mentioned above, with a copy of this letter, will be turned over to the Commandant Fifth Naval District, (Office of Naval Intelligence), upon arrival in port.  CORRY will discharge her prisoners and such gear as she has aboard pertaining to them, to the Commandant First Naval District, (Office of Naval Intelligence), upon her arrival in port.  
     
     
                                                                                                   F.  M.  HUGHES  
     
     
  Copies to:  
      ONI  
      DIO, 5ND  
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
 
 
     
     

 

     
     
 
PRISONER SURVIVOR LIST OF SUBMARINE SUNK ON
 
 
19 March 1944,
 
 
Picked up by the U.S.S. CORRY (DD463)
 
 
                                                           Latitude 13°14'1" North
 
                                                             Longitude 33°26'9" West  
                                
   
     
 
OFFICERS      
       
Oberleutnant zur See LEOPOLD, Gunter 23 yrs. 1938 (C.O.)
Leutnant zur See KARRASCH, Horst 21 yrs. 1940
       
ENLISTED MEN      
       
Bootsmaat HOLLEDER, Georg 22 yrs. UO17115-40S
Obergefreiter BUB, Gernet 19 yrs. UN20624-41S
Obergefreiter GRUNEWALD, Egon 21 yrs. UN7277-41KS
Obergefreiter BORNSACK, Walter 20 yrs. UN025479-41S*
Gefreiter GOEPEL, Horst 19 yrs. UO25999-42
Gefreiter SPITZER, Otto 18 yrs. UO58045-42
 
     
  *  Transferred to BLOCK ISLAND  
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
 
                                                            ENCLOSURE (A)
 
     
     

 


 

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