Report from I.WO Leutnant Gramlow about the sinking of U 575 and his time since picking off at HMCS Prince Rupert and HMS Nene till August 1944 as Prisoner of War
D I A R Y
NAVAL LIEUTENANT HELMUT G R A M L O W, INT. SER. No. 1 G-318-NA
Taken prisoner on 13 March after seven hour pursuit by water bombs. The last two rounds were direct hits. After some machinery stopped to function and a fire started in the E-machine, we had to surface after the last round, which was a direct hit, as the boat showed her course in the water through oil leaking out by plane attack, and second the boat threatened to sink in the rear. Assumption that the boat cannot be saved. Through unexplainable circumstances it has not been possible to save the men from the machine. Probably all men suffocated in the smoke. To show that the boat was unable to fight, the order was given to raise the arms. Probably this sign has not been seen by the attacking destroyers and airplanes, because all of a sudden airplanes and destroyers began to fire from all arms and weapons, although the crew was on the way to leave the boat. Some men were killed by shrapnel in the water instantly, which is to be objected very much, since from a short distance now one simply had to see the men jumping into the water. The cause of this fact and explanation of this action cannot be discussed here. The boat sank after attack from all weapons 10 minutes after emerging. Touching was the sight of our good old loyal boat, when it began to sink as a silhouette in the red-golden rays of the sun. In spite of that last defeat how proud can the seaman be, as he knows, that my boat took us close to the enemies, gave us marvelous success, and that must console us over the painful loss.
In spite of those exalting and oppressing thoughts I had to look around, what to do to get my slightly freezing body up to the dry grounds. I approached the largest of the three destroyers, and painfully climbed up the rope and reached the deck.
At once all of us, fourteen men, were taken to deck where the first search after dangerous items took place. All valuable things were taken away, which I did not get back up to date (11 May) These were: 1 Navy watch, 1 golden watch, 1 golden wedding ring, 1 golden Seal ring, 1 golden chain, 3 private photos, 1 navy belt.
Cigarettes were offered to us in abundance, and what a pleasure after not smoking for such a long time (Of course voluntarily as I only smoked very little while in the war zones).
I was very anxious at first to have a hot bath, which I was allowed to take. The Canada Red Cross took good care of us, they provided warm clothing after the bath.
A short time after that they took to the Mess of the board officers, where we were fed well and plenty. We stayed five days on the Canadian boat 324 (Prince Rupert), living in a drying room above one of the boilers, we sweated and froze excessively.
On 18 March we transferred in St. John to the British Boat NENE.
After hardly one hour stay in St. John we started out to sea for an objective unknown to us. Out of a conversation among English Officers in the Mess Hall, we heard that the ship was taking course towards Boston, an American port.
Scene of having a picture taken.
After three days on the sea we reached Boston. We were received by a M.P. detachment whose Colonel seemed to be driven by extraordinary importance. Strange enough there was still snow, and according to later reports there were even a few death casualties. Too bad!
At headquarters of this detachment the first personal interviews were made, a certain 1st Lt. HICKSON introduced himself as being sent from Washington to receive us.
At this time all of us, 14 men, were still together. According to a statement of Mister Hickson we were supposed to go on the train and be transported to land. But no, they locked us up in a cell of the military prison there, the officers in a small "Box", the enlisted men in another. Except the cots no other furniture, stinking air, across the toilet, a very detestable way of housing Prisoner of War Officers. Protest not effective on account of referring to lack of space. The food however was excellent.
On 22 March around 2300 under heavy guard to the depot, and with the express train in a night ride to Fort G. G. Meade, a temporary induction station.
There followed at once the first hearing by four officers of the American navy, who knew too well all our supply bases. The British 1st Lt. Wilson seemed to know especially well all our supply bases of the Submarines. He knew the Six-Titten-Bar and others, as if he were amongst them with us a short time ago. A big light about the built-up of enemy spionage came to my mind in these few moments. One can at least say that I was somewhat astonished.
On this 23 March 1944 we left the camp after a short sleep in order to be transported with the "Black Maria" to an Interviewing Station near Washington.
There I was at first separated from the Second Officer. I moved in Room 8 of that ugly building. There I found 1st Lt. (Naval) KORETH, well known to us, who greeted me in a surprising manner. He faced me as a good comrade, known to me from Hela.
I want to stress that he comes from an old Austrian family of aristocrats, which explained to me that he walked cheerfully hand in hand with the Americans. One fact came to my attention a little late, that he disappeared into the dispensary under pretext of serious sickness in order to go to another room and to question wisely German officers.
One cannot conceive that a German officer is able to carry out such low and dirty tricks.
