Oberleutnant Stefan Michael Grabowski
Patrol # 3

Duration:     20.12.1939 - 07.01.1940, 19 days on sea
Patrol Area:   AN14
Ship:   U-330, The Octopus
Type:   II C
Flotilla:   9. Flotille, Brest

2345 Depart pen A-2 for patrol. Problems with last minute provisioning delayed our departure until now. We depart Lagonna and make way through the ‘Reede von Brest’ as a canvas full of stars greet us, welcoming our arrival for another patrol. A chilly and exceptionally clear night with little wind, my breath turns to instant vapor as the cold rims of the binoculars draw the heat from around my eyes while contacting my skin. Even the rubber eyepieces, mounted on each ocular, do little to insulate me from the frigid temps as I bring them up to view the channel markers and search for the escort ships awaiting our arrival at ‘Pte. Des Espagnols’. The night air easily transmits the sounds from ashore and we occasionally hear the muted music and laughter from the shore-side bars and restaurants as we pass by.

THURSDAY, 21 DEZ, 1939
0015 We arrive at ‘Pte. Des Espagnols’ where I view the moon as it begins its curl over to the west. Few onboard ever give that celestial body the remotest thought, leaving it instead for romantic interludes while they are on leave with some local girl. However, the moon is only 9 days old and growing. It’s waxing life will be a deterrent to our operation; adding yet another serious risk to an already chancy venture. As of now, it’s 61 percent illumination is easily cutting our silhouette against the dark horizon; a bad omen to begin a patrol with.

0035 Met Escorts at ‘Pte des Espagnols’. Sent recognition signal “Bruno” and received reply, then headed turned around the peninsula and into the ‘Goulet de Brest’ where we begin to pick up the wave action from the Atlantic and soon round the ‘Cap de St. Mathieu’ picking up a northerly heading toward our release point.

0410 Arrived at our release point 30 nautical miles west of standing line Le Conquet, where we are sheltered momentarily from the rolling action of the Atlantic by the island immediately to our west. We took our final coastal bearings a while back and departed into a dark and vast sea of lifeless ink, leaving the lights of ‘Le Conquet’ well to our aft and over the horizon as we sail off into the darkness which lays ahead. Already, the light of the setting moon marks a dull-gray path along the water for us to follow, as if laid out by divine providence itself. I give the orders for a heading which parallels this path and, thinking it to be a good omen, those on the bridge look at me momentarily and smile in agreement before returning to watch duties. Now, all alone with the light and laughter of the cities behind us, we head out and cut the forbiddingly-black water as the diesels’ throaty roar announces our presence to no-one in particular. This ship will be our home, our city, our lifeblood for the next several weeks. We must treat her well and in return we will ask the impossible of her, often using nothing more than our terror and sheer force of will to help hold the welds and seals together during the onslaught of yet another depth charge attack. The drop of sweat which stings the eye and the urge to clear the throat during silent running will soon return as death’s guillotine will again tickle the back of our necks. For it is here, on this ever-shifting and unforgiving Atlantic battlefield, that only sanctimonious heroes and unknown would-be’s dare to go, taking with them their pride, their honor and their silent fears of war. Those on the bridge are quiet tonight, perhaps reflecting on those very thoughts as we slowly plow our way through the waves. I order chocolate bars to be distributed to those on watch to give them more energy, then I elect to go back below and get some sleep.

0415 Sent Radio Message #001 on frequency 7647 Kcs.

FRIDAY, 22 DEZ, 1939
2330 Arrived in Patrol Grid AN 14 and began patrol. Sent message #002 on 7696 Kcs.

SATURDAY, 23 Dez, 1939
2030 Nothing seen on patrol. The weather is beginning to worsen and I fear that we will soon be paying for all of our exceptionally good weather up to this point. The barometer is falling to 1009.7 mb and wind is almost non-existent as it clocked from the south-east through southwest, then died completely. This usually precedes the onset of a cold front and many days of rough weather. Tonight we will have our Christmas, since the weather is so good and we might need every man to be on tireless alert in the days ahead. Already, the crew is decorating both the tree and the inside of the U-boat as holiday music is being played. Men sing and although each gives his utmost to the boat and waffe, their hearts are far from here as each one thinks about his home and loved ones at this time. My Second Watch Officer, OLt.z.S. Walter Safarovic will dress the part of Santa later and hand out the gifts from home which have been collected prior to our sailing. Spirits are high and we will dive to 100 meters to begin the celebration so no one is on outside watch. The brandy is opened and passed around as childlike pranks are played on unsuspecting victims. Although I am far from home, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

SUNDAY, 24 Dez, 1939
1000 Sent Patrol message #003 on 7.082 Mcs. The men have recuperated from last night’s festivities, and just in time since the barometer is falling rapidly and the onset of bad weather is already upon us. I reach into my pocket and pull out a gold watch. Pressing the clasp, I open its cover to compare the ship’s time with it. On the inside of the watch is an inscription from the crew, “To He Who Keeps Us Safe-Crew Of U-330”. I close it, quickly slipping it back into my pocket as I look around at this group who has become my second family. A tear forms and is brushed away as the men go about their business, seemingly unaware of my attachment to this watch…and to them.

