Kapitänleutnant Ralph Kapitzky was an unlikely hero. He commanded only one boat, did not execute a single bravado war patrol, and did not come close to winning a Knight’s Cross. Yet his war patrol to the Caribbean in the summer of 1943 was the stuff of legends, of modern-day buccaneers on the Spanish Main. On July 29 1943, Ralph Kapitzky fought one of the longest serial actions by any U-boat against aircraft during the war with U-615.
Kapitänleutnant Ralph Kapitzky died on the bridge still directing the defense of his boat.
German submarine U-615 was a Type VIIC U-boat built for Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine for service during World War II. Commissioned in 1942 and commanded by Kptlt. Ralph Kapitzky, it was the largest aircraft hunt ever mounted for a single U-boat.
Before becoming a submariner, Ralph Kapitzky was a pilot and flew a Heinkel-111 during the invasion of Poland and survived being shot down. He flew 100 missions in Stuka and Ju 88 bombers during the Battle of Britain. The Kriegsmarine recalled Kapitzky in December 1940. After U-boat training, On June 1, 1942, just before his 26th birthday, Kapitzky was promoted Kapitänleutnant and given a brand-new Type VIIC boat, U-615. As part of “Bridge Conversion II,” U-615 received two twin-barreled 2-cm guns on the upper platform behind the conning tower as well as a four-barreled 2-cm Vierling anti-aircraft system on a new lower platform, the so-called “winter garden.” The 8.8-cm gun on the foredeck was removed and replaced with a semiautomatic 3.7-cm cannon.
The men would later learn that Dönitz had chosen their boat to test out a new “ship finder” called Nachtfernrohr. 12 It was to be operated by one of the lookouts on the bridge, from where a cable would be run down the conning-tower hatch to the control room and the radio shack. Both “pings” via the headphones and “pips” on a screen would warn of approaching hostiles.
U-Boat Command ordered Kapitzky to set a course to Curaçao.
U-615 was to operate off the Dutch island during the “next favorable moon” as convoys were expected to assemble there. U-Boat commanders had been warned about getting too close to Trinidad. The Gulf of Paria was a major training ground for U.S. Navy ships, the island had been vastly reinforced and had a major anti-submarine base.
But temptation was too great for Ralph Kapitzky and the daring commander took the U-615 into the Gulf of Paria for a look around. He crossed the minefield and the bottom mounted sonars picked up the propeller noises followed by magnetic loops detecting him crossing. However, within minutes he had satisfied his curiosity and slipped back out of the gulf, but this brief incursion left a disturbed hornets’ nest behind in his wake, as for days after he left, anti-submarine forces on Trinidad were still hunting for him.
The orders were open-ended: “Further cruising according to your own judgment.” It was a nice birthday (June 28) present for the 27-year-old Kaleu.
Kapitzky remained submerged by day, coming up at night to ventilate the boat and to recharge the batteries. He could detect only small coastal vessels. Radar tracked his every move. His hydrophones were useless close in to shore.
On July 28, Kapitzky got lucky. The lookouts sighted the unescorted 3,177-ton Dutch lake tanker Rosalia ten miles south of Willemstad. Kapitzky fired two bow torpedoes into the hapless victim; The tanker broke in two, caught fire and sank at 04.25 hours. The survivors were picked up by the Dutch submarine chaser HNMS H-8 and the rescue boat MBR-50.
Then his luck ran out: An Enigma message to U-Boat Headquarters – “Sank a 6,000-ton tanker” – was picked up by the Allies.
The message to headquarters informing them of the attack initiated one of the most thorough and long-lasting, most relentless ongoing combat between a U-boat and aircraft of the Battle of the Caribbean.
“This was possibly the U-615 suicidal surface-to-air battle’s battle enabled many other U-boats in the Caribbean to surface and escape to the east.”
