USS Sealion attacks and sinks battleship Kongo

0406: Tracking indicates the target group now zigzagging. We are holding true bearing, maybe gaining a little. Called for maximum speed from engineers – they gave us 25% overload for about thirty minutes, then commenced growling about sparking commutators, hot motors, et al , forced to slow to flank. Sea and wind increasing all the time – now about force 5 or 6 – taking solid water over bridge, with plenty coming down the conning tower hatch.

The battlecruiser Kongo had been built by the British shipyard Vickers in 1912. In 1929 she was re-bilit as a battleship as seen here in 1929-30.
The battlecruiser Kongo had been built by the British shipyard Vickers in 1912. In 1929 she was re-built as a battleship, as seen here in 1929-30.She was further modified in the 1930s to become a ‘fast battleship’.
The first USS-Sealion-(SS-195) had been sunk while in dock on the Philippines on 10th December 1941.
The first USS-Sealion-(SS-195) had been sunk while in dock on the Philippines on 10th December 1941.
The launch of the USS Sealion in October 1943, with Comamnder Eli Reich at right.
The launch of the USS Sealion in October 1943, with Commander Eli Reich at right.

The original USS Sealion had been sunk by Japanese during their initial assaults on US ships in December 1941. Less than two years later USS Sealion was reborn, launched on 31st October 1943. Exactly a year later she set off on her third war patrol, her commander, Eli Reich, having already been awarded Navy Crosses for “aggressive and well executed torpedo attacks” on each of the two earlier patrols. In September she had been responsible for the unfortunate sinking of the Rakuyo Maru, with 1300 POWs aboard.

Early on 21st November off Formosa, now Taiwan, the USS Sealion picked up such strong radar signals that at first they were thought to be bouncing off land. They were then revealed to be a group of Japanese battleships and battle cruisers, including, as it turned out, the IJN “Indestructible” Kongo.

Commander Eli Reich’s original patrol report tells the whole story:

21 NOVEMBER 1944

0020: Radar contact at 44,000 yards, on our starboard quarter, (Ship contact #3) three pips, very clear and distinct. Came to normal approach, went ahead flank on four engines, and commenced tracking. Overcast sky, no soon, visibility about 1500 yards, calm sea.

0043: Two large pips and two smaller pips now outlined on radar screen at a range of 35,000 yards. These are the greatest ranges we have ever obtained on our radar. Pips so large, at so great a range, we first suspected land. It was possible to lobe switch on the larger targets at 32,000 yards – we now realized we probably had two targets of battleship proportions and two of larger cruiser size as our targets. They were in a column with a cruiser ahead followed by two battleships, and a cruiser astern, course 060 T, speed 16 knots. not zigging.

0146: Three escorts now visible on the radar, at a range of 20,000 yards. One on. either beam on the formation, and one on the starboard far quarter. We are pining bearing slowly but surely. The formation is now on our starboard beam. Seas and wind increasing.

0245: Ahead of task force. Turned in and slowed for attack, keeping our bow pointed at the now destroyer who is now 1800 yards on the port bow of our target. the second ship in column. Able to make out shape of near destroyer from bridge. Kept swinging left with our bow directly on the destroyer, and at

0256: Fired six torpedoes, depth set at 8 feet, at the second ship in column, range 3000 yards, believed to be a battleship. Came right with full rudder to bring the stern tubes to bear.

0259-30: Stopped and fired three torpedoes, depth set at 8 feet, from the stern tubes at the third ship in column (ie the second battleship). Range 3100 yards. Range to near destroyer at the time of firing stern tubes about 1800 yards. While firing stern tubes, O.O.D. reported he could make out outline of the near cruiser on our port quarter. During the firing of the bow tubes the bridge quartermaster reported he could make out outline of a very high superstructure on target, he said it looked to him like the pagoda build of the Jap battleships.

0300: Saw and heard three hits on the first battleship – several small mushrooms of explosions noted in the darkness.

0304: Saw and heard at least one hit on the second battleship – this gave a large violent explosion with a sudden rise of flames at the target, but it quickly subsided.

The Japnese destroyer Urakaze which blew up and was lost with all hands.
The Japnese destroyer Urakaze which blew up and was lost with all hands.

In fact two torpedoes from the first salvo had hit Kongo and a third torpedo had passed beyond her and hit the destroyer IJN “Wind on the Sea” Urakaze, causing a catastrophic explosion which sunk her with all hands. With two compartments flooded the Kongo began to lose speed.

Eli Reich thought he had lost his opportunity, believing that he had set his torpedoes at the wrong depth for a battleship. His patrol report continues:

0304-07: Went ahead flank, opening to westward from target group. Noted several small explosions, flames, and probably lights in vicinity of target group.

0308: Heard a long series of heavy depth charge explosions from vicinity of enemy force – we are about 5000 yards from group. P.P.I. shows one escort opening and rapidly to east of target group. Continued tracking.

0330: Chagrined at this point to find subsequent tracking enemy group still making 16 knots, still on course 060T. I feel that in setting depth at 8 feet, in order to hit a destroyer if overlapping our main target. I’ve made a bust – looks like we only dented the armor belt on the battleships.

0406: Tracking indicates the target group now zigzagging. We are holding true bearing, maybe gaining a little. Called for maximum speed from engineers – they gave us 25% overload for about thirty minutes, then commenced growling about sparking commutators, hot motors, et al , forced to slow to flank. Sea and wind increasing all the time – now about force 5 or 6 – taking solid water over bridge, with plenty coming down the conning tower hatch. SEALION making about 16.8 to 17 knots with safety tank dry and using low pressure blower often to keep ballast tanks dry. Engine rooms taking much water through main induction.

0430: Sent SEALION Serial Number TWO. [?]

0450: Noted enemy formation breaking up into two groups – one group dropping astern. Now P.P.I. showed:(a) one group up ahead to consist of three large ships in column – cruiser. battleship, cruiser with a destroyer just being lost to radar view up ahead. Range to this group about 17000 yards. (b) Second group dropping astern of first to consist of a battleship, with two destroyers on far side. Close aboard – range to this group about 15000 yards and closing.

0451: Shifted target designation, decided to attack second group, which contains 1 battleship, hit with three torpedoes on our first attack. Tracking shows target to have slowed to 11 knots. Things beginning to took rosy again.

0512: In position ahead of target, slowed and turned in for attack.

0518: Solutions on T.D.C. and plot is getting sour – target must be changing speed.

0520: Plot and T.D.C. report target must be stopped, radar says target pip seems to be getting a little smaller. Range to target now about 17000 yards.

