Mike Bo's Blog!

28.05.2018
MIKE BOTULA
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Brushy Creek Journal Monday May 28, 2018 We have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again… President Barack Obama at Hiroshima, May 27, 2016   When I was a little boy, Memorial Day was still called Decoration Day and it fell on May 30th. My Lt. Charles Botula, Jr.  mom told me it was a memorial event that started at the end of the Civil War, because that’s when  Americans would pay tribute to the fallen who wore both blue and grey by decorating their graves with flowers. Many years later, in my American History class, I learned the observance actually began with former slaves celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation by decorating the wartime graves of African-Americans who fought for their freedom from slavery. Decoration Day eventually became a Memorial Day honoring Americans who fell in all our country’s wars. In 1968 Congress revamped our national holidays, combining these hallowed days into a pair of three-day weekends. Decoration Day is now Memorial Day and Armistice Day, which honored the fallen of World War I is now Veterans Day. Today we will again honor those who fought and died for their country.   When my father returned from his US Navy service in World War II, he told my brother and I a story that I have told to my own son and daughter, and now my grandchildren as every new Memorial Day approaches. After I retired from my career as a journalist, I revisited my father’s story and did additional research. The result was my book, published in 2016 titled LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target!   My dad served as Executive Officer aboard the LST 920 during World War 2. His ship survived a LST 920 at Sea - June 1944 deadly U boat attack on his convoy that sank a British escort ship and heavily damaged LST 921, the sister ship to the LST 920. The loss of life was heavy. The British ship, LCI(L)99 was literally blown out of the water.  LST 921 was torn in two, with the aft section sinking with half the crew. I’ve shared this story before.   My dad, Lt. (jg) Charles Botula, Jr. died in 1965 without ever knowing the full story about the afternoon of August 14th, 1944 off the west coast of England. It’s taken me years to research it. Neither my Dad nor his Captain – Harry N. Schultz ever knew which enemy submarine attacked them or what happened to that U boat after the LST 921 and HMS LCI(L)99 were torpedoed. Most of the survivors of that terrible afternoon have also faded from our midst, but, their story is well worth the retelling. For in the retelling, we can pay them a long overdue honor.   Monday, 14 August 1944 -16:54 hrs. - USS LST 920, commanded by Lieutenant Harry N. Schultz and Lt. Harry N. Schultz USS LST 921, under the command of Lieutenant John Werner Enge were underway in convoy EBC 72 from Milford Haven, Wales to Falmouth, England. They were suddenly attacked by the German submarine U667, under the command of Kapitӓnleutnant Karl-Heinze Lange. LST 921 was hit by the first torpedo and broke in two with the aft section sinking minutes later. Some survivors scampered to safety on the bow section. Others went overboard into the chilly water. When the aft section sank, it took half of the ship’s crew to the bottom.  General Quarters was sounded on the LST 920 and Captain Schultz came to the bridge. Seeing survivors in the water, Schultz ordered his radioman, Seaman Fred Benck to send a request for permission to turn his ship around to pick up survivors. Permission was denied and the 920 was ordered to proceed to Falmouth. Years later, Benck told me what happened next. “In about two minutes he came in the radio room and said, Benck send that message again! This time he waited for the answer which was the same, DO NOT BREAK CONVOY! H. N. Schultz then used these words: TO HELL WITH HIM! And we pulled out of convoy to turn back and pick up survivors! A message came from the Commander of the convoy to get back in formation. This message was never answered.”  As my father watched from the bridge of the LST 920, he spotted a torpedo coming straight at him. LCI(L)99 - Sunk by U667 1944 Just then, a British escort vessel, LCI(L)99 came alongside, took the full brunt of the torpedo and was blown out of the water. The 920 came about and Schultz ordered two small boats into the water with Ensign John Waters in one and Ensign Harold Willcox in the other, along with nine other sailors to rescue survivors. Willcox tied a line around his waist and jumped into the water numerous times to help pull survivors aboard. In his After-Action Report, Captain Schultz singled out Waters and Willcox and the nine seamen for outstanding performance during the action. In all, 48 survivors were rescued and brought aboard the LST 920.  