It began one day after the destruction of the Rosalia when on July 29th, an American B-18 Liberator out of Aruba found and attacked U-615 on the surface by dropping four depth charges. The bombs detonated on the water surface without causing damage to the boat or personnel. Fortunately, this attacker was not yet equipped with a Leigh Light, but fired four flares to illuminate the target. This however cancelled the element of surprise and U-615 replied with good defensive fire so much so that the bombing did not completely succeed After the flares were extinguished on the water, the aircraft lost contact with U-615 as a dark black subtropical night arched protectively over the boat.
The Americans were jubilant as they now had the exact position of U-615 and radioed to Chaguaramas Naval Air Station which dispatched another Mariner P6 to join the hunt. It continued July 31 when a Mariner flying boat P-6 of VP-204 out of Chaguaramas, Trinidad, flown by Lt. J.M. Erskine made contact and flew directly overhead the submarine, but three of the four dept charges hung up in the Bombay the fourth charge hit the water 150 yards ahead of the boats bow.
Captain Kapitzky turned the submarine hard to starboard and hit the crash dive alarm. By the time Erskine could get his aircraft around and into position the U-615 had disappeared.
At 2:00am The two VP-204 Mariners obtained radar contact and both Mariners attacked the area of the contact.
After the depth-charges went off the flight crews were appalled to realize they had bombed not a submarine, but a small two mast inter island schooner in the light of a flare. The devious Captain had used the schooner as a decoy.
Kapitzky had used it as a radar shadow, and he now resumed his easterly course on the surface.
Kapitzky’s clever escape infuriated Allied shore commands. “HuffDuff” stations on Trinidad, Antigua, and Dutch Guiana triangulated his position.
(“HuffDuff” from the HF/DF abbreviation of “high-frequency direction-finding” British Huffduff stations worked closely with American ships, aircraft, and shore-based Atlantic seaboard stations, as well as with their own British naval vessels.)
And it continued August 1 when a B-24 Liberator out of Curaçao found and attacked the boat. None of the pilots spotted “visible evidence of damage.”
On August 2, Kapitzky came across Convoy GAT-77 east of the Dutch islands and set out to attack it.
On August 6, Lieutenant J. M. Erskine in PBM-3S Mariner P-6 of Patrol Squadron VP-204 obtained radar contact 40 miles northwest of Blanquilla Island, Venezuela.
It was U-615, running on the surface on an easterly course at a leisurely six knots, likely to conserve fuel and to reduce its wake. Erskine fired off two flares to illuminate the target and then swooped down for the “kill.”
At an altitude of 1,600 feet, he dropped two bombs. They exploded with a bright red flash – but U-615 continued to run on the surface. Apparently, its captain figured that the attack was over. He was wrong.
Erskine banked the Mariner and came back at the submarine. As he flew over its conning tower, he pulled the manual release switches – only to discover to his horror that three of the four depth charges hung up in the bomb bays. The fourth fell harmlessly 150 feet off target. Kapitzky ordered “Emergency Dive!” By the time Erskine could bring the Mariner back for a third attack, the raider was gone.
At a range of 1,100 yards, the American patrol craft PC-1196 sighted the U-boat’s periscope. It launched five depth charges and made four “mousetrap” runs over the swirl of U-615 as it executed an emergency dive. The patrol craft detected diesel oil on the surface but could make no certain damage assessment. But “damage” had been done: U-615 was now in the crosshairs of every American warship and aircraft in the Caribbean.
Kapitzky headed due east for Galleon’s Passage between Trinidad and sister island Tobago and the open ocean. For four days, U-615 eluded its pursuers, mainly by running submerged.
The inside of the boat became a veritable hell of heat and humidity, sweat and stench. Kapitzky took U-615 up for short spells under the cover of darkness, but he could not escape the prying eyes of enemy radar. On the afternoon of August 5, the destroyer USS Biddle obtained an ASDIC contact and depth-charged the raider. Kapitzky released a Bold sonar decoy to slip away.
Yet again, the enemy had a specific “fix” on his position, northwest of Trinidad. Twin-engine Mariner flying boats scoured the area, ignoring the steady rain and approaching darkness.