0524: Tremendous explosion dead ahead – sky brilliantly illuminated, it looked like a sunset at midnight, radar reports battleship pip getting smaller – that it has disappeared -leaving only two smaller pips of the destroyers. Destroyers seem to be milling around vicinity of target. Battleship sunk – the sun set.

0525: Total darkness again.

Before Sealion had a chance to make another attack Kongo had blown up. There were just 237 survivors from a crew of over 1400.

Reich had earned a third Navy Cross on his third patrol. Not only was this the only occasion when an Allied submarine successfully sank a battleship during the war but it was the only occasion an audio recording was made of a live attack.

USS Sealion (SS315) later in the war flying her victory pennants.
USS Sealion (SS315) later in the war flying her victory pennants.

General George S. Patton confronts an SS General

ou can tell this man that naturally in my position I can­not demean myself to question him, but I can say this, that I have captured a great many German generals, and this is the first one who has been wholly untrue to everything; because he has not only been a Nazi but he is untrue to the Nazis by surrendering. If he wants to say anything he can, and I will say that unless he talks pretty well, I will turn him over to the French. They know how to make people talk.

Troops of the U.S. 5th Infantry Division entering Metz on 18 November 1944
Troops of the U.S. 5th Infantry Division entering Metz on 18 November 1944

The heavily fortified border city of Metz had been seized from the French in 1870, returned to the French in 1918 and again seized by the Germans in 1940. The US Third Army’s struggle to liberate it had taken nearly three months and heavy casualties.

Sergeant Leonard O’Reilly discovered SS Major General Anton Dunckern hiding in a brewery on the 20th Novemebr, during a thorough search of Metz following its occupation on the 19th. At first Dunckern demanded to be allowed to surrender to a senior officer but, with a cocked pistol prodding him in the stomach, soon changed his mind. He was later brought before General Patton.

Although Patton spoke German fluently he chose have the interview translated because he would not demean himself to speak to him directly:

Patton
You can tell this man that naturally in my position I can­not demean myself to question him, but I can say this, that I have captured a great many German generals, and this is the first one who has been wholly untrue to everything; because he has not only been a Nazi but he is untrue to the Nazis by surrendering. If he wants to say anything he can, and I will say that unless he talks pretty well, I will turn him over to the French. They know how to make people talk.

Dunckern
. . . I received orders to go in the Metz sector and defend a certain sector there, and the reason I did not perish was that I could not reach my weapons and fight back.

Patton
. . . He is a liar!

Dunkern
There was no possibility to continue fighting. The door was opened, and they put a gun on me.

Patton
If he wanted to be a good Nazi, he could have died then and there. It would have been a pleasanter death than what he will get now.

Dunkern
. . . It was useless to do anything about it under the circumstances. (He asked permission to ask a question; it was granted.) I was fighting against American troops and captured by them, and therefore am to be considered a prisoner of war of the American forces.

Patton
He will be a prisoner of war of the French forces soon. They have a lot they want to ask him.

Dunkern
I consider myself a prisoner of war of the American forces, and I have not been captured by the French forces.

Patton
When I am dealing with vipers, I do not have to be bothered by any foolish ideas any more than he has been.

Dunkern
I consider myself a prisoner of war since I fought as a soldier and should be treated as a soldier.

Patton
You also acted as a policeman – a low type of police.

Dunkern
I acted as an officer of the police in an honorable and practical manner, and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Patton
This is a matter of opinion – no one who is a Nazi policeman could act in an honorable manner.

Dunkern
I can only say that during every day of my life I have been honest, rightful, respectful, and humanitarian.

Patton
If this is the case, do you have anything you want to say by way of giving me information or by talking about the German people that will change my opinion?

Dunkern
No one will be able to stand up against me to testify that I did anything against the rules of humanity or human treatment.

Patton
I understand German very well, but I will not demean myself by speaking such a language. I think before I turn the General over to the French, I will send him to the Army Group who may question him or have some special investigators question him, and they can do things I can’t do.

Dunkern
I am not worried about having myself investigated. Of course, there may be some mistakes I have made, which is only human, but I am not worried about inhuman acts charged against me.

Patton
. . . I have great respect for the German soldiers; they are gallant men, but not for Nazis. Have the guards take him outside and have his picture taken and then we’ll see what we will do with him. Also tell him that those bayonets on the guards’ guns are very sharp.”

See The Patton Papers: 1940-1945

An early picture of Nazi party member Anton Dunckern later SS Major General
An early picture of Nazi party member Anton Dunckern later SS Major General

Anton Dunckern was subsequently sentenced to 20 years hard labour for his role as SS Police chief in charge of the Strasbourg region, but released in 1954. He died in 1985.
Contemporary Newsreel featuring Metz amongst several stories from this time, including Peleliu:

Troops of 5th Infantry Division conducting a house-to-house search in Metz on 19 November 1944
Troops of 5th Infantry Division conducting a house-to-house search in Metz on 19 November 1944

Ordeal of the wounded in the ‘Bloody Forest’

In the next room, the litters lay on the floor so close to one another that the doctors and the aid men frequently had to step on the litter itself. Aid men quickly and efficiently appraised wounds and brought into play their first and most efficient weapon, a pair of scissors, which they carried tied to their wrists or waists by a piece of Carlisle bandage. A sergeant took a quick look at the wounded captain’s feet and, grabbing his scissors, began cutting the clothing from the knee down.

The struggle to bring up ammunition in the Hurtgen Forest, extrication the wounded was even more difficult.
The struggle to bring up ammunition in the Hurtgen Forest, extricating the wounded was even more difficult.

In the Hurtgen Forest the bloody battle that had been launched on the 16th continued. Casualties mounted on both sides, casualties that were extremely difficult to evacuate.

William S. Boice, a Chaplain with the 22nd Infantry Regiment describes the circumstances of just one wounded man, in an incident that happened a few days after the start of the battle. It didn’t matter how well protected your position was, fate decided whether you lived or died. Even with a survivable wound there were many more chances left for things to go wrong, as first aid men struggled over the impossible terrain of the dark and gloomy forest:

At 0200, a railroad gun had fired from Duren, some five miles away, and had hit upon a dugout occupied by three officers. The dugout had a heavy roof of two layers of six-inch logs, but the shell, having landed beyond the dugout, blew back in.

One officer was killed outright. Another, a TD officer, was wounded in the chest

The third, an infantry officer, had his right leg broken in a compound fracture, the shrapnel passing on through his left ankle, leaving a hole the size of an egg. Strangely enough, the pain came from the broken leg, and in the dark the officer put a tourniquet on the broken right leg, not even knowing his left foot was injured. And so he lay through the hours of the night — long, bitter, terrifying hours — while he constantly bled, growing weaker and weaker, and feeling the great grayness approaching closer and closer.