MONDAY, 25 Dez, 1939
1000 Christmas music is played all day. The weather has become worse and the waves building. Currently the winds are from the NNW at 30 knots with gusts to 45. The seas are 5 meters and building with occasional waves topping out at 10 meters. I order the boat to change heading to 330 degrees; right into the wind and waves to minimize the side-to-side rolling effect of the sea. Visibility worsening to under 1 kilometer.

1300 Weather still worsening. Barometer falling and seas growing. I finally order the boat to dive to 75 meters where we can relax. Those on watch have their gear hanging on the exhaust manifolds of the engines to dry while they fall into bed in exhaustion. The festivities of Christmas are still upon them as we listen to the GHG’s for possible ships in the area.

TUESDAY, 26 Dez, 1939
1000 Weather still bad. Barometer down to 1003.3 but beginning to steady out. We are like an elevator, going up every 6 hours to view the surface, only to stay there until the batteries have topped off their charge, then returning. Seas terrible with little or no visibility, winds estimated at near 45 knots steady with higher gusts.

WEDNESDAY, 27 Dez, 1939
1000 Weather still terrible. No contacts on GHG’s and certainly none when we surface for those short periods of time. Several of the men still celebrating Christmas.

THURSDAY, 28 Dez, 1939
1000 The long hours with little to do are beginning to take their toll. Several of the men are becoming irritable and the festering wound between my LI and Chief Mechanic are worsening, as well. What began as spirited remarks between the two grow with the passing hours. Concerned, I call the LI into my cabin to inform me of what exactly is happening. It seems that he was married at one time, but divorced several years ago. The girl he married was Helga Jaschinski, a cousin of our Chief Mechanic, OMasch. Harry Jaschinski. Evidently, she began running around with other men while my OLt. (LI)Paul Noelke was in Engineer school and divorcing upon his graduation. Here is where the bad feelings begin between these two. Jaschinski says that Noelke was running around initially and drove Helga to do it, while Nolke says Jaschinski’s cousin was doing the running around first…what a mess. I had them call a truce and shake hands for now. We will see if the hatchet is sufficiently buried for the duration of the patrol. If not, I will have no other option than to place them both on report. Too bad, since they are both top-notch men.

FRIDAY, 29 Dez, 1939
1000 No contacts, seas still mountainous and most time is spent below. Winds still hover at 45 knots with barometer reading 1002.8 and steady since yesterday. The problems of yesterday seem to be under control.

SATURDAY, 30 Dez, 1939
1000 Seas still terrible. No contacts yet. I decide to surface every 12 hours now to recharge the batteries, remaining on the surface for an hour and a half to top the cells off before diving again.

SUNDAY, 31 Dez, 1939
1000 The men are shedding their drudgery of endless patrol and becoming happy once again as the New Year is upon us. We will celebrate with records and brandy tonight as each of us thinks about his loved ones back home and awaits the arrival of the new decade…1940! Sent message #004 on 7.900 Mcs.

2035 Receive message # 005 on 7.880 Mcs. from BdU to reposition to AN22. Replied that we were underway with message # 006 at 2045 on same frequency.

Monday, 01 Jan, 1940
0102 FkOGfr Willy Schneider has informed us that he has picked up prop noises on the GHG’s. Our new orders to AN22 have already shown promise. Relatively close, he says they sound “heavy”, like a tanker’s props. We turn to investigate and I order “Surface” as I look at a crew hardly in shape to light a firecracker from last night’s festivities, let alone operate a man of war ship like ours.

0110 Jesus! We surface and a 20,000 GRT Troop ship is sitting like a gift, steaming in front of us only 2700 meters off. We notice soldiers on deck and scamper like mad to connect the UZO’s, obtain bearings and not let this 20 knot prize get away. Already, as my First Watch Officer takes bearings, I think of a plan to turn the U-boat and pursue, incase these eels either miss, or the ship passes too fast and gets away before we can fire. My God, she is huge and getting bigger as she approaches on a text-book angle to our bow.