A Harpoon ASW bomber from VB-130 and two B-18 bombers from Edinburgh Field joined the Mariners in the hunt. The Americans knew precisely where U-615 was and had established its general course – directly toward the largest US antisubmarine base in the world! They also knew through Enigma decrypts that most of the other Caribbean U-boats were racing for home. Only U-615 and U-634 remained in the once “Golden West.” It was just a matter of time. And time it would take. Instead of immediately concentrating on Kapitzky, the Americans pulled many of their best submarine hunters (including the five tracking Kapitzky) out of the search for U-615 and assigned them to guard four large convoys then in Trinidadian waters.
It was a major tactical blunder as it left only a single Mariner, Lieutenant A. R. Matuski’s P-4 of VP-205, to take care of U-615. For much of the morning of Friday, August 6, Matuski flew a barrier search over the U-boat’s last reported position.
Kapitzky tracked the Mariner through his sky telescope and timed the American’s approaches. As a former Luftwaffe flyer, he made a rough calculation that he would have ten minutes between C “loops” to surface and charge his batteries for the run past Trinidad. He brought U-615 to the surface. “Both Engines! Full Ahead!” U-615 knifed through the water at 17 knots. The batteries were coming back to life and fresh ocean air was sucked into the boat. Around 1:30 p.m., Kapitzky ordered a routine “Dive!” as his stopwatch told him that Matuski was due back soon. A last 360-degree sweep by the bridge watch showed nothing in the sky. No one saw the Mariner on the horizon.
Lieutenant A. R. Matuski fixed the U-Boat’s position on radar and cut a corner obtaining visual contact soon afterwards, using cloud cover to conceal his approach he set up his attack. The conning tower of U-615 was just dipping below the waves when the Mariner swept overhead and bracketed the hapless U-boat with four depth charges.
Kapitzky never knew what hit him. Four depth charges exploded all around the boat at roughly 50 meters depth. U-615 began to violently whip up and down – now by the bow, then by the stern. All the while, it continued its rapid descent. The terrified crew in the control room saw the depth indicator needle dip past 240 meters, twice the builder’s maximum limit. The pressure hull groaned and creaked.
Chief Engineer Skora was finally able to trim the boat by blowing the ballast tanks. Machinist Mate Reinhold Abel later recalled: “Damages: water break-in in the engine room – lights out and loss of the depth regulator – pressure hull bulkheads bent in 1.5 meters near the air intake manifold.”
In layman’s language, U-615 with its cracked pressure hull and flooded engine room could now operate, if at all, only on the surface. Further investigation showed that both electric motors and the port diesel engine were out of commission, that numerous high-pressure air lines had blown, and that the lubricating oil tank had ruptured, and its contents spilled into the bilge. Kapitzky decided to surface.
Lieutenant Matuski could not believe his good fortune: almost directly below him, a heavily damaged German U-boat had shot up out of the sea bow first in a gigantic swirl of foam and air.
He immediately notified Chaguaramas that he had attacked and damaged the submarine and then, like any good pilot, and radioed for help but did not wait for it to arrive.
Matuski powered up his two 1,700-hp Wright engines and swooped in for what could only be a certain quick “kill.
Kapitzky ordered the gun crews up on deck to man all ten anti-aircraft guns as well as the 3.7-cm semiautomatic cannon. Only when the aircraft closed to 300 meters, the Commander gave the order to fire. The boat spewed out a deadly fire of more than 5,000 rounds per minute at the incoming Mariner. They struck home with lethal force and caused it to crash just 100 meters ahead of U-615 into the sea, where by its bombs exploded, so that nothing more was seen of the aircraft.
“P-4 damaged – damaged – Fire” was the last message Matuski sent off just before the Mariner and its crew of 11 crashed into the sea and exploded.
A broken wingtip float, an uninflated dinghy, and a waterlogged cardboard box were all that was left of Matuski and P-4.
Other anti-submarine bases in Trinidad were informed and they reassigned aircraft to join in the battle.