Nothing could be done, for in the hell of the inferno of artillery which continued minute after minute and hour after hour, no creature could move with impunity, and it would have been sheer suicide to attempt evacuation under these conditions. Indeed, the evacuation could not be effected until eight o’clock the following morning, when a litter party had to remove the two layers of logs in order to evacuate the two living officers to the aid station.

In the aid station, the battalion surgeons, working under strain, loss of sleep, and the pressure of increasing casualties, still continued to work quickly and effectively. Blood plasma, priceless life-giving fluid, was quickly rigged and administered. The wounded officer was given four bottles, and now for the first time some semblance of life began to appear in his ashen cheeks, but with it, stupefying and heartbreaking pain.

They were placed in the ambulance, these wounded, two litter cases, carefully slung in racks, with the wounded sitting on the floor and on the seat along the side. Then the ambulance started down the makeshift road toward the safety of the collecting station. A man with an arm off at the shoulder tried to sit erect. The ambulance lurched as it headed for the ravine and the bridge, which had been thrice blown out by enemy artillery.

The driver increased his speed, for he knew there was intermittent fire on this bridge and that it was by luck and a prayer that any vehicle got across without being hit. Ambulances, like any other vehicles, were fair prey for artillery. The increased speed over the rough roads, pockmarked by shell and mortar, had the effect of a medieval torture rack on the broken men within.

The collection station, set up in a German farmhouse, was busily working, since the wounded from the entire combat team were collected here. Every wound was quickly examined, and the wounded sorted into categories. The walking wounded sat in one room on the floor or on chairs or simply stood, staring vacantly at one another.

In the next room, the litters lay on the floor so close to one another that the doctors and the aid men frequently had to step on the litter itself. Aid men quickly and efficiently appraised wounds and brought into play their first and most efficient weapon, a pair of scissors, which they carried tied to their wrists or waists by a piece of Carlisle bandage. A sergeant took a quick look at the wounded captain’s feet and, grabbing his scissors, began cutting the clothing from the knee down.

The amount of clothing which the soldier wore was appalling. but he wore everything he could get his hands on in an effort to keep warm, since there were no blankets. The scissors cut through a pair of fatigues; beneath the fatigues, a pair of ODs [olive drabs]; beneath the ODs, long underwear and long socks. Now the sergeant saw the condition of the leg.

He cut the clothing completely open to the shoe, but the foot lay twisted in an odd and somehow horrible position. The slightest movement of the shoe or the litter caused the soldier to grit his teeth with the pain. The sergeant took a razor blade and began to cut the laces of the shoe and the pain became excruciating. It was necessary to remove the shoe from the broken foot, and the soldier fainted from the pain.

The sergeant had called sharply for plasma, and from a wire run across the center of the room between two windows, a T/ 5 had already hung a bottle and, with another stretch of bandage had twisted the tubing and had tried to insert the needle into the veins of the forearm, but the soldier had been through too much, and from lack of blood, the veins had almost collapsed.

The T/ 5 appraised the situation and called sharply, ‘Captain!’ A tired, hollow-eyed surgeon raised his eyes and, without a word, immediately saw the situation. He came at once and, calling for a scalpel, he slit the skin inside the elbow, exposed a vein and expertly slipped the needle into the vein itself. Then he stood and rested his back as he watched the plasma drop by drop giving life to the almost empty veins of the captain.

History of the Twenty-Second United States Infantry in World War II (Compiled and Edited by Dr. William S. Boice, Chaplain)

R+R in Holland – bully beef sandwiches and chocolate

We are being well looked after — waited on hand and foot. Fires, tidying up, etc. all done by civvies. Unfortunately, none of the people in the house speak English, but we manage to converse somehow. It is really amazing how much ‘conversation’ is carried on by means of a few words, signs and pantomime. Attended 15 Troop’s party this evening. The troop is billeted in a separate café with quite a good dance floor. Each member’ of the troop invited a lady friend, making about 30 of us in all. The major and SSM were also invited. Unfortunately, we only had a portable gramophone for a ‘dance band’ — it was more or less useless, but the dancers managed somehow.

Churchill tanks of 34th Tank Brigade cross a temporary bridge in Roosendaal, 30 October 1944.
Churchill tanks of 34th Tank Brigade cross a temporary bridge in Roosendaal, 30 October 1944.

Dutch civilians cluster on a Churchill tank of 34th Tank Brigade, the first tank to enter Roosendaal, 30 October 1944.
Dutch civilians cluster on a Churchill tank of 34th Tank Brigade, the first tank to enter Roosendaal, 30 October 1944.

Tank Commander Trevor Greenwood and the 9th Royal Tank Regiment had been almost continuously on the move since they had landed in Normandy in June. They had fought their last battle at the end of October, which finished with Greenwood removing the body of a friend from a tank that had been hit alongside his. The body had been cut in two by an armour piercing shell.

They had then prepared to assault the Dutch town of Roosendaal which was reported to be heavily defended. At the last moment the Germans had chosen to withdraw. The 9th RTR were very relieved to discover that not only did not have to fight for the town but they were given a period of ‘rest and recuperation’, living in private houses in the town.

Greenwood and his men found themselves living in a bar-cafe. They were having “an incredibly easy time”, only having to see to daily tank maintenance and attend a number of lectures of such topics as VD and the procedure for de-mobilisation after the war. No-one was getting their hopes up, they knew thay would be back in battle soon:

D +165 Saturday 18.11.44

Fine morning, but cold and windy. Courses until 12 noon. Indoors all afternoon — too comfortable in these billets to bother about going out.

We are being well looked after — waited on hand and foot. Fires, tidying up, etc. all done by civvies. Unfortunately, none of the people in the house speak English, but we manage to converse somehow. It is really amazing how much ‘conversation’ is carried on by means of a few words, signs and pantomime.

Attended 15 Troop’s party this evening. The troop is billeted in a separate café with quite a good dance floor. Each member’ of the troop invited a lady friend, making about 30 of us in all. The major and SSM were also invited. Unfortunately, we only had a portable gramophone for a ‘dance band’ — it was more or less useless, but the dancers managed somehow.

Refreshments were surprisingly good — the lads having been scrounging and buying for a couple of days beforehand. There was plenty of beer — from stocks in the café. We also had whisky and gin and cordial from the sergeants’ mess ration. Also bully beef sandwiches — and several dozen fancy cakes bought in Antwerp yesterday. Chocolate too was fairly plentiful, thanks to the issue of 3.5 bars per man during the day.

