1104 GCT, Sighting   Lieutenant (junior grade) Stearns was on the return leg of the last sector of the regular dawn A/S Patrol.  He was flying at 4000' on a course of 240°T when, at 1104 GCT., he sighted an object, or objects, on the surface, about 15 miles dead ahead.
            He immediately increased speed, and as he drew nearer, gradually losing altitude, he realized he had sighted four submarines, fully surfaced, steaming together on parallel courses 330°T, at about 7 to 9 knots.
1107 GCT, Contact Report   He then made his contact report, and circled the formation once climbing to about 5000', preparatory to dropping a 500# bomb, and to study the enemy disposition and pick out his target.  As soon as he came within range, all four U/Bs started a heavy AA barrage.
Enemy Disposition           This reconnaissance disclosed that there were three very large submarines all the same size and one smaller one.  These were believed to have been 1600 tonners and a 740 tonner.  One of the group was obviously fueling the smaller one, with the other two on either flank and slightly ahead.  The other two were apparently supply, and/or anti-aircraft/submarines.  The Fueler and 740 tonner were only about 50 feet apart on parallel courses with the 740 tonner's bow about one fifth of the way forward of the Fueler's stern.  There was a line, or hose, clearly visible between the two, and there was quite a bit of slack in the line.
            The Fueler was towing a small boat 20 or 30 feet astern and a man was in it.  It is felt that this possibly was being used for the transfer of torpedoes and/or supplies; or it may have been used as support for the fueling line.  The whole operation was leaving quite a lot of oil slicks.
            One of the flanking U/Bs was about 500 feet off to the Fueler's starboard side, with its stern about abreast of the Fueler's conning tower.  The other was about 200 feet ahead of the Fueler and about 100 feet to port.
Additional Sighting           While circling the formation another object or objects, leaving quite a wake, was seen about seven or eight miles from this formation bearing 330°T, or about dead ahead on the course of this formation.
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Additional Sighting   This was too far away to identify definitely, but Lt.(jg) Stearns feels it was probably another U/B, or group of U/Bs.
Enemy elects to fight on surface           During this time the Submarines were all throwing up intense AA fire and were making no effort to dive.  They were merely widening their formation, with the two flanking U/Bs pulling out to the sides.  The Fueler and the smaller U/B followed the larger one on their port side, and the smaller U/B pulled up slightly ahead of the milk-cow.  The latter was pulling in its small boat, but they never got it aboard, as it was still seen after all the U/Bs had disappeared.  Whether or not the man on it escaped is not known.  One of the gunners thought he saw a man swim underneath it at one stage of the attack, but no-one else saw anyone in the water.
1109 GCT 500# Bomb Attack           Having circled the formation at about 5000', Lt.(jg) Stearns attacked at once, in spite of very heavy fire from the four submarines, and without fighter protection.  He pushed over and dove, increasing speed to 300 K, in a very steep dive, on course 210°T.  The AA bursts were mostly behind him but were drawing steadily closer all the time.
U/Bs Defensive Tactics           One 500# contact fused bomb was released at 1700'.  He was trying to have the bomb hit in the small triangle made by the Fueler, the 740 T. U/B, and the other large one on the port flank, as they were all within 250' to 300' of each other.  The drop was short and hit about 250' on the starboard bow of the smaller U/B.
            It is not believed that this caused any material damage to any of the U/Bs, but its effect was to have them start to close their formation again, and start weaving about on radical zig-zag courses independently of each other, but always remaining as close together as they could and still maneuver without running into each other.  Lt.(jg) Stearns felt they must have certainly practiced this many times before, because it seemed so well planned and executed.  It all took place in an area roughly elliptical in shape, and perhaps 1000 yards long and 500 yards wide.
            During this time the U/Bs were throwing up intense AA fire and Lt.(jg) Stearns was forced to circle at a distance and await help, as he was alone and had only a mine left with which to attack.  The necessity of laying this at very slow speed, 120' K,. from 200 feet would have made it impossible for him to get anywhere near his release point before being shot down, and besides, none of them dove.
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Relieving Planes 1115, GCT           Unfortunately, Lt.(jg) Stearns original contact report was garbled, and it was not realized on the ship that there were four, and possibly more, U/Bs involved.  Therefore, only one TBF, armed with four Mark 47 depth charges, and two F4Fs were sent out as a killer group.  They left the ship between 1115 and 1119 GCT, and at 1127 the other three TBFs, which had been out on the dawn patrol, and had returned over the ship, were vectored to the scene.