For years these flight crews had been crisscrossing the Caribbean looking for U-boats and had never seen one much less sunk one, now they had caught a U-boat that they could not let get away and now there were many volunteers who itched to get involved.
Kapitzky took stock of his situation. The bilge pumps in the engine room could not keep water from rising in the stern. Both diesels and both electric motors were down. Hostile air forces undoubtedly were already on their way for a final attack. Nightfall was still six or seven hours off. The closest land was 250 kilometers away. He had to make the most critical decision of his life – and fast.
Ralph Kapitzky decided to show U-Boat Command his mettle.
While Skora and the technical crew labored to restart one of the diesels and to work the bilge pumps in the stern, Kapitzky, Schlipper, Egan-Krieger, and Chief Petty Officer Hans-Peter Dittmer supervised the transfer of the remaining stocks of 2-cm and 3.7-cm ammunition up on deck.
Just in time: at 3:30 p.m., the watch reported an aircraft approaching at 11,000 meters. “Battle Stations!”
Ralph Kapitzky and his men watched the Mariner circling the crippled boat knowing full well that this was the beginning of the end. We will never know if Ralph Kapitzky questioned his decision to continue the fighting knowing full well that he could never save U-615.
U-615 and Ralph Kapitzky were going to go down fighting.
The attacker was another Mariner, P-11 of Patrol Squadron VP-205 out of Chaguaramas. At the controls sat Lieutenant (jg) L. D. Crockett, an experienced pilot and one thirsting for revenge ever since his copilot had been killed by gunners from U-406 just three weeks earlier.
Crockett circled the crippled U-boat below him, radioed his position back to base, and then began his attack run.
The P-11’s anxious gunners opened fire with the twin Browning .50-caliber machine guns in the nose turret a mile from target.
Kapitzky held his fire even as the heavy American bullets began hammering the U-boat until the Mariner was 300 meters away, he gave the command and all eight barrels of his anti-aircraft guns erupted.
Gunners Langner and Dittmer were sharp as ever: their first bursts holed the aircraft and one 2-cm shell ripped through the starboard wing root, starting a gasoline-fed fire.
Crockett released two MK-17 aerial bombs. They landed harmlessly off the U-boat’s port quarter. With the Mariner pouring out a steady plume of smoke and fire and in danger of exploding at any moment, Crockett pressed home a second attack while the Mainer shuddered under the impact of numerous cannon shells and machine gun fire as it closed in on the U-boat.
Unknown to Crockett, Navy Machinist A. S. Creider climbed into the Mariner’s wing root and with a spare shirt tried to smother the flames. For a second time, the two antagonists blazed away at each other. As he passed over the submarine’s conning tower, Crockett released four MK-44 depth charges. He then banked away from the deadly wall of anti-aircraft fire and saw four gigantic columns of water arise all around the U-boat. He had landed a deadly punch.
Numerous new cracks opened in the U-boat’s hull and the sea began to rush in. The men inside the boat were working in water up to their knees. U-615’s stern settled ever deeper into the sea, while its bow rose concomitantly. The boat was in danger of sliding into the depths by the stern. Kapitzky and Skora urged on the men at the pumps and ordered others to join them. The boat was turning in circles as the last attack had jammed one of the rudders hard-a-starboard. U-615 was a sitting duck.
Less than an hour after Crockett’s second attack, a Ventura PV-2 Harpoon bomber, B-5 of VB-130, arrived on the scene and joined the Mariner in a combined attack. They approached the stricken submarine flying just 50 feet over the water.
Kapitzky instructed his gunners to ignore the shattered Mariner and to concentrate on the Harpoon and its five machine guns.
Roaring in at 280 knots, Lieutenant T. M. Holmes’ B-5 flew through not only Kapitzky’s tracer bullets, but also Crockett’s .50-caliber shells. It then bracketed U-615 with four 325-lb. bombs. It should have been the end – but instead of ripping the U-boat apart, the simultaneous explosions of the depth charges drove U-615 under the sea, taking its tethered bridge personnel and those inside the craft with it and washing its gunners into the sea. After what must have been a terrifying 15 seconds, U-615 came back up. Some of the gunners swam back to the boat and manned their weapons.