There was some dancing, and a few games, in which kissing seemed to be the principal feature. These Dutch lassies certainly enjoy kissing! The party finished about midnight, I believe.

Saw signs of a huge heavy bomber raid on Germany today. There were hundreds of bombers overhead during the afternoon: objective Munster. We are now completely out of touch with the war here. Our first few days in Roosendaal were disturbed by heavy gunfire, but there is now complete silence — apart from the occasional roar of a bursting flying bomb in the distance.

Judging by news reports, the Belgian government is having trouble with the ‘patriot army’ — the latter refusing to hand in their arms, maintaining that there is still work for them to do.

From my observations of the men who constitute these Maquis forces in Belgium and France — also Holland — I am not surprised at this development. What is the nature of the work still ahead of them? To fight the enemy within? They certainly form a potential threat to any form of reactionary government — or a return to the old order of dominance by the wealthy.

The Belgian govt. have offered to incorporate the ‘patriots’ in the regular army. This seems very much like an attempt to hoodwink them. Once in the army, they would cease to be free men able to assert themselves. The ultimatum to hand over all arms expires at midnight tonight. Meanwhile mass meetings seem to be the order of the day in Belgium.

I am living in an aroma of cheap scent at the moment. This morning, our host here — a very obliging Dutchman of 37 years — showed me a small bottle of scent — ‘tis goot’ he added. And then he poured some of the stuff on my hair and clothes — thinking no doubt he was doing me a favour. I had the smell with me all the evening at the party — a sickly, heavy smell: faded violets, or something.

See Trevor Greenwood: D-Day to Victory: The Diaries of a British Tank Commander

A scene of complete devastation in the railway yards at Munster, as discovered by British ground forces on 7 April 1945. The administrative centre of Westphalia, and a major rail junction, Munster had suffered heavy Bomber Command and USAAF attacks when it became a tactically important reinforcement route into the Rhine battle area.
A scene of complete devastation in the railway yards at Munster, as discovered by British ground forces on 7 April 1945. The administrative centre of Westphalia, and a major rail junction, Munster had suffered heavy Bomber Command and USAAF attacks when it became a tactically important reinforcement route into the Rhine battle area.

Just another day for 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron

Survivor, Ensign John Drex, USNR, stated that while on a strafing mission over an airfield on Negros the oil line on his engine was damaged by enemy fire when he attacked a Jap bomber which fell into the sea in flames. He saw three zeros coming toward him, so he turned into them, and shot the first one down, but the other two got on his tail and he dove for the deck, finally crash landing in a rice paddy on Negros near Kamalishas.

Squadron OA-10A "Cat" 44-33876 on routine patrol with a sister ship (Courtesy Mary Wientjes)
Squadron OA-10A “Cat” 44-33876 on routine patrol with a sister ship (Courtesy Mary Wientjes)
Squadron OA-10A "Cat" SerNo 44-33876 and crew on their way to affect a rescue (Courtesy Mary Wientjes)
Squadron OA-10A “Cat” SerNo 44-33876 and crew on their way to affect a rescue (Courtesy Mary Wientjes)

Out in the remoteness of the Pacific the prospects of survival for any downed pilot were never going to be good. With the arrival of the USAAF 2nd Emergency Squadron flying out of Pitoe Strip in Morotai ( now Indonesia), the odds improved. Using OA-10A’s (equivalent to Navy PBY-5A’s) the Second Emergency Rescue Squadron retrieved over 300 airmen from death or capture during the first six months of its activity.

For the crew of the 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron flying boats, 17 November 1944 was a day like many others over the wide expanse of the ocean and remote islands. For Ensign John Drex, USNR it was to be very memorable, and he himself seems to have had quite a tale to tell:

17 NOVEMBER 1944

Captain Clarence L. “Solie” Solander, pilot of “Daylight Two Two” with Lieutenant Colonel Wallace S. Ford as copilot, took off from Pitoe strip at 0545 on a special mission with fighter cover to search around Taland Island and the Southwest coast of Mindanao. They circled contact point “A” on the North coast of Mindanao, dropped message and then went on to the West coast of Negros where they sighted three survivors. Captain Solander landed, took the survivors aboard, then returned to contact point “A”, unloaded supplies and took off for his base at 1130.

Survivor, Ensign John Drex, USNR, stated that while on a strafing mission over an airfield on Negros the oil line on his engine was damaged by enemy fire when he attacked a Jap bomber which fell into the sea in flames. He saw three zeros coming toward him, so he turned into them, and shot the first one down, but the other two got on his tail and he dove for the deck, finally crash landing in a rice paddy on Negros near Kamalishas.

Ensign Drex was stunned and otherwise uninjured. Natives assisted him out of the plane and took him to the Governor who cared for him until he was able to travel. He remained with the Governor from 13 September until 22 October 1944, when he made his way Southward by mule and caribou to the rendezvous point. He was on the trip three weeks. Ensign Drex obtained valuable information during his stay on Negros.

Just one story from the comprehensive records of the online 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron, which includes copies of all their original mission reports fro November 1944. Not many units, from anywhere in the war, are fortunate to be so well remembered online.

2nd Emergency's OA-10A "Cat" Serial Number 44-33876 on her take-off run after rescuing a downed pilot (Courtesy Mary Wientjes)
2nd Emergency’s OA-10A “Cat” Serial Number 44-33876 on her take-off run after rescuing a downed pilot (Courtesy Mary Wientjes)

Heavy bombers support US Army’s attack into Germany

Each task force had one flail tank. As the flail tanks crested the hill, they passed through our infantry line directly into the minefields. Although the tanks had to contend not only with mines but with an extremely soggy field, they made an initial good showing. The flying chains detonated several mines, and the explosions created additional craters. But finally, due to the combination of the muddy fields and the fact that the horsepower needed to turn the flail took too much power away from the tracks, both flail tanks became mired in the mud.

Boeing B-17F radar bombing through clouds over Bremen, Germany, on Nov. 13, 1943.
Boeing B-17F radar bombing through clouds over Bremen, Germany, on Nov. 13, 1943.
Vertical aerial photograph showing six Handley Page Halifaxes flying over the blazing target area during a daylight attack on a rail centre north of the River Rhine.
Vertical aerial photograph showing six Handley Page Halifaxes flying over the blazing target area during a daylight attack on a rail centre north of the River Rhine.

