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The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43» Forums » General

Subject: "The Lucky Swan":The Life and Loss of U-76 rss

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Derek Case
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Not so much a session report, as a career narrative. Hence, posted in "General" instead of "Sessions." My most successful career so far...and my greatest heartbreak.

Kapitanleutnant von Schwansohn was the kind of man people just gravitated towards. A career spent in the Kriegsmarine, he cut a dashing figure. Luck seemed to follow him wherever he went. Anyone who didn't know him, wanted to. While he enjoyed the attention of the ladies, he always remained faithful to his beloved Goethe. While his crew would cavort, drink and run with ladies of a less than pristine reputation, he would be found sipping a beer, hunched over a notepad, working on some mathematical equation. You see...despite his relaxed, confident demeanor, he was a man obsessed. Obsessed with three things: his wife, the well-being of his crew, and sinking ships, not necessarily in that order.
After spending the early years of his career paying his dues in the old Type II "Dugout Canoes", he found himself in the right place at the right time in September of '39. Handed a promotion to KptLt and the keys to a new, top of the line Type VIIB, he was suddenly thrust into his one best destiny...command of an attack sub tasked with obliterating the enemy. Schwansohn rubbed his lucky rabbit's foot with one hand while saluting with the other.
That first assembly on deck, before our first patrol, we knew this was a man we could follow. His relaxed demeanor and conspiratorial smile made us feel like we were in on a secret. Not a man of airs, we immediately took to him.
"Well...Ready, men?" was all he said. "JAWOHL, Herr Kaleun!" and the U-76, and us along with her were off to our first patrol in the British Isles. Halfway in, after spotting not a single ship, our patrol was cut short by a defective gyro compass. The rest of the crew dejected, the old man smiled wryly at his 1WO..."Schutzke, you said you wanted U-76 to use up her bad luck on this first patrol, and here it is! We sail home without a scratch! Tommy will still be there for us after refit and a proper shakedown. Looks like you're our lucky charm!" No one saw the old man hand the rabbit's foot over to his exec...they just exchanged a knowing look of agreement.
As sure as the captain said, soon after departing Kiel on our second patrol, what should practically run right across our bow? The British carrier Ark Royal! Smelling an early Knight's Cross, the old man ordered all four forward tubes flooded and made ready. The escort jogging ahead of the behemoth, he had the solution calculated even before the TDC did. "Torpedoes...LOS!"
The sudden upward shift of our bow as all four fish were forcibly ejected towards their unsuspecting prey. We waited...too long...then...BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Three of them struck home with a thunderclap! Diving deeper and quickly changing course, we could hear the escort pinging away with his ASDIIC off in the distance somewhere, while Ark Royal's hull cracked and groaned on her way to the bottom. A hushed thrill could be felt from one end of the boat to the other. From somewhere, the doctor produced a bottle of the world's worst schnapps and passed a ration to the crew. We drank it down like manna from Neptune himself. That patrol was capped off with a 9000 ton tanker and a 5500t freighter! Not a man of airs, the old man hung that Knight's Cross in the crew's mess from that point forward.
And so things continued for us, the crew of U-76 and the "Lucky Swan."
Patrol after patrol, our reputation grew, as did the old man's tally of sunken ships. No matter how hard Tommy tried, "The Swan" always managed to outsmart them, he and Schutzke exchanging that devilish smile. We were depth charged, strafed and bombed by aircraft, pounded ever deeper into the merciless depths, and yet Old 76 would always bear the enemies' fury and take us home. Those of us who were hurt always had the comfort of the good Doctor, and his mysterious, seemingly endless hidden supply of schnapps. Gruehner, our engineer and I had even painted our proud symbol on 76's conning tower. Der glückliche Schwan, a swan with a rabbit's foot hung prominently around it's neck. We thought ourselves invincible, indeed we were magnificent. None of us wanted to leave, and U-76 was the most requested assignment in all of the U-bootwaffe.
After two years of being the scourge of the North Atlantic, things began to take a strange turn. In October of '41, after a rather lackluster patrol of the British Isles, Schutzke, our lucky charm, was assigned command of his own boat. We didn't even have a chance to give him a proper send-off. By the time the news of his reassignment reached us, he had already set sail aboard his new Type IX. Suddenly, one of our two "Big Brothers" was gone...and the rabbit's foot with him. Scuttlebutt says Schutzke tried to return it to the old man, but he would have none of it...insisting there was enough luck for both of them.
