Wednesday, November 18, 2015


It was chaotic on the bridge though it was actually an orderly chaos. The captain was taking reports from the different sections of the ship, the executive officer was somewhere supervising the damage control parties while Admiral Brown was trying to coordinate the search for the u-boat. The aircraft carrier was not in immediate danger of sinking but the two destroyer escorts, Michael Jones and Robert Williams were already being abandoned. James Smith and John Johnson were heading for a detected periscope to the east. Buzzards Bay's captain, Marlon Bennet, turned to Admiral Brown.

"He got us pretty good, didn't he?" He was referring to the u-boat.

"That he did, captain. He's either very good or very lucky. I'm leaning toward the former, however." Admiral Brown gave grudging respect for the u-boat commander that put holes into three of his warships.

The executive officer came up to the two officers. "Damage control says the flooding has been contained though we might have as much as a five degree list until we can get to a repair yard. One boiler is badly damaged but we can get the others running in about thirty minutes or so."

"Casualties?" Captain Bennet asked.

"Twenty-one wounded, two seriously. Four dead."

"Thank you XO. Keep me updated on developments."

The executive officer nodded and left to check on other things. Captain Bennet turned to the Admiral.

"Admiral? You might consider transferring to another ship."

Admiral Brown shook his head. "We're not in danger of sinking and we're still operational to some extent. I'll transfer when I need to." He pointed toward the two destroyer-escorts searching for the u-boat. "Those two are too busy to pick me up anyway."

Captain Bennet nodded. He turned when a sailor gave a message from the radio room. He read the note and shook his head.

"Smith and Johnson reports that they lost contact with the u-boat. Smith fired off a few depth charges but can't hear anything anymore. It's hiding under a layer."

Admiral Brown gave a sigh. "We'd better find him or he might come back and try to finish us off." He looked out over the sea toward the two destroyer escorts searching for the u-boat. He looked worried.

Frightened by the earlier explosions from the torpedoes, the newer explosions were terrifying. These were much closer and shook U-1215 violently. He scrambled for a better hiding place behind a panel.

The depth charge attack had not been close enough to do more than rattle the nerves of several crewmembers. Werner had ordered the submarine to move north at fifteen knots for five minutes and west for ten. This brought him in between the searching destroyers and the aircraft carrier. The sonar department had analyzed the earlier attack and deduced that the torpedoes had either activated early or they had made a mistake in calculating the distances. The weapons had attacked the closest sound source and that happened to be the three closest targets. He decided that moving in between the surface warships would allow him to fire in different directions and increase their chances of hitting all the targets. Meyer argued with Werner on the wisdom of continuing the attack.

"Captain, we already have four victories, including the British submarine we sunk earlier. We don't need to sink anymore ships, we could leave and sail back to base. We need to inspect U-1215's systems for faults." Meyer had kept following Werner around the control room, trying to convince him to abandon the attack. The latter was trying keep his temper from exploding on the lieutenant commander-engineer. Finally, he had grabbed the man's arm and pulled him like a child into his stateroom and whispered harshly.

"Meyer!" Werner had called him by name instead of rank. "I told you we will go home when we have finished off all of them. You gave me your word that you will follow my orders. If I hear another word out of you, I will confine you to quarters under guard." Meyer, however, was not intimidated.

"Captain, I do not know if you were informed but we just had another problem a few minutes ago. One of the dial gauges monitoring the reactor temperature suddenly stopped working. I tell you, we are experiencing unusual failures. I couldn't tell you in the control room else we alarm the crew." Werner had been ignoring Meyer as much as he could. Meyer needed to find a way to get his attention.

Werner was shocked. Meyer had emphasized again and again that the reactor was the most important and dangerous piece of equipment on the submarine. A problem here will not just disable the submarine but could also kill them in a fiery inferno that none of them would survive.

"Is the reactor safe?" Werner asked.

"Yes," Meyer answered. "One of the technicians found a wire that seems to have frayed and become detached. The electrician has reconnected it."

"So, you are worried about one wire?" Werner was becoming angry again. "This does not sound very serious!"

Meyer shook his head. "No, Captain. The electrician said that he found several wires in the same condition."

Werner's eyes widened at this revelation. "Several wires? Do you know how this could happen?"

"I am not sure. At first I thought the wires might have corroded but, upon looking closer, I think the wires are being eaten."

"EATEN?" Werner shouted. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN EATEN?"

"I said I am not sure, Captain. It may be that even the small amount of radiation we have inside the reactor room is affecting the wires. Remember that every one of our previous problems were with wires. I cannot explain them." Meyer gave the Captain a baleful look. 

"We have to go back, Captain. We might not make it back if we delay any longer."

Werner turned away for a moment and looked back at Meyer. "We will fire three torpedoes at the enemy and turn for home immediately. We will listen for the hits as we move away. Any explosions we hear will be counted as a ship sunk. There will be no more discussions. Go back to your station, Meyer. We have a job to do." Werner quickly left before Meyer could say anything further.

Werner entered the control room and went to the plotting table.

"Take us above the layer, Mr. Fischer, but be ready to duck back down if necessary."

Fischer repeated the order and gave the command to the planesman. The boat slowly rose up from the depths with the sonarman listening intently through his headphones and the others watching the gauge that showed the seawater temperature outside the hull. Soon, the sonarman announced the presence of engine sounds but those were some distance off and did not present any present danger. The firing solution team immediately set to work.

"Do we have a firing solution?" Werner asked after several minutes.

"We are just refining our distance calculations, Captain. We can fire with what we have now but our chances will be better if we wait a few more minutes." Fischer waited for his captain to give the word. He was eager to get on with it but, as an experienced submariner, he understood the value of being patient.

His captain, however, seemed indecisive. Werner looked at the plotting table as the plotting crew worked on the data they had to determine the positions of the warships relative to U-1215. Meyer stood to one side, waiting.

Werner straightened and looked at his crew. "We will wait."

Meyer's mouth opened in surprise. Werner gave him a hard look, warning him not to say anything. Meyer closed his mouth, lowered his head, and left the control room, toward the aft end of the boat. Werner turned back to the plotting table and caught Fischer looking at him. It was an unspoken question, with an unspoken answer.

Fischer's team had a problem. The aircraft carrier was not making any noise, its engines were shutdown. They could raise the periscope again and fire a straight-running torpedo at it while sending the acoustic torpedoes toward the two destroyer escorts. After twenty-three minutes, Werner decided he'd waited long enough and ordered the boat to periscope depth.

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