We all know what happened on that night of October 31, 1943 but I wonder if you know how and why it happened. I call the events leading up to our meeting and even the final outcome.
Fate. Fate entered the submarine war early when the British captured U-110 in May 1944, with a complete Enigma coding machine aboard. This was not smart action by the British. It was just a lucky happening for them. Because of this, when our ships and planes were equipped with high frequency direction finders in 1943 we were able to find the location of your U-boats with great accuracy.
Fate: With good and bad luck for all of us was to play an even bigger part in our story. There were two carrier groups in the area at the time, The Block Island group, which attacked you and the U-222 on October 28, and our group, the USS Card group. As you know, U-220 went down but your heavy AA fire kept the plane at a safe distance. The pilots reported that your gunfire was heavy and required the help of more aircraft. Your boat had been converted to an AA boat and your superior fire power kept the aircraft away until you submerged and left the area. By the way Wilhelm, your name is mentioned in one of the books that I researched.
On October 30 one of our aircraft, piloted by Lt. Fryait attacked a boat (unknown) but the boat, following Admiral Doenitz's order to dive when attacked by aircraft and the bomb missed.
Wilhelm has told me that he told the CO of U-584, Kapitanieunant Deecke, on October 29 to surface as little as possible. He did not keep his warning. On October 31, our fateful day, pilot Lt. Fowler from the Card found U-91 and U-584 on the surface. They put up heavy flack so Fowler put himself astern of the boats and called for help. A funny thing happened at first: We could always hear the voice communication between the ship and aircraft. We heard Fowler shouting, “They are shooting at me!” You know, he sounded as if he thought this wasn't fair.
U-91 submerged as soon as the airplane took position astern. Only when two more aircraft arrived did Beeke decide to dive but it was too late. Fowler and Lt. Balliett each dropped a homing bomb and both bombs hit alongside U-584. It went down.
Fowler’s radio report about the size of U-91 made the group commander, Captain Isbell, think that U-91 was a milk cow. It wasn't.
Fate. Because Isbell thought U-91 was a milk cow he didn't want it to get away and he sent the Borie to look for it.
Fate. There were three destroyers but the Borie was picked. We started for the area of the attack to look for U-91 but U-91 was long gone. It was going in the opposite direction, heading for home, right after she submerged.
Now is where fate played the biggest hand in affecting the lives of the men of U-256 and the USS Borie. Do you remember how you were able to escape from the Block Island aircraft because you had been converted to an AA boat? Your logbook shows that you detected us at the same time that we found you. Wilhelm told me that your boat was in a perfect position for a stern shot but because of the conversion you could not fire one. FATE. And this is the nicest, because of that we all are enjoying this evening together. Thank goodness.
But wait, there is more. You will remember all the charges we dropped on you. We thought we had destroyed you but we were not sure. Our captain ordered a turn for another attack but we found out that our sound gear was not working. It took fifteen minutes to repair the system and although we searched for about three hours, we, as you know, could not find you again. Fate had saved you as it had saved us. I'm sure we all like it better this way
We kept in contact for quite a while after the reunion. There was never any sign of the fact we had almost killed them. It was a wonderful experience.