Monday, January 11, 2021

Blastoffjorden Act 1 --- Scene 1


We are now far removed in time and distance from the imagineered Norwegian village of Blastoffheim behind me. Its quiet and picturesque fjord to my left has been here for millennia. At times it has been buried in deep ice, sailed by Viking long ships and in the modern era brimmed with merchantmen and fishing trawlers going about the peaceful business of commerce and feeding families. For the next two days though, a new and unwelcome change will occur affecting lives and circumstances for many when The Second World War arrived here on this....

Date: August 13, 1943
Location: Blastoffjorden, Norway {Imagineered}
Weather: 88° Fahrenheit, westerly light winds, calm sea
Situation: Arrival of Argonaut
Click on photos to enlarge them

ACT 1 --- SCENE 1

German Merchant ship Argonaut
Entering the eastern end of Blastoffjorden, Norway

Guided in by a pilot boat.

"Kapitäin Driessen, the pilot boat has taken us as far into Blasttoffjorden as possible. There is a whitish shoal close to starboard of the dock. It was not on our navigation chart."

"Josef, I've seen it. We'll head in by the bow docking on our port side clearing the shoal." 

"Kurt, I don't think this place will be good to us."

"Well Tiny, it is flanked by mountains. Allied pilots will have trouble finding us way up here plus avoiding our numerous flak batteries ashore. Besides if we sink, land is close by, eh? We merely jump off, swim a bit and sit out the war fishing." 

"Whatever you say, Kurt."

Detachment Nordhimmel arriving in Blastoffheim.

"Just in time Colonel von Schill. Here comes Argonaut. She made good time. Encouraging."

"We must demand that the crew unloads quickly so we can retrieve our unique supplies and depart. We're highly vulnerable if allied aircraft arrive from Scotland or the sea and...."

"I wish we had more than this lone ancient armoured car and its machine gun to protect the ship. All the best equipment has been going to the Eastern Front."

Argonaut tieing up.

"Take the slack out of the line."

"Hold the line. --- Avast!"

"Where is Colonel von Schill?"

"He's aboard the freighter telling the captain a thing or two."

"Welcome to Blastoffheim "Kapitäin Driessen. A fast passage?"

"Ja. No Allied warships or aircraft found us due to thick cloud cover and rain most of the way from Kiel. Now that the weather is clearing, Allied reconnaissance planes will unfortunately  have good visibility for the next few days."

"How soon then can my cargo be offloaded?"

"We'll start unloading within the hour finishing tomorrow. Afterwards you can be on your way and we can be at sea again in the evening. Furthermore...."

"Kapitäin, there is commotion on the starboard side."

"Alarm! --- Alarm!

"Allied reconnaissance floatplane at two o'clock above the clouds."
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Blastoffjorden: Act 1 --- Scene 2

Date: August 14, 1943, 0600 hours
Location: Blastoffjorden, Norway {Imagineered}
Weather: 83° Fahrenheit, westerly wind rising, choppy sea
Situation: Torpedo Squadron #2's Mission

ACT 1 --- SCENE 2

USN Aircraft Carrier Ranger sailing with the British Home Fleet off northern Norway. Their mission: Disrupt German merchant traffic sailing along the coast and/or within fjords. Ranger's deck is cleared waiting for the return of Torpedo Squadron #2's Devastator Torpedo planes, Dive Bomber Squadron #3's Dauntlesses and Wildcat fighter escorts now en-route to Blastoffjorden.

Four Douglas TBD-1 Devastator Torpedo Bombers

"Chafee to Torpedo 2. Climb to 4,000 feet to clear the low mountain range ahead. Blastoffjorden will come into view when we are over the summit."

"But Skipper, I was going to throw out a fishing line if we flew any closer to the deck."

"Hey Nagel, you're from Nevada. There aren't any fish in the desert. Besides, you don't know how to fish."

"Ever heard of Lake Mead Simcoe?"

"This is Chafee. Save the fishing chatter for Scapa Flow when we get back. Meanwhile, avoid treetops and keep looking for German ships and aircraft." 

"Buckley to Chafee."

"Go ahead Buck."

"Where's our Wildcat fighter escort?

"The cats launched after us. They should catch up pretty soon with their faster speed."

"Hope so Skipper. Harrison, my rear gunner, doesn't see them behind us yet." 

As Torpedo 2 passed over the mountain barrier, the commander said, "Chafee to Torpedo 2. Welcome to Blastoffjorden boys. Enemy freighter in sight. Let's go down to pay our respects."

"Hey Nagel. See if you can snag this one."

"This is Buck. Two bogeys at five o'clock. We're spotted."

"Americanische torpedo bombers at 2 o'clock. Follow me Gunther. Stay off my right wing and do what I do. Keep an eye out for enemy fighters too."

"Ja Herr Leutnant Zeiss."

German merchant ship Wilhelmina

"Alarm! Steer to port. Schnell! Those are torpedo planes. Man the machine gun."

"We are as good as sunk Kapitäin if the Luftwaffe does not arrive in time. Our puny machine gun won't do much!"

The four Devastators soon dropped to the deck.

"All four planes are headed right for us and have launched torpedoes. Mein Gott!"

"Well done men. Torpedoes running true. The Kraut fighters are almost on us. Rear gunners fire when ready."

"Enemy fire com'n in! Tracers all over the place," shouted Nagel. "Buckley is hit."

"Hang on Buck!"

"This is Buckley. My engine is wrecked and we're smok'n."

