L’Archimede in bacino di carenaggio a Bordeaux (g.c. Maurizio Brescia).
All’entrata in guerra dell’Italia, il sommergibile Archimede (un’unità di grande crociera della classe Brin, del dislocamento di 1016 t in superficie e 1266 in immersione, impostato nei cantieri Franco Tosi di Taranto il 23.12.1937, varato il 5.3.1939 ed entrato in servizio il 18.4.1939) era dislocato a Massaua, base navale nell’Africa Orientale Italiana (precisamente in Eritrea), in forza alla LXXXII Squadriglia Sommergibili. Nove giorni dopo la dichiarazione di guerra, il 19 giugno 1940, l’Archimede, al comando del tenente di vascello Mario Signorini (31 anni, da Roma), lasciò Massaua per la sua prima missione di guerra, un agguato nelle acque antistanti Gibuti in cooperazione con il sommergibile Perla, ma tale missione ebbe conclusione anticipata e drammatica: a bordo del sommergibile si verificarono infatti perdite di cloruro di metile, un gas incolore impiegato come gas refrigerante negli impianti di condizionamento (che, nel torrido clima del Mar Rosso, con temperature ben oltre i 30° C e tassi di umidità superiori al 90 %, dovevano essere tenuti continuamente in funzione, specie su unità con spazi angusti e scarso ricambio d’aria quali erano i sommergibili) ma altamente tossico (oltre che cancerogeno) in caso di inalazione: gli effetti andavano dallo stordimento ed intontimento alla depressione, alla perdita parziale o totale di conoscenza, all’inappetenza, all’euforia ed alla smania distruttiva e persino omicida, alle allucinazioni, a danni al sistema nervoso, alla follia, fino anche alla morte. Problemi all’impianto di condizionamento erano già stati rilevati prima ancora dell’entrata in guerra, ma l’improvviso ordine di partenza aveva impedito di completare i lavori di riparazione. Non era passato neanche un giorno dalla partenza da Massaua, quando alcuni uomini vennero colti da malore; dapprima non si riuscì a capire la causa di quelli che apparivano sintomi di avvelenamento. La situazione andò peggiorando, ed il quarto giorno i sistemi di condizionamento dell’aria dovette essere disattivato. Due ufficiali e parecchi sottufficiali e marinai vennero colti da colpi di calore, molti altri, sempre di più, iniziarono a manifestare i sintomi dell’avvelenamento. La maggior parte dell’equipaggio fu colpita dagli effetti del cloruro di metile: dapprima depressione e svenimenti, poi inappetenza, poi atteggiamenti maniacali ed euforia, seguiti da allucinazioni e per ultima una frenesia distruttiva ed omicida che per alcuni fu anticamera della morte. L’Archimede dovette trascorrere le ore diurne posato sul fondale nei pressi dello stretto di Bab el Mandeb.
|7 maggio 1941: dopo oltre due mesi di navigazione, l’Archimede, proveniente da Massaua, arriva a Bordeaux (Coll. Erminio Bagnasco via Maurizio Brescia). Durante il secondo conflitto mondiale l’Archimede effettuò sette missioni di guerra, percorrendo 43.847 miglia in superficie e 2058 in immersione e trascorrendo in mare 277 giorni.|
Il 3 marzo 1941, in vista dell’ormai inevitabile caduta dell’Africa Orientale Italiana, accerchiata ed invasa dalle truppe del Commonwealth e priva di ogni possibilità di rifornimento, l’Archimede lasciò Massaua diretto a Bordeaux, città francese sede della base atlantica italiana di Betasom: dopo aver circumnavigato l’Africa, il sommergibile arrivò a Bordeaux il 7 maggio 1941, ed iniziò così un periodo di operatività per quella base, che si protrasse sino alla primavera del 1943. Durante la sua attività in Atlantico l’Archimede ottenne due successi, il 16 giugno 1942, quando silurò ed affondò il piroscafo panamense Cardina da 5586 tsl, ed il 9 ottobre 1942, quando silurò ed affondò il transatlantico britannico Oronsay da ben 20.043 tsl (la seconda nave, in ordine di grandezza, mai affondata da un sommergibile italiano), in uso come trasporto truppe.