0112 Amazingly, my 1WO is able to get a fan shot out while we battle the waves which are still big, but diminishing from the past few days. We wait for about a minute and a half for the first of the three torpedoes (T-lll; serial number 14331 with a Pi-2 pistol set to magnetic detonation) to hit as the ship closes in on us and we reverse engines to gain some distance between us and her. The seconds tick by as we watch her pass off our bow only 800 yards away. Quickly, I make preparations to turn and pursue at flank, hoping to gain a meager amount of time to reload and shoot, knowing her speed is all too fast for this to ever work. As I am about to order a parallel course at Flank, my thoughts are interrupted as an explosion goes off, with another one only seconds later. The 2 (T-lll; serial number 14454 with a Pi-2 pistol set for contact detonation) & 3 (T-lll; serial number 14235 with a Pi-2 pistol set for contact detonation) have hit, with the #3 breaking her back and debris falling all about us. I order the men below, but remain on the bridge with my 1WO to observe. The airwaves are filled with her distress calls; she is full of troops and giving off steam. Fearing quick retaliatory strikes by aircraft and possible nearby destroyers, I order my FkOGfr. Willy Schneider to answer her distress calls as a British merchant ship 50 miles to the north and coming to her rescue. This is done at low power to simulate the distance involved and evidently the ploy works. She acknowledges our falsified radio transmission and stops all further broadcasting, evidently she is comfortable that help is on the way. Many are already scrambling to the lifeboats, but she is listing far too much for the port boats to be lowered. Those on the starboard side are luckier, if they can get them down in time. Some of the soldiers are already diving into the frigid waters, as though it were their only chance. I hear their screams while the lifeboats that did make it into the water move about in a vain attempt to pluck them out before hypothermia sets in, drowning them as they enter the frigid sleep. To see the destruction of such a magnificent ship is beyond words. It is the culmination of man’s nautical abilities and stands now in mute testimony of his achievements. And here am I, the one who ordered her destruction, which saddens me deeply. Yes, she is a casualty of war, having been built on the wrong side of a line on some map, but beauty like this transcends geo-political divisions and tears out the heart of a true sea dog when she goes down. I and my 1WO watch her sink in silent disgust, saluting as her bulkheads scream in the night air. We are saddened by such a loss of machinery and the fact that those onboard will not see more that the first minutes of 1940 arrive. Within 30 or 40 minutes, she is gone and I descend through the hatch, closing it behind me and ordering “Flood”. We dive to 50 meters in the event British aircraft might come to their aid and silently depart the area, heading for AN22, after sending radio message #007 to BdU on 6.792 Mcs.

1940 Arrived AN22 with 18.8 cubic meters of fuel and 3 eels remaining. Sent message # 008 to BdU on 7.757 Mcs., began patrol.

TUESDAY, Jan 2, 1940
1000 Continued patrol with no sightings of shipping.

WENDSDAY, Jan 3, 1940
1000 No eventful entries in today’s logbook as we continue patrol.

THURSDAY, Jan 4, 1940
1000 Continued patrol with no sightings. Surprisingly, the men are complacent instead of agitated, as they usually are after days on end of no sightings. Oberbootsmat Paul Wudke is U-330’s chess champion and few dare to play him anymore. I have ordered no betting or wagering on any game played aboard, although we all know it goes on. As long as the amounts are low, I have no objection and look the other way. I understand Wudke can now checkmate in less than 10 moves.

FRIDAY, Jan 5, 1940
0200 FkOGfr. Schneider has the 2WO wake me, GHG contact with multiple props. We take the bearing and head 120 to intercept.

0300 Closing in to convoy. High speed screws force us to dive deep. We play cat and mouse for an hour waiting for the merchants to arrive.

0445 Back to periscope depth. Several tankers in view. An 11,000 GRT partially hidden and don’t want to waste the eels. A closer 9,000 GRT tanker coming into range. We remain at periscope depth and shoot the first eel at 3500 meters, then wait until she gets closer.

0447 While still on the way, we let the #2 eel loose at 2100 meters. No explosion from the first…probably a dud. The closure rate remains constant and we wait with out last eel

0449 Explosion from the second eel, but only damaged. We S-turn our way closer and place our last one down her throat at 1275 meters, then down to 150 meters to ride out our punishment.

0450 Terrific explosion with the sounds of snapping bulkheads over the GHG’s. The noise becomes almost deafening throughout the ship and we turn away from the falling debris and out of the convoy. She is destroyed and sunk, making our patrol tonnage 29,000 for a career total of 53,000 GRT. Had the other 4 eels worked as well, we would be twice that figure.

0500 ASDIC! We weave our way back out of the enormous convoy and take up a heading of 170 for now. We sit and wait, walking through a myriad of pings as we try to keep a narrow profile to the destroyers who are looking for us.

1220 Destroyers have finally vanished. No depthcharges dropped and we are going home. Up to periscope depth to view the area, the on the surface. Sent radio message #009 to BdU on 7.880 Mcs. and diesels to “Full”.

SATURDAY, 6 Jan, 1940
0630 Lone 4000GRT Merchant in view and stopped. Spanish nationality; we don’t stop her, since she is displaying lights and takes no evasive action when spotting us. We wave to the blackened silhouettes on the bow rail and continue on.

SUNDAY, 7 Jan, 1940
0200 Radioed Message #010 for escort at Pte. des Espagnols on 4.412 Mcs.

0305 Escort arrives, proceeded to base.

0415 Threw bow line and used it to pivot the stern alongside the dock. Gave the order to shut down diesels and thus ended our 3rd patrol. Top brass is on pier to award Knight’s Cross to me. Entire crew cheers as I am driven off to debrief with Donitz.








01 Troop ship British


"Bexhill on Sea" 01. Jan. 1940
02 Tanker Greek?


Unknown (Convoy)   05. Jan. 1940

Radio Log    Kommandant's Report   Chief  Engineer's Report    Shootig Report






Patrol results:





Total career results:






U-boat badge

1939 Iron Cross
2nd Class

Knights Cross

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