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RAY LANKHEIM was a gunner aboard the U.S. Navy sub chaser PC-565 when, on 2 June 1943, they sank U-521 in a surprise attack off the American east coast. RAY was at his station at the twin 20mm gun when the only survivor of U-521, Captain KLAUS BARGSTEN (528-1987), popped to the surface. His finger tightened on the trigger because, as RAY told us, they were under orders to "Kill them all!" but RAY realized that this lone figure in the water, swimming to just stay alive, could not hurt anyone, so his finger eased off the trigger and BARGSTEN was taken aboard to become a POW.
RAY was transferred to a destroyer operating in the Arctic. During our First Annual Convention in February 1987 in Key Largo, Florida RAY was sitting on my left at the Tiki Bar and HANS-GEORG HESS (125-LIFE-1985) was seated to my right. They talked of their time in the war - and they had the same patrol area - at the same time! Hess told RAY the number that was painted on his destroyer and RAY asked how he knew that. HESS said that on a certain date, he had fired two torpedoes at the destroyer but someone aboard the 'tin can' must have spotted the torpedoes because the ship swerved out of the way. RAY brightened up and gave the name of the lookout who spotted the torpedoes, then he said, "Well Captain, you missed. What do you think about that?" Without a second's hesitation, HESS slammed his fist down on the bar and exclaimed, "Well, I'm glad I missed - we have more time for beer now!" The two men became friends there at the Tiki Bar - men who were trying to kill each other some four decades earlier.
RAY LANKHEIM was a decent, caring man who could not bring himself to pull the trigger on a helpless man struggling in the water and he became friends with a man who had been his enemy many years before. About six months after attending our convention and becoming friends with many U-Bootfahrer, RAY and his next door neighbor had an argument about the fence between their property. The neighbor pulled out a gun and shot RAY dead.
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