Category Archives: WW2

The Avengers of Midway – The Forgotten Story of VT-8’s Other Gallant Attack (Updated)

VT-8's Brand New TBF Avengers

VT-8’s Brand New TBF Avengers

Just after dawn broke over the Central Pacific atoll known as Midway Island, six brand new Grumman TBF Avengers rolled down the runway, took flight and headed northwest to find four Japanese Aircraft Carriers that had already launched their own strike against the island. These six planes were a part of a larger attack group from the island, made up of Marine Vindicator Dive Bombers and USAAC B-26’s and B-17’s. It was a mix and match force, scraped together and with little training on how to attack ships at sea.

The TBF’s were also brand new. Lt. Langdon Fieberling had stayed behind with a half of VT-8 (Torpedo Bomber Squadron 8) assigned to USS Hornet (CV-8) when the ship left Norfolk for the Pacific Ocean. He and the other pilots took possession of the new bombers, and began to train with them as they crossed the Country and later the Pacific, to meet up with the ship at Pearl Harbor. By the time they got to Hawaii, Hornet had already left to face to Japanese Fleet at Midway. Read the rest of this entry

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Wargamer

Not to put to fine a point on the matter, but when I was in High School and on into the Navy, I was a Wargamer.

Along with my best friends, Lee, Mike and Mick, we recreated every major battle and war you can name, and even a few imaginary ones. We even had our own FRPG that involved a Wizard who was to teach us our needed skills who had a bladder control problem. It’s a long story, and basically it involved the fact that we thought ourselves “too cool for school,” as it were. We did learn a valuable lesson, but frankly I have forgotten whether it dealt with the fact that he (the wizard) managed to take a leak on all of us while laughing at us or whether or not we ever got our revenge. Which now that I am in my 50’s with the standard issue enlarged prostate I am uncertain that I would be able to help much if we ever did decide to take him on again.

Anyway, back to my point which was not to demonstrate once again how much of a nerd and geek I was at Ogden High School from 1979-1981, but that I still have a trunk full of these games which, despite the prices that some of them fetch on eBay (example), I cannot bring myself to part with because (wait for it…) the last time we were all together (circa 1984?) we had a long discussion about “getting together” in the future, renting a big hotel room and spending a vacation playing all of our old favorites.

So naturally, I have to keep them all. Read the rest of this entry

Fregttkapitän Arend Baumann

For some time (nearly three years) I have been working on the outline and story of a U-Boat during WWII. The story has undergone numerous changes and modifications, as all stories do, but the goal remains to tell a story that is both entertaining and as historically accurate as possible.

As a submariner myself, I have a particular interest in the German U-Boat sailors of World War II. It has become obvious to me through the years that they knew how bad things were, they knew the odds were more than stacked against them and yet not only did they still go to sea, they did so willingly and with a staggering lack of training. That strikes us today as odd, because we perceive the U-Boat crews as elite and fanatical, but seldom was that the real case.

At any rate, my story involves a Commander who is stoic, dedicated and familiar with both the United States and Great Britain, with distant but familiar to him relatives in both and with some education in the United States, gaining him a love of American sports. For the record, I outlined that long before tonight.

Eventually I settled on a name, although I am still bouncing back and forth on the first name, I decided to go with Baumann as a last name, giving me a closer connection to him as I write his story. I am still trying to decide between Lüdwig or Lothar for a first name.

At any rate, he has a history with the Navy, and is well connected politically and socially, enough so that when Admiral Dönitz suspects (he will never truly discover) Baumanns big secret, he cannot take direct action for fear of retaliation. Thus he is forced to come up with another scheme to deal with the issue at hand.

Having decided on my characters name (at least his last name), I decided to spend some of my vacation time researching U-Boat Commanders to see if any had the last name “Baumann,” and as it turns out, two (2) did. The first, Heinz Baumann commanded three boats, but made no war patrols, serving instead as a training boat commander. One has to wonder how he felt about that, but in any case, there was not much in his story that appealed to me directly.

The second was Fregttkapitän Arend Baumann. He was the commander of U-131, a Type IXC boat sunk off of Spain during the battle for Convoy HG76 by a combination of destroyers, sloops and aircraft and an amazing run of just plain bad luck.

But the most amazing thing about Commander Baumann and the U-131 story was that – and this is unusual – the entire crew survived the sinking. They were, of course, captured and sent to Gibraltar and then on to the UK for internment. And in that record of their interrogation there exists a more incredible story than I could have ever dreamed up.

The story is remarkably personal, including their accounts of their last night ashore, their jokes about Grand Admiral Raeder and their opinions about shipmates and service histories of each other. The accounts of their training voyage is heart stopping.

In the submarine fleet there is an old saying, “If you aren’t lucky, we don’t want you.” Baumann seems to have taken that mindset to heart and done everything humanly possible to eliminate luck from the equation, but in the end, a set of broken hydrophones (maintenance and training failures?) and some bad plotting led directly to the loss of the boat and their capture.

Commander Baumann went on to lead a long life, passing away in December of 1985 at the age of 82.

The Second World War is filled with untold stories of courage, intrigue, adventure, horror and terror. So many stories are untold and unknown and more are disappearing into the dust of history each and every day. My story is fiction, but maybe it can bring Commander Baumann and the story of his boat and crew back to life in our collective memory.

Lothar(?) von Baumann is a highly successful and trusted U-Boat Commander. His unorthodox tactics (radio silence) infuriate Admiral Dönitz, but his family connections to the highest political authorities make him untouchable, unless his biggest secret becomes known. Then it will be a race to the death, either by Allied anti-submarine forces or by those in the German Navy who want him eliminated before others start emulating him.
When Dönitz becomes suspicious, he hatches a secret plan to rid the fleet of von Baumann. Operation “David” sends the solitary U-Boat into the teeth of Allied anti-submarine defenses.
Unknown to the crew, the boat has been rigged to not be able to return.
What will win out, loyalty to the Navy and the nation, or to the past and to the crew? 
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