The Otter, Hayter,
and Varian Sink U-248.
| When General Von Rundstedt's mid-winter counterdrive developed into
the "Battle of the Bulge," Allied leaders knew "this was it." If
the Ardennes break-through was not contained, the war would be prolonged for many
months. And oddly enough, at the climax of the Bulge campaign, success or failure
for either side hinged on the weather. Days of icy drizzle, snow, and fog had
screened the German advance and kept Allied aircraft grounded. So long as this
weather front persisted, Von Rundstedt's driving legions retained the advantage.
Imperative, then, that his headquarters be informed by accurate forecasts. So the
U-248 was dispatched to a station in the North Atlantic about midway between France and
Newfoundland, where the submarine was to play weather prophet.
Early in the New Year of 1945 the U-boat was on station, serving as aerographer and transmitting the vital weather reports to the Nazi parties most interested. But the Nazis were not the only interested parties. Operating north of the Azores at this time was Escort Division 62, and the express mission of this DE division was the hunting and killing of any such weather-reporting U-boat in the vicinity.
Commander Jack F. Bowling in destroyer escort Otter with three other escorts, Hubbard, Hayter and Varian, departed Casco Bay on 26 December, 1944. All four were equipped with a new, improved type of HF/DF (high frequency/direction finders) called the "DAQ." After fueling at Fayal in the Azores on January 3, 1945, they began to search for the weather reporter. Since U-boats in that service commonly transmitted several times daily, Commander Bowling set up a 24-hour watch and opened out his search line to ten miles, steaming toward the last point of HF/DF contact. During the evening of the 4th, Hubbard made radar contact and the group hunted all night; the contact must have been on U-248, which had recently relieved U-1053. On the morning of the 5th, Bowling's group turned north to run down a new Tenth Fleet estimate of the enemy's position, which turned out to be inaccurate by 150 miles. Reversing course, the DEs had to enter Pico Channel on the 10th for replenishment.
On the same day, commander Bowling received by radio a sharp reproof from Admiral Ingram to the effect that he should take "drastic steps" to improve the quality of his group's searching. The four reservist skippers promptly buckled down to a "skull session" in Horta harbor with their group commander. As a result, they set up three search formations of their own devising: a 180-mile line of advance, a "delta" formation of three ships in an equilateral triangle (16 miles to each leg) to fix transmissions with the DAQs; and a smaller "half delta," 9 miles to each leg with one ship in the center of the triangle, for sonar search. These innovations were based on the knowledge that HF/DF fixes made from the coastal stations could not be depended on for accuracy, and that the snorkel-equipped U-boats moved so much faster than their predecessors as to make existing box-search plans ineffective.
Commander Bowling's group departed Terceira in the midwatch on January 12th and formed its 180-mile line of advance. Next afternoon, when about 500 miles north of Fayal, the delta formation with the Hubbard in the center was set up to sweep the latest tenth Fleet estimate of the target's position. Actually Admiral Low was directing them to U-1230, which had taken up weather reporting duties after its Maine spy mission. But even this latest fix was inaccurate. After searching all January 14th and 15th, with no contact, Commander Bowling decided to head southwest. He was rewarded by three of his ships obtaining bearings on a target ten miles distant, at 0550, January 16th. Quickly squeezing themselves into the "half delta," the DEs began sound search; and at the end of 80 minutes obtained contacts on the target, weather reporter U-248.
While the Hayter acted as tracker and coach, Varian and Otter closed in to make deliberate depth-charge and hedgehog attacks. U-248 maneuvered briskly at a depth of 500 feet. At 1012, after several patterns had been dropped, a boil of water on the surface indicated that the boat was blowing tanks. A moment later it surfaced. Otter gave it the final punch. Ship's boats recovered human remains and a copy of the official songbook Morgen Marschieren Wir. There were no survivors.
Commander Bowling scoured neighboring waters for 24 hours and then headed for Horta. News of his success produced a handsome amends from Admiral Ingram: "My first scalp as Cinclant deeply appreciated. Well done!"
The Nazi forces in Europe would receive no more weather reports from the aerographers of U-248.
For this successful operation without assistance from aircraft, the task group commander, commanding officers, and various officers and men were decorated and commended, and the Otter proudly displayed a sub silhouette on her bridge.
|In April, this task group joined a large task force of DE's and escort carriers patrolling the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic and searching for subs. During these operations, the USS Davis (DE 136) was sunk on April 24, 1945 and while other ships of the group engaged and sank the sub, the Otter assisted in the rescue of survivors.|
| On the termination of the European war, the Otter was one of the
ships assigned to accept the surrender of German subs. she intercepted the U-boat
805 east of Newfoundland, put a boarding party aboard, and escorted the sub, the second to
surrender to the United States, over a thousand miles to Boston harbor.
Like most of the Atlantic Fleet, the Otter was then ordered to be refitted and equipped for the Pacific War as a Pickett Ship. The end of hostilities caused cancellation of this work, and after a short training period the Otter was assigned to the Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut to assist in the training of our own submarines.
Otter (DE 210) earned one battle star on the
The Filson Club History Quarterly
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For information or questions, e-mail Bill Nielson.
This page was updated August 8, 2000.