With the British in the north completing the capture of Walcheren, and the Canadians rolling up the Scheldt estuary, the US forces further south were impatient to get going again after the supply problems began to ease. Now they would head across the Roer river to the Rhine itself.

Omar Bradley, commanding US 12th Army Group, was waiting for the beginning off the attack with Courtney H. Hodges, both of them as frustrated with the rain as Patton was becoming. They were both elated to find the sun shining on the morning of the 16th November so that the visibility was good enough for heavy bombers from England to launch the attack:

At 12:45 air thundered in on schedule. Twelve hundred bombers of the Eighth Air Force flying in box-tight formations, an equal number of RAF heavies, flying dispersed in the manner of night bombers.

To prevent a repetition of the short drop at St. Lo [in July], we had posted jeeps with vertical radio beams to mark the front lines by radar. For visual guidance to the target a line of barrage balloons with cerise panels aflixed to their backs had been hoisted 1,500 feet into the air. For added insurance the 90-mm. AA guns marked the front with a line of colored flak, 2,000 feet below the bombers.

Only two clusters of bombs fell behind our lines, the result of faulty bomb racks. One “friendly” casualty was reported; it was nothing more than a minor wound.

But though the air bombing had shattered an enemy division and churned up the neighboring terrain, it failed to tear a hole in his line through which our infantry and tanks could be pushed on to the Rhine. The German had skillfully laid out his defenses in depth behind a carpet of mines and field fortifications. With his back to the Rhine, he now fought for each grubby crossroads village as if it were the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Meanwhile Goebbels had warned von Runstedt’s troops in the Rhineland that this was a fight to the finish, a fight in which weakness would bring defeat and eventual exile to the Siberian labor camps.

As the enemy fell back he left a trail buried in rubble, for he held grimly to each position until we pulverized it. When G-2 interrogated an intelligent young officer of the Wehrmacht to ask if he did not regret this unnecessary destruction of his homeland, the PW shrugged and replied, “It probably won’t be ours after the War. Why not destroy it?”

See Omar N. Bradley: A Soldier’s Story.

On the ground Belton Y. Cooper with the 3rd Armored Division was watching the launch of the offensive from Hill 287, where P-47 dive bombers followed up after the heavy bombers and then the tanks went in:

Simultaneously with the heavy air strike, the ninety battalions of field artillery opened up, concentrating particularly on the villages.

Combat Command B assembled just south and west of hill 287. As the task forces proceeded over the crest of the hill and passed through our infantry lines, they were exposed to the full effect of the German minefields.

Each task force had one flail tank. As the flail tanks crested the hill, they passed through our infantry line directly into the minefields. Although the tanks had to contend not only with mines but with an extremely soggy field, they made an initial good showing. The flying chains detonated several mines, and the explosions created additional craters. But finally, due to the combination of the muddy fields and the fact that the horsepower needed to turn the flail took too much power away from the tracks, both flail tanks became mired in the mud.

They made excellent targets and were soon knocked out. The second tank in each column had no choice but to go around the flail tanks and continue the attack. A tragic domino effect followed.

The first tank proceeded around the flail tank and made its own way for several yards before striking a mine and becoming disabled. The next tank bypassed the first tank and tried to go its own way for several yards, then it struck a mine and became disabled.

This process continued until eventually one tank got through the minefield and proceeded with the attack. The next tank behind it tried to follow the same path, and sometimes it would get through the minefield successfully. However, by the time the third tank tried to come through in the same tracks, the soft ground would mire the tank so deeply that it would stick, in spite of the “duck feet” we had bolted on the track connectors.

All the stuck tanks became sitting ducks for the murderous German anti-tank fire. The Germans continued to fire at the tanks until they set them on fire. When the crew tried to bail out, they immediately came under concentrated automatic weapons fire.

These brave tankers knew that the tanks would be at an extreme disadvantage in the muddy minefields, but they pressed on with the attack. This was one of the most courageous tank attacks of the entire war. It started with sixty-four medium tanks, and we lost forty-eight of them in twenty-six minutes.

A proportional number of soldiers died in this terrible fight. By nightfall, Task Force 1 had reached the vicinity of Hastenrath after taking tremendous losses. One column started out with nineteen tanks, including a flail, and ended up with four by the end of the day. The other fifteen were lost in the minefield.

The surviving tanks were further exposed because the infantry had a difficult time coming forward to support them. The minefields were also heavily infested with anti-personnel mines. These were deadly to the infantry, who were under extremely heavy small-arms, mortar, and artillery fire.

See Belton Y. Cooper: Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II

Men of 2nd Battalion, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders hitch a ride on a flail tank, 22 November 1944
Men of 2nd Battalion, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders hitch a ride on a flail tank, 22 November 1944

The cold hard wet slog continues across Holland

Another time a heavy German gun pinpointed us, and began to drop enormous shells around Company Headquarters, ranging us carefully. Craters were steadily torn up, slowly creeping closer, until they were straddling us. Our croft was not strong. At length we fled, and in the nick of time, tumbling from the cellar with no dignity at all, map-cases flapping, wireless headphones flying; the lot of us. The next two shells were direct hits. The croft caved in on itself and the cellar ceiling gaped at a smudgy November sky. The big gun stopped…

Infantry and carriers of the 15th (Scottish) Division
Infantry and carriers of the 15th (Scottish) Division, during the assault on Liesel, Holland, 2 November 1944.
Churchill tanks of 4th Grenadier Guards near Liesel-Meijel, 1 November 1944.
Churchill tanks of 4th Grenadier Guards near Liesel-Meijel, 1 November 1944.

Robert Woollcombe wrote a noted memoir of his service with Kings Own Scottish Borderers as they crossed north west Europe from France to Germany in 1944-45.

In November 1944, they, like a large part of the British Army, were still stuck in Holland, where he recorded his general impressions:

The burnt villages dotted back, the riddled church spires, and here a burnt-out tank with the whole turret knocked cleanly off and deposited some yards away by one frightful blow from a powerful gun.

The miles of signal cable stretching rearwards through the slush. The ubiquitous Redcaps on traffic control at every churned crossroads. A German motorcyclist, mistaking his way, careers slap up the road to Deurne village into a column of our troops moving up to take their turn in the trenches, and crashes from his machine.

Here a heavy lorry that has skidded into a ditch at a wild angle; the driver and his mate sitting near by, marooned on a petrol tin, chewing sandwiches. A crew from the Reconnaissance Regiment huddled in the shelter of a grey armoured car in their thick waterproof overalls, their goggles pushed up, brewing tea.

The blinding flashes of the big guns at night, and the eerie, unwavering beams, far back, of Monty’s Moonlight; and patrols, creeping over the marsh and dykes, cursing it at the skylines.

