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VINZ NOSCH (280-1987) rode U-66 and in 1987, he came to the Chicago area to meet with a veteran of USS BUCKLEY. Sharkhunters Founder and President HARRY COOPER (1-LIFE-1983) was invited to join them for their reunion. What follows is the exact memories of NOSCH as written by him later to COOPER.
In February 1943, I came to the U-66 after I had served under Commander Merten (Sharkhunters Member KARL FRIEDERICH MERTEN 23-1984) on the U-68, and was sent to the home base of the 2nd U-Bootflottille in Lorient, France. The Commander was Friedrich Markworth, who later received the KNIGHTS CROSS. After the return from a mission on the West African Coast where the cruiser had almost been sunk on which President Roosevelt and Churchill were proceeding to the harbor of Dakar, U-66 was again made clear for duty. On April 26, 1943, we went out on our mission. Our operations area was the Caribbean up to Cape Hatteras. As far as I can remember, we sank a tanker near Charleston with 12,000 BRT, and between the Bahamas and Florida, we torpedoed another empty tanker the same size. Since this tanker opened fire on us with its guns, we engaged ourselves in an artillery battle, until the tanker, which was called BLOODY MARSH sank. In the same operations area, we also torpedoed the big tanker CHERRY VALLEY, and then attacked with artillery. However, the tanker got away even though we hit it with two torpedoes and it was listing strongly on one side. In the Gulf, there was strong air security from the Americans through air ships and CATALINA flying boats. After we had operated for twelve weeks in the Caribbean area and found out by radio that a large convoy was leaving the area of Bermuda in the direction of Africa, we started to follow this convoy. While we tried to get into shooting position. On July 6, 1943, we sighted an auxiliary cruiser in this area. With our torpedo tubes opened for the front torpedoes and at periscope depth of 14 meters (about 45 feet), the enemy ships detected us through either radar or underwater listening devices, and starting coming directly at us. Since the necessary equipment for underwater travel had been emptied of water, therefore we could not dive, we sent all men to the front of the boat in order to try to create enough weight. However, this did not work and the auxiliary cruiser proceeded right at us and tore open the upper deck. I found myself in the rear area and remember there was a terrible sound of crashing metal. The two diving tanks one and two ventilators and the antenna on the starboard side were badly damaged. However, the auxiliary cruiser proceeded on its own course without even returning to see if it had hit us.
|KARL-FRIEDERICH MERTEN||Friederich Markworth||USS CARD|
the Oak Leaf
to his Knights Cross
the Knights Cross
On August 2, 1943, around eight o’clock in the evening, we were proceeding east of Bermuda above water, and I was the aft watchman in the tower. Suddenly, out of the sun, an airplane from the auxiliary aircraft cruiser CARD, (from the CHARGER Class), attacked our boat with its machine guns, and also dropped two bombs. The Second Watch Officer, Schütz, gave the warning; “Plane Attack”, but he was killed by a shot. Since the hatch to the tower was still open and Schütz was dead lying across it, Engineer Olschewski had to stop the diving of the boat. As Commander Markworth, Oberleutnant Herbig, Head Helmsman Fröhlich and the gun crew came on the bridge, the airplane again attacked U-66, and Private Lorenz was hit and killed by machine gun strafing. Leutnant Captain (Kapitänleutnant) Markworth received a shot through his stomach; Mid-shipman Pfaff received a shot through his chest; Oberleutnant Herbig had his knee shattered, Helmsman Fröhlich received a wound in his heel, and torpedo mechanic Nitsch had both his legs shot off above the knee. Privates Künkel, Müller, Dreweck and Stump also were injured by the bullets, but of less serious nature. As our machine proceeded in a big curve the injured were pulled into the boat, and the boat was able to dive. I should mention that a bomb from the airplane fell right on top of the front antenna and tore it apart, and it fell into the water behind the boat. The second bomb also hit the port side near the tower and fell into the water. The first bomb, during the explosion, damaged some of our batteries and a torpedo in the first torpedo tube, and therefore, acid from the torpedo started to flow and the torpedo began running its motor in the tube. The torpedo had to be pushed out into the water right away. The bomb which landed right next to the tower heavily damaged the room in which the diesel was located and the different pumps which cooled off the diesel; there was also water in the boat as a result of the operation.