Then, in January of '42 we got our next patrol assignment. The Arctic. Even with the old man's influence as a newly minted FKpt and Oak Leaves to go with that KC hanging in the crew's mess, nothing could be done. Perhaps the old man's casual attitude and lack of polish had pissed off one of the tight-asses at BdU headquarters. In any case, it was the worst month we had ever had up to that point. We froze our asses in seemingly constant darkness. Other than the occasional whale or bellowing seal, we sighted NOTHING! Not even the Doctor's carefully rationed schnapps could lift our spirits. At least we were ordered back to La Rochelle when the patrol mercifully ended. We had heard of other boats assigned to the Arctic patrol permanently.
Our captain's mood had turned dark...spending more and more time isolated in his small quarters. Had Old 76's luck finally run out? Our next patrol found us back in the Atlantic. A small convoy...four small freighters...tramp steamers, really. The Swan assigned one torpedo to each and let loose. In the end, we had managed to send three of them to the bottom. For a moment, it was a return to the old times. It would prove fleeting, as on the final round of depth charging, a freak accident occurred. A valve handle from a high pressure pipe broke free, striking the Doctor in the head, killing him instantly. The man who had comforted us so many times, patched us up and lifted our hearts was dead in an instant. It was as if Old 76 had lost her heart. Our fortunes had taken a permanent turn for the worst, and we all knew it, although no one would say so out loud.
A breath of fresh air seemed to wash over the crew as we left for our next patrol in July of '42 when we received our patrol assignment. The North American Coast! A long voyage to be sure, but the change in hunting grounds would help us leave behind some of the sadness we left in La Rochelle...still, the old man's demeanor remained dark. He had changed. Our new medic didn't help matters. One of the "new breed", he served only as a reminder of friends lost.
The patrol itself was a smashing success. Almost too easy. Our most successful to date, as a matter of fact. Wouldn't it figure on the heels of this success, I would get my arm crushed by a freak accident on the way home. While playing cards in the forward torpedo room, one of the fish broke loose fracturing my right arm in 5 places. No schnapps from our new medic either. Aspirin only. "You should consider it an honor to bear the scars of service to the Fatherland." Ignorant tight-ass...
While I recovered in La Rochelle, Schwansohn paid me a visit. I'd already heard of the swords added to the growing collection of decoration in the crew's mess. His mood was melancholy...it was disturbing. They were leaving. An early September squall was blowing, and the old man wanted to take advantage of the break in air coverage of the Bay of Biscay. I wouldn't mend quickly enough to make it out with them. He handed me an envelope with Goethe's name on it. "Just in case", he said...his words hit hard. I'd never seen him like this. Coming out like a pathetic squeak, "Ja, mein Kapitan" was all I could say. We bid farewell.
A few days later, I'd made it to the dock. Gray skies and a stiff cold wind was my only company. No band. No waving crowds. No fanfare to wish them good hunting. I was the lone going away party for U-76's 14th patrol. As Old 76 backed away, a wave from Gruehner, on the bridge with the old man. I watched as she turned gracefully, cutting her sleek, gray profile against the angry sky. The squall at sea was due to blow out soon. I hoped it would remain, and blanket my friends...my brothers, in safety.
It was the last I would see or hear of them again. I like to think they're "still on patrol." It's where "The Lucky Swan" truly belongs.
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John Kranz
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Wonderful story and narrative, Derek. Definitely a sense of kinship and attachment. I suppose this is how many stories played out during the war, with many experiencing such losses of old colleagues.
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Derek Case
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Many games provide a "good narrative." This one provides a different blockbuster epic war novel, soon to be made into a major motion picture, with almost every patrol.
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Gregory Smith
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SingleHandedWarfare wrote:
Many games provide a "good narrative." This one provides a different blockbuster epic war novel, soon to be made into a major motion picture, with almost every patrol.


LOL Derek I actually love reading the interpretations of events from the Random Events Chart. I was like, "dang he must have rolled a 10!"

Great video review, btw. You were too kind. But I'm really excited that you are enjoying the game. It's very rewarding to have folks enjoy your creation.

Hals und Beinbruch!

Greg
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Derek Case
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Sturmer wrote:
Great video review, btw. You were too kind. But I'm really excited that you are enjoying the game. It's very rewarding to have folks enjoy your creation.

Hals und Beinbruch!

Greg


Not at all. You guys caught lightning in a game box. Was just calling it like I saw it. Both of you have a great Christmas
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