Sunday, December 7, 2014

"A Day That Will Live in Infamy!"

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” December 7, 2014: 73 Years to the Date
Sunny, Patchy Clouds 73°F/23°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
Sunday Morning! Sunny. Just like it was on that other Sunday December 7th, the day that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called, “A Day That Will Live in Infamy.”
                In their all-out attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the key targets for the Japanese were the battleships. They sank Arizona, California, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Utah. 
USS Arizona December 7, 1941
Today, the USS Arizona still rests on the bottom, a war grave with more than a thousand valiant souls still aboard. In the midst of all of this flame and carnage, one scrappy destroyer escaped to fight another day, and took her fair measure of vengeance on the attackers. She was the destroyer USS Jarvis (DD 393) and on board was a young Quartermaster named Harry Schultz who would one day follow the lead of his ship’s namesake and disobey a direct order during the heat of battle to become one of the true heroes of World War II.
                Lest his name be completely lost to history, let me introduce you to Midshipman James C. Jarvis. Three U.S. Destroyers have carried his memory into battle: Jarvis I DD 38 which saw combat in World War I, Jarvis II DD 393 which escaped the Pearl Harbor attack, and Jarvis III, DD 799, which saw service from the end of World War 2 through the Vietnam War before it was decommissioned and given to the Spanish Navy. Midshipman Jarvis was born in 1787 and appointed as a Midshipman from the State of New York in 1799. As was the custom of the day, Midshipman Jarvis went to sea aboard the famed frigate Constellation. During its battle with the French frigate La Vengeance Deux in February 1800 young Jarvis was sent aloft to secure the ship’s mainmast. At one point he was ordered down for fear the mast might topple. He yelled down, “My post is here. I can’t leave it.” The mast crashed down and Jarvis went over the side with the rigging and was drowned. He was 13 years old.

USS Jarvis in 1937
               On the Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, the second destroyer Jarvis was moored next to another destroyer, the USS Mugford DD 389 and their tender, USS Sacramento, 1914 vintage gun boat. The “after action” reports of all three ships show the Japanese attack beginning at 0758 on that Sunday morning. General Quarters was immediately sounded and all three destroyers opened fire on the attacking aircraft with anti-aircraft machine guns and their five inch guns. The ship’s log notes that the machine guns commenced firing at 0804 hrs., with the five inch gun firing the first shot of any five inch gun in the harbor 60 seconds later. The USS Jarvis was credited with shooting down four enemy aircraft during its escape from Ford Island to the open sea. It is believed that Jarvis was the first to draw enemy blood on that bloody Sunday. Among the seamen receiving special commendation for their action during the attack was Quartermaster First Class Harry Niel Schultz, who had been with the Jarvis since it was commissioned in 1937. 
Harry Schultz
Schultz was later given a commission and eventually commanded the LST that my dad sailed on in WW2. But, on December 7th, Schultz, a career peacetime Navy enlisted man, was aboard the Jarvis. The Jarvis fought its way to the open sea and safety. Its gunners shot down four enemy warplanes and evaded the attackers’ efforts to sink it and block the harbor entrance.
 Schultz and the Jarvis survived Pearl Harbor, and about two weeks later Jarvis left Pearl Harbor with the carrier Saratoga to join the Task Force assigned to relieve the Japanese attack on Wake Island, but, in a controversy that resounds to this day, that mission was scuttled and the Japanese took the island on December 23rd. In January 1942, while on an anti-submarine patrol the Jarvis rescued 182 survivors of a Japanese torpedo attack on the fleet oiler Neces. By July, 1942, Schultz and the Jarvis were on their way to the Solomon Islands to take part in the invasion of Guadalcanal on August 7th. The transport ships that Jarvis was escorting came under a heavy attack and the destroyer was torpedoed in spite of the fact that only 9 of the 26 attacking Japanese planes were able to penetrate the American defenses. After the battle the ship moved to Tulagi where seven wounded crewmen were transferred to a hospital on shore. Quartermaster Harry Schultz went ashore with them to make sure they were cared for. That assignment saved his life.
The Jarvis’ skipper, Lt. Comdr. William Graham, Jr. ordered the ship to steam for Sydney Australia for repairs. Shortly after, she steamed across “Iron Bottom Sound” and ran into the approaching fleet of Japanese Admiral Mikawa’s heavy cruisers, which had mistaken the destroyer for an American heavy cruiser. As she continued to steam westward, the Japanese again attacked her with a force of 31 planes, raking her with machine gun fire and torpedoes.
Jarvis Casualties Lans & Billy Wilson
USS Jarvis went to the bottom of Iron Bottom Sound at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on August 9th with all hands. Brothers Billy and Lans Wilson were among the 233 crew members who died that day. Quartermaster Harry Schultz went on to a new assignment.
Rising from the ranks, Schultz earned his commission in 1944, and took command of US LST 920, a landing ship that saw action from the beaches of Normandy to the invasion of Okinawa back in the Pacific.  He was one of only three members of the 920’s crew of 110 or so who had ever been to sea. Schultz’ executive officer was my father, Lt. Charles Botula, Jr. But unlike my dad, Harry Schultz didn’t talk about his wartime experiences.
Schultz' Command - LST 920
On August 14, 1944, the LST 920 and its sister ship the LST 921 were sailing in a convoy across Bristol Channel, about 70 miles from Lands’ End, England. At 4 p.m. the LST 921 was struck by a torpedo and broke in two, the aft portion sinking.   Half the crew was lost. A second torpedo launched by the attacking U667 was aimed at the 920. My dad recalls seeing the torpedo’s wake, but a British escort vessel came between the attacker and his ship