Unfortunately did I grasp the meaning of all this too late. Under heavy guard did we spend day after day, an interview after another, led by an American Naval Officer.
One can only say after that torture was over, that those men work well, but still not too well that they learn of things which they are anxious to know.
They offered us a movie: I saw Cover Girl. 20 minutes walk per day, quartered in a cage 30 X 30 meter. Experience from that time of being exposed to interviews are so multiple that it would take pages to write them down. We saw Washington from a ride in an automobile. Soon our crew comrades Stuehff and Karrasch arrived also.
Typical is the fact that the Americans approached us in a shameless way to question our own comrades, and we should do it. This time we turned the tables, and were willing to stay in the interviewing camp for 14 days. After conversation with Lt. Mayer this plan was decided on. We remained in this camp and helped our comrades in the dark hours of questioning by letting them know our experiences. The Americans have been made a fool of in this time.
Note: 1st Lt. Hixson, referred to above, is actually Op-16-Z interrogating officer ENS G.E. Dix, who used the name Hixon when working with POWs. British 1st Lt. Wilson is LT Ralph Izzard, on loan from the Admiralty to Op-16-Z. LT Koreth is Oberleutnant Maximilian Coreth, First Officer of U-172 who was a cooperative POW at the Joint Interrogation Center at Fort Hunt. Crew comrades Stushff and Karrasch, are Leutnant Hans Georg Stühff, First Officer of U-856 and Leutnant Horst Karrasch, First Officer of U-1059. Lt Mayer is Leutnant Harald Mayer, U-575's Third Officer.
And that all because we asked to be transferred to a peaceful camp, since they dished out the most exciting things about the camp of Naval Captain WATTENBERG. There was no discussion of politics in that interviewing camp during all this questioning, a fact that surprised me very much.
I am not active in politics, indifferent to propaganda, this is a matter of the Government, I myself feel obligated to Germany of today through my oath, I am loyal to her until the fate brings a change.
After several requests to be transferred to a permanent camp, that great wonder really happened, but to be sure after a long time of waiting, that became terrible for me.
On Monday 8 May we were shipped out, where and other circumstances remained a secret.
With the "Green Minna" we traveled by four endless distances. God be lauded and praised, because after what seemed to be an endless time the brakes were put on, and look, we were again in Fort G. G. Meade. How long we would remain here, we were not told.
What was waiting for us there, was more than an offense. Our first impression was that we have landed in an Anti-Nazi Camp. Complete madness received us there.
Motley company, Idiots, Austrians, Poles, deserters and democrats of all shades, were in that pig-pen. One could really be disgusted at the sight of such worms. In the tent for officers we found STUEHFF a comrade of my crew, and Assistant Physician of the Army, Schenk, a democrat, completely crazy, besides a traitor, long of our belief. We just ignored completely and coldly this gang. Germany can very well do without those men.
Large shipments took place, so that finally only a small crowd remained, about 15 men.
We were served by Italians in this camp, who were very friendly. Inconvenient were the meter-long spaghettis prepared in different form for each meal.
On 15 May we learned finally from the Sergeant of the camp, that they planed to put us on our way to Florida on 16 May. In the forenoon of the day to leave 1st Naval Lt. LEUPOLD joined our small group. Furthermore Mechanical Mate FRANK joined likewise us Officers, because he was also ordered to Camp Blanding.
At once at the first meeting with LEUPOLD I noticed strange peculiarities of this man, which made him considerably low in dignity as a German U-boat Commander. He seems to have forgotten very quickly the fate of his ship recently sunk, unbecoming to a commander, whistled continuously American songs, included to be sure also the American Anthem not saying that she come under the heading "stupid". Where remained his thoughts of his oath of allegiance? Speeches against our government in the presence of enlisted men, an absolute impossibility, which we tried to stop with all cost. But to lock his loose mouth we could not do successfully, in the contrary, it came to the point, that LEUPOLD tried to convince us about the harmlessness of the interviewing officer. May be the good man has lost his mind through the bombs. One could hardly believe it. He kept on talking like an old aunt, in presence of FRANK he spoke about death and devil.
On 16 May we went in a Pullman-car on a 20 hour trip to STARKE, a small station close to Camp Blanding. The night was not too comfortable, as we had two wounded comrades in our compartment, to whom of course we offered the berths. But we finally laid down in the late evening hours after a long card game. Breakfast we had in first style in the diner.