The new O.C. “A” Company sticks his face with glinting spectacles in the top window of our croft to observe a spandau position. Instantly a vigilant shower of bullets rattled through the roof — he swore afterwards that he had seen them coming – and he spun from the ladder on which he was standing and crashed to the floor, his finger snicked as though by a penknife.

For a moment I thought he was dead, and was bending over him when another burst came through the tiles. There was a tap where a bullet grazed a couple of inches from my brain, leaving a slight dent in my steel helmet.

Another time a heavy German gun pinpointed us, and began to drop enormous shells around Company Headquarters, ranging us carefully. Craters were steadily torn up, slowly creeping closer, until they were straddling us.

Our croft was not strong. At length we fled, and in the nick of time, tumbling from the cellar with no dignity at all, map-cases flapping, wireless headphones flying; the lot of us. The next two shells were direct hits. The croft caved in on itself and the cellar ceiling gaped at a smudgy November sky. The big gun stopped…

We had thrown ourselves into a section of large concrete drainpiping, conveniently half-buried in the kitchen garden by the original civilian occupants of the place, to form a shelter against the day when the war might sweep over them. It was uncomfortable, dark, and you could barely stand upright, and all curves – but safe.

Inside there was a desperate smell, and a Dutch family, who were in fact the rightful owners of the now-destroyed croft.

We bundled them and their personal belongings, from food to pieces of furniture, on to the Company carrier and evacuated them. The carrier looked like something from a Chaplin reel, only not so funny.

We then found it necessary to empty our new abode of various utensils full of excreta and urine. The family, with small children, had been hiding there for about a fortnight.

There were a few clear days, but most of the time it was raining, with mud and slush being mashed up everywhere and the weather growing colder.

See Robert Woollcombe: Lion Rampant: The Memoirs of an Infantry Officer from D-Day to the Rhineland

Contemporary newsreel of British in Holland with section on specialist amphibious transport:

A despatch rider pushes his motorcycle along a flooded road in Holland, past an artillery tractor which has got stuck in a ditch, 8 November 1944.
A despatch rider pushes his motorcycle along a flooded road in Holland, past an artillery tractor which has got stuck in a ditch, 8 November 1944.
German prisoners captured by 53rd (Welsh) Division in Holland, 17 November 1944.
German prisoners captured by 53rd (Welsh) Division in Holland, 17 November 1944.

Rum and Mules over the mountains of Italy

Mules were lying everywhere, their kicking had shot the loads off all over the place, and one mule, I remember, had fallen into a disused slit-trench with only its saddle supporting it on either side of the hole. We started to sort all this mess out, first collecting our own men and leading them on to firmer ground, and then by grabbing any Italian we saw and forcing him to follow. Finally, after what seemed an age we got under way again, and I still had the rum!

A 75mm howitzer of 461 Battery, 85th Mountain Regiment, Royal Artillery, on the Monte Di Rontana, 2 February 1945. The guns were firing at German positions in Isola. A mule train with Basuto muleteers bringing up ammunition can be seen in the background.
A 75mm howitzer of 461 Battery, 85th Mountain Regiment, Royal Artillery, on the Monte Di Rontana, 2 February 1945. The guns were firing at German positions in Isola. A mule train with Basuto muleteers bringing up ammunition can be seen in the background.

Whether it was in ships crossing the remote fringes of the Pacific or in the high mountain passes of Italy, huge armies of men, many times larger than forces on the front line, were devoted to bringing up ammunition and supplies. The war could not go on without them.

The Mule Corp in Italy had the manpower of more than five divisions, and more than 30,000 mules, was a vital part of the supply chain.

Sergeant J. Tuvey describes what the movement of an individual mule train over the mountains of Italy actually involved during November 1944:

We gathered at the mule point at Appolinare in the afternoon. Captain C. E. Cullen was in charge of our train, which consisted of forty mules, twenty Italian muleteers, five British soldiers, and myself. We loaded the animals with mortar bombs, machine gun ammunition, rations, wireless spare parts, etc., and, most important of all, rum!

There was another mule train also waiting near by, which was to leave before ours. In addition there were several other mule trains at Sassaleone which were to use the track to Ripiano as well, so timing was of the utmost importance.

We started about 1605 hours. Great, heavy clouds hung overhead, and any minute we expected our daily downpour. Far in front we could see the other mule trains crawling like ants over the mountains. The going was very hard in the mud, but we were making fairly good progress, and I had high hopes of eating in Ronchi by 1930 hours.

No one spoke, and the only sounds were the jangling of harness and the squelching of mud. Then suddenly, things began to happen. It was just about dark and the rain was starting, when there was a short whistle and a “crump”, then another, then another, and we realised that the first mule train was being well and truly “stonked”.

Captain Cullen immediately halted the column and we took the opportunity to adjust our gas-capes as the rain was sweeping down in great gusts. The shelling didn’t last long and in a few minutes we had started, bending forward against the rain.

Immediately we began to descend into Ripiano valley, I realised that nothing we had gone through so far was going to compare with what was to come. The mud got thicker and deeper, until in parts it reached up to my thigh. As darkness was now well and truly upon us, black as ink, I couldn’t see farther than the mule in front of me.

First one mule, then two, get stuck in the mire, and in their frantic efforts to free themselves they threw their loads. One man who got waist-deep in the ooze was pulled out minus his boots, socks, and gaiters. I, at the rear had only a vague idea what was going on from the shouts and yells.

I had previously fallen over the dead bodies of both Germans and Americans at the top of the ridge; what with those and the driving rain now worse than ever, coupled with the terrific job of getting one foot in front of the other.

I realised that the Italian muleteers wouldn’t stand very much more and would be deserting at any moment. I decided to go forward and give Captain Cullen a hand. By great luck I soon stumbled into him and he told me that he was going to try to find an alternative route. Many of the mules were now belly deep in the mud, and in the pitch darkness and rain it was impossible to know how many we had lost.

As I was floundering around trying to reorganise our column, I was suddenly confronted by a mule train coming the other way. In vain I tried to stop it running into ours. They just merged, and to add to the confusion the original train, which had set out before us, had now collected its scattered forces and was even now up to the rear of our lot.

So there were about a hundred mules and men, feet deep in mud, in a horrid tangled mess on a pitch-black night in driving rain. To this was added the fear of further shelling. It was just then, when things looked really grim, that I had my second stroke of luck. I stumbled into Captain Cullen once more, who told me that he had found a new way down the hill to the stream in the valley.

