Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rasch's Midget Subs Arrive in Flensburg, Ready for Action

One morning, just as dawn was beginning to break over Flensburg fjord, a flotilla of twelve midget submarines crept into the harbor. Seehunds, each of them seventeen tons fully loaded, with a crew of two and two torpedoes straddling its sides like saddlebags. They had escaped from Wilhelmshaven just as the British Army was coming in. In that time they had painstakingly navigated all the way around the Danish peninsula and now that they were coming back into German-controlled territory, they were eager for fresh orders that would send them back out to exact some payback on the enemy, and none more so than the flotilla’s commander, Kapitänleutnant Hermann Rasch.

There was no question in his mind that the surrender was merely a sham, a crafty ploy by Doenitz designed to lull the enemy into letting their guard down. He knew what an unbending diehard Doenitz was. All they would have to do is show up before him, salute and say “Ready for combat!”

Once his boats were all tied up along the quay, Rasch re-lit his last cigar and then strode proudly up to the Marineschule. Filthy, bearded, dressed in an oil-stained leather jacket and trousers, his smudged white commander’s cap tilted raffishly to one side, to the trio of young British subalterns who passed him on their morning stroll, he imparted the unmistakable air of a pirate.

But before he got to Doenitz’ offices, his progress was blocked by a very stern looking Kapitän-zur-See Wolfgang Luth, who immediately pointed Rasch to his office and told him to wait inside. Then he picked up the phone and called Ludde-Neurath. Ludde-Neurath told Luth he’d send someone down and then told Ziggy to go sit in on the discussion just in case anything got out of hand.

As he made his way downstairs, Ziggy tried to remember what he knew about Rasch. While he didn’t know him personally, he’d heard plenty over the years. It wasn’t that he was a bad officer, or an unsuccessful commander, he had quite a respectable number of kills under his belt. It was that Rasch was a hothead and a troublemaker. He was prone to taking unnecessary risks. So they’d switched him over to midgets, an ideal place for cantankerous, highly motivated oddballs like himself. And there he thrived, creeping around the North Sea coastline wreaking havoc among allied shipping.

When Ziggy got downstairs, he found Luth standing in the corridor outside his office. At the sight of Ziggy, Luth’s eyes momentarily flared, but he quickly regained his officer’s unflappable demeanor.

“Captain Luth,” said Ziggy.

“Captain Loerber,” said Luth, and then began briefing him on the situation as if there was nothing at all amiss between the two of them.

“So it sounds like Rasch needs to be brought into the present,” said Ziggy when Luth finished.

Luth nodded. “It would be better if you don’t write anything down until it’s over. Then we’ll agree on what goes into the report. If we explain to the British that Rasch’s radio was out and he hadn’t received the surrender instructions, they’ll probably accept it without too much problem.” Ziggy agreed that was a good idea. Then Luth told him he was going to try to get Rasch to accept it peacefully, since arresting him would also likely result in trouble with the British.

They went inside Luth’s office, where a ragged, but exuberant Rasch sat waiting to present his attack plan. They let him go on for a minute, then began, gently at first, introducing him to the concept of unconditional surrender, explaining how under its terms, absolutely no one, not even Rasch, was permitted to carry out any further military action against the enemy, no matter how richly the British deserved payback. The war was over. They had lost.

“You can’t be serious!” Rasch shouted. “After all we’ve just been through getting here, past all those British assholes, you expect me to just sit back and let them take our boats away from us? That’s just wrong! If you expect me to go along with this bullshit, you’re crazy!”
(Excerpt from Germania by Brendan McNally, Simon & Schuster, 2008)

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