OPERATION OSPREY NEST
Early June, 1944
With the air rapidly dissipating, most inhaled another’s exhale and the only sound to be heard was an occasional suppressed cough, met by quick stern looks from the other crew members, in those tight quarters. Instinctively, most look upward to the ceiling of the boat, the fate that buffets the dense ocean fathoms from the fresh surface air. With each drop of sweat falling to the steel floor of the hull, the exhausted crew of U-1230 maintains a taught discipline – if there are prayers, they are silent. For over two hours they have sat on the seabed, 400 meters south-southwest of Quonochontaug breachway, off the coast of Rhode Island. For the past day and a half they have sailed submerged, silent on batteries. They have crept west along the coast undetected from Frenchman’s Bay Maine, past Boston and Newport to this very mark on the chart, without any ventilation from their schnorchel.
Now, they were at their limit. Moral was touching a low point. All the milk had soured days after leaving Kristiansand naval base and at least a half a dozen merchant vessels were spotted in the crossing, yet not a torpedo was fired. Strict orders were to avoid any risk of detection until the primary mission objective was attained. Echo soundings by U-1230’s navigator now determined they were approximately northeast of Montauk, due North of Block Island and West of Pt. Judith. They had heard no propeller propulsion from any vessels since passing south of Pt. Judith, five hours ago.
It was one thirty in the morning.
It was time.
Stepping left of the navigator into the center of the bridge, Kapitanleutnant Otto Von Bulow, distinguished recipient of the Knight Cross with Oak Leaves for sinking the USS Ranger a year earlier while commanding U-404, gave the order: “Periskoptiefe” (Periscope depth).
The tension of the crew rose another level and the focus of those operating the controls, was absolute. Three times since reaching their initial objective of Frenchman’s Bay, they had gone to periscope depth to surveil the situation and each time the seas were either too rough or convoy traffic too high.
Kapitanleutnant Von Bulow swung the periscope slowly a full seven hundred and twenty degrees, pausing only to whisper: “223 Grad nach Montauk Licht … 176 Grad Block Island und 259 Grad von Pt. Judith. Ruhige See, kein Verkehr”
Then in English for effect, to the one man on board not in uniform, standing near but in the shadows: “calm seas, no traffic. This will be your spot.”
To the young sailors on the planes: ”Oberfläche leise, nur Turm verbinden” (surface silent, just conning tower). His calm and determined demeanor once spoken brought smiles and nods of comfort.
In the ink black cold spring waters, at a position 223 degrees to Montauk Light, 176 degrees to Block Island and 079 degrees to Pt. Judith, the German submarine U-1230 , an IXC/40 type U-boat (Unterseeboot) of the Kriegsmarine, slid to the surface and opened its darkened hatches.
The rush of the cool Atlantic air sucked deep into the silent hull and if the crew could have sprung to the deck and cheered and sung, they would have – but they did not.
In the next minutes, a raft was brought topside and inflated by way of a small silent compressor. Kapitanleutnant Von Bulow swept his field glasses North along a barren beach a hundred meters away. Beyond the beach, across a salt pond, there were several lone lights emanating from a large structure. Von Bulow handed the glasses to the quiet man in civilian clothes and asked: ’what are those lights?’ To which the man looked on and replied in a soft English accent: “that must be the new Weekapaug Inn. It used to stand on this beach before the ’38 hurricane struck – they must have rebuilt it across the pond. This will do indeed. Thank you captain.”
Von Bulow turned then in the darkness and spoke in a soft curt tone to the faint shadow before him: “These two men and Erster Offizier Haslau (First officer), will row you in and return at once. We will then immediately sail to the East and as per my orders, not attack any vessels in this area. This shall ensure that we not compromise all that we have achieved here.” Seeing the shadow’s confirming nod, he continued: “Beyond the shelf to the East however, I will be unleashed, relentless and shall deliver to my crew their tonnage, that I can assure you.”
To this the man in civilian clothes turned towards him and they exchanged powerful grips and saluted in the darkness. Lastly, the Kapitanleutnant offered: “Make this work, Viel Glück.”
TO BE CON’T . . .