The Lost Convoy


One thing about the seas of the North Atlantic, they are very, very cold…

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at least this was one reason I had to be thankful for doing my bit to save the world riding in a sub.

imageEnclosed in an overgrown pimple or a submarine, allowed for some degree of comfort that most of our boys on the ground would never see, not in this here war, no sir.

image     Of course that was no consolation to the men on the supply vessels of the Merchant Marines. These fellows were something else. At least you had to be drafted to be in one of the military branches of service, unless you enlisted  of course, which many of us did. But the only way onto a Merchant Marine ship was to enlist. This might not sound like a big deal however, once you realize that they were completely unarmed. They were not allowed to carry any weapons nor to have their ships armored up for war, even to defend themselves. So they went sailing through frigid, ice cold waters naked, so to speak. That took courage, and a lot of it. image

The thing about being in a sub was that it was okay until it was not okay. Sometimes we would go for days without running into anyone nor anything except some birds and an occasional gigantic sperm whale, which were huge!

This one convoy though, it took the cake. I mean there were forty three ships making this crossing and we were told that for many of the crewmen this was their  first time out. Little did they know that most of the guys on our sub were totally green too, first timers all around.

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Most of the newbies were down in the engine room where they were kept  busy and out of the way.

On this trip, the experienced men with multiple missions under their belts, were assigned more important duties like manning the torpedo room, navigating through the seas and other critical functions designed to keep us all alive hopefully, at least for another day.

Some of the guys had no interim assignments and were able to relax in the bunk area where they could do some reading or lose a few dollars to the sea wisened sailors, in a lopsided poker game.

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Two destroyers road the flanks of the convoy and one small carrier was supposed to join us but half way across we were told she had been sunk. That came as no big surprise since the Nazi U Boats ruled most of these waters.

Still, it was a little bit of a shock when one of the ships towards the middle of the convoy suddenly exploded, sending billowing waves of black smoke into the air.image

We were still on the surface trying to keep our speed up and stay a little ahead of things when another horrendous blast echoed across the surface of the sea.

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We wasted no time getting into action as the skipper gave the order to dive and so we did, not having to be told a second time.

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As we did though, we could hear more explosions as apparently more ships had been targeted and hit. Surely we thought, the entire Kriegsmarine, the German navy must be out there!

We didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on their misfortune for soon we had our hands full with a new set of problems. There were more than a few German destroyers topside and they were starting to drop depth charges and we had only just begun our dive.

No matter how hardened a veteran one might be, when you’re several hundred feet below the oceans surface with explosions blasting away against the metal sides of the vessel you are in, you’re scared!

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Your only means of survival is being threatened with extinction and so are you.

The depth charges are set to explode at various levels based on the best estimates of the enemy crews. They don’t necessarily have to hit you directly as the concussion from the explosion is multiplied being under water. The severe repercussions of a blast will weaken metal joints and siding, it will rattle the entire ship from nose to tail and shake your heart right out of your chest if you’re not holding onto it.

You hear some men beginning to whimper a little, probably the newbies. No one says anything, no one blames them. Other men cry out as the explosions grow louder and more frequent. One blasting just overhead. Steam pipes burst, reinforced metal sheets break apart at the seams and freezing sea water blasts it’s way through. Now your own hands begin to shake as old tremors renew their solemn beat.image

This is is not good you think. This time it’s not going to end well for me or this crew.

And so, desperate thoughts go through the minds of desperate men, each one hoping and yes praying, that these will not be their last thoughts.

The captain has taken the ship down as far as he dare, to a depth of almost seven hundred feet. The once sturdy sub is running silent in what surely must be the murky darkness of hell itself. There is no fresh air to breathe, what’s left is the foul recycled fumes of the breath of men, soured with fear, panic and despair.

It seemed as though we had been submerged for hours and that all would soon be lost, lost to the graveyard of the Great Atlantic, gateway to Hades itself, or perhaps for some, to lie at The Almighty’s footstool seeking redemption from this morass called war.

Get a grip, you say to yourself, we are not sunk yet, every man, to a man must now dig deep and be a man. The only way we are going to stay alive, is if we keep our heads. We must think and act our way out of this.

The captain calls out for our depth.

He then cries- Time?

Time? Why we have only been under for forty seven minutes, not even an hour and it felt like a whole day has gone by.

All of the noise from above is gone, no more explosions from charges or the unfortunate convoy, just the returning silence.

Take her up, the captain says, take her up slowly and let’s see what we shall see.

Up Periscope!

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The captain looked through the scope and his breath caught. Oh my God, he said, they’re gone, all gone. The only ship in site is on its way down, not even the destroyers were able to save themselves.

The whole convoy is lost!

Surface, he commands!

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And when the once mighty sub broke to the surface, we saw for ourselves what the captain had seen… and wished we had stayed below.

~ by Vinnie on May 14, 2015.

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