With the most immediate danger averted, we were finally able to take a look topside. We couldn’t believe the sight that greeted us. Now we realized why Zschech had given the order to abandon ship: our boat had been nearly blown in two by the surprise air attack! The wooden planks of the upper deck aft of the conning tower looked as if a bulldozer had plowed across them. In the center of the damage, an enormous hole gaped half way across the entire topside hull of the boat, exposing a jumble of smashed and broken equipment below. Our 37mm anti-aircraft gun had been blown completely overboard by the force of the blasts, its mounting bolts sheered off as cleanly as if cut by a razor. Fully half of the steel side plates of the conning tower were either gone or hanging limply, clanging against each other in time with the gentle rocking of the waves. One depth charge (or bomb, at that point we weren’t sure which) had exploded on the pressurized tubes where the spare torpedoes were stored, completely destroying one of the torpedoes except for the warhead section. If that torpedo warhead had gone off, none of us would have survived.
Despite the enormous damage to the conning tower, Leutnant (Ensign) Stolzenburg and the other two men standing watch on the bridge were still alive. They were laying unconscious on the bridge deck, drenched in seawater and their own blood. Stolzenburg was badly wounded and bleeding heavily from shrapnel wounds in his head and back.
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