As Crockett came in for a third attack, which he took to be a certain “kill,” he was met instead by yet another withering hail of machine-gun fire and had to veer off sharply. How long could this go on?
Despite the best efforts of the men at the pumps, U-615 was sinking by the stern. A single electric motor had been made operable. Most gauges and instruments had long been smashed. Damage control as such was non-existent. Incapable of diving or of steaming, U-615 had been reduced to a beleaguered (and sinking) gun platform.
Crockett had kept up a continuous running commentary of the battle with Chaguaramas where the staff were fascinated by the fight that the lone U-boat was putting up. Aircraft were being vectored from all over the Trinidad theatre with aircraft from Wallerfield, Edinburgh and Chaguaramas, with pilots impatiently waiting for fuelers and armories to get their aircraft combat ready, but this was turning into a personal duel between Crockett and Kapitzky in a battle of the Titans.
Crockett intended to see the end of this U-boat, the fight had turned into a battle of brutal endurance and iron courage, he personally took control and coordinated the attack of the submarine which could not expect any reinforcement support while Crockett knew other aircraft would join the battle soon.
At 6 p.m., Mariner P-8 of VP-204, Lieutenant (jg) John W. Dresbach at the controls, arrived at the scene and joined P-11 and B-5 in a concerted effort finally to sink U-615.
Dresbach came in low from the stern at 190 knots.
A burst of fire from Kapitzky’s quadruple anti-aircraft guns smashed through the Mariner’s nose, killing its pilot instantly and knocking out the plane’s radar and automatic pilot.
The Mariner aircraft was now a mass of twisted aluminum and shattered Perspex and the cockpit covered in blood.
Lieutenant Dresbach last conscious act before dying was to release his four depth charges that exploded harmlessly in the water.
Inside the cockpit of P-8, copilot Oran Christian grabbed the control yoke with one hand and Dresbach with the other, until the crew could claw the dead pilot out of his seat.
In anger, Christian wiped the blood off the cockpit windshield and barreled in for a second attack. He released two depth charges at 1,500 feet; they exploded some 300 feet off the submarine’s port side. The wind fairly whistled through the gaping holes that Kapitzky’s gunners had made in P-8.
The two attacks lifted U-615’s stern out of the water, smashed its recently jerry-rigged rudder, and shredded its aft diving planes. More holes in the pressure hull. More water in the boat. U-615’s stern sank below the sea again.
Shore installations in the operations room by now had all tuned in to the reports coming from Crockett, for none could believe that the German submarine was still afloat they were sure that the three aircraft would by now have sent the U-boat to the bottom, no one could understand how it had survived and would be thumbing its nose at the mighty U.S. Navy, every available machine was directed to proceed to the scene of the battle.
US Navy Command ordered three warships out of Grenada and the brand-new destroyer USS Walker out of the Gulf of Paria to rid the Caribbean of Kapitzky and U-615.
The last attack had again been costly for U-615. Chief Petty Officer Dittmer, a veteran of 13 previous war patrols, had been shot through the head by one of the Harpoon’s shells and blown clean overboard.
Gunner Langner, who had brought down the four-engine bomber in the Bay of Biscay and had just helped destroy Matuski’s Mariner, had taken a heavy-caliber bullet to the knee; he would later bleed to death.
Some of the Mariner’s other shells had torn into Kapitzky’s thigh. He lay slumped in a corner of the bridge, bleeding heavily, it was impossible to apply a tourniquet to stem the loss of blood, the shattered leg crazily drooped across his chest. He was given morphine and propped up against the periscope standard. The crew wanted to take him below to more comfortable location, but he refused, He wanted to die on the Bridge.
His last orders were to transfer command to Schlipper and to be remembered to his parents.