Seaman Joe Wallace tells this part of the story. “I remember one of the 921 crew members coming up to the bridge all wet and oily. I gave him my locker keys and location, and he showered and put on some clean dry clothes. By this time it was dark. We gathered the survivors and were on our way to Falmouth. There, I had the task of counting the departing survivors - 42 walking and 6 stretcher cases.”   Several other survivors from the 921 as well as the LCI (99) were rescued by a British ship that joined in the rescue operation. All told, about 65 survivors were picked up, but fully half of the LST 921’s complement of 107 officers and crew had been lost. Years would pass before a dusty and forgotten archive* would reveal the names of the sailors – Americans and British who lost their lives on that August afternoon more than seventy years ago. And so, on this Memorial Day 2016, I would like us to remember:                Baker, Thomas A., USNR                              Seaman First Class                           Banit, Roman J., USNR                                  Seaman Second Class                      Bennett, Frederick W., USNR                       Seaman First Class                            Bent, Eugene E., USNR                                  Seaman First Class                           Clements, Charles M., USNR                        Seaman First Class                            Dove, Raleigh J., USNR                                 Seaman Second Class                     Enge, John Werner, USNR                            Lieutenant (Captain, survived)                Feeney, Lawrence E., USNR                         Fireman Second Class                      Fitton, Edward Joseph, USNR                      Seaman Second Class                     Freely, James Joseph, USNR                        Boatswain's Mate 1st Class                  Furino, Louis A., USNR                                  Coxswain                             Guthrie, Edward J., USNR                             Ensign                   Guziak, Walter V., USNR                               Seaman Second Class                      Hoak, William K., USNR                                Gunner's Mate Third Class                 Jerzewski, Chester R., USNR                        Seaman Second Class                      Jones, Oscar R., USNR                                   Coxswain                             Kozlik, John H., USNR                                    Seaman First Class                           Lowe, Samuel M., USNR                               Seaman Second Class                      Micheline, Carmine A., USNR                      Seaman Second Class                      Mindlin, Daniel, USNR                                   Ensign                   Monaco, Robert Chester, USNR                 Radioman Second Class                 Moore, Charles H., USNR                             Seaman Second Class                      Mulholland, William P., USNR                     Seaman Second Class                      Newberry, Clyde, USNR                                Seaman Second Class                      Pizon, John J., USNR                                      Seaman First Class                          Potasky, Joseph E., USNR                             Seaman First Class                           Progy, Henry, USNR                                       Motor Mach Mate 3rd Class                 Richard, Donald James, USNR                     Gunner's Mate 3rd Class                  Siring, Ronald John, USNR                            Ship's Cook Third Class                    Smith, Kenneth J., USN                                  Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class                 Smith, Lee I., USNR                                        Seaman Second Class                     Smith, Ray R., USNR                                      Seaman First Class                          Sprague, Herbert K., USNR                           Seaman Second Class                     Suazoe, Ray M., USNR                                  Seaman Second Class                      Totulis, Albert G., USN                                  Gunner's Mate 3rd Class                  Trachsel, Ernest W., USNR                           Seaman Second Class                     Van Why, Henry, USNR                                 Seaman Second Class                      Verity, Edward C., USNR                               Seaman Second Class                     Vitense, Glenn, USNR                                    Seaman First Class                           Widmer, Richard C., USNR                           Seaman Second Class                     Yavornitzky, Andrew J., USNR                     Shipfitter Second Class    After torpedoing LST 921, the U667 turned its sights on my father’s ship, LST 920, and launched another torpedo in its direction. My father told me of seeing the enemy torpedo streaking through the water toward his ship.  