A well-known saying goes: cadres decide everything. In the case of the personnel problem of the “K” compound, this was true as never before, since to a large extent the success of the combat use of man-torpedoes depended precisely on the skill level of its first “component”, that is, the person. It was the driver who was responsible for the error-free withdrawal of the man-made torpedo to the designated area where the enemy ships or ships were located. It was on him that the timeliness of target detection and the accuracy of pointing the combat torpedo depended. And it was from the seaman locked in a tight "booth" of the man-controlled torpedo that the "life itself" of this weapon complex depended. In fact, other means of detecting threats from patrol ships or aviation the German man-torpedo did not have a trace of the enemy, except for the eye and “instinct” of its driver.
However, to recruit candidates for torpedo-drivers of military personnel, preferably having at least some idea of the military navy and the war at sea, at the last stage of World War II in Germany, was not so simple - the entire Reich war machine began to suffer from a lack of qualified personnel. In addition, the Kriegsmarine commander, Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, told Heye that he would not be able to provide him with experienced officers from the submarine forces "due to the lack of personnel for the submarines being built on the slipway and the extremely high danger inherent in the combat use of new military equipment." As a result, it was necessary to recruit servicemen in the K compound as a whole and in the man-torpedo units in particular — moreover, on a purely voluntary basis — in other Kriegsmarine units and even other branches of the Armed Forces, including the SS troops. Vice Admiral Heya was helped by the fact that there was no shortage of volunteers, and the “recruiters” even had to weed out many candidates who were unsuitable in one way or another to serve in the new, very specific fleet formation. The ban on transferring junior submarine officers to the K compound was lifted by Doenitz only at the end of 1944, and senior officers were forbidden to transfer Vice Admiral Heye to the unit until the end of the war.
Recruited drivers man-torpedoes and from the penalty box. For example, Lieutenant of the British Navy volunteer reserve Richard Hale, who served in 1945 during his service on the J277 Orestes minesweeper (HMS Orestes) from the 18 fleet of minesweepers, in an interview with J.F. Williams, the author of the book “They were the first: Sea-minesweepers in Normandy,” recalled that the driver of the human-controlled torpedo “Marder” turned out to be an 8-year-old young man who had fallen for a crime for the first time on Normandy on July 1944. division, and from there - in the division of man-torpedoes of the compound "K".
It is noteworthy that the penalty box arrived even from the SS Army, which only Vice-Admiral Heye knew about for a long time. So, the captain of the command “West” of the “K” unit, captain of the train, Friedrich Böhme, after the war, being a prisoner of war, reported during the interrogation that he personally learned that members of the Waffen SS served in the “K” unit only in June 1944 of the year . In Lawrence Patterson’s book The Weapon of Despair: German Frog People and Ultra-Small Submarines of the Second World War, published by the American Naval Institute in 2006, contains the following excerpt from the interrogation of Boehme: “The presence of the SS military among the K personnel” was discovered in June 1944, when Boehme accompanied a group of eight military personnel to Berlin to present them with state awards. During the awards ceremony, Otto Skorzeny appeared and reported that four of them were SS members. Boehme was immediately informed by Admiral Heye that in May 1944 he reached an agreement with Otto Skorzeny that the connection “K” would admit members of the SS convicted by the tribunal for various crimes, who would want to accept as atonement participation in "suicide missions".
As a result of this agreement, the “K” compound soon received a number of SS members from the training commands, not knowing about the actual “origin” of their new military personnel: 12 fighters entered the 361 fleet, eight people each - in the 362 and 363 fleet , six - to the 361 fleet, eight - to the 80 group of special forces (MEK), and another SSN 10 received the 700-e training command of the compound "K". However, from wherever a new candidate came to the “K” compound, he did it purely on a voluntary basis, being firmly confident in his mission - to save the Reich at any cost. Moreover, according to the recollections of the former military personnel of the special purpose compound, the candidates were not selected military personnel who had children in the family, or if these military personnel were the only children in the family.
The first group of candidates for the positions of drivers of human-guided torpedoes who arrived at the torpedo weapons center in Eckernförde (a city in northern Germany, Schleswig-Holstein land) included volunteers 40, selected from various parts and already undergoing primary training under the leadership of a lieutenant commander Opladena. Moreover, Grand Admiral Doenitz kept his word - none of the volunteers had previously served on submarines. Generally speaking, there were almost no sailors among them.
By that time, two training torpedoes had already been made in Eckernförde, with the device and operating rules of which novices were introduced by Chief Lieutenant Tsurze Johann-Otto Krieg - one of the participants in the creation of the Neger man-torpedo and the first commander of the 361 flotilla of the armed forces armed with them "TO". The commander of the flotilla also told his new subordinates about the tactics of combat use, which he and his assistants, on instructions from Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, had developed for the new combat means. On the whole, this tactic looked as follows: approach ships and vessels located in the area captured by the enemy on the German coast, select targets and torpedo them.
