We spent another couple of hours during the night once again reloading the empty torpedo tubes. There was also a dangerous leak in the port ballast tank valve that needed to be repaired. And if that wasn’t enough, we were repeatedly forced to dive because of air alerts. It was obvious the enemy’s airborne radar was now effective enough to deny us our traditional cover of night. The swarm of enemy planes over our heads was so heavy that when running on the surface, we ourselves were forced to steer a zig-zag course in order to lessen the chance of a surprise bomb hit from the air. It was embarrassing to have to zig-zag like a scared little freighter, but better safe than sorry.
Looking back with the advantage of hindsight, it is clear that the Allies were aware of our every move. We didn’t fully realize it at the time, but the entire tide of the war in the Atlantic had turned decisively against our U-boats. First of all, the build-up of enemy air forces had made our previous tactics totally ineffective. Gone were the days when we could maneuver primarily on the surface and dive only when conducting an attack or escaping. The Metox device still warned us in time to avoid most air attacks, but once we were forced underwater, our speed was insufficient to catch all but the slowest of ships. By forcing us to remain submerged, the Allies had turned our U-boats into little more than slow-moving minefields; dangerous to their ships only if they happened to blunder across our path. Given the enemy’s elaborate radio direction finding efforts, it was easy for the Allies to re-route their convoys around us. Once the convoys were safe, the bombers and destroyers would descend upon us like packs of jackals.
As important as the technological race was, however, it wasn’t the only factor. Once the Allies cracked our top secret Enigma cipher system, they were able to read almost every communication between our boats and headquarters. Another important factor, which we didn’t learn about until after long the war, was the treachery of Admiral Canaris, the head of our nation’s military intelligence service. Canaris, one of the greatest traitors of WWII, was responsible for sending many of our comrades to their deaths. Today, I harbor no animosity for our former enemies (the British and Americans), but I can never forgive Canaris for his bloodyhanded betrayal of his fellow countrymen.
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