|L’Archimede in Atlantico, probabilmente all’inizio dell’estate 1941 (g.c. STORIA militare)|
|Un’altra foto dell’Archimede scattata nella medesima occasione (g.c. STORIA militare)|
Il 26 febbraio 1943 l’Archimede, al comando del tenente di vascello Guido Saccardo, partì da Bordeaux per quella che sarebbe stata la sua ultima missione. A bordo vi erano quattro giovani ufficiali appena imbarcati (il tenente del Genio Navale Direzione Macchine Bruno Miani e il sottotenente della medesima specialità Camillo Boteschi, rispettivamente primo e secondo ufficiale di macchina, entrambi triestini, il guardiamarina genovese Carlo Greppi e l’aspirante padovano Italo Sandrin) e venti nuovi ed inesperti sottocapi e marinai, reclute appena arrivate dalla Scuola Sommergibili di Pola, che non sembrarono adeguatamente addestrate (Lo Coco, che era stato tra i membri dell’equipaggio incaricati di addestrare i nuovi arrivati prima di partire per la missione, era infatti infastidito dal fatto che ci fossero sempre nuove reclute da addestrare a terra ed a bordo). Anche un altro degli ufficiali era al suo primo imbarco sull’Archimede, il guardiamarina palermitano Diego La Licata, appena trasferito dal sommergibile Ammiraglio Cagni. Altri 25 sottufficiali e marinai erano invece dei sommergibilisti veterani, ma di questi solo cinque o sei, tra cui Giuseppe Lo Coco, erano i membri dell’originario equipaggio dell’Archimede, che aveva portato il battello dall’Eritrea alla Francia. Prima della partenza, l’equipaggio venne benedetto e ricevette la comunione dallo stesso prete che per ultimo era stato visto dall’equipaggio del sommergibile Ferraris prima che quell’unità partisse per la missione in cui sarebbe stata affondata, oltre un anno prima. Lo Coco disse poi che gli uomini dell’Archimede ebbero una “premonizione” della loro sorte, e salutarono il prete esclamando “Non ci vedremo più, andiamo a morire”.
|L’Archimede (a sinistra) ed il Leonardo Da Vinci fotografati a Bordeaux nel febbraio 1943, prima di partire per quella che per entrambi sarà l’ultima missione (foto da www.silenthunter.forumfree.it)|
Dopo l’affondamento, l’idrovolante 83-P-12 effettuò due passaggi sorvolando a bassa quota i naufraghi, ed ad ogni passaggio gettò vicino a loro una zattera di gomma da 7 posti; anche l’83-P-5 compì un sorvolo gettando un’altra zattera in gomma da sette posti vicino ai superstiti (la zattera ammarò in mezzo ai naufraghi). Quest’ultimo velivolo rimase in zona per quasi due ore dal suo primo attacco con le bombe. Lo Coco disse che il primo aereo aveva mitragliato gli uomini in acqua prima di gettare una zattera. (I mitraglieri Kloss e Burggraff del Catalina 83-P-5 dissero in un’intervista di essere stati “fortemente tentati” di mitragliare i naufraghi in acqua, ma che fu loro ordinato di non sparare.) Delle tre zattere buttate dagli aerei, i sopravvissuti dell’Archimede riuscirono a recuperarne solo due: Lo Coco dovette nuotare per circa cento metri per raggiungerle, poi le gonfiò, ne legò una all’altra per rimorchiarla e remò in direzione degli altri naufraghi. Su una delle due zattere, quella di Lo Coco, salirono in tutto tredici uomini (lui compreso), tra cui il comandante Saccardo, il comandante in seconda Suriano, il sottotenente di vascello Magnano ed il guardiamarina Carlo Greppi, l’unico altro ufficiale superstite; sull’altra zattera presero posto sei marinai.
INTERROGATION OF PRESUMABLY SOLE SURVIVOR
FROM ARCHIMEDE SUNK 15 APRIL 1943
26 July 1943
Chapter I. INTRODUCTORY REMARKS
The Italian submarine Archimede was sunk at 1625 P on 15 April, 1943 at 03° 23' D., 30° 28' W. by two U.S. Navy PBY-5A aircraft (83-P-5 and 83-P-12) based at Natal, Brazil. Thirty or 40 survivors were seen in the water after the attack; three rubber rafts were dropped near the survivors which were seen manning them. But, according to the sole prisoner of war from Archimede [Giuseppe Lo Coco], only two rafts were successfully manned, one by 13 survivors and the other by six.
Apparently, on the 29th day after the sinking, one raft with a sole survivor washed ashore on the Island of Bailique near the western shore of the Amazon River. The survivor was found delirious and very weak by natives, who transported him to the nearby Island of Brigue. Some days after the prisoner had sufficiently recovered, it was discovered by the natives that he was Italian and a member of Archimede's crew. The Brazilian naval authorities in Belem were notified of the survivor's presence. The prisoner arrived in Belem 6 June, 1943, aboard a Brazilian gunboat. He was interned incommunicado at the Brazilian naval base, from which he was forwarded to the United States by air and arrived at an interrogation center 27 June, 1943.
It is pointed out that this report is based mainly on the story of one survivor and that its accuracy cannot be fully established. Unfortunately, no other Italian naval prisoner was available to test the sole survivor's story. The prisoner did not appear at all security conscious. In fact he was anti-Fascist and loathed the Germans. He was a Sicilian, 26 years old, with only three years of elementary schooling. He was conscripted in 1939 and had been four years in the submarine service. He appeared of about average intelligence but his memory with respect to dates and technical features of his submarine was limited -- perhaps affected by his 29 days' ordeal.
The prisoner and the aerial action reports both conform the certain destruction of Archimede. There has been no success in the search for other survivors, and it is believed that all the others perished at sea.