Note: Fregattenkapitän Jürgen Wattenberg was Captain of U-162 and senior officer of POW camps at Crossville from October, 1942 to January 1944 Papago Park from January 1944 to February 1946. Oberleutnant Günter Leopold was Captain of U-1059. Mechanical Mate Frank is probably Mechanikermaat (Torpedoman's Mate 3/cl) Heinz Frank of U-801.
We got off in STARKE on 17 May. A truck took us to the Training Center, where as a smaller camp was located the PW Camp of the Navy and of the African Corps. First they brought us in front of headquarters which is across of the Africa camp. We saw a big PW camp with room for at least 1000 men. I did not like to go into that camp. After a short waiting, and no food in the stomach, we moved to the area of the Navy Camp. Between the fences we waited now for what is going to happen to us. They called us into the Orderly Room of the nice little camp, into which we were led by our old good friend Lt. HUEHNEFELD, who was filled with joy. Captain Lt. BARGESTEN greeted us cordially, and gave us the first directions and information about the camp.
Loyal to our oath of allegiance they live here. The introduction described the somewhat unhappy events may be of all enlisted personnel, may be only of the Submarine men, which have disturbed the life in camp at that time. Sad was that introduction, but it had to be, for events have shown how much of the German military spirit was destroyed by the tricks of Americans. It has happened that our men put German soldiers with disturbed mind and beaten up bodies between the fences.
The camp is very small, the strength about 90 men.
21 July. For a long time I neglected to continue the story of daily events.
As events that deserve to be mentioned are my birthday and the transfer of Capt. BARGSTEN.
My 21st birthday was an event which I shall not forget for the rest of my life. In the extreme corner of the camp there was a barrack very close to the garbage dump, called "VILLA GARBAGE". There wasn't much in it for us newcomers concerning furniture. In any case we tried our best to make it as comfortable as possible for our celebration. Four cases of beer should be the essence of that feast day. I must be honest, after a few hours we drank like h... by coincidence I turned on the radio, which was turned off for a while, as our minds had become a little darkened and tipsy-tapsy through the fluid, in order to stimulate our lame spirits a little by music. But we could not believe our ears, excited news came to our ears, the great invasion of the European continent had started at this very moment. Everybody dashed out to inform the sleeping men of the sensational news. The bell rang loudly in order to get even the soundest sleeper out of his bed. In the middle of the night we fell out to remember the hard fighting brothers. A brief speech of the Camp Commander and the threefold hurrah sounded through camp. The American laughed scornfully, but best laughs who laughs last.
As the next event comes the expulsion of Lt. LEUPOLD from our camp community. Accusations of Officers and confessions he made settled this disgusting theme of that Mr. LEUPOLD. He spent orgies in a Polish nightclub in Washington for his own private pleasure as it was related to me as fact by U-boat Officers. He now lives together with American Army Officers who take him out, otherwise he exchanges old tires in one of the warehouses in camp without pay. His title: "From U-boat Commander via Polish Night Club to old Automobile Tire."
That was not the only expulsion. Also enlisted men who declared to be Social Democrats were thrown out of camp in a hurry. That expulsion went to the nerves of the Americans for all men thrown out had to be quartered outside of PW camps. Since the number grew more and more, the Americans had to take measures but we did not know of what kind. Soon there was some light in the matter, as the transfer of Capt. Bargsten, Camp spokesman, took place. He became too unpleasant to the dear men as time went on. This event that came about so suddenly was a severe blow to us Officers. We all loved the Commander very much, for he understood it perfectly to bring life into camp by his joking manners. With him went Capt. BENRE from camp Lt. ALTENBURGER, which was heard by the camp band with a feeling of sadness, as he was in his best way to function as violinist.
Note: Lt. Huehnefeld is probably Leutnant Joachim Hünefeldt, Second Watch Officer of U-231, Captain Lt. Bargesten is Kapitänleutnant Klaus Bargesten, Captain of U-521. Capt. Benre cannot be identified, the text is blurred and the first and fourth letters are difficult to distinguish. Lt. Altenburger is Leutnant (Ing.) Günther Altenburger, Engineer Officer of U-515.
Again an outstanding event took place in camp. Lt. Schmidt, whose brother is stationed as prisoner in the camp of Capt. Wattenberg, wanted to try with all means to get there even in roundabout ways. The commander was transferred to McCain. The farewell party stimulated by several bottles of beer, finally went so far that Lt. Schmidt packed in a hurry his things and was able to leave camp not being recognized. That trick was made easier by the fact, that the Company Officer who should have been present, had asked to be excused as the transfer had to take place in the early morning hours.