Mules were lying everywhere, their kicking had shot the loads off all over the place, and one mule, I remember, had fallen into a disused slit-trench with only its saddle supporting it on either side of the hole. We started to sort all this mess out, first collecting our own men and leading them on to firmer ground, and then by grabbing any Italian we saw and forcing him to follow. Finally, after what seemed an age we got under way again, and I still had the rum!

On reaching the river at the bottom of the hill, we again ran into further trouble. The rope across was still there, but the first step that Captain Cullen took into it covered his thighs. We managed to pull him out and I suggested a good swig of rum. This did the trick, for he made the other side first time. Then after endless trouble we got every-one else across and got to Ripiano without further incident.

There, we started to sort out the mules with the machine gun kit and those with the mortar kit, as Captain Cullen had still to go down the valley to Ronchi with the latter.

You can therefore imagine our astonishment when we found that we had six mules over and above our original number! The Italian muleteers had simply decided to follow the main party wherever it was going.’

This account appears in Brian Harpur: Impossible Victory: A Personal Account of the Battle for the River Po

Porters of an Indian Mule Company transporting supplies to troops in the mountains.
Porters of an Indian Mule Company transporting supplies to troops in the mountains.

A US Army patrol sets out to get prisoners

As the squad leader, I was next, a buck or staff sergeant, carrying an M1 rifle, bandoliers, grenades, and a knife. At this period during World War II, there was little chance that today’s infantry squad leader had come off the boat with the same grade. A squad leader directed and led eleven men. He was combat experienced and had come up through the ranks, by attrition.

An American patrol in the Hurtgen Forest in late 1944.
An American patrol in the Hurtgen Forest in late 1944.

In early October 20 year old Private William Meller had arrived on the borders of Germany and joined I Company, 110th Regiment, 28th Divison as a rifleman. The bitter struggle for the Huertgen Forest was now fully engaged and casualties were mounting. By mid November Meller was Sergeant Squad Leader. He would be taking on even more responsibilities during the next month, before he found himself in the Ardennes in mid December.

For the moment, he like all the men around him were concentrating on surviving. The orders to participate in an 11 man patrol to go out and get prisoners on the 13th Novemember were unwelcome:

There was one thing above all others that an infantryman did not want to hear, and I had just heard it. Very seldom did we catch an enemy sentry by surprise or capture the enemy without someone getting hurt.

Meller describes the composition of the patrol:

We began the patrol formation with two scouts out front. They carried M1 rifles with ammunition bandoliers over their shoulders, and hand grenades. Their job was to lead the patrol and keep it out of trouble. Usually this job fell to first—class privates.

These men commanded respect, and they deserved it. They knew where we were going and would find the best way to get us there. They were the eyes and ears and signaled the leader upon contact with the enemy or when reaching the objective. They reminded me of books I had read about Daniel Boone and how he made his way in the wilderness.

Sometimes the scouts even looked like Daniel Boone. They usually drew enemy fire. This was a dangerous job. Scouts were valuable. When they’re skillful, they’re invaluable. So much depends upon their skill and judgment. We’ve lost many of them.

The platoon guide came next with an M1 rifle, bandoliers, and grenades. Sometimes he followed in the rear. He was the equivalent of an assistant platoon sergeant; they worked closely together. A guide was a staff or technical sergeant who had come up through the ranks. If he had been around for a while, he was a blessing.

Next was the platoon leader, a first or second lieutenant, depending on his longevity. He carried a carbine, a Colt .45, and grenades. The platoon leader was supposed to give the orders and the sergeant saw that they were carried out. The platoon leader and the platoon sergeant were closely allied.

The platoon sergeant was really the key, as he usually had all the combat experience and general know-how. He did his hest to keep the officer out of trouble, which also kept us out of trouble. We learned to depend upon the platoon sergeant.

Infantry platoon sergeants were technical sergeants, highly regarded and worth their weight in gold. He carried an M1 rifle, bandoliers, and grenades. He was our backbone; don’t leave home without one.

The reason for this was simple: a platoon sergeant came up through the ranks. By the time he had earned five stripes, he had had combat experience and been around for some time. He had already heen a squad leader and understood the duties. He had also been a rifleman and knew the hazards. Just the fact that he was still alive spoke for itself.

On the other hand, infantry replacement platoon leaders were usually fresh off the boat with little or no combat experience. They didn’t really know how to stay alive, but they were supposed to lead forty men. When a platoon leader was new, he was a detriment and ripe for the casualty list. If he hung on, he was promoted to company commander. Either way it was a high-turnover job.

As the squad leader, I was next, a buck or staff sergeant, carrying an M1 rifle, bandoliers, grenades, and a knife. At this period during World War II, there was little chance that today’s infantry squad leader had come off the boat with the same grade. A squad leader directed and led eleven men. He was combat experienced and had come up through the ranks, by attrition. Today, we had no assistant squad leader. The combat infantry division was built from the base of competent squad leaders.

The radioman, a private, stayed close to the platoon leader, carried a Colt .45, and hoped he wouldn’t have to use it.

A first—class private or corporal carried a Browning Automatic Rifle. This is a heavy, cumbersome weapon that makes considerable noise when fired. It poured out .3O—caliber bullets similar to a light machine gun. Because of the noise it creates, it often drew enemy fire.

For this reason, some soldiers were reluctant to carry the BAR. But the firepower of this weapon was most welcome in a combat squad. When the enemy heard that noise, they knew exactly what it was and, more so, where it was. This in itself was dangerous. The ammunition carrier, a private, handled the bulky ammunition clips for the BAR man. He also carried a Colt .45 or M1 rifle and was ready to take over if the BAR man went down, which they often did.

In the rear followed any number of riflemen the platoon leader designated. These riemen were privates. They carried M1 rifles, bandoliers, and grenades.

See William F. Meller: Bloody Roads to Germany: At Huertgen Forest and the Bulge–an American Soldier’s Courageous Story of World War II

This may have been how the average US soldiers approached battle. It was not the way of James Spurrier Jr, who was known to the US Army as Junior J. Spurrier because of the way he had filled in his enlistment form in 1940.

On 13th November Spurrier earned a reputation as a “One Man Army” and a Medal of Honor for his role in capturing the town of Achain almost single-handed:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy at Achain, France, on 13 November 1944.

At 2 p.m., Company G attacked the village of Achain from the east. S/Sgt. Spurrier armed with a BAR passed around the village and advanced alone. Attacking from the west, he immediately killed 3 Germans. From this time until dark, S/Sgt. Spurrier, using at different times his BAR and Ml rifle, American and German rocket launchers, a German automatic pistol, and handgrenades, continued his solitary attack against the enemy regardless of all types of small-arms and automatic-weapons fire.