Killer Sub - U 667
and was blown out of the water. Standing orders were for all ships to remain with the convoy if attacked. Captain Schultz ordered Radioman Fred Benck to send a message to the convoy commander.  "WHO IS PICKING UP SURVIVORS?” The reply was an order, “DO NOT BREAK CONVOY!" This message was delivered to the captain. In about two minutes, he came into the Radio Room and ordered Benck to send the message again. This time he waited for the answer which was "DO NOT BREAK CONVOY!" As Benck told me years later, “H N SCHULTZ then used these words, ‘TO HELL WITH HIM’ and we pulled out of convoy to turn back and pick up Survivors! A message came from the Commander of the convoy to get back in the convoy. The message was never answered!”

Like the Wilson brothers on the Jarvis at Guadalcanal, two brothers were serving on the two LSTs in the convoy. One of the Forty-seven crewmembers of the LST 921 pulled on board the 920 was Seaman Gerald F. Hendrixson, the twin brother of LST 920 crew member Harold Hendrixson. Thanks to Harry Schultz, the Hendrixson brothers both made it through their ordeal.  A few days later Captain Schultz was called before a court martial but later cleared of any charges. Many years later I learned from Schultz’ family and friends that he had never gotten over the loss of his shipmates at Guadalcanal, and he was not going to let any more good sailors die if he could help them even if it meant disobeying orders. Shultz’ left his command of the LST 920 in 1946, stayed in the Navy after the war, and eventually retired as a Commander. Two of the officers from the 920 that I talked with in researching this story told me that Schultz always “kept a certain distance” from his officers and crewmembers. Knowing about his earlier career as I did, I realized that he had already lost one shipboard “family” in the war, and he probably didn’t want to form any close personal ties with his new one. And, my dad, who was on the bridge at the time of the U-boat attack, never knew why his “Skipper” disobeyed orders that August afternoon. He said he was “stunned” when Captain Schultz broke that convoy rule and gave the order to come about.

Post WW2: Schultz & son Michael
               A few months later, Captain Harry Schultz and LST 920  sailed through the Panama Canal and on into the Pacific Ocean. Next stop? Pearl Harbor - on route to the invasion of Okinawa and the end of World War 2. After the war, Schultz stayed in the Navy, eventually raising a family. His son, Tim, told me that his father never said much about his wartime experiences. He had only a few wartime snapshots and several of his father's letters and Navy documents, so his knowledge of his father's Navy career was quite limited. That's a situation now faced by so many heirs of "The Greatest Generation."

Ciao, MikeBo

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

After the Battle, a Postscript!