Torpedo Mechanic Nitsch, who had just celebrated his twentieth birthday on this particular day, and for this reason as a kind gesture from Commander Markworth, had been allowed onto the tower (the bridge of the submarine) in order to smoke a cigarette, died on August 3, 1943, bleeding to death in the boat, never losing consciousness until he actually died.
We didn’t see any more airplanes after August 3, 1943, but we knew that the aircraft carrier group was still in the area, and so we quickly surfaced and found Oberleutnant Schütz, who was dead, still wrapped around the gun. Lorenz was washed away when the boat dived. Schütz and Nitsch were buried at sea. Since we knew we were in the vicinity of this aircraft carrier group and also in the vicinity of a large convoy, we knew that we were going to be attacked again and again. Many airplane bombs and water bombs were shot at us. Since the Commander Markworth and the First Watch Officer Herbig were incapable of continuing their duty, a submarine supply ship was promised us. On August 6, 1943, west of the Azores, we met the submarine tender U-117 with Captain Leutnant Naumann. First of all, from this boat, Oberleutnant Frerks came on board along with Dr. Schrenk. Just as we were getting provisions and needed medicine from the submarine tender by way of rubber boats, suddenly we were attacked again by airplanes. Since U-66 was not able to dive deeply, we decided we would first dive and the submarine tender U-117 would give us protective fire. We had hardly dived when we heard the explosion of bombs, a loud noise, and the sound of pressure valves exploding. Shortly thereafter, it was quiet, and as we proceeded at periscope depth we were able to see the U-117 right next to us had been sunk by an aircraft plane. The doctor had to operate on Commander Markworth and Mid-shipman Pfaff as the only means of saving their lives, and the other injured were also taken care of. On August 16, 1943, we were again running out of provisions and fuel, and we met U-847, under Captain Leutnant Kuppisch. During the night time hours, we took on board diesel fuel and provisions, and U-847 received from us a device to purify water and some heavy oil for lubrication. As we continued on our way home, Engineer Olschewski was finally able to get rid of the mess in the diesel room and on September 1, 1943, with a lot of luck, we were able to reach our home base of Lorient. Commander Markworth received the KNIGHTS CROSS to the IRON CROSS, Fröhlich and Degener-Böning received the GERMAN CROSS IN GOLD, and the rest of the crew also received awards.
German Cross in Gold
After being in the wharf and having our boat refitted, we again left on January 16, 1944 on another voyage to South Africa. The new commander’s name was Oberleutnant Seehausen. During this trip I was in the front compartment. We had rough seas as we proceeded through the Bay of Biscay, and near Cape Finistere in Spain we observed a steaming aircraft carrier and two or three accompanying destroyers. On account of the heavy seas, we had to dive and try to approach them. However, we were driven away by heavy water bomb attacks. We shot one T-5 torpedo at a destroyer (this torpedo is attracted by the sound of the ship’s screws), but unfortunately, it ran out of fuel before it reached the destroyer. On the trip through the Canary Islands and then to Cape Palmas, we had constant heavy attacks from a nearby aircraft carrier. In the area of Accra (Gold Coast), we came upon a convoy with heavy destroyer protection. Commander Seehausen proceeded under water and entered the area of the destroyers in the convoy, and we sank two ships with four torpedoes from the front torpedo tubes. After that we had to dive very deeply since we were followed by many bombs. Still in March, off the coast of Lagos, we sank a ship that was proceeding by itself at 7,000 BRT. In April we came to the bay of Nigeria and discovered a tanker. We torpedoed him and it exploded in flames. Suddenly, two torpedo boats, which approached us with all guns shooting, tried to block our way to the open sea. Since our listening device had been damaged by earlier water bomb attack, we didn’t know how deep the bay was and couldn’t proceed farther along the coast, we tried by diving quickly to avoid hitting the bottom. By this diving, the boat’s bow and the front area ended up in the mud at 400 feet, and the boat couldn’t be gotten free. In addition, the torpedo boat started dropping water bombs, and one of them hit an aft diesel storage tank. The torpedo boats then dropped more water bombs in this rising oil.
At least ten or twenty bombs which were dropped exploded above us and next to us. Since we knew that a destroyer group was also in the area and that the tanker which we had sunk had been able to radio, we figured the within four hours this destroyer group would reach our area and destroy us with bombs.