Chapter II. CREW OF ARCHIMEDE
According to the prisoner Archimede had a complement of 60 officers and men. Her commanding officer was Tenente di Vascello* Guido Saccardo, a Neapolitan, 29 years old. He was commissioned 10 January, 1936, and received his latest rank five years later. His first assignment was a torpedo boat. He served in the Spanish Civil War campaign. Since Italy's entry into the present war he had served on destroyers; his last ship before volunteering for submarine service was the destroyer Lanciera [Lanciere], which was later sunk [il 23 marzo 1942, in una tempesta, di ritorno dalla seconda battaglia della Sirte; per quel tempo, comunque, Saccardo era già sbarcato]. On her he had been second in command and acted as fire control officer. But, he had told the prisoner, she had done nothing in the Mediterranean except escort a few convoys so that he had become disgusted with her inactivity. After a short course at the commander's school at Pola he went overland to Bordeaux where he relieved Capitano di Corvetta Gianfrancesco Gazzana Priaroggia, a Milanese, of the command of Archimede in August or September 1942. According to the prisoner, Saccardo was a kind, easy-going officer and very well liked by his officers and crew, but there was considerable friction between him and Tenente di Vascello Zuliani [in realtà Suriano], his Executive Officer. Saccardo was inexperienced in submarine service, gave orders poorly particularly with regard to torpedo firing and crash diving. The prisoner related that on the occasion of the sinking of Oronsay during the eleventh cruise, his commander caused the sub to plummet down about 40 metres at a diving angle of 45 degrees before bringing her under control. Then, at periscope depth, he missed the target with his first torpedo, so that Zuliani took over the firing of the next four torpedoes. Saccardo was very popular with his men because he had arranged for a refund of money charged his crew for double rations at the Bordeaux base. Immediately after the sinking of Archimede he encourage the survivors and kept them together. He appeared calm and resigned to his fate. The sinking, according to the prisoner, was attributed by Zuliani to the commander's youth and inexperience.
The Executive Officer was Tenente di Vascello Zuliani from Padua. (O.N.I. Note: The only probable choice in the Italian Navy List is an Alberto Zuliani, Settetenente in the Reserve Port Captains' Corps, commissioned 12 October, 1939.) [In realtà, “Zuliani” altro non è che la trascrizione errata di “Suriano”, il cognome del comandante in seconda dell’Archimede, Ennio Suriano; il suo cognome, evidentemente, venne pronunciato o capito erroneamente durante l’interrogatorio.] He had joined Archimede at Bordeaux before her eleventh cruise. Previously he had been on a midget sub on the Black Sea. He supervised some of Archimede's exercises outside of Bordeaux between her next to the last and final cruises. He was the first watch officer. The prisoner stated that Zuliani was extremely unpopular with the crew, effeminate, critical and cantankerous. He always wanted three or four orderlies to serve him coffee, cold cream, or pomade for his hair. He was the only officer who attempted stern discipline with the crew. While in a feverish condition after the sinking he was very critical of Saccardo's ability and stated that the latter was entirely responsible for their disaster.
Capitano Direzione Macchine Lorenzo Ferrari [un altro nome pronunciato, capito o trascritto erroneamente: si trattava in realtà di Franco Firrao], a Neopolitan, 33 years old, was the Chief Engineer Officer. He was evidently very capable and well liked. When the order to abandon ship was given, he held many of the crew below at the point of a gun and said, "If our sub sinks, we die with her". According to the prisoner most of the 35 crew members who did not succeed in leaving the submarine were held below by Ferrari.
The gunnery officer was Sottotenente di Vascello Tommaso Magnani [in realtà Magnano], a Genoese, 30 years old, who was on the inactive list according to the Italian Navy List of November 1940. He had served in the Spanish Civil War campaign. The prisoner stated that Magnani had been a navigation officer in the Merchant Marine and that he had been drafted to submarine service in the late summer of 1942. He had, admittedly, no knowledge of gunnery. Still he was officer in charge of many gunnery exercises on Archimede between the next to the last and final cruises. The prisoner stated that Magnani stood by with arms folded near the forward deck gun during the plane attack leading to the sinking. The ineffectiveness of the forward deck gun during this attack was ascribed by the prisoner to Magnani's complete inexperience. He was quoted as having said, "I hope we submerged soon and get out of this mess". He was popular, however, with both officers and men.
Sottotenente [in realtà tenente] Direzione Macchine Bruno Miani of Trieste, 28 years old, was the first Assistant Engineer Officer. He was young and inexperienced; his first cruise was the last cruise of Archimede. The second Assistant Engineering Officer was another young officer who had also joined the boat on her last cruise -- Sottotenente Direzione Macchine Boeschi [Camillo Boteschi], of Trieste. He and the other three junior officers were very well liked by the crew.
Guardiamarina Franco (?) [in realtà Carlo] Greppi, a Genoese, Guardiamarina Alicata [Diego La Licata; sottotenente GN, equivalente al grado di guardiamarina degli ufficiali di vascello] of Palermo, and Aspirante Sandri [Italo Sandrin; in realtà un guardiamarina e non un aspirante] of Padua were the junior watch officers. They, too, had joined Archimede on her final cruise. Alicata had transferred from Cagni just before Archimede's last cruise.