"Ditch near shore Buck. The resistance is active in these parts. They'll help you."

"We'll never make it that far Boss. We're going down and will have to swim for it".

"Good luck Buck."

"See you guys after the war. I'll buy beers for all of you in Milwaukee."

"You're on Buck!"

"Torpedo 2. Bank to starboard."

"Keep turning right and head for home. Somehow we're being pursued by only one Me-109 fighter and it overshot us. The other appears to be flying away. Maybe we hit that one."

One torpedo barely missed the Wilhelmina's bow because the ship had been veering to port. The other three would strike home.

Two fish seemed to only lightly damage the freighter. The third bounced off. She started on fire.

Buckley's Devastator eventually nosed into the fjord and disappeared. He and Harrison abandoned the plane and swam for the closest shore. It was not too far away. 

Leutnant Zeiss in the only 109 still actively engaged silently said, "That rookie Gunther fired wildly jamming his ammunition belts leaving me alone to fight the Americans. Alright then. One to three odds isn't that bad for me. An immelmann and I'll get one."

Zeiss fired but results did not down the Devastator.

"Nothing but a few parts flew off and now I'm very low on ammunition. Time to break off. Maybe the American will not make it back to wherever he came from."

"Chafee to flight. That Kraut's abandoned the fight. Fly at your best speed back to Ranger. Keep looking for more bogeys."

"Skipper, where the hell did our fighter escorts go? We might not have lost Buckley!"

"I'll see to it Nagel. I know how you feel. Now stay alert."

"Skipper. Nagel here. I'm losing speed but think I can make it back to Ranger.

"We'll keep you company. Hang in there."

Elsewhere Zeiss flew to the crippled Wilhelmina. She was dead in the water but apparently not sinking. Time would tell. He looked in the direction of the downed enemy torpedo plane but it was gone. In moments he followed Gunther back to base thinking how best to teach the new pilot to better control his trigger finger. Upon reflection, Gunther probably had it already figured out by now.

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Blastoffjorden Act 2 --- Scene 3

Date: August 14, 1943, 0630 hours
Location: Blastoffjorden, Norway {Imagineered}
Weather: 81° Fahrenheit, westerly wind rising, choppy sea
Situation: Dive Bomber Squadron #3's Mission

ACT 2 --- SCENE 3

Four Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless Dive Bombers escorted
by two Grumman F4F-3A Wildcats flying top cover

"St. Julian to Bomber 3. Cloud cover dissipating. Blastoffjorden entrance below. Time to find the freighter spotted by our PBY yesterday docked at Blastoffheim. It should eventually be visible at eleven o'clock."

"Wildcat 1. Vinny, can you see the port?"

"Jules, this is Wildcat 1. Negative, but Henry just spotted a pair of bogeys flying on the deck right of center in the fjord. He thinks they're Me-109s. You might be able to see them any second."

"This is Utah. I don't see them."

"Russo here. Me neither."

Eddie said, "I caught a glimpse before they passed under the clouds. They're flying away. I doubt they saw us way up here blocked the clouds." 

"Our cats will stay with you Jules unless the Krauts come up for you."

"Affirmative Vinny. There could be other enemy fighters around. Meanwhile, let's find our target at Blastoffheim. St. Julian out."


Argonaut Unloading Cargo

"What did you say Tiny?"

"I asked, did you hear faint explosions down the fjord?"

"Not me. Too much noise with the crane and winch motor. C'mon let's finish."

Forward hold unloaded and ready to secure.
The aft hold was another matter.

"What is the problem Uwe?"

"The winch motor shorted out. Useless. I'm going for the spare now."

"How much time before it is operational again?"

"Under two hours, less if things go well,  Kapitäin."

"Bend it on in half that time. This cargo has to go ashore fast. There is trouble down fjord maybe coming here. Sparks got an SOS from the Wilhelmina. She was torpedoed by allied planes, is afire, foundered and sinking. The crew lowered boats and is rowing ashore."


"Wildcat 1, Vinny what do you see below?"

"Cat 1 here, Jules. A freighter badly on fire."

"Flames are shooting out, heavy smoke, hung up on rocks and sinking by the stern."

"That's Torpedo 2's doing. C'mon back up."

"Will do. --- Vinny out."

Twenty minutes later Blastoffheim came into view. The freighter reported by the PBY yesterday was still docked. St. Julian, the commander of Bomber 3 radioed first. 

"There she is boys. One fat freighter riding high in the water. Bomber 3 form line astern and follow me down. Cat 1, keep watching in case the Luftwaffe shows up again."

"Bomber 3. There's a cloud bank coming in from the right. My wingman, Henry, thought he saw a bogey darting in and out of it coming our way. We're already descending to look."

"Okay Cat 1. If anything appears, keep 'em away from us."

"Roger that Bomber 3. Henry, follow me. Vinny out."

"Bomber 3. This is Cat 1 again. Two 109s are headed up toward you. We'll engage."

"Cat 1. Are they the same 109s?" 


"Okay Vinny. Good luck. --- St Julian out."

Meanwhile, when Argonaut's crew heard and spotted incoming allied planes, their anti-aircraft guns were manned and loaded. The armoured car ashore also sprang into action.

The aft gun though not necessarily designed to engage aircraft could propel a shell and shock wave that if close enough, could knock down a plane.

The armoured car hoped to contribute to the mayhem. Everyone wondered why there were no flak batteries in position.

While the commander of Operation Nordhimmel, Colonel von Schill, prudently retreated from the dock into the safety of the village.

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