1131 GCT           At 1131, GCT, it was realized that four U/Bs were involved, so every available plane on board was sent out.  Between 1135 and 1145 five more TBFs and two more F4Fs were sent off.  This made a total of ten TBFs and four F4Fs in the air after this concentration.  However, due to the garbled original report, only the first killer group of one TBF and two fighters arrived in time to attack, although some of the others were close enough to the scene to observe the last stages of the attack from the distance, but too far away to see any details.
1131 GCT           At 1131, GCT, Lt.(jg) D.E. WEIGLE, flying in TBF number 9, arrived and began circling to await the arrival of the two fighters, who took off just after him.
U/Bs Cover Each Others Dive           As he arrived, the U/Bs apparently realizing that help was coming, and they would eventually be overwhelmed, began circling so that each would be in a position to cover the other's dive.  As one was ready to dive, it would dive directly out of the formation.  This procedure was followed for the first two to dive.  Then the two remaining joined up.  They went in the same direction in column.  The last U/B to dive continued on a fairly straight course after the Fueler submerged, but was apparently preparing to dive.  As it was submerging, it started turning to port, and just as its stern went under it was seen to make a violent turn to port.
1134 GCT First U/B Dives           The 740 T. U/B was the first to dive, and it pulled out of the formation and dove at 1134, GCT, just before the two fighters arrived.  No attempt was made to attack this sub, as it was considered by far the least important target, and the TBF pilots had been instructed by the ship to wait for the fighters before attacking.
1135 GCT Strafing Attacks Begin           Lieutenant (jg) S.E. Heim flying F4F #16 and Lieutenant (jg) D.O. Puckett in F4F #19 arrived at 1135.  After exchanging signals with the TBF pilots, Lt.(jg) Heim, followed closely by Lt.(jg) Puckett, immediately dove to attack the U/B which had been on the port flank of the formation when originally sighted.
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1135 GCT Strafing Attacks Begin           Their thought in picking out this U/B was that it was apparently throwing up the most intense barrage, and if they could silence it, they would be in a better position to attack the Fueler.  As they flew in, the barrage thrown up ahead of them was extremely heavy.  There seemed to be a solid curtain of fire about 150' high by 300' wide and about 25 feet deep, filled with black and white puffs, through which they had to fly.  No attempt will be made herein to describe the AA fire in much detail, as this will be covered separately.
            Lieutenant (jg) Heim pushed over at about 1500' at a range of about 2000'.  He continued firing on down to about 50' pulling out straight up just after he passed over the U/Bs stern.  He climbed and circled for another run down-sun.
            Lieutenant (jg) Puckett followed Lt.(jg) Heim immediately and started strafing at about 1000' and a range of about 1500'.  The AA fire did not seem to have been cut down at all by the first strafing run.  Lt.(jg) Puckett's plane was hit in several places by shrapnel in the port wing and cockpit.  There is one large dent two inches from the glass of the after part of the cockpit cover, just at the top of the fairing, and another about ten inches directly behind it.  They also knocked his port outboard gun off the trunnion.
            Lt.(jg) Heim then made another strafing attack on this U/B.  At first the fire was fairly heavy, but as her drew near, only one gun fired on him from this submarine, and all firing ceased by the time he got about 500' away.
            During this run Lt.(jg) Heim noticed a man lying face down on the deck with his arms outstretched.  He was well aft of the conning tower and was apparently dead.
1138 GCT Second U/B dives           This U/B then dove before Lt.(jg) Puckett could make another run, so he joined up with Lt.(jg) Weigle and prepared to attack the Fueler.  Thus far the attack had gone according to plan, as they had succeeded in driving two of the U/Bs down, leaving the Fueler and the other large one; one for each of the two TBFs.
1139 GCT Attack on Fueler Begins           When Lt.(jg) Puckett first strafed the Fueler, the AA fire was moderately heavy, but died out almost entirely before his run was completed, so that Lt.(jg) Weigle was not being fired on very much as he dove to attack.
            Le (jg) Weigle in the TBF changed course slightly as the strafing was being carried out, so as to attack up the U/Bs stern from about 15 on the starboard side.  He attacked very quickly after Lt.(jg) Puckett.
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Depth Charge Attack           On the way into attack Lt.(jg) Weigle started to strafe with his own two fifty calibre wing guns.  As he did so, he inadvertently pressed the bomb release button, and all four depth charges fell and exploded; the nearest one being about 750' short of the target.
