USS CORRY CHIEF RADIO TECHNICIAN
"MAC" McKERNON'S U-BOAT STORIES
USS Corry Chief Radio Technician
Francis "Mac" McKernon
DON’T GO NEAR
Initially, we spotted more than 20 men in the water. We were about to rescue them when the pilot of a scout plane above us radioed, “Don’t go near them. I see a second U-boat shadow below the survivors. Don’t try to be a bunch of American heroes looking to take prisoners so quickly.” The second U-boat was hoping we’d be so preoccupied with taking prisoners from the first U-boat kill that we wouldn’t check for another sub. The submerged U-boat would wait until they heard us moving toward the survivors and then would come up to periscope depth where they could see us and blast us.
Because of the plane’s warning, we stayed off at a distance and ran a zigzag course. The plane continued circling overhead and regularly reported over the radio: “The shadow is still down there.” Finally, after a long while, the pilot saw the second U-boat go away, running deep where it was no longer a threat to us. (It would be hunted down soon enough.) However, since so much time had elapsed, out of more than 20 German submariners that had initially been spotted in the water, we rescued only a handful of wounded survivors, the captain among them. One by one, the rest had succumbed to their wounds or exhaustion.
After we brought the prisoners aboard, our doctor looked at them to see what kind of shape they were in. We then sent a message over to the aircraft carrier, which normally would have taken them from us. We told the carrier, “The prisoners are badly wounded. If we try to move them, they’re not going to live. There are only eight of them. We’ll take them with us.” The carrier sent back a message: “See you in Boston.”
Our captain immediately went out on deck to take a look at the prize we’d just captured. Yep, it was a regular, plain-looking torpedo on the outside—nothing much could be said about it. But our scientists back in the States would want to dissect it to see what latest technology the Nazis were using inside their torpedoes.
The journey back to the States took several days, during which time we went through a big storm and even got lost part of the way (that’s another story). After traveling thousands of miles, we finally arrived off the coast of Massachusetts and let the Boston skyline welcome us on that day in late March 1944.
Once in Boston harbor, as we leisurely headed toward the dock to deliver our captured trophy to the labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the navy yard became a spectacle of activity around us. Army troops with rifles and fixed bayonets piled out of trucks and lined up all along the dock, ready to escort our POWs. Navy ambulances quickly pulled up and parked, their medical staff assembling nearby, ready to take the wounded German prisoners. Yard personnel and crewmembers from other ships began to cheer as soon as they noticed us, and several other vessels sounded their horns as we passed. It was the middle of the day, and just about everyone had stopped what they were doing to figure out why all this activity revolved around the approaching destroyer.
When the Corry finally moored, from the back of the bridge our captain signaled to the navy yard crane operator that he had something to be picked up and moved off of the ship. As the entire yard stood and watched the stretcher-bound prisoners being escorted off by army troops, everyone also eagerly waited to see just what the slow-moving navy yard crane was going to take from the Corry.
Just as the crane maneuvered into position above the canvas-covered torpedo, our captain asked a couple of sailors down on deck, “Did you do what I asked you to?” They gladly smiled and said yes. He then gave the signal, and they swiftly removed the tarp that had been hiding the torpedo, like a magician revealing his grand finale for all the audience to marvel at. (Under the captain’s direction, the men had rehearsed this move several times until they got it just right.)
Our prize was now revealed for all to view in plain sight. As the crane slowly picked it up and moved it onto the dock in front of a horde of cheering laborers, the entire Boston navy yard could now see that the USS Corry had just captured a latest and greatest Nazi torpedo for American research scientists to devour! But what they didn’t know was that our captain had told the sailors to paint the big swastikas on this previously plain-looking torpedo! (He was quite good at making a big show of an otherwise inconspicuous event.)
was loaded onto a big truck and carted off to MIT under armed escort.
Although we were finally back in port after a long sea duty, the captain
announced over the bullhorn that the entire crew would not be allowed to
leave the ship for at least two hours. Only the yard office would have the
official account; he wanted to give the rest of the navy yard plenty of time
to speculate about the Corry’s adventures. “Let them make up the
story!” he said.
claims, our captain had the U-boat commander, who spoke very good English,
brought up to the bridge just as we came over the horizon toward the coast
of Massachusetts. Our skipper asked him if he knew what the skyline of
Boston looked like. He said yes, U-boat commanders had photographs of all
major American seaports and were required to memorize them. He knew what all
of our cities had looked like before they were bombed.
As he looked
out at the city skyline, in shock, the commander answered, “That’s Boston,
Massachusetts.” He could clearly see that all the buildings were still
standing. Nothing had been bombed; nothing was damaged.
“JEWS IN YOUR NAVY?”
Americans looked at each other and informed the Germans that, yes, it was
true—the American navy allows Jews. “In fact, we even have a couple of Jews
on this ship!” they told the POWs.
Stories from the book
Corry: A D-Day Survivor's Stories About the Destroyer that Led the Normandy
Invasion by Kevin McKernon
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