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Wednesday December 3, 2014
Rainy 61°F/16°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
                As we count down to the 73rd anniversary of that “Day of Infamy,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it, I’m still digging into another story about World War 2, the U boat attack on my father’s ship in the Bristol Channel off the coast of Britain, later in the war than December 7th 1941. His high seas adventure took place on a sunny summer afternoon in August 1944.

Lt. Charles Botula
               My father, Lieutenant (jg) Charles Botula, Jr, never had a chance to meet Admiral Karl Dönitz, and to my knowledge, he had never heard of Karl-Heinze Lange either. However, he certainly had a chance to witness their handiwork. The World War II “Battle of the Atlantic” got very up close and personal for my dad and the crew of his ship, the LST 920.
LST 920 at Normandy 1944
 On that long ago afternoon, it was a few minutes before 5 p.m. and the crew was getting ready for chow, when the convoy they were sailing in - EBC-72 - came under attack by the German U Boat 667, commanded by Karl-Heinze Lange. A torpedo had struck the 920’s sister ship, LST 921, breaking it in two. Then, as my father watched from the bridge, a torpedo trail headed relentlessly toward his ship, the 920. It would have struck dead amidships had it not been for the British Corvette that was escorting the convoy from Milford Haven, Wales to Falmouth, England. The Brit, LCI(L)99 took the full brunt of the torpedo’s wrath, blowing it out of the water just a short distance from its intended target, the 920.

Ill-fated LCI(L)99
               The attack was followed by a courageous move by the 920’s skipper, Lt. Harry N. Schultz, who, in a violation of the hard and fast order to stay with the convoy, ordered his ship to come about to pick up any survivors from the LST 921 and the LCI(L)99.
LST 920 Skipper Schultz
In Schultz’s mind, an ancient law of the sea trumped any contemporary rule for navigating a war zone. While the enemy sub stayed in the area, looking for an opportunity to resume the attack, the rescue effort continued into the night. As survivors were pulled from the chilly waters of the Bristol Channel, the sub stayed just out of the range of the new three inch gun Captain Lange thought the LST 920 was carrying. Lange was wrong. The 920 was equipped only with 40 millimeter weapons. Another bit of luck for the rescuers. The next day, it left the area and sailed to its home base in France to report a successful mission to Admiral Dönitz. U 667 never reached its home port. Neither my father, nor any member of his crew knew who had attacked them or what fate had in store for the enemy.
Admiral Karl Donitz
A clearer picture of what happened on August 14, 1944, comes into focus if you know a little bit more about Admiral Dönitz and his philosophy of waging war. Simply stated, it was to destroy completely the enemy’s ability to wage war, a practice by great commanders past, present and future from Alexander the Great to Julius Caesar to Genghis Khan to Napoleon Bonaparte, to American Civil War Generals U.S. Grant and, especially William Tecumseh Sherman. Karl Dönitz learned the craft of submarine warfare during World War I, when Germany terrorized the Allied shipping lanes and initiated its own downfall with the torpedoing of the Lusitania, bringing the US into the war.
                Being an island nation had kept invaders out of Britain from the time of William the Conqueror in 1066 right up until the eve of World War 2. As Germany shook off the shackles of The Versailles Treaty, Adolf Hitler and his generals began to plan for an invasion of Britain. From the rubble of the First World War Germany had built a massive military machine with its Luftwaffe, Wehrmacht and Kriegsmarine. Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz’ purview would be the Navy and its fleet of unterseebooten, the dreaded U boats. When WW2 began in 1939, so did the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest naval struggle in history from outbreak to Germany’s surrender in 1945.  The Allies lost 3,500 merchant ships and warships. The Germans lost 783 of its 1153 U-boats. By the time that LSTs 921, 920, AND LCI(L)99 met up on August 14, 1944 with U 667, the war was in its final year and the Germans had already lost the Battle of the Atlantic.
                When I first heard the story about this U boat attack, it was little more than a wartime anecdote that my dad told over the Sunday dinner table as I grew up. Dad was proud of his wartime Navy service and he loved to regale his two young sons with his “war stories.” My brother and I grew up listening to them. The whole story played out over just a few days’ time in late 1944, but it took years for me to find out all the facts. Apart from the names of his own shipmates dad was in no position to learn any of the details relating to the other ships involved or their crews. It was not until after I retired that I started treating this story as I had done so many other stories that I covered during my long career as a journalist. And as I carried out my research and each new fact came to light, I was on to one hell of a war story.