The prisoner stated that his boat had had five commanders during her life span. Saccardo had taken over from Tenente di Vascello Gazzana. (O.N.I. Note: According to Italian Press notices Gazzana was promoted to Capitano di Corvette in May 1943.) Gazzana made two cruises on Archimede -- the second and third cruises out of Bordeaux. According to the prisoner, the only success during these two cruises were two torpedo hits on an American cruiser of the Pensacola class [in realtà fu attaccato senza risultato l’incrociatore USS Moffett] and the sinking of an American ship of 6,000 tons [il Cardina]. Prior to joining Archimede Gazzana had gone to the commanders' school at Danzig for a three-months' course. The prisoner considered him a good officer and a good commander. This opinion was shared by all the men. Gazzana, an ex-boxer, used to box with his men and playfully manhandle them. He was lenient with an efficient crew, but stern with a spiritless or sloppy crew.
While Archimede was awaiting orders to leave Massawa for Bordeaux, Capitano di Corvette Marino Salvatori arrived by air from Rome 10 days before her famous trip.* He took her successfully to Bordeaux and commanded her on her first war cruise out of the French port in September or October 1941. After this he returned to Rome where he was given a shore assignment in the Navy Ministry. The prisoner stated that Salvatori was a Count and as such received double pay. This extra pay he shared with his crew. Salvatori was popular with his men and was a good naval officer.
According to the prisoner, Tenente di Cascello Mario Signorini, who preceded Salvatori, was unqualified and much below the average naval officer. After her acceptance trials, Signorini was given command of Archimede and sailed her from Taranto to Massawa. Operating out of this East African base he made three peace time cruises and seven war cruises until the advent of Salvatori in March or April 1941.
According to the prisoner there was a fine family spirit on board Archimede; officers and men were very friendly except for Zuliani who attempted to be a severe disciplinarian. On the last cruise the crew included 25 new ratings freshly arrived from the Pola submarine school. The prisoner and 25 other ratings were veteran submarine men; but of these only five or six had made the trip from East Africa to France. The prisoner complained that there were constantly new ratings to instruct ashore and aboard.
The sole survivor, Giuseppe Lococo [Lo Coco], was a Sottocapo Nostromo (Coxswain, 3cl.), who had been conscripted in 1938 and had been in submarine service since joining Archimede in January 1939. He described his duties as being a four hour daily watch on the conning tower, the operation of the horizontal rudder mechanism in the control room, and loading the forward deck gun. The prisoner called his boat "una carcassa" (an old hulk). In speaking of the commissioning exercises the prisoner expressed the wish that he had never had the honor of raising Archimede's flag nor received a billet on her.
When Italy entered the war in June 1940, there were two submarine flotillas at Massawa, consisting of the submarines listed below:
1. Ferraris, Galelei [Galilei], Archimede, and Torricelli.
2. Perla, Macalle, Galvani and Guglielmotti.
Archimede made seven war cruises out of Massawa all under the command of Tenente di Vascello Signorini. The prisoner stated that Capitano di Corvetta Livio Piomarta never made a cruise on Archimede out of Massawa. (O.N.I. Note: Piomarta commanded Archimede on one cruise out of Massawa, according to survivors of Ferraris; see C.B. 4093 (8), p.6)
FIRST WAR CRUISE
On the morning of 10 June, 1940, she was in the roadstead of Massawa harbor. She was ordered to leave immediately and to operate off the lower entrance of the Suez canal for 40 days. But she was out only 15 days because early one day they were sighted and attacked by six destroyers. She remained submerged for twenty-four hours during intermittent depth charge attacks. The air refrigerating tubes were broken; resultant gas killed six of the crew and temporarily crazed the others except the officers in the control room, who had shut its water tight doors. Ventilators also kept it free of gas. After all danger of further attack had passed, the officers surfaced the submarine and cleared the compartments of gas. The boat returned to Massawa where the crew was hospitalized for five months. They were then sent to a rest camp at Asmara for 15 days.
With Salvatori still as her commander, Archimede left Bordeaux for a forty days' cruise 10 October, 1941, a few days before the departure of Ferraris. Both had the same operating zone off Gibraltar. She was near the scene of the sinking of Ferraris; they had arrived in the zone 21 October, 1941. At dawn 25 October, 1941, she sighted six enemy destroyers. She immediately submerged and soon heard the "pinging" of Asdic Search Gear on her hull. The destroyers depth-charged her from 0800 to 1300 and from 1400 to 2100. The prisoner heard 66 depth charge explosions. Her deck flooring was completely smashed, all lights were blown out, fuel tanks leaked, pumps were put out of order, the glass on instruments was demolished, manometers were crippled, and some torpedo tubes were leaking. Other than that the prisoner said that his boat survived the attacks very well! She continued to operate about 600 miles west of Gibraltar. Before the attack she had operated close to Gibraltar at night, but during the day she had remained a considerable distance away. She returned without any further incident to Bordeaux 17 November, 1941, for two months' repairs. She was laid up in Dry Dock No. 1. The crew was given 22 days' leave, at the end of which the prisoner with half of the crew was sent to an Italian rest camp near Bordeaux, where they had gun firing exercises and received instruction in their particular branches. Salvatori left Archimede and went to Rome for a shore job. Capitano di Corvetta Giuseppe Cardi, second in command of the base, assumed responsibility for the boat.