Since blowing air out of the tubes didn’t help, and everyone of us realized that death was approaching, everyone was almost ready to go crazy after several hours of just trying to get free. Some of the crew members wanted to try swimming to the surface from four hundred feet below water, but they were held back from doing it, because they were ready to try anything to get out of this confinement. In a last attempt to get out of this hell, we all ran together at the same time from the front of the boat to the back until the boat finally got free, after two or three hours of doing this (in other words, rocking it back and forth). We did additional blowing up of the tanks and the boat rapidly floated to the surface. The boat was rising so quickly that we all had to quickly run to the front of the boat in order to prohibit it from shooting out of the water with its bow. Of course it wasn’t very easy to do this at the same time because of the steep angle of ascent, because all the crew was in the back of the boat, all the dishes and different things that were stored in the boat were flying in our faces. We had hardly gotten out of this area of danger and reached an area where we suspected the water was 200 meters (about 650 feet) which was our recommended diving depth which we should have for our own protection, we finally heard the destroyer approaching, apparently attracted by the oil which was on the water’s surface and believing we were still at the bottom of the ocean. We heard more than fifty or sixty water bombs explode, so we barely got out of there in time. As we continued in the direction of the equator, we saw a freighter coming out of the harbor Duala (earlier named Cameroon) we made an underwater attack and sank it. As we surfaced and asked some of the survivors who were drifting around in boats, they were able to tell us that both of the ships near Accra had sunk in a very short time. Also, it was confirmed that one of these ships was called the JOHN HOLT. It also had been the same name of the ship we had sunk earlier. This ship had been rebuilt in England and received the same name and the same captain from Liverpool. Therefore, no international register will record that we sank the same ship twice. It doesn’t take into consideration that another boat was built and bore the same name JOHN HOLT.
After we crossed the equator and baptized the new crew members of U-66, we were supposed to head back to France, but we were reordered to head in the direction of the Indian Ocean, and we were supposed to have been given diesel fuel and torpedoes from the submarine tender U-188 under Captain Leutnant Lüdden, in order to continue our trip. However, we didn’t make the meeting with U-188. Since we had already been underway for sixteen weeks and were very short on supplies, we were supposed to be supplied by U-68 under Captain Leutnant Lauzemus, who was in the vicinity of Casablanca. The U-68, however, was sunk by a plane attack shortly before we were supposed to meet. Private Hans Kastrup, who as the alarm was sounded was standing next to the 2 centimeter battery, stayed above deck and, therefore, was the only survivor of U-68. He was caught on deck when the sub went under water, and since it was sunk with all men on board lost, through his misfortune, he turned out to be very fortunate. As we waited to be resupplied after May 2, 1944, west of the Cape Verde Islands, we had very little time to recharge our batteries, because we were constantly being attacked by aircraft from the pursuing aircraft carrier BLOCK ISLAND.
|Siegfried Lüdden||Albert Lauzemus||USS BLOCK ISLAND|
On the night of may 6, 1944, we were again surprised by aircraft carrier planes as we tried to recharge our batteries. We had our early warning system against airplanes, but we didn’t know that aircraft carrier planes could take off and land at night time. Also, a destroyer tried to ram us. As we were trying keep from being rammed, we shot a torpedo through the rear tube at the BUCKLEY. This torpedo evidently ran underneath the destroyer and we were very afraid that we were going to be hit by our own torpedo which was circling. The commander, Seehausen, therefore, ordered that we open all four torpedo tubes and be ready to shoot. In the meantime, the destroyer BUCKLEY continued its course in trying to ram us and I heard our on board guns shooting the approaching destroyer. At this time we were above the water and suddenly I heard the sound of a grenade exploding in our boat. The lights went off, there was a smell of powder and a strong odor in the boat, and in the front area you could hear water pouring in the boat. All of a sudden we heard the command, “Everyone out of the boat”.