This trick succeeded, even if only for a short time, because 10 days later the duty neglecting officer appeared in camp enraged, and wanted to talk to Lt. Schmidt, when we could not produce unfortunately. The whole thing came into the open, Lt. Schmidt came back, Lt. Altenburger was shipped out. Long hearings took place with the Camp Commander, which were led astray because of given agreements. Lt. Schmidt had to be taken to the hospital on account of a leg injury, where a short time after he had to be operated on. After a long time of recovery we expected him back in camp, but he did not show up, for he was taken according to sentence to the clink for 30 days, where he is still leading his poor existence today (28 Sep 44)
Of the daily routine activities I want to mention only a few important details, which usually remain the same.
Because of the fact that the strength of officers has increased to 14 men after our arrival, a new gigantic instruction plan was started, outlined with great enthusiasm. The enormous teacher faculty accomplished after several sessions an instruction schedule with the following subjects: 1 English, 2 French, 3 Spanish, 4 Mathematics, 5 Lectures of the Physician, 5 Series of Lectures about Meteorology.
We had two hours instruction daily. The subjects were elective. Only compulsory subject was English, given by Capt. Degen (Study Director). Excellent teacher was our LONG.
Finally I could leave the old garbage stable and move into my house and I had plenty work now with the quite large garden. Flowers were secured for cheap money or cigarettes from a negro who managed a flower garden close-by. With approval of the Americans we could start the beautification of camp, and the sand areas were covered with grass brought for that purpose. Nice flower gardens were planted under direction of the Medical Captain. The N.C.O.'s built a nice fountain, which looked good in camp, and gave a neat and prosperous air to the camp.
Furthermore the camp was fortunate to have its own movie projector with which were shown mostly on Sundays the available films. The camp carpenter made a wooden device for the screen, which made it possible to have performances in the open whenever the weather allowed.
Another off-duty activity permitted by the Americans was the swim in the lake, which is on the camp. On each Thursday the Americans furnished 3 trucks with which they took us to the beautiful beach of the quiet lake. One could feel free and young in the mostly warm water of the lake. In most cases we were allowed to stay for one hour.
Sundays were spent mostly in company of all Officers with a cup of good coffee and delicious cake, in most cases even pie. Card games and endless DO-KO formed the end of most evenings. These beautiful times of complete quietness however could not last for ever.
Also competition card game which formed the climax of Saturday after pay day was an iron rule.
Note: Lt. Schmidt is probably Leutnant Joachim Schmidt, First Watch Officer of U-203
23 July 1944.
My dear Mother had birthday today. In all quietness I prayed to God, He should keep her under His powerful protection. How did I wish that she might at this time already learn the news of my fate, or even have my first letter. We had on this day good coffee and delicious pie. I was almost ashamed at the sight of the big pie, at home it might be quite different at total war.
Daily we receive news from the fighting in Europe, partly cheerful, partly also saddening. Cherbourg has fallen. The AMERICANS and ENGLISH have broken the iron ring around St. Lo, in order to gain ground in quick warfare towards all directions. Paris fell into the hands of the Allies. Always more and more the German soldier is pushed back towards the border of his fatherland. How great is the strength of Germany? It is so terribly sad, to observe the big show from the distance, we as prisoners of war can't help anymore, we are chained here. My future lies dark before me, I cannot get rid of this thought the future of Germany gives me a cold shiver. Nevertheless we must not be discouraged by the stream of exaggerated propaganda that is daily radioed through the air. We have to wait patiently, the fatherland has to bear a heavy load to stand through all that is demanded of her to bear.
Outside of a slight ear defect I am all right as far as health is concerned. Unfortunately, I put on weight, more and more, the good appetite must be satisfied.
On the 4 August 44 was had an important visitor. Lt.Comdr. Kelly holds inspection. In the meantime the camp was increased to a strength of 250 men, which according to past experience does not promise anything too good. For some reason the good man did not stay too long, Capt. DEGEN simply threw him out. In the afternoon of the same day he came again in order to be excused by own request for ever. What now?
This question was answered soon. Already one week afterwards 16 somewhat doubtful looking individuals arrived, called Navy Soldiers, in reality a club of good Anti-Nazis under the pretext to have peace and order. But obeying to the majority they did not hide that fact, saluted with the German salute and were very submissive at all. Since they came from Fort Devens they had to be looked as suspiciously. Capt. DEGEN tried to get the men (no Submarine-Sailors) settled in good order.
The plan of the American to infect this camp was clear before our eyes. That assumption was verified by the fact that new men arrived, this time U-boat men, who simply stated they had deserted their oath of allegiance in the firm conviction that Germany will be completely beaten within 4 to 6 months.
Note: Capt. Degen is Kapitänleutnant Horst Degen, Captain of U-701