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"Patrol in North Germany"
from 13 October 2001 through 21 October 2001
We met the men who actually MADE this history!
This was a very special tour, arranged for us by the veterans themselves. No other tour could possibly allow visitors in the places we go or to meet with all these honored veterans. There have never been less than a dozen U-boat Skippers with us & dozens of other officers & crewmen attending our Patrols. The Luftwaffe and other branches of the Wehrmacht are also represented.
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18 October (Thursday) As our bus heads out along the autobahn, we see more and more German Army convoys. They are larger than normal, and we see many more than usual. It appears that Osama bin Laden has made an impact he never expected.
Soon we are at the Hamburg City Hall where we are met by Oblt. HANS-GEORG HESS, Skipper of U-995 and holder of the Knights Cross, his son TILMAN HESS and Major HANNES ESKEN a veteran of the Luftwaffe. They joined us for the two-hour walking tour of this beautiful and important old city, and TILMAN was the tour leader. He knows the area quite well, and is very active in the politics of the area. We had a nice stop for coffee – and TILMAN graciously covered the check.
After the tour, we all boarded the bus and headed for the Luftwaffe Museum, headed by our friend GÜNTHER LEONHARD. Standing there waiting for us with GÜNTHER was our cannoneer friend from the Crimean Campaign, GERD DIETRICH as well as the Museum Staff, all at our disposal since the Museum is closed to the public this afternoon and only open for the SHARKHUNTERS. after a welcome speech by GÜNTHER, we went to the Museum restaurant where the chef had prepared a superb lunch for us – tiny sandwiches, but the hit of the meal was the thick, rich pea soup that had been the mainstay of the Wehrmacht in World War II and the German military of today. It was great!
The Me 109 in the museum
We received a splendid personal tour of this beautiful museum, but the high point was the visit to the fully restored Me 109 and Focke-Wulf FW 190. The barriers were taken down at these two planes, and our SHARKHUNTERS Members were allowed to climb to the cockpit of each and shoot photos and videotapes as much as we wanted. We had plenty of time, as we were the only ones in the Museum - it was closed to the public and only for us this day. Both planes are totally restored from original parts – there is nothing custom made on these two birds. At the beginning of the war, there was nothing in the sky to match the Me 109 but later on, then came the FW 190 ‘Butcher Bird’ which could tangle with anything in the sky at the time and take it apart. In the never-ending technology battle however, the Royal Air Force came out with the new and improved SPITFIRE then the Americans put the P-51 into the skies and ultimately there was nothing to stand in the way of the MUSTANG.
The bunker 'VALENTIN'
19 October (Friday) Again our SHARKHUNTERS go where no one else can go. This time we are at the bunker Valentin. This was made to accommodate the final construction of the Type XXI U-boats which at that time, were the most advanced submarines in the world. We were shown where the eight pre-built sections would have come in to begin their smooth flow of work to fit them together, into the special high roof section where the periscopes and snorkels would be tested, to the final assembly and to the dive tank where the boats would be flooded down to test for any leaks and finally, they would have moved out into the Weser River to begin their journey to the North Sea and combat. It never happened. No Type XXI U-boats or any other types for that matter, were ever built here. The war ended before this facility could begin production, but the bunker still stands and is used today as a major supply facility for the German Navy. It is a very busy place in these days, since the German Navy is geared up for this new war.
We met GERD THÄTER, Skipper of U-466 and U-3506, near Wilhelmshaven where we had lunch with GERD and three of his friends, all veterans of the U-boats. Naturally, they signed autographs and posed for photos with our Members. Then GERD led us to the 206A Class submarine that we toured, along with a minesweeper and a great museum.
After he returned home from our tour, DAVID RADOSH wrote:
"I had a fantastic time! My favorite memories are the U-Boat Archive and meeting the veterans. the trip was well coordinated."
DAVID's wife Donna was a little upset with him before the tour because she thought there would be nothing for the wives to do. Here is what she wrote after the tour:
"I had a good time. My best memories of the tour are the people! It was a great mix of friendly, intelligent and entertaining people. Please keep the bunker Valentin in all the tours."
Okay Donna, we certainly will keep going to bunker Valentin.
The 206A Class submarine was replaced by the 212 Class in the new German Navy, and we toured through and around this 206A as much as we wanted as well as the other ships here. The SEEHUND (below right) is said to have taken part against the Allied landing forces and sank two ships at Normandy.
20 October (Saturday) By 1000 hours, we are at the U-Boat Archiv and our Members are given a complete tour of this facility. HORST BREDOW, the director was with us, even though he had just received a new hip and was on crutches. Naturally, photos and videotapes are no problem.
As always, we enjoyed lunch and shopping in Bremerhaven – and there was U-2540 to visit. This is the only surviving Type XXI U-boat in the world, and our group went through her to their heart’s content as well as the other boats nearby, including a Schnell-boot. There is a park and the seawall along the Weser River where ships from around the world can be seen moving up and downstream as well as tied to the seawall.
Captain H-F ‘Hai’ MASSMANN joined us in the hotel. He was Skipper of U-409 and of course, he signed his autograph many times and naturally, had his photo taken with many Members. Then we were joined by HANS-GEORG HESS and his son TILMAN for our Farewell Dinner. As always, this is the saddest part of any of our ‘Patrols’ as it means that we are at the end and with the dawn, we will scatter to our homes. But new and lasting friendships have been formed, and memories of a lifetime have been captured in our minds as well as on film and videotape. Memories are great, but set some time aside in the fall of 2002, when our SHARKHUNTERS will again visit all these veterans (and more) and be in North Germany.
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