Friday, October 17, 2014
The SS Columbia Victory took the torpedo amidships and broke in two within minutes and slid beneath the waves in 15 more. She was the first of too many good ships and crews now being hunted in the Mediterranean Sea by the Soviet version of the German Midget submarine the Seehund. The ships being hunted were plying the Mediterranean and supplying the American forces in Crete, Rhodes, Turkey and Egypt. Their destruction started off the coasts of Italy and Greece. A slightly larger version with fuel tanks that could be jettisoned after they were empty increased their range from 300 to 600 miles similar to wing tanks on a fighter plane.
This new model had not been ready for the Second Battle of Britain but was ready for this mission. The NATO Allies were not. It was very similar to when the U-boats first started to sink US ships off of the East coast. Sometimes In full view of American lovers walking the beaches in New Jersey. And the reaction of the navy was much the same. First denial and then grudging actions taken to deal with the new threat. In the meantime SAC supplies were being blown up on the way to SAC.
At first the effect of the Small Ones did not seem to be that great but the months ahead would prove otherwise. On this fine day it seemed more of an inconvenience similar to what the Royal Navy had been able to have dealt with in the Channel. But these newer versions were going to be a different. Quality control had finally taken hold in the Red Navy and this new set of mini subs were the first weapons to be party to this revolution.
Previously the Soviet weapons were made to last just long enough to do the job. It was a case of planned obsolescence that was actually taught the Soviets by the Americans. If a T-34 was only going to last a few weeks before it was blown apart by a German 88 shell why make it so it would last for a year? All sorts of time and resource saving methods had been devised that just took the American ideas of manufacturing to the next level. Now Sergo had convinced Stalin that trained men are more valuable than cannon fodder and a have a much higher moral as well.
The Mini-subs could be easily transported by truck and launched from any small port and they were. All along the Greek and Italian coast Seehunds were sliding into the water for a 2 week run out in the Mediterranean. Looking for the choke points that would become their killing ground during the early days of this assault on NATO shipping going and coming from Rhodes, Cyprus and Egypt. Between Tunis and Sicily, Benghazi and Tobruk they could cut off the routes that the freighters were using to supply LeMay’s air force. SAC was about to lose its own months’ worth of supplies and there was nothing LeMay could do about it. Eventually the navy would either take care of the problem or it would just take much longer for his supplies to reach him by going around the Horn and up the Suez. Until the danger was discovered and identified the eggs were all in the Seehunds basket.
Fifty six of the almost undetectable mini-subs were waiting at the choke points. With the Red Navy bottled up in the Black Sea it was deemed unnecessary to patrol both day and night with aircraft. They were using a convoy system which saved many a ship but the damage would be done in a matter of days as Liberty Ship after Liberty Ship ran out of luck. This virtually undetectable underwater killing machine was finally going to get its chance and because of the new emphasis on quality the submariners inside their submerged coffins would get the chance they had been trained for.
Remember Seehund #28 or Malyshka #2 as it was renamed. It had gone through a total refit and was waiting off the coast of Benghazi when the chance of a life time for a midget submarine, came sliding into view. It was a convoy made up of big fat Victory ships. The larger descendent of the Liberty ships. At 15200 tons a piece they were a submariner’s ultimate target in cargo ships. Malyshka #2 had two torpedoes and was going to make good use of them this day.
After the Columbia was hit another Victory ship was staggered by another torpedo. The SS Arcadia Victory was luckier than its cousin. The explosion only took off her bow but the water tight bulkheads did their job and she would stay afloat long enough to rescue her crew and beach her off shore. The Columbia was full of replacement parts for the B-29s of SAC and the Arcadia ammunition. Again luck was with the Arcadia and the bow compartment was full of spare engine parts as well and not explosives or she would have gone up like an atomic bomb. The loss was equally devastating as the spares were sorely needed and would be missed by SAC.
“Quiet Victor I will tell you when I know more than you. Now let me concentrate you great oaf. How did they let you in the naval service in submarines?”
“I was not let anything Captain I was forced to choose the navy and specifically these Malyshkas. Who would choose such a fate comrade? Who in their right mind?”
“Once again be silent! I cannot get into a conversation with you at this time. Just a few more meters and we loose the first one…”
The mini-sub is pushed to the right as the left torpedo leaves for its intersection with the SS Columbia Victory and tiny space is filled with the whine of a small extremely fast speed propeller. The Doppler Effect was in full evidence as the sound changed by second and gradually faded. The captain fought for control of the sub and to line it up for the second shot at the SS Arcadia Victory and 3 minutes later he send the second and last of their torpedoes towards the freighter. These torpedoes ran at 1000 meters a minute or 31 knots. The Columbia was 4905 meters away and the Arcadia was 1912 meters away and was temporarily shielded by a destroyer traveling at high speed towards Malyshka #2 at a high rate of speed. The result was that both torpedoes almost hit at the same time due to the lag of the Captain lining up his second target.
He of course didn't know who or what was on the Victory ships but he found out what the Columbia Victory was carrying soon after the 533 mm ET-46 torpedo hit squarely amidships. The ship surprisingly did not explode due to the cargo but she did sink rather suddenly. The Arcadia was staggered and lost speed rapidly and was down in bow.
That was all he could see in the time he had allotted before he crashed dove to avoid the explosives about to rain down on he and his shipmate from the destroyers Hedgehogs. These modified mortar rounds were shot ahead of the destroyer in groups and then sank straight down until there contact fuses hit something and then exploded. They were not as satisfying to the destroyer as the depth charge but they worked over three times better and this was death to most submarines if used properly.
Malyshka #2 as all Malyshkas were, was very hard to detect so the Hedgehog volley was sent blindly to a spot where the destroyer first spotted the torpedoes. That was all they had to go on as the small sub did not reflect a sonar ping and was almost useless in combating the Malyshka.