“Half of the chances are that such sabotage will succeed in favorable weather, a calm sea and an enemy position favorable to you, and you yourself will return to the German coast on a torpedo carrier. Of course, such a degree of probability is not very high, ”added after the first lesson to his new wards, Chief Lieutenant Tsrie See Krieg.
The total number of personnel of the fleet of single man-controlled torpedoes of the “Neger” and “Marder” types of the “K” compound usually included no more than 110 people of a permanent composition, as well as a certain number of military support units seconded by necessity. The latter had central subordination and were not permanently assigned to the flotillas, but were attached to this or that flotilla as necessary. In a combat situation - during the operation - the flotilla personnel consisted of: 60 human-torpedo drivers, 60 heavy truck drivers with transport trucks, 15 – 20 technicians, and up to 35 people of the flotilla headquarters and support staff.
YOUR TRADITIONS AND DIFFERENT SIGNS
After the veterans appeared in the flotilla of man-torpedoes, around August-September 1944, the traditions existing in the submarine forces of krigsmarine began to take root in these units. In particular, the oldest flotilla had its own distinctive emblems, the signs of which were usually worn by the "captains" of man-torpedoes on headdresses: the 362-I flotilla is a silver-colored seahorse; The 363 fleet is a silver-colored shark, on the tail of which drivers of human-guided torpedoes inflicted red stripes according to the number of successfully completed campaigns.
30 November 1944 of the year, Grand Admiral Doenitz, by his order, established for the military personnel the "K" special distinctive (award) badges - according to the type of premium stripes and metal bars that have long been used to encourage distinguished servicemen of other branches of service and different types of Armed Forces security agencies of the Third Reich. This distinctive sign received the name "Kampfabzeichen der Kleinkampfmittelverbande" and had seven degrees:
- 1 degree - a round woolen stripe on a blue lining, on which a swordfish embroidered with a yellow thread was placed, and along the circumference there was an embroidered thread with the same thread (thin rope);
- 2, 3 and 4 degrees are the same stripes, but with the addition of one, two and three swords, also embroidered with a yellow thread;
- 5 degree - bronze metal bar: swordfish against the background of a folded, folded gracefully;
- 6 degree - the same, but in silver;
- 7-I degree - the same, but in gold.
There was also a common patch for the military personnel of the “K” compound - in general, similar to the 1-th degree patch, but the swordfish was not sewn, but painted, plus there was no “rope circle”.
The 1 degree was given for a “simple” difference like “planning an operation that turned out to be successful”; 2 degree - for participation in a single combat operation - alone or as part of a group; 3-I, 4-I and 5-I degrees - respectively, for participating in the second, third and fourth combat operations; 6 degree - for participation in seven combat operations; 7 degree - for 10 combat operations and more.
Stripes from 1 to 4 degree were worn on the right sleeve, in the uppermost position - over the other stripes, and metal straps were worn on the left side of the chest, above the patch pocket and all other stripes and slats provided for by the existing position on wearing awards , as well as insignia and distinctions. Until the end of the war, awards were made with the distinctive signs of the 1 – 4 degree, while data on the facts of awarding with bronze, silver and gold bars could not be found.
FIRST NEGERA FLOTILY
The drivers are man-torpedoes, which, as Kayus Becker pointed out in his work “People of the compound“ K ”: история German frogmen and ultra-small submarines ", in the Russian translation published under the name" German naval saboteurs in World War II, "almost immediately called" captains ", underwent an intensive training course, moreover, after they generally mastered the management of torpedo- carrier, training on the water - on the management of the apparatus - began mostly to be held at night, because night was defined as the only possible time of day for the combat use of the new “miracle weapon”. However, the matter here - as in the case of the other samples that entered the armament of the compound "K" - was complicated by the fact that, in principle, there were no instructions or instructions, just as there were no military personnel who had experience in the combat use of new means and weapons. All had to learn and develop on the go, relying only on their intuition.
Eight days later, the drivers went over to the second stage of training - the execution of training torpedo firing: the driver cadets went out on boats to the designated training and combat training area in Eckernferd Bay, there they were transferred to their “negers”, to which training torpedoes were already docked, and then trained in torpedo firing at set targets — first during the day, then at night. Moreover, during the combat training it turned out that in the combat version, with a combat torpedo "under the belly", the human-controlled Torger "Neger" significantly loses speed - it drops from 4 to 3,2 nodes, and the speed of the 4,2 node gains only after torpedo shooting . Such a “discovery” had very significant consequences for the drivers of the “negers”: it was necessary to limit the combat area to the coastal waters, and also to carefully study the lot, especially the section on tides / currents and sea currents, which in some areas of the alleged combat use of the “negers” were quite “Not weak” - up to 5 – 7 nodes. Significantly increased the importance and navigational skills that drivers should have man-torpedoes, since the success of the operation and the life of the drivers themselves depended on the accuracy of the implementation of the preliminary course construction and the performance of other preliminary calculations.