As a result of his heroic actions he killed an officer and 24 enlisted men and captured 2 officers and 2 enlisted men. His valor has shed fresh honor on the U.S. Armed Forces.

US soldiers examine the equipment in a captured German position in the Hurtgen forest.
US soldiers examine the equipment in a captured German position in the Hurtgen forest.

Operation Catechism – the Tirpitz is finally sunk

Just then Flying Officer Eric Giersch the rear gunner called out, ‘I think she is turning over.’ I turned back to port to have a look and sure enough she was, so back we went again. This time we flew in at 50 feet and watched with baited breath as Tirpitz heeled over to port, ever so slowly and gracefully.

The wake of a fast moving motor boat as she hurries away from the battered TIRPITZ can be seen as a huge cloud rises from an early bomb hit on the German battleship.
The wake of a fast moving motor boat as she hurries away from the battered TIRPITZ can be seen as a huge cloud rises from an early bomb hit on the German battleship.
A Royal Navy photograph taken during an earlier attack.

On 12th November thirty two RAF and RAAF Lancaster bombers left England in the early hours of the morning, arriving over Norway at low level. All the aircraft had been modified to accommodate the the Tallboy bombs that they carried, and all had the specialist Stabilized Automatic Bomb Sight that enabled them to aim the bombs with pinpoint accuracy from the altitude that the bombs needed.

It was the ninth attempt by the RAF to sink the German battleship Tirpitz, the twenty-fifth by British forces – including actions by Royal Navy aircraft and midget submarines. The ship had been hit by bombs before – but they had not been able to penetrate the four inch thick deck armour.

At 0930 the Lancasters began to rise to bombing height, 14,000 feet, and in doing so revealed themselves to German radar. German fighters at Bardufoss should have been in a good position to intervene but for some reason they did not appear. One factor was that the Luftwaffe had not been informed that the Tirpitz had recently been moved to a new location.

Wing Commander Willy Tait led the attack:

She was a black shape clearly seen against the clear waters of the fjord, surrounded by the snow-covered hills, which were glowing pink in the low Arctic sun. A plume of smoke rose slowly from the big ship’s funnel.

When the force was about ten miles away the peaceful scene changed suddenly; the ship opened fire with her main armament and billows of orange-brown smoke, shot through by the flashes of the guns, hid her for a moment and then drifted away.

At 0941 the first of 29 Tallboy bombs was released, from 14,000 feet they accelerated to 750 mph (1,210 km/h), approaching the speed of sound, for maximum damage on impact. Eight minutes later it was all over.

One 12,000 pounder apparently hit the Tirpitz amidships, another in the bows and a third towards the stern and there were also two very near misses which must themselves have done serious underwater damage. These displaced sandbanks that had been dredged to prevent the ship keeling over.

The last significant German naval threat to arctic convoys had at last been conclusively neutralised. Around a thousand German sailors were trapped below decks, doomed to a watery grave.

A special 463 Squadron RAAF movie-Lancaster captained by Flight Lieutenant Bruce Buckham DFC RAAF was the last aircraft on the scene, they went in low, despite the shore batteries which remained in action after the Tirpitz herself had ceased firing:

We flew over it, around it, all about it and still it sat there with dignity under a huge mushroom of smoke which plumed up a few thousand feet in the air.

There were fires and more explosions on board; a huge gaping hole existed on the port side where a section had been blown out. We had now been flying close around Tirpitz for 30 minutes or so and decided to call it a day, so we headed out towards the mouth of the fjord.

Just then Flying Officer Eric Giersch the rear gunner called out, ‘I think she is turning over.’ I turned back to port to have a look and sure enough she was, so back we went again. This time we flew in at 50 feet and watched with baited breath as Tirpitz heeled over to port, ever so slowly and gracefully.

We could see German sailors swimming, diving, jumping and by the time she was over to 85° and subsiding slowly into the water of Tromso Fjord, there must have been the best part of 60 men on her side as we skimmed over for the last pass.

That was the final glimpse we had as we flew out of the fjord and over the North Sea. After a 14-hour flight we landed back at Waddington where the interrogation was conducted by Air Vice Marshal Sir Ralph Cochrane. When asked how it went, my one remark was, ‘Well we won’t have to go back after this one; Tirpitz is finished’

These account appears in Martin Bowman: Bomber Command: Armageddon (27 September 1944 – May 1945) v. 5: Reflections of War .

Low-level oblique photographic-reconnaissance aerial taken from De Havilland Mosquito PR Mark XVI, NS637, of No. 544 Squadron RAF, showing the capsized German battleship TIRPITZ, lying in in Tromso fjord, attended by salvage vessels. Dodd F L (Sqn Ldr), and Hill A (Plt Off): No. 544 Squadron RAF
Low-level oblique photographic-reconnaissance aerial taken from De Havilland Mosquito PR Mark XVI, NS637, of No. 544 Squadron RAF, showing the capsized German battleship TIRPITZ, lying in in Tromso fjord, attended by salvage vessels.
Dodd F L (Sqn Ldr), and Hill A (Plt Off): No. 544 Squadron RAF

Contemporary newsreel:

Wing Commander J B Tait, Commanding Officer of No. 617 Squadron RAF (fifth from left), standing with his crew by the tail of their Avro Lancaster B Mark I (Special), EE146 'KC-D', at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, on returning from Lossiemouth, the day after the successful raid on the German battleship TIRPITZ in Tromso Fjord, Norway,
Wing Commander J B Tait, Commanding Officer of No. 617 Squadron RAF (fifth from left), standing with his crew by the tail of their Avro Lancaster B Mark I (Special), EE146 ‘KC-D’, at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, on returning from Lossiemouth, the day after the successful raid on the German battleship TIRPITZ in Tromso Fjord, Norway,
The German battleship TIRPITZ, lying capsized in in Tromso fjord, attended by a salvage vessel. The already damaged ship was finally sunk in a combined daylight attack by Nos. 9 and 617 Squadrons RAF on 12 November 1944, (Operation CATECHISM). The hole in the hull by the starboard propeller shaft was cut by the Germans to allow access to salvage crews.
The German battleship TIRPITZ, lying capsized in in Tromso fjord, attended by a salvage vessel. The already damaged ship was finally sunk in a combined daylight attack by Nos. 9 and 617 Squadrons RAF on 12 November 1944, (Operation CATECHISM). The hole in the hull by the starboard propeller shaft was cut by the Germans to allow access to salvage crews.