At this point there was a lot of chaos - everyone ran to the same middle point, put on his life jacket and tried to get out of the tower and on to the bridge whenever there was a pause in the firing, and to get overboard. As I entered the tower, privates Jahn and Sündermann, badly injured and lying on the floor, asked to be taken along. The first one had had his arm blown off and you could see that there had been many hits in the tower area. My comrade, Ronge, and I climbed up to the bridge and as we were hidden behind the periscope supports, we saw how our dead comrades were lying around the bridge and next to the 3.7 centimeter cannon. We also saw how the destroyer BUCKLEY was lying along side us on the left and slowly was moving in our direction. From the bridge and the front upper deck of the destroyer, they were still shooting in the direction of the tower hatch. During a pause in the fire, Ronge yelled I should jump overboard and swim with him to the destroyer. As I saw how Ronge wanted to jump across to the destroyer which was right off side of us, and unfortunately mistimed his jump and fell between the approaching destroyer and our boat. I jumped away on the starboard of the tower into the water. Swimming in the water, I saw how the destroyer slowly approached our boat on its starboard side, shooting at our boat, and then how our boat sank tail first. Our boat sank at around 4 o’clock in the morning. My life jacket was ruined, and I am not ashamed to say that I was badly weakened physically by the sixteen week voyage, and since I knew that there was no ships routes in the area where we were sunk, I wanted to give up. But through praying, I still had hopes that I would be saved. As the sun went up, I suddenly saw over me an airplane and a flare. After I had been swimming in the Atlantic for three of four hours, I saw a mast on the horizon, and I was picked up by a destroyer. My crew mates and I received warm clothing, and after several days, were sent to the aircraft carrier BLOCK ISLAND. We were treated well.
ABOARD USS BLOCK ISLAND
BACK ROW: Masch Ogfr Willi Hähner; Mech Ogfr Helmut Illing; Masch Gfr Fritz Buttgereit; Funk Gfr Gottlieb Melmuka; Masch Gfr Helmuth Rautenberg; Masch Ogfr Günther Schmidt; Matrose II Herbert Teuscher; Masch Ogfr Heinz Lehmann.
MIDDLE ROW: Matrosen Gfr Leonhard Burian; Masch Gfr Hans Hoffmann; Masch Ogfr Anton Klaus; Matronen Ogfr Kurt Fickel; Matrosen Gfr Helmuth Künkel.
FRONT ROW: Masch Ogfr Horst Koch; Matrosen Gfr VINZENZ NOSCH (280-1987); Matrosen Ogfr Walter Drewek; Funk Ogfr Harry Schönel; Masch Ogfr Helmut Löser.
NOT SHOWN: Matrosen Ogfr Heinrich Haller
At the beginning of our internment from May 12 to June 9, 1944, we were housed in Casablanca, where one day while we were taking a walk, we were able to observe the torpedoing of the BLOCK ISLAND which was entering the boarbor. We saw two high columns of fire, and then we saw how the aircraft carrier started turning over on its side. From Casablanca we were brought to Norfolk on the aircraft carrier TOLEGI, and on this crossing of the Atlantic, the survivors of the BLOCK ISLAND were telling us that their carrier had been sunk, and some sailors from our navy which they had on board had been killed. From Norfolk, where we were interrogated, we first went to Fort Mead in Washington, and from there to Camp Moccasin, Mississippi, where I was a prisoner one year long, and served in the camp fire department, and until April 1946 was active in the cotton fields. On April 26, 1946, I came from Camp Moccasin to Camp Shanks near New York, and on may 4, 1946, I was put on board a ship in Baltimore and sent to LeHarve. On June 13, 1946, I was released from captivity in Kärnten. Since my home in Graz had been destroyed by bombs, I wanted to try to find my mother. I found my mother, but we had both lost everything that we owned. Since December 1, 1946, I have been in the Austrian Police, and as of December 31, 1981, I was retired.
These are the memories which are still in my mind from my wartime, which I promised you I would send you. My school English was not enough to help us to communicate as we met at Hans Hoffmann’s in order to give you the interview which I promised. You are welcome to take whatever you want out of this report for your book. You couldn’t understand how sixty men could live four or five months in such a small area. I have tried to tell you as much as I can about the boat, its equipment, how it worked and life onboard. My wife, Anni, said this wouldn’t be very interesting to you, but I believe it belongs to the experiences which you are reporting.
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Many thanks to our friend and Sharkhunters Member since 1987 GEORG HÖGEL for all the conning tower emblems used in our monthly KTB Magazine and also here on the pages of our website. GEORG was radioman aboard U-30, the first boat into combat, the first to sink a ship (the liner ATHENIA) and the first into an occupied French port. When that Skipper (Lemp) took command of U-110, GEORG was one of the former crew to transfer to the new boat under Lemp. After the war, he was Professor of Art at a major German university.