“Theoretically, it was quite possible that“ Neger ”at low tide would approach the target twice as fast as if it were moving only at the expense of its motor,” Kayus Becker noted in his work. - It was also not excluded that “Neger”, firing a torpedo, will fall due to the beginning of the tide or as a result of a skillful change in the course of the reverse flow, which will bring it to the area of the starting point ”.
16 March 1944 of the torpedo weapon research center in Eckernferd arrived in the Research Center of the torpedo weapon in Eckernferd, who recently took office as the K commander Helmut Hee, accompanied by the captain of the medical service of the fleet, professor, Dr. Orchehovski, who served in military naval the command of the Ostsee, as well as the captain of the medical service of the fleet, Dr. Arnim Wandel, previously a submariner, and now a medical officer of the special unit Heilingenhafen (Marine Einsatzabteilung He ilingenhafen). The latter — later he became the commander of the combat swimmers' units of the “K” compound — was actively involved in supporting the training process during the preparation of the first group of human-torpedo drivers, and both doctors developed the special “anti-fatigue” tablets DIX for the military personnel, which were used in including drivers man-torpedoes. Flotilla "negers" received 500 of such tablets, although they were more widely used by the crews of the SMPL types "Bieber" and "Seehund".
The result of the inspection was the conclusion of Vice-Admiral Heye that, in general, a single man-controlled torpedo and the first group of volunteer drivers, which were combined into the 361 flotilla of the K compound, are ready for combat use. At the end of March 1944, a request came from Berlin for the flotilla’s readiness to solve a combat mission, and the answer was “yes”. There was, however, one question: where did the “Negeris” have to accept their baptism of fire? However, it did not take long to reflect on this, since, as it was supposed at the end of February - early March, Grand Admiral Doenitz, first of all, it was needed in Italy.
PLACE OF ATTACK - ITALY
The Anglo-American allies who landed in early September 1943 in continental Italy relatively quickly moved into the depths of the Italian “boot” - despite the well-organized defense field general Albert Kesselring and the fierce resistance of the German troops and the Italian troops that joined them. In order to accelerate the defeat of the enemy on the Italian front, the commander of the 5 American Army, Lieutenant General Mark Wayne Clark proposed carrying out an amphibious landing operation with a landing on the coast behind the Gustav Line (Winter Line), built in the Monte Cassino area, that would force the enemy to retreat, but at the same time would create an immediate threat to Rome.
22 January 1944, such an amphibious operation, received from the allies the codename “Shingle” (Operation Shingle, translated from English “Pebbles”), and in our literature known as the Anzio-Nettun operation, was conducted by the allies of the VI Corps under the command of the General Major John Porter Lucas, the bridgehead was captured on the coast in 40 km south of Rome - near the coastal cities of Anzio and Nettuno (from 1939 to 1945, both cities were administratively combined into one city - Nettuno). During the first hours of 48, Major General Lucas expanded the bridgehead into 11 km, but then stopped the offensive and, instead of moving quickly further, it was possible to cut off enemy rear communications and actually destroy the defense at Monte Cassino, strengthening the beachhead on the coast. Already later, Major General Lukas was dismissed from the post for an admitted “miss” by appointing Major General Lucian King Truscott in his place, who had to repel three enemy strikes of 31 in January, 15 and 29 in February of 1944.
Lucas’s mistake made it possible for Field Marshal Kesselring to organize a defense and to transfer the 3rd Panzer Grenadier and 71st Infantry Divisions to the bridgehead area, plus the 1st tank the German Goering division, and a little later also the 1st airborne (parachute) corps of the Luftwaffe General Alfred Schlem and even the heavy-caliber heavy gun on the K5 railway, nicknamed the Allies "Anzio Annie" (Anzio Annie). As a result, Kesselring managed to block the enemy on the bridgehead, but failed to throw him into the sea.
From their positions, the commanders of the German units could observe the numerous ships and vessels of the enemy, freely “moving” around the bay and anchored in the Anzio area. According to German intelligence, starting from 28 in January 1944, every day, at least six tank landing ships leaving reinforcements, equipment or various supplies left the Naples for the bridgehead in the Anzio area: for each ship 50 were driven to 10 trucks, which on arrival the ship left the place and went straight ahead to the front, and their place on tank landing ships was occupied by empty trucks that arrived the day before. Every week smaller ships and ships arrived at the bridgehead, and every XNUMX day there were huge transports of the Liberty type, delivering heavy weapons and even more ammunition and equipment.
The distance from the edge of the bridgehead to the anchorage of enemy ships was of the order of 9 – 10 miles - an ideal condition for an attack using human-torpedoes. Moreover, according to German intelligence, the enemy, having organized a strong defense from the sea, did not expect the enemy from the coast at all. It was here that was destined to be written the first page of the battle chronicles of the first flotilla of human-controlled torpedoes of the compound "K". And what came of it is the topic of a separate material.