The prisoner was left ashore on this cruise. His estimates of its length varied from forty to sixty days. He believed that his boat with Gazzana still as commander left Bordeaux early May 1942. During this month the prisoner had fifteen days' leave to visit his sick father in Palermo. While there he hears the Italian radio broadcast Gazzana's claim of two torpedo hits on an American cruiser of the Pensacola class. (O.N.I. Note: No cruiser of this class was even in the Atlantic at this time.) [in realtà l’Archimede aveva attaccato infruttuosamente l’incrociatore statunitense Milwaukee scortato dal cacciatorpediniere USS Moffett] At the end of May the prisoner was back in Bordeaux; twenty days later Archimede returned flying one small pennant for the sinking of an armed steamer of 6,000 tons. (O.N.I. Note: According to an Italian Bulletin of 25 June, 1942, this ship was sunk the day after the Pensacola action.) [si trattava del piroscafo Cardina] The prisoner was also told by crew members about the two torpedo hits on the American cruiser. Gazzana had not been able to see the results because he had been immediately attacked by destroyers, screening the cruiser, which had launched twenty-nine depth charges at the submerged submarine. Her electrical installations had been seriously disrupted, and there were also various internal damages. These necessitated over a month's repairs. Gazzana left Archimede in August 1942. Tenente di Vascello Guido Saccardo had come from Naples overland to Bordeaux to relieve him. Saccardo had previously been in the Mediterranean on a destroyer. The crew remained ashore during Archimede's repairs.
Chapter IX. ELEVENTH WAR CRUISE
Archimede left for a sixty day's cruise approximately 11 September, 1942, with Saccardo as her commanding officer. Her mission was to operate in a triangular zone off Freetown described as follows: the base was along the equator from 13° W. to 22° W., the apex was at 09° N., 18° W., the two sides were the lines from the ends of the base to the apex. The prisoner claimed that, leaving Le Verdon, she followed a course as far as Cape Finistère and from Cape Finistère through the Canaries to her zone. Before reaching it she sighted only two Spanish ships. After cruising in her zone for a few days, she sighted Oronsay early 9 October, 1942. Saccardo fired the first torpedo and missed. Zuliani, his Executive Officer, took over and made a hit with the second torpedo. The prisoner stated that three more torpedoes were fired, one of them by a torpedo rating, Santalamazza [Aldo Santolamazza], which actually sank the ship. The rating lost his diploma as expert torpedoman, because he had fired prematurely at the ready command. (O.N.I. Note: Oronsay was a British cargo and passenger ship, 20,043 tons, torpedoed without warning at 0515, 9 October, 1942, at estimated position 04° 29' N., 20° 58' W. She sank at 1815, after receiving three torpedo hits.) The prisoner stated that his boat took no other offensive action. She returned to her base between 11 and 20 November, 1942. Repairs in dry dock were necessary. The crew received a month's leave, after which some had gunnery practice on a range outside of Bordeaux while others including the prisoner instructed new ratings from Pola aboard Archimede. The prisoner celebrated both Christmas and New Year's Eve in Bordeaux by getting drunk.
Chapter X. TWELFTH AND LAST WAR CRUISE
The beginning of this cruise was marked by the advent of four new young officers and twenty five "green" ratings from Pola of whose training the prisoner had a low opinion. The prisoner stated that, before leaving, the crew was shrived and received communion from the same priest that was seen by Ferraris at the beginning of her last war cruise. The prisoner also said that the crew had a premonition of their impending fate for they bade farewell to the priest exclaiming: "We shall not see each other again, we are going to our death." Together with Da Vinci and Bagnolini, Archimede left Bordeaux 14 February, 1943, for a four months' cruise. Prisoner stated that his boat developed motor trouble before reaching Le Verdon and turned back. At 0500, 15 February she set out again preceded by a pilot vessel to Le Verdon. From this point a minesweeper about 100 meters ahead of her took up the van flanked by two German destroyers with planes overhead. The minesweeper exploded two mines near the entrance of the Gironde. The escort left Archimede after one day. It took her six days and nights to traverse the danger zone of the Bay of Biscay. During this period she travelled submerged from 0800 to 2000, from 2000 to 0800 she continued on the surface. Twenty five days out of Bordeaux she arrived in her operating zone. This was described as a tri-angle: one leg 500 miles long from Pernambuco to St. Paul Rocks, the second leg 300 miles in a line NW from St. Paul Rocks, and the base was formed by the line joining the two legs. Five or six days before arriving in her zone, one Argentinean and two Spanish ships were sighted. She entered the operating zone approximately 12 March, 1943. She patrolled the zone without sighting any enemy shipping. At 2400, 14 April, the prisoner saw plainly the lighthouse of San Fernando de Noronha. They continued on a course toward St. Paul Rocks.