At about 6:30 p.m., yet another Mariner hooved into sight: P-2 from VP-205, piloted by Lieutenant-Commander R. S. Hull. Yet again, Crockett directed an attack on the U-boat by all four aircraft.
It was another bitter disappointment: The Mariner’s bomb doors opened prematurely (“failure of the release mechanism”) and its stick of depth charges exploded harmlessly 600 feet astern U-615. Furious, Hull took his machine up to 1,500 feet and then roared in for a visual bombing run – both bombs splashed harmlessly into the water some 500 feet from the sub.
U-615’s gunners were as deadly as ever, and Hull was forced to take his battered Mariner back to base. At 6:40 p.m., the Harpoon also informed Crockett that it had to return to base because it was running low on fuel.
As Night fell a B-18 from the fifth squadron 10th bomber squadron operation out of Edinburgh field arrived on the scene. Lieutenant Milton Wiederhold’s B-18 bomber.
A Navy Airship K68 had also arrived on the scene. At 9:15 p.m., its pilot, Lieutenant (jg) Wallace Wydean, spotted U-615 on the surface between two rain squalls and guided Wiederhold’s B-18 in on its attack run.
For the last time, U-615’s gunners put up a blistering hail of anti-aircraft fire. The depth charges from the B-18 rocked the U-boat, but they were not close enough to sink it.
The indefatigable Crockett set up, yet another attack run on U-615. but, to his dismay, it was gone. Darkness and a tropical rain storm had swallowed up the boat. By the time the American bomber returned on a second run, rain squalls again had enveloped U-615.
Wydean had been so engrossed in the action that he forgot to check his fuel situation; when ordered home, he was too far away and had to crash-land K68 on Blanquilla Island. Heavy winds tore the beached blimp to shreds the next day. It was U-615’s last victim.
By 8:00pm the hunters had still not located the U-615 and with none of the aircraft showing running light there was a danger of collision as they flitted in and out of rain showers.
Lt. Cmdr. Jester’s Mariner P-15 of VP-205 arrived on the scene and took control of the operation, ordering Crockett to take his P-11 home. The disappointed pilot had no choice, he was low on fuel and badly shot up with wounded crew on board who needed medical attention. All afternoon damaged flying boats had been coming back to Chaguaramas. When they landed they had to be taxied straight to the ramp as they were badly shot up and could not float for very long. The ambulances had been ferrying the wounded crew and the dead to the Navy base hospital and so it was when the Crockett’s P-11 arrived.
U-615 had been depth-charged 14 times by seven different aircraft. It barely remained afloat. Its ammunition had been shot off. Its engines were down. Its rudders and aft dive planes were shattered. Some of its bulkheads had been caved in and its pressure hull compromised. Up above, a dozen Mariners were still searching for it.
Schlipper assembled the crew on the foredeck to press down the bow and thereby raise the stern. He asked Machinist Mate Abel to go below to take charge of damage control. Miraculously, Abel kept the bilge pumps going through the night and even occasionally blew high-pressure air into the diving tanks to prevent the boat from sinking.
The skipper Kapitzky, mortally wounded and profusely bleeding, managed to greet and to shake hands with every member of the crew as they came up on deck. He even joked with some of them.
As the seas grew rougher during the night, Schlipper had Kapitzky and Langner placed in a rubber dinghy. An exceptionally high wave swept the small craft off the deck.
Seaman First Class Richard Sura dived into the dark waters to retrieve it, brought the dinghy, as well as Kapitzky and Langner, back safely.
The Old Man was still in a joking mood, telling his Executive Officer that he now qualified for the “Silver Wounded Badge.”
Sometime around 1 a.m., the commander who “had fought the greatest battle of the war against aircraft” died.