            Lt.(jg) Heim, made a strafing run on it just after the depth charges exploded, coming almost directly up to the U/Bs stern
1141 GCT Fueler Dives           Lieutenant (jg) Puckett had time to make another run from the U/Bs starboard beam just as it disappeared beneath the surface, at 1141, GCT, in a very steep dive (at least 45).  Fully one quarter of the length of the U/B, or half the part from the conning tower to the stern was completely out of the water as it dove.
            This inadvertent drop, causing no damage to the Fueler, completely upset the plans that had been laid for the attack.
            Since there were two submarines left to attack, and only two TBFs present at that time, the plan was for each TBF pilot to attack one of them.
            With this in mind, Lt. (jg) Stearns, seeing Lt.(jg) Weigle starting to attack the Fueler, flew his plane in such a way as to be in position to lay his mine on the last submarine, as soon as it dove.
            When Lt. (jg) Stearns saw that the Fueler was undamaged and submerging, he flipped his plane around in a tight turn, and started his run to drop on the Fueler, since it was considered by far the most important target.  Unfortunately, by the time he could get over the point where the Fueler dove, there was so little indication of where it be, that Lt.(jg) Stearns felt it inadvisable to risk an unsuccessful drop on it, leaving all planes unarmed to attack the last sub, which was still on the surface.  He, therefore, kept his mine, and flew to get into position again on the last remaining U/B.
1142 GCT Attack on Last U/B Begins           Lt.(jg) Heim was now flying on an opposite course toward this U/B and off some distance to its starboard.  When he got into position, he attacked, crossing the U/B just a few points forward of the starboard beam.  He pulled out and circled for another attack.
            No AA fire was observed to come from the U/B during this or subsequent strafing runs.
            A short time, thereafter, Lt.(jg) Puckett mad a strafing run on the U/B slightly abaft its starboard beam.
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1142 GCT Attack on Last U/B Begins   Lt.(jg) Heim's next strafing run was from the U/Bs starboard quarter; and Lt.(jg) Puckett got in a second run across the U/Bs starboard beam, as it was starting to dive.  All four runs on this U/B were unopposed and very accurate, but there was no positive evidence of any great damage being caused, and no personnel were observed on the submarine.
            This completed the total of five strafing attacks each by Lt.(jg) Heim and Lt.(jg) Puckett.  The former attacked the second U/B to dive twice and the Fueler once; and the latter attacked the Fueler twice and the other once.  Both pilots attacked the last U/B twice.  All but their last two attacks were opposed by AA fire, the first ones being extremely heavily opposed; but in no case did either pilot hesitate a moment to press his attacks with the utmost vigor.
1145 GCT Last U/B dives after Four strafing Attacks           As Lt.(jg) Puckett completed his last run on the U/B, and it began to submerge, Lt.(jg) Stearns was in position to make his run to drop the mine.  The U/B, up until the time the conning tower disappeared, was on course 330°T and steaming at about 15 K.  It then began a violent turn to port, and while part of its stern was still visible above the surface, had already turned about 45°, and was still turning.  When it disappeared the swirl left was not very clearly defined, but there was a definite trail of green water leading 90° to port of its original diving path.
            Incidentally, this has been observed to be the practice of the majority of the 26 German U/Bs attacked by pilots of this squadron.
Mine is Dropped           As the U/B began to submerge Lt.(jg) Stearns, flying slightly aft on its starboard side, lowered his wheels to reduce speed without climbing, and prepared to make his run up the U/Bs track from its starboard stern, on what would have been a course of about 315°T.  However, on seeing the U/B start turning to port, he flattened out his turn momentarily and then turned hard to port so as to cross the U/Bs original course at 90°, and be able to drop on what he thought would be the U/Bs starboard quarter.  As he estimated it had turned about 90°; but in case its turn had not been this great, the mine would still be up-track, and would not overshoot.
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Mine is Dropped           The mine was released in a level flight course of 240°T at 120 K and 200 feet.  The mine struck the water about 50 feet in front of the point of submergence, almost directly ahead of its original diving track.
Mine Explodes           It traveled a short distance straight ahead, and then turned sharply to port and exploded about 250' from the point where it hit the water, about 20-25 seconds later.  The explosion caused no plume but merely a well-defined shock wave, and the level of the water within the waves was seen to push up suddenly in a slight cone.
            A brown slick formed, and about 45 seconds later large amounts of debris began to rise to the surface directly in the middle of the slick.  Among the debris were three steel-colored cylindrical objects described in the ASW-6 Report Form.  The fact that the debris rose directly into the slick would seem to eliminate any forward motion on the part of the submarine after the explosion of the mine, and it is considered that the U/B was definitely sunk.