While on patrol, stern torpedo tube No. 7 was found to be leaking badly, the torpedo was removed and the tube flooded.
Chapter XI. SINKING OF ARCHIMEDE
The prisoner's story is at variance in a number of facts with the aerial reports so that it is considered advisable to submit both.
THE AERIAL ACTION REPORT.
An Italian submarine was sighted at 1510 P, April, 1943, by a U.S. Navy PBY-5A (83-P-5) of Squadron VP-83 based on Natal, Brazil. The weather was good, visibility varied from 10 miles to unlimited at an altitude of 7,300 feet. The submarine was fully surfaced and was sighted dead ahead at a range of 8 miles and on opposite course making 5/7 knots. The plane pilot held his course and altitude to a point about aft of the submarine. About that time the latter opened machine gun fire. The plane made a gradual turn to starboard and lost about 1,000 feet altitude. The pilot decided to make a horizontal bombing run at 6,000 feet and drop from his starboard wing two Mark-44 bombs carrying Mark-19 nose fuzes. Gunfire from the enemy boat had not ceased. At an altitude of 6,000 feet and at a range of about one half mile, it appeared that the submarine was about to submerge. The plane immediately dove at an angle of about 60° and at about 2,000 feet released all 4 bombs including 2 Mark-44 bombs on the port wing equipped only with hydrostatic fuzes set for a 25 foot depth.
The bombs from the starboard wing were seen to explode close aboard and to port of the boat about 20 feet abaft the conning tower. Those from the port wing exploded to starboard about 60 feet forward of the conning tower. The enemy continued to fire back throughout the run. Water thrown up by the explosions completely hid the submarine. When the water subsided, she was seen on the surface circling and apparently unable to go to starboard, and leaving a long streak of brown oil. Much dark grey smoke was coming directly from and aft of the conning tower; she appeared out of control doing 4/5 knots. About 15 or 20 minutes later the smoke cleared and she resumed a straight course bearing 065° - 080° T. Keeping her in sight the pilot climbed to about 6,000 feet and radioed to nearby planes for assistance. While the plane was circling around 6 miles away, puffs of smoke were observed from the enemy's forward deck gun - 10 rounds during 40 minutes before the arrival of a second plane.
Forty-five minutes after the first attack another PBY-5A (83-P-12) of the same squadron arrived on the scene. It had received a signal from the first plane and proceeded to the location indicated. Flying at 1,500 feet it sighted the submarine at a range of eight miles, fully surfaced but down at the stern with her after deck awash. Direct attack would have been beam on, but the plane flew around to the stern for a 180° target angle. The boat altered course to port during the plane's run, thus making a target angle of 210° at the instant of bomb release. At about 1,500 yards both plane and submarine opened fire, the enemy gun on the aft end of the conning tower firing about two rounds per second. In this first run the plane dropped a load of four bombs from an altitude of 50/100 feet; they were Mark-44 depth bombs set for sixty-five foot spacing and twenty-five foot depth. Explosions were observed along the port quarter and probably bracketed the hull just aft of the conning tower, the fourth on the starboard deck just aft of the conning tower. The same plane made four more runs circling to starboard. The submarine and plane exchanged gunfire during the bombing attack and the four subsequent strafing attacks.
The first plane combined with the second plane in two of the four strafing runs. She also made a third strafing run alone, during which the boat's bow was sticking out of the water at an angle of about 50°. Following the explosions caused by the bombs of the second plane the submarine settled gradually by its stern and the bow came up out of the water until it protruded at an angle of about 50°. She slid slowly down and backwards until completely under the surface. She sank at 1625 P, about 6 minutes after the last mentioned explosions. A considerable quantity of heavy brown oil appeared on the surface forming a 25' x 200' semi-circle over the spot of the sinking. One large burst of bubbles appeared as the bow slid under. There was no debris but approximately 30 or 40 survivors were in the water, one-third of whom appeared to be wearing Kapok life preservers or escape lungs.
The enemy exchanged gunfire during all the bombing and strafing runs of both planes. In fact, the gunner on the aft conning tower machine gun did not cease firing until the tower slid beneath the surface. The second plane observed many hits on and around the conning tower from its bow gun. This plane made two runs after the sinking, and dropped one 7-man rubber raft on each run close to the survivors. The first plane also made a run after the sinking to drop one 7-man rubber raft near the survivors. Following her initial bombing attack the first plane remained in the area almost two hours. At the end of the operation the survivors were seen manning the life rafts dropped. A plane searched in vain on the following day for the survivors.
The forward deck gun and the 37 mm. mounted machine gun on the aft part of the conning tower were ineffective, but a 50 calibre machine gun on top of the tower was more accurate and made 3 hits on one plane. The aft deck gun may have been blown off by explosions.
THE PRISONER'S STORY.
