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On the bridge in WW II "Little Bastard"
Conning Tower Emblem
Born on 6 August 1917 in Bautzen, KOITSCHKA was in Naval Class 1937a and he ultimately commanded U-616 and was decorated with the Knights Cross.
Many are unaware that it was KOITSCHKA who sank the first American warship in World War II, the old four-piper USS REUBEN JAMES. True enough, it was ERICH TOPP (118-LIFE-1985) in command of U-552 who gave the order to fire torpedoes at this ship, but KOITSCHKA was the I.W.O. aboard and it was his torpedo crew that fired on that dark and stormy Halloween night in 1941 to sink the old destroyer. In the dark, they saw an old four-piper, just like the ones the US gave to England, escorting a British convoy - the logical conclusion was that this was a Royal Navy ship, and a valid target.
During his first Feindfahrt (war patrol), he was not successful against the well-guarded Convoy HX.229 and also Convoy SC.122. In fact, his boat was so badly battered by the escorts that they were forced to return to their homeport with the 6th U-Bootflottille based at St. Nazaire. Soon afterwards, KOITSCHKA received orders to take his U-616 to their new homeport with the 29th U-Bootflottille - at La Spezia! They had to make it through the "Gates of Hell" at Gibraltar, which they did successfully.
His first two patrols out of this new Italian base to Oran and Algeria were not only unsuccessful, they were nearly fatal. Each patrol was cancelled early, due to severe damage suffered at the hands of the convoy escorts.
Eventually, his successes returned and during the Allied landing in Salerno Bay, U-616 sank the American destroyer USS BUCK. He sank more ships until 14 May 1944 when the US Navy ran the anti-submarine Operation "Monstrous I" and U-616 was sunk by what must have appeared to be the entire US Navy. The destroyers involved in sinking U-616 were:
and planes from RAF 36 Squadron
But the story doesn't end there - years after the end of the war, KOITSCHKA and his wife were invited every year to the annual reunion of the USS ELLYSON and USS RODMAN - another example of:
"Yesterday's Enemies are Today's Friends"
After the war, KOITSCHKA became a veterinarian and served a small farming community in central Germany. He and his wife were well loved and highly respected by their neighbors in their area and by anyone who had the pleasure of meeting them. I have had the pleasure of being in the Koitschka home on many occasions and was always made to feel as if I was in my Grandparent's home. Frau Koitschka is an excellent cook and they would not hear of my departing their home until I had a good meal.
KOITSCHKA himself had a great sense of humor. Some of his jokes cannot be printed here, but they were funny. His humor can be seen in the conning tower emblem of his U-616, the "Little Bastard" tower emblem. He told us that the father was the famed "Dancing Red Devil" from the tower of U-552 (KOITSCHKA was I.W.O. on that boat) and the mother was a prostitute from Toulon. Every time he told that story, he would break out in gales of laughter. SIEGFRIED KOITSCHKA was a fine man with a warm and open heart, and he was always friendly and helpful to Sharkhunters.
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