Friday, November 24, 2017

SEAFARERS: Full Stop! Reversing Course to the Mystery U-Who Submarine Caper...



As the following story was some leftover Sea Biscuits I was gnawing upon whilst grinding out my Veteran's Day rant earlier this November, when motor racing typically comes to a grinding halt...

Funny how we react to things, Eh? As I'd been seeing the "Teases" for this television show on the History Channel for how many months? Or was it years now? But I DON'T Do Reality TV Shows!

Yet just having finished the book Pirate Hunters, when I heard the name John Chatterton mentioned whilst Channel Surfing and once again landing on this TV Show, I had to watch! Beginning my voyage early 2016.

As Chatterton "Dove" Borehole 10X, a 200+ foot deep drilled hole on the legendary Oak Island of Nova Scotia. Although Chatterton was lowered to the bottom of the hole on a Bosun's Chair inside the approx. four foot diameter caisson to look for the missing treasure, which aired sometime between late Jan/Early Feb 2016 - on The Curse of Oak Island TV Show...

According to John Chatterton's website's Borehole 10X Dive plan, the steel caisson is actually seven foot diameter and 185-feet deep before apparently transitioning to a smaller drilled portion extending down to the 10X Chamber's bottom at 210-feet...

As I regaled Y'all about Messer Chatterton's exploits after having listened to the very enjoyable Pirate Hunters book just over a year ago.


Therefore, I was eager to read the earlier novel by Robert Kurson titled Shadow Divers, which took quite a Bitamyte 'O effort to finagle from my local library, which pleasantly ordered a CD Audiobook copy for Mwah to christen...

Shadow Divers begins with Bill Nagle, captain of his 65 foot Dive boat the Seeker, one day exchanging slips of paper with a commercial fisherman in what in the trade were known simply as "Numbers." Giving the Loran coordinates to a known wreck object, or fishing hole.

As the Seeker made the journey to this unknown wreck object, after making a few passes, Nagle told his divers the unknown object appeared to be laying low at a depth of 230 feet, which is Doria territory ladies!

As in the ill-fated Andrea Doria, for which Nagle made his name in wreck diving circles after salvaging the ship's bell...

As John Chatterton and Dan Crowell are sent down to explore what the mystery object is, before Nagle sends more divers into the water. For which the duo quickly recognizes is a sunken submarine!


Between 1939 to 1945, Germany produced 1,167 U-boats, of which 757 were either sunk, captured, bombed in ports or foreign locations or lost in accidents.

Of the 859 U-Boats sent to the Frontlines, 648  were either sunk, captured or destroyed; A more than 75% loss rate!

And during the Seeker's first outing in 1991, one of its divers dies, as Dan Feldman is found by his dive partner on the bottom whilst exploring the then mystery sub quickly nicknamed as U-Who?

With his regulator out of his mouth - and dead, for which his partner naturally freaks out and ultimately Feldman's body is lost in the North Atlantic for six months before a fishing trawler inadvertently recovers his remains.

But what German U Boat is this mystery Sub? As the crew originally believed it to be either the missing U-550 or U-521? Which Chatterton says it's not either of those Nagle!

Later, a surviving German U-Boat Captain writes Chatterton, saying he thinks it's his lost Captain friend's U-851...

Then Chatterton, in his usual renown Yeoman knack of finding hidden objects, recovers a Silverware tray. Which includes a knife having the name Horenburg carved into its handle.

For which three German sources respond there was only one Horenburg in entire German U-Boat service. He was Funkmeister Martin Horenburg who served upon U-869, which was sunk off Gibraltar.

Upon more research, Chatterton and now diving partner Richie Kohler, who were originally diving adversaries from rival Diving "Gangs," Err Clubs; but ultimately become friends, forming a bond over their six year partnership to ultimately corroborate the U Boat's identity, during a period when both men experience divorces due to their diving passions - before later co-hosting the television show Deep Sea Detectives...

