Report regarding the Rescue Mission
“Bismarck” 30 May 1941
At sea, 30 May 1941
Report regarding the Mission of the Battleship ”Bismarck“
On 27 May 1941 we were on the return leg from an operational activity in the North Atlantic region after a 50-day cruise. I received a radio message at 0200 hours with orders to sail immediately at flank speed to quadrant BE 6277. Accordingly, course was immediately changed. The lookout was increased. Winds were NNW 6-7 and increasing, strong rain squalls. Rough seas. We had to steam directly into the seas. Ship's position at 0200 hours was 46º 03’ N and 15º 30’ W. At 0500 hours a new radio message came in to hold our position as of at 0600. From that time on we steamed with less speed against the seas. Ship’s position at 0500 hours was 46º 35’ N and 15º 00’ W. At 1115 hours we sighted a German aircraft, at 1145 hours a second. At 1410 hours a radio message came in to proceed at flank speed to quadrant 6150. The order was immediately carried out. Wind and weather had worsened. At 2010 hours, an aircraft suddenly came out of the clouds and fired from a distance of 1100 meters twice with a machine gun without hitting us. The aircraft immediately turned off to port and continued to fly away in an ENE direction. As it turned away I clearly recognized it as an English “Bristol Blenheim“. Ship’s position: 47º 40’ N and 14º 30’ W. In the meantime it had gotten dark, visibility at night was about 1,000 meters.
On 28 May at 0700 hours the ship’s position was 48º 00’ N and 15º 10’ W. At 0900 hours we sighted a four-engine aircraft. Nationality could not be determined. We steamed with great pounding from 90 to 270 degrees true North. At 1300 hours we sighted thin oil streaks and followed these to the North. After 10 minutes we saw an empty tin container of a German gasmask, after another 3-4 nautical miles we saw numerous bodies still in their lifejackets, pieces of wreckage and empty lifejackets. At the same time we sighted 2 U-boats. We crisscrossed the debris field, but we did not see any other survivors. At 1510 hours the ship’s position according to celestial observation was 47º 48’ N and 15º 55’ W. At 1520 hours we communicated by semaphore flags with U-boat 48, and exchanged position fixes. Immediately thereafter we steamed 5 nautical miles south and from there we steamed again with great pounding from 90 to 270 degrees true North. We still saw individual bodies, lifejackets and debris. At dusk at 2235 hours we sighted very near to us to port three red signal stars about 2-3 nautical miles off. We turned immediately toward the location. I could now make out through the night binoculars a raft containing 2 men. After we came within shouting range, the first question was, are you Germans. With the answer of Yes, both yelled as loud a Hurrah as their strengths allowed. At 2245 hours we had the raft alongside. Both men were severely exhausted. They were lifted aboard by crew up two deployed Jacob’s ladders [rope ladders]. (Two of my men had lowered themselves all the way down the ladder to the waterline.) As soon as they were on board, the survivors were given dry, warm clothes, the saltwater was washed from their faces and they were laid down on a berth.
On the dog tags were the names Otto Maus -0 2635/40 S - (Mtr. Gefr.) and Walter Lorenzen - 0 3075/40 T – (Masch. Gefr.). According to the statements of the rescued, there was supposed to be another rubber raft in the vicinity. Because of lack of supplies we had planned to resume our return journey. But I remained at the present position for the night and wanted to rescue also these men. I continued the search during daylight. Again, we pounded heavily to the East and West and at every turn we lost 5 nautical miles to the South. We still sighted occasional lifejackets and debris. At 1800 hours we sighted an empty rubber raft, and we took it aboard. We continued to search. On the following day this raft was identified by the somewhat recovered Mtr. Gefr. Otto Maus as a raft from the Bismarck.
On 30 May at 0045 hours we met up in the search area with the Spanish cruiser “Canarias” and we exchanged Morse signals of the ship names. Immediately thereafter we resumed our return journey.
On 31 May at 0940 we sighted a steamer and after an I.D. exchange we recognize it as a German sentry boat. After communication by semaphore flag we launched our starboard lifeboat and rowed to the boat to haul our supplies back on board. (There was a total of 3 sentry boats). At 1100 hours the return voyage was resumed with this escort.
On 1 June at 0640 hours we reached the Gironde without any further special occurrences. At 0800 hours the commander of the escort released us near Royan. We steamed to Le Verdon. In the meantime both rescued “Bismarck” men were disembarked to a motorboat. We took a pilot aboard and steamed upstream on the Gironde under his instructions. At 1300 hours we tied up in the harbor of Bordeaux.
Leutnant zur See (S) and Commander
Note by the editors: The Sachsenwald (Bau-Nr. 0631) was a 639-ton fishing vessel (Fischdampfer) built in 1939. During the war she was used as a meteorological weather observation ship (Wetterbeobachtungsschiff 7) and later became the Outpost Boat 414 (Vorpostenboot 414) serving with of the 4th Outpost Flotilla (4. Vorpostenflottille) in the Bay of Biscay. Vorpostenboot 414 was sunk on 6 August 1944 north of Ile d'Yeu off St. Nazaire, by a British naval squadron composed of the light cruiser Bellona and the destroyers Tartar, Ashanti, Haida, and Iroquois.
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