Just before the torpedo struck, LCI(L)99 steamed between the oncoming torpedo and dad’s ship and was blown out of the water. The escort vessel’s casualty list includes the names:                 Lt. Commander Arthur Reynolds, RN, age 24                 Leading Seaman Gordon Henry House, RN age 21                 Able Seaman James Quine, RN, age 21                 Able Seaman Francis Ernest Shacklock, RN, age 19                 Ordinary Seaman John Shields, RN                 Sub-Lieutenant Douglas Edwin Swatridge, RNVR, age 25                 Ordinary Seaman Donald Maurice Thompson, RN, age 20                 Able Seaman William Todd, RN, age 19 There is an important postscript to this story. The attacking submarine, U 667, had sunk four ships including the LST 921 and LCI (99) on what turned out to be its most successful cruise. But as it headed back to its base and a hero’s welcome, its jubilant crewmen could not know that their luck was about to change. In all the research I did for this story, the US Navy and German Kriegsmarine archives revealed only The Attacker - U-667 that U 667 struck a mine on or about August 25th on the way back to its home base. But, as I researched further, I found the answer on a specialty internet site: uboat.net, which is devoted to the archives of the Kriegsmarine and its unterseebooten. According to the archives, the RAF had carried out a series of aerial mine-laying missions off the coast of France in an area code-named Cinnamon right after the U 667 left port on its final cruise. The RAF dropped mines into the U 667’s inbound route back to base. An RAF report that I read showed that the coordinates of that August 1944 mine-laying sweep matches the location where the U 667 was finally found and examined by diving crews. The loss of the U 667 was recorded by the Kriegsmarine after it missed a scheduled radio check-in on August 25th. When U 667 failed to check in, Admiral Karl Dönitz’ high command assumed that the sub had been lost. Ironically, neither my father nor his Captain, Harry Schultz, nor any of the survivors from LST 921 ever knew what happened to the submarine that attacked them. The exploding mine sent U 667 to the bottom of the Bay of Biscay, where it remains with its entire crew of 45. The wreckage is now war grave. In addition to the sub’s captain, Karl-Heinze Lange, who was 26 years old, the identities of the other sailors  are listed in this 1944 roster of the U667’s crew: Walter Bauch, age 26 Rolf-Rudiger Bensel, age 21 Helmut Borowsky, age 23 Friedrich Brübach, age 20 Kurt Brunk, age 21 Gustav Drewes, age 23 Franz Eder, age 21 Hans Ederer, age 24 Kurt Ehrenfeld, age 25 Johan Erasimus, age 20 Erich Faust, age 23 Wilhelm Fickert, age 23 Herbert Figlon, age 22 Hans Flach, age 23 Kurt Grimm, age 24 Hans-Georg Hagelloch, age 23 Adam Hahl, age 21 Artur Hantel, age 22 Wilhelm Hochstetter, age 23 Oswald Holle, age 20 Helmut Kabs, age 21 Helmut Krӧller, age 23 Kurt Laschke, age 21 Jürgen Leisler-Klep, age not listed Heinz-Karl Matthias, age 25 Ludwig Maürer, age 21 Arnold Mittler, age 21 Heinrich Mrziglod, age 22 August Oehler, age 38 Walter Proske, age 21 Werner Reiβach, age 30 Emil Reitor, age 21 Georg Richter, age 24 Helmut Sauer, age 21 Richard Schӓefer, age 19 Reinhold Scheit, age 27 Rudolf Schӧmetzler, age 20 Gerhard Schrӧder, age 21 Gunter Schrӧder, age 30 Kurt Schulz, age 24 Willi Seeliger, age 20 Wilhelm Senden, age 21 Wilhelm Steigerwald, age 20 Rudolf Weiβ, age 21 Hans Witzel, age 23  It’s fitting that we remember all who perished on this Memorial Day.  Eternal Father, strong to save, Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, Who bid'st the mighty ocean deep Its own appointed limits keep; Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea! -Navy Hymn  Ciao, MikeBo *LST 921, LCU(L)99, and U667 casualty lists via Uboat.net and US Navy Archives. [Mike Botula, author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! Is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesman and media consultant. Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. Visit Mike Botula at: www.mikebotula.com.]

LST 920: Charlie Botula's Long, Slow Target!

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