Cloudy 55°F/13°C in Falmouth, England
Clear 52°F/11°C in Cedar Park, TX
Buonagiornata miei amici
To date, my book, LST 920! Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! (Amazon Books) has not made an appearance on the New York Times Best Seller List. Nor has it been selected by Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club. Instead, it is one of those so-called vanity books that is self-published by an author who has convinced himself that he has a great story to tell.
LST 920! Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! (Amazon Books) is the story of one day in the livesof the crew of a World War 2 Tank Landing Ship that was attacked by a lone German U boat on 14 August 1944 as it steamed from Milford Haven, Wales to Falmouth, England. My father, Lt. Charles Botula, Jr. was the second in command of LST 920, and he quite often told my brother and I how his life, and the lives of his crew were saved by the crew of a British escort ship, who sacrificed their ship and their lives because it was their duty to protect and defend an ally.
The incident, which became a defining moment in my father’s life occupies a few, scant lines in the ship’s log:
LST 920 Ship’s Log: Monday 14 August 19441654 hours: First hit on LST 921, directly astern of us. Presumably by torpedo.
1654 hours: General Quarters sounded
1656 hours: LCI #99 (British) hit by torpedo presumably
1657 hours: All stations manned and ready; approximate position…50°54’ N, 4°45’ W
1657 hours: Relieved on conn by Captain Schultz and went to GQ station
Ensign John J. Waters, Officer of the Deck
After crafting an article on the incident for The Scuttlebutt, the publication of the United States LST Association, I decided that I had enough material to warrant writing a short book. I did not realize how many lives I would touch. Here are few of the stories I can pass along:
Able Seaman William Todd, Royal Navy, age 19 - Good morning, I don't know a great deal
about my Great Uncle William Todd as he only
has one surviving brother left and he is very frail now and cannot
remember a lot. Gillian Whittle, Seaman Todd’s great-niece.
|Able Seaman William Todd|
William Todd was aboard the British escort ship that took the torpedo intended for LST 920. My father saw the whole incident. I never knew that Todd was one of the casualties until my research turned up a crew list for the British ship, LCI(L) 99. Gillian Whittle, Seaman Todd’s grand-niece read my account of his death and wrote me and sent me the photo of her great uncle.
Bill as he was known was only 19 when he died, and he came from Chorley, Lancashire, England. I imagine he was called up when he turned 18, I don't know his birthday. He was acting able seaman and he was actually the ships cook. We as a family are very proud of him and I go to Kent, England when I can to lay flowers at the naval memorial. I am afraid I don't know much else about my Uncle, but I have his medals and I had the privilege of wearing them proudly on remembrance parade for him one year and we keep his memory going.
The Unsinkable Charlie Watson - A former neighbor, Curt Pederson, wrote me about the unidentified ship’s cook that had been rescued from the sinking stern section of LST 921 by his shipmates John Abrams and Lloyd Meeker. Charlie Watson had been badly injured when the U 667’s torpedo struck his ship, but in the heat of the rescue, neither Abrams nor Meeker was able to identify the lucky ship’s cook. Watson spent months in a Navy hospital recuperating, and eventually one of his legs had to be amputated.
I was trapped below deck, Watson told me by phone years later. Both my legs and one arm were broken. I was trying to crawl out when Meeker grabbed me and got me topside, Watson told me. Meeker got me into the water so I could be pulled onto a raft with some other guys from the ship. Then Watson told me a story that I’m sure he has told countless times since the torpedoing of his ship. All of a sudden, I could see a torpedo trail bubbling through the water, coming straight at me. All I could do was stare at it! What happened next, I asked him? Damned torpedo zipped by right below me. It didn’t hit anything though. I told him about my father standing on the bridge of his ship earlier watching as a torpedo came straight amidships at the LST 920. At the last split-second, the British escort ship came alongside and took the U 667’s torpedo full force and was blown out of the water.
What I didn’t know until Watson told me his story, was that my dad’s ship escaped being torpedoed a second time. As Watson was being hoisted aboard the 920, the Captain, Harry Schultz ordered a sharp turn as an evasive maneuver. Another torpedo, fired by the U 667, passed close by, but missed the ship.
Christophe Moriceau, French Diver – Following its attack, U 667 stalked my dad’s convoy for a
day or two, then unable to find other targets, it
headed back to its base at La Rochelle, France. On August 25, 1944, U 667
received a dose of its own medicine when it struck a mine and sank with all
hands. Moriceau continues the story from that point, Its wreck is now
staying down off La Rochelle as you know but the story is more complicated than
it would appear. Indeed this 70-meter-long wreck was discovered around 1973 by
a diver. At that time, one knew that two Type 7 U-Boote had disappeared off La
Rochelle: U 263 during deep sea trials and U 667 when coming back from her
last patrol. Both in 1944.
Moriceau dove the site in 2005 but could not firmly
identify the wreck
as U 667 because of heavy damage forward of the conning tower. There the story
rests until 2014, when the hulk was finally identified through photographs by
Dr. Axel Niestlé, an expert on unterseebooten. There it rests today, off the French coast near La
Rochelle with Kapitӓnleutnant Karl-Heinz
Lange and the entire crew.
|Moriceau at U 667 Wrecksite|
My father died in 1965, never knowing the identity of the German U boat that attacked his convoy, nor the names of the crew of the British escort ship that took the blast from the torpedo that was meant to sink his ship. In wartime, the enemy has no name!
C’est la guerre!MikeBo
[Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant. Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com]