As both John & Richie originally thought it was either of two U-Boats, having discounted the sister U-157, believing it's either the U-158 or U-851.

After two more divers die, a father & son duo, as the son gets trapped underneath a metal cabinet that falls upon him when trying to dig out a piece of canvas with writing on it, which he believed would identify the submarine.

the young man (and father) ends up getting the "Bends" as he gets nitrogen narcosis upon both divers misfiling towards the surface. As his father frantically follows him upwards - with both divers failing to make any of the necessary decompression stops...

Afterwards, following these tragedies, Chatterton & Kohler conclude that the U-Who is neither of these missing submarines, as the unidentified wreck is only 250-feet long, while the U-851 is a "super D-9" version that is listed at 287ft. While it's not the U-158 either, since it's missing any deck guns.

Chatterton then subsequently finds a piece of crumpled aluminum with schematic diagrams on it and the words D-9 Bremen during one of his countless dives to the U-Who.

Researching this class of U boats, the duo discovers that of the 52 possible D-9's built, 30 were never sent to the east  coast of the Atlantic, leaving 22 possibilities, of which the number's ultimately whittled down to two possibilities, with both divers firmly believing it's the U-857.

Then there was Richie's contact at Scotland Yard, confirming that U-869 was ordered to 70-miles off New York and then didn't receive it's new communicae to change course to Gibraltar, which all records claim is where it was sunk.


As the U-869 prepares for its maiden war patrol, stretching into February of 1945, several of the enlisted men gather for a going away party late '44, and all begin to cry... Why?" We're Not coming Home, we're all going to die. Since towards the latter years of the war, Submariners expectancy of death was more than 55%!

Naturally, all 56 members of the doomed U-869 are not portrayed in the book, but Captain Helmut Neuerburg is, while the most touching example of a young man wrestling with the complexities of war is shown in the portrayal of First Officer Siegfried Brandt, better known by the crew and friends simply as "Siggi," who becomes thoroughly disgusted with his leaders, especially that shrill 'lil man named Adolf! Becoming increasingly sarcastic about the Nazi's...

Siggi' unselfishly gives up his earned Shore leave time as the Sub nears its war patrol departure - to be divided between the married crew members aboard his Submarine. Which is just one act of his apparent kindness, and why he was so loved by his crew...


Commander Neuerburg was a most interesting man, who actually began his military career as a flight instructor in the Luftwaffe before needing to choose between going into combat duty or training for U-Boat duty, which will take a further year's duration, allowing him more family time with his wife and two young children.

His U-869, laid down at Bremen, has it's coning tower affixed with the Olympic rings insignia, denoting Neuerburg's Military class of 1936.

A further definition of Neuerburg's character is portrayed by his resolute firmness that none of his crew will use the Hitler salute when aboard his submarine, despite it being against regulations...

And his Last Baby Book entry, dated Nov 3, 1944 is most touching, along with portraying the real Germany at the end of the War, especially the psychological toll upon it's civilians, as Neuerburg notes how his three year old son Jurgen no longer wishes to sleep alone during the nightly bombings...


The Wrestlers Sea...
Ironically, Symbiotically or whatever Y'all want to call it? As I muse frequently 'bout swimming in the Seas 'O Synchronicity... As I attempted launching this story, I came upon news that Argentina is currently in search of one of their three submarines, the San Juan, and its crew of 44 Sailors, which had been missing for two days when I first heard the news. As the submarine was reportedly purchased from Germany in the early 1980's, and it's fate doesn't look good after having been missing for more than a week now...





Acknowledgements
The "Facts 'N Figures" upon the U Boats during World War II were gleamed from Robert Kurson's first novel, Shadow Divers, which I thoroughly enjoyed the Audiobook version of. As well as his second novel Pirate Hunters, for which the movie rights have been sold to, but hasn't been released as far as I know. As both books are New York Times Bestsellers and definitely worth a read!

Author: Robert Kurson
Shadow Divers, 2004
Pirate Hunters, 2015

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