Dad, Mom and me June 1944
I have distant memories of a June day in 1944, when my mother took me to Boston by train from New York. My father had already been away from home for almost a year by then. I was about four and we were in Massachusetts to attend the commissioning of my dad’s brand new ship. By the time the new crew took its new ship out on its shakedown cruise, the LST 920 was sporting a brand new camouflage paint job and was getting ready to head to the Pacific. But orders changed at the last minute and it headed to Philadelphia to pick up a “secret cargo.” The 920’s sister ship, LST 921 received the same orders and the two new ships headed to Philadelphia toward the end of July to pick up their mysterious cargo. Both received new paint jobs, literally overnight, along with new orders – to join a one-thousand-ship-convoy off Nova Scotia and head across the North Atlantic. At about the same time, July 22, 1944, U 667 set sail from its base at St. Nazaire, France with its new commander, Kapitan Leutnant Karl-Heinze Lange in search of allied shipping. Along with its new skipper, U 667 had been outfitted with the new
                By August 9, 1944, Convoy HXM 301 with the LST’s 920 and 921 had successfully crossed the Atlantic and arrived in Liverpool, England. As the long journey ended for them, their nemesis, the U 667 was already drawing blood. The day before, on August 8th, U 667’s new skipper had scored his first kills; a US Liberty ship, the SS Ezra Weston and a Canadian escort vessel, HMCS Regina.
HMCS Regina
The Ezra Weston took the first torpedo, and, as the Regina came to the stricken ship’s aid, it too was torpedoed. One officer and 27 men aboard the Regina were killed; the ship’s commander and 65 crewmen were saved, although two of the survivors died before they could reach a hospital. All 71 crewmen aboard the Ezra Weston survived the attack. Now, on the afternoon of August 14, 1944 the two LSTs were en route from Milford Haven, Wales to Falmouth, England toward their ultimate destination – Omaha Beach in Normandy. U 667 spotted their convoy in the Bristol Channel.

The Attacker U 667
U 667 was one of 1153 German submarines commissioned in World War II. It was a Class 7C submarine which first saw action in 1942. Its first Captain, Heinrich Schroteler, was in command for four missions. While U 667 is credited with shooting down an RAF bomber, it did not score any “kills” against Allied shipping. on his next command, the U 1023, Schroteler did sink a British minesweeper and a Norwegian tanker in the waning days of the war in 1945. His successor on U 667, Captain Lange, had better luck, scoring four kills within two weeks in August 1944. The Weston and Regina on August 8, and LST 921 and LCI(L)99 on August 14th.  Later, as Lange and U 667 steamed away from the site of their latest victory, neither the Captain or his crew could know that their luck was about to change.
U 667's Captain Lange
                In all of the research I did for this story, the archives of the Navies, US and German, revealed only that U 667 struck a mine on or about August 25th on the way back to a hero’s welcome at its home base at La Rochelle, France. I found the answer on a specialty internet site, which is devoted to the archives of the Kriegsmarine and especially it’s Unterseebooten.
                According to the archives, the RAF had carried out a series of aerial mine-laying missions off the coast of France right about the time that U 667 was carrying out its last deadly mission. Mine-laying had been carried out by both sides in the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel. The Germans to keep the Allies away, and the Allies to keep the Germans bottled up in their home ports or to snag them on the way home. In a report on the August 1944 mine laying sweep, the map coordinates of the area sown match the location where the wreckage of the U 667 was finally located and examined by diving crews. The loss of the U 667 was recorded by the Kriegsmarine when it missed a scheduled radio check-in on August 25th. By then, Admiral Dönitz and his high command had begun to assume that if a scheduled check-in was missed by one of his U-boats, it meant that the sub had been lost. In fact, U 667 did become a war grave less than two weeks after it’s most recent victory. Ironically, none of the survivors of its last wartime attack ever knew what happened to the submarine that had so impacted their lives.
Ciao, MikeBo