There was some clouds in the sky and the sun was low on the horizon when the first attacking plane appeared. The prisoner was in the aft torpedo compartment at 2000 on 15 April, 1943, when he heard the Executive Officer announce over the loudspeaker: "Plane sighted dead ahead." Immediately Saccardo gave orders to man the guns and to secure all watertight doors. The prisoner ran to his post at the forward deck gun. Magnani stood by with his arms folded and giving no orders but expressing the hope that the order to submerge would soon be given. All on deck were surprised that the first plane made an initial run over their boat without dropping any bombs. The submarine began evasive tactics but made no attempt to submerge. From a point aft of her the plane turned back for a run over the boat. It dropped two bombs, both missed but one dropped close to the forward starboard side. The concussion from the explosion was terrific, the outer and inner hatches of the forward hatchway were ripped open and away from their hinges, and a mountainous wall of water covered the entire boat. In fact, many of the survivors were sick from the quantity of sea water they swallowed during this cascade.
Because of the damage to the forward hatches Archimede was unable to submerge. The lighting installations had been smashed and one Diesel engine had been rendered inoperative. She continued on the surface following an evasive course. The plane in the meanwhile kept circling at a distance. The prisoner claimed that her guns did not fire during the attack nor before the appearance of the second plane. Fifteen minutes elapsed between the first and second attacks.
Suddenly out of a cloud about 1,000 meters away, a second plane appeared and made a run at low altitude over the submarine. It dropped two bombs which hit the pressure hull aft of the conning tower. One tore through the aft hatchway, and a sheet of flame burst from the oil deposit at the bottom of the hatchway. The four primed torpedoes in the aft tubes also exploded.
The explosions ripped a tremendous hole in the pressure hull, and the aft torpedo compartment hung like "a broken arm" from the rest of the boat. She plunged stern first beneath the surface with her bow high in the air. The prisoner was peppered by many small metal fragments in the second bomb attack. The Engineer Officer [Franco Firrao] at the point of a gun held many of the crew below. Twenty-five including the Commanding Officer succeeded in getting into the water free of the sinking submarine, but of these six were drowned either because of wounds or burns from flaming oil. The machine gun on the port side of the aft conning tower had been rendered useless during the first bombing attack, but the starboard machine gun manned by Sottocapo Motorista Votero [Ludovico Vottero, che era in realtà un sergente e non un sottocapo] continued to fire until the water reached his neck. He was badly wounded in one leg and died shortly after he was pulled aboard a raft. The prisoner protested that the first plane machine-gunned those in the water before dropping a rubber raft.
Three rubber rafts were dropped by the planes but only two were recovered. The prisoner swam about 100 meters to recover them. He inflated them, tied one in tow and rowed to the other survivors. One raft was manned by thirteen including the Captain, the Executive Officer, two junior officers (Greppi and Magnani) and the prisoner. In the other there were six ratings. The two rafts tied up together and drifted as the occupants were too weak to row. The prisoner stated that according to Greppi they were drifting toward the Antilles. On the day after the sinking as well as on the following day planes were seen circling around at a distance. Some of the survivors stood up and blew little whistles furnished in the rafts. They had practically no clothing for signaling. But they were never sighted. On the fifth day adrift, a steamer was sighted on the horizon but again no success attended their attempts to signal her attention. Again on the seventh day a steamer which Saccardo believed to be Argentinean, passed about 1,200 meters away at approximately 10 knots. Saccardo then transferred to the raft with six men, borrowed 2 oars from the first raft and set off in the direction of the ship. He promised to return for the remaining twelve survivors if he were successful. Nothing was seen or heard of the Commander and his companions after that. The prisoner doubted that Saccardo ever succeeded in reaching the ship. The prisoner's raft drifted on; the survivors one by one except for the prisoner died either from wounds, burns, hunger, thirst or from drinking too much sea water. Zuliani died two or three days before the rescue of the sole survivor. Only an occasional brief rain squall interrupted the intense heat of the day. The prisoner had a narrow escape on the twenty-eighth day adrift; the raft overturned throwing him into the water but the next wave righted the raft and threw him back into the raft. This incident reminded the prisoner that Zuliani before dying had assured him that he would be the sole survivor. On the twenty-ninth day after the sinking the raft washed ashore on the Island of Bailique near the Western shore of the Amazon River; the prisoner was found weak and delirious by two Brazilian fishermen.
Annex A. LIST OF CREW OF ARCHIMEDE
Tenente di Vascello
Zuliani, Alberto (?) [Suriano, Ennio]
Tenente di Vascello
Magnani, Tommaso [Magnano, Adolfo]
Sottotenente di Vascello (di complemento)
Lieutenant (j.g.) (Reserve)
Ferrari, Lorenzo [Firrao, Franco]
Tenente [in realtà capitano] Direzione Macchine (di complemento)
Lieut. (j.g.) (engineering duties only) (Reserve)
Sottotenente [in realtà tenente] Direzione Macchine (di complemento)
Ensign (engineering duties only) (Reserve)
Boeschi, [Boteschi, Camillo]
Sottotenente Direzione Macchine
Ensign (engineering duties only)
Greppi, Franco (?) [Greppi, Carlo]
Alicata, [La Licata, Diego]
Guardiamarina [sottotenente GN]
Sandri, [Sandrin, Italo]
Aspirants [in realtà guardiamarina]
Ruggiero, [Ruggeri, Silvio]
Maresciallo la classe [in realtà capo di III classe] Elettricista
Maresciallo Capo [in realtà capo di II classe] Radio Telegrafista
Capo [di II classe] Nostromo
Chief Boatswain's Mate
Secondo Capo di Macchine
Machinist's Mate, 1 cl.