There then ensued a Wagnerian funeral befitting the opera stage at Bayreuth. Amid the “background sound of snarling hunter’s engines overhead, complimented by lightning and rolls of thunder, with the lashing rain soaking everyone,” the sailors sewed Kapitzky’s corpse into a hammock and weighted down his feet. Then they lustily sang “the traditional naval hymn, the words of which were heard in the fierce wind and rain.” As “the body of their much beloved commander slid over the side,” the boat’s “gunners stood to their weapons.” Chief Engineer Skora recalls “The commander was committed overboard to the Caribbean Sea during the night 6/7,” August 1943.
There is no doubt that the final night on board the barely floating hulk that once was U-615 must have been frightening. The men had suffered two days of aerial depth charges and strafing runs. Their captain and their best gunner lay dead on the deck. Their much-loved petty officer, Dittmer, had been shot to death and hurled overboard by the machine-gun blast. Nineteen sailors were wounded, some bleeding profusely. The casings were awash with seawater. It was pitch black, with rain, thunder, and lightning flashing all about. They were in shark-infested waters about 250 kilometers from the nearest land. Their prospects were not good.
The first rays of light brought a “smoke smudge” on the horizon. Rescue? Or death?
The sailors grabbed life vests and floats, took to the water, and grouped around the rubber dinghy.
Schlipper and Skora joined Abel inside the boat and blew the last remaining high-pressure air out of Diving Tank No. 3, allowing seawater to rush in. By the time they returned on deck, they were standing in deep water. U-615 slipped beneath the sea around 5 a.m. on August 7, 1943.
No one bothered to take along the “top-secret” Nachtfernrohr, for it had detected not a single attacker. The last thing the survivors of U-615 saw was its conning tower emblem: a torpedo across which a winged aerial bomb had been superimposed. Fitting!
The “smoke smudge” on the horizon was the USS Walker under Commander O. F. Gregor. At 5:25 a.m., Walker sighted red flares off the port bow, and 22 minutes later the conning tower of a “submarine apparently submerging” at 16,000 yards.
Leery of possible U-boats in the area, Walker approached the source “zig zagging radically at high speeds.”
The destroyer conducted a sound pursuit in the area near the dinghy until a huge explosion was heard, apparently triggered by the detonation of 14 torpedoes by the great water pressure at a depth of 4000 meters. A wicked punch to the body was felt by the men floating in the water.
At 6:07 a.m., Gregor spied survivors in a raft. He began rescue operations at once, and after a brief interruption at 6:55 a.m. caused by a false “contact” report, hauled “3 officers, 40 enlisted men and 1 dead enlisted man” out of the water. He ordered medical attention to three survivors for gunshot wounds, one for shrapnel wounds, and 15 for “superficial lacerations, contusions and abrasions.”
Of her crew 4 (including her captain) were killed, and 43 survived.
Pilots Crockett, Christian, and Dresbach (posthumously) were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their valor in destroying U-615.
After several futile attempts to reach Kapitzky on August 11, 14, and 18, Captain Godt declared U-615 “potentially lost” on August 30, 1943, and “formally lost” on May 18, 1944. On August 18, 1943, U-Boat Command had fired off an ominous last Enigma message: “No refueling possible for Kapitzky (615).” It was a fitting epitaph.
On Sunday morning at 10:15 hours (on 8 August) they brought all the prisoners on deck. The American ship’s carpenter had made a stretcher at the starboard railing, and on it Oberbootsmannsmaat Helmut Langner was laid out wrapped in a hammock.
On the bridge deck of the “WALKER” a platoon of American sailors was set out in white uniforms with rifles, while the free watch observed from everywhere. The U-boat men with their beards stood perfect order in front of their dead comrade, to give in a convincing manner a picture of the soldierly spirit at the heart of the German Navy to pay their last respects to their fallen comrade with a triple Harrah.
When the First Seaman of U-615 slipped from the stretcher of the destroyer “WALKER” into the sea, the American sailors who were bitter enemies just a few hours ago, shot to honor and salute the brave enemy.
At 17:03 hours the same day the destroyer made fast at the east side of Pier 1, Port of Spain. The prisoners were blindfolded and taken ashore and later transferred to a prisoner and interrogation camp in the United States.