Resoni, [Rissone, Egidio]
Secondo Capo [in realtà capo di III classe] di Macchine
Machinist's Mate, 1 cl.
Losavio, [Lo Savio, Emanuele]
Secondo Capo Elettricista
Electrician's Mate, 1cl.
Radi, [Radin, Silvestro]
Secondo Capo Silurista
Torpedoman's Mate, 1cl.
Gunner's Mate, 2cl.
Torpedoman's Mate, 2cl.
Buffo, [Buffon, Aldo]
Sergente [in realtà capo di II classe] Silurista
Torpedoman's Mate, 2cl.
Cantiere, [Galtieri, Alfredo]
Motor Machinist's Mate, 2cl.
Mantelli, [Mandelli, Pietro]
Electrician's Mate, 2cl.
Santalamazza, Ardo [Santolamazza, Aldo]
Sottocapo [in realtà sergente] Silurista
Torpedoman's Mate, 3cl.
Torpedoman's Mate, 3cl.
Sottocapo [in realtà sergente] Elettricista
Electrician's Mate, 3cl.
Dellaguida, [Dell’Aquila, Vincenzo]
Electrician's Mate, 3cl.
Vallesi, [Vallese, Angelo]
Sottocapo [in realtà sergente] Motorista
Motor Machinist's Mate 3cl.
Votero [Vottero], Ludovico
Sottocapo [in realtà sergente] Motorista
Motor Machinist's Mate 3cl.
Gunner's Mate, 3cl.
Sottocapo [in realtà sergente] Cannoniere
Gunner's Mate, 3cl.
Calasso, [Galasso, Alfredo]
Sottocapo Radio Telegrafista
Vincentini, [Visentini, Tommaso]
Sottocapo Radio Telegrafista
*Lococo [Lo Coco], Giuseppe
Cameti, [Conti, Guido]
Sottocapo [in realtà comune]
Petty officer, 3cl.
Capece, [Capace, Giuseppe]
Sottocapo [in realtà sergente]
Petty officer, 3cl.
Petty officer, 3cl.
[Sottocapo] Silurista Scelto
Cerosi [Cerosio, Giovanni]
Radio Telegrafista Scelto
Battista, [Abbattista, Ruggiero]
Maurielli [Mauriello, Antonio]
Olivi, [Ulivi, Dino]
Hospital Apprentice, 2cl.
Comete, [Cometa, Cosimo]
Captain's orderly (translation)
Pigotti, [Pigozzo, Pierino]
Vespini, [Vesprini, Nello]
De Simone, [Giovanni]
Rubaoto, [Rubaudo, Nino]
Previero, [Priviero, Sergio]
De Cesaro, [De Cesario, Cosimo]
Castelici, [Castellotti, Luigi]
Marinaio [in realtà sottocapo]
* Presumably sole survivor, and sole prisoner.
TOTAL CREW OF ARCHIMEDE
La dichirazione resa il 26 ottobre 1946 da Giuseppe Lo Coco, nato a S. Flavia il 28.2.1918, alla Stazione di Porticello della Legione territoriale dei Carabinieri di Palermo (per gentile concessione dell’Associazione Nazionale Marinai d’Italia):
Un articolo del giornale americano “Minneapolis Morning Tribune” su Earl Joseph Kloss ed Arnold Burggraff ed il loro ruolo nell’attacco all’Archimede (g.c. sito Togetherweserved)
Traduzione in italiano del rapporto sull’interrogatorio di Giuseppe Lo Coco da parte delle autorità statunitensi, su Regiamarina.net
La sequenza completa delle fotografie scattate da uno dei Catalina durante l’attacco che portò all’affondamento dell’Archimede, sul sito Uboat Archive
“10th Fleet ASW Incident Form narrative concerning attack by two VP-83 aircraft on Archimede”, sul sitoU-Boat Archive
Analisi dell’US Navy sull’attacco ed affondamento dell’Archimede, sul sito U-Boat Archive
Storia dell’Archimede, su Regiamarina.net
Storia dell’Archimede, su Grupsom
Schede dei sommergibili classe Brin, su Betasom
Scheda dell’Archimede sul sito della Marina Militare
Encomio del comandante in capo della Flotta dell’Atlantico per l’83rd Patrol Squadron per l’affondamento dell’Archimede, dal sito U-Boat Archive
La vicenda di Giuseppe Lo Coco e dell’Archimede nel libro Sole Survivors of the Sea
L’affondamento dell’Archimede nel libro US Navy PBY Catalina Units of the Atlantic War
L’affondamento dell’Archimede nel libro Galloping Ghosts of the Brazilian Coast: United States Naval Air Operations in the South Atlantic DuringWorld War II
Pagina di Wikipedia sull’Archimede