A rescue mission on June 15th 1942 in the Mediterranean.
The take-off from Suda in Libya
was at 14:30, the aircraft was the Do-24T-2 CM+IQ Werk Nr. 123/0051
of Seenotstaffel 7. Head of the crew was pilot Feldwebel Sost
and among the crew was mecanic Robert Moller. The search was in
quadrant 3402. The flight to the quadrant was one with surprises,
it crossed the routing of the shipping from Egypt to Malta and
these were heavily defended. The clouds took away most of the
visibility and when they suddenly vanished they were met by a
roar of fire coming from planes protecting the English convoy.
They were shot at for quit some time and encountered a lot of
hits. By a quick turn to the east they were flying away from the
convoy and the English planes withdrew to give their attention
to the protection of the convoy. The Do-24 landed at the quadrant
with the waves at 3-4 bofors. When they rescued the downed Messerschmitt
Me-109 pilot that had been lying in his lifeboat for more than
24 hours they encountered some more bad luck. The Me-109 pilot
was Leutnant Heinrich Hesse of 7/JG 53 who had been downed by
South-African pilot Lieutenant van der Spuy. During the take-off
for home the Do-24 was lifted out of the water by a big wave and
when because there was not enough speed to stay airborne yet the
aircraft smacked back on the sea. The complete tailsector broke
away along with half of the left wing. By a small miracle none
of the crewmembers or the rescued pilot was hurt. The aircraft
was able to stay afloat and after everyone was over the first
shock they had to find a way to get home. Robert Moller was attached
to a rope to prevent him sliding of the right wing which was dipping
into the sea and he removed the antennawire so it could be secured
to the right positionlamp on the fuselage. When this was done
the radio-operator radioed for help. After about one hour they
sighted a Heinkel He-111 above them, it circled the crash-site
a few times and must also have given directions about the situation
to it's homebase.
After eight hours of helplessly floating around the sighted a submarine at 23:00. The night was chrystal clear and they only had one worry, was it friend or foe? After a long debate they decided to give the signal of the day and to their good luck it was returned with the right signal, they thought they were saved. The submarine, the U-83 under the command of Kapitan Krauss, took the crew on board and the badly damaged Do-24 was shot to the bottom of the sea by the cannon of the submarine. Good food and dry cloaths gave a big rise to the moral of the crew. Robert Moller became very aquinted with the instruments of the submarine and was at a few times even allowed, under supervision, to man the diving rudders. During the three days the Do-24 crew remained on the submarine she had to dive to safety five times when an aircraft appeared on the horizon. This was normal practice for the submarine crew, regardless if the plane was friend or foe. The longest dive they made was for 8 hours, a very long time for the smokers among the crew as they were only allowed to smoke outside the submarine.
June 18th the submarine docked in the harbor of Messina in Italy. Later the Do-24 crew learned that the Submarine commander received the Iron Cross for his part in the rescue of the two crews. Surprised was the crew when they emerged from the submarine to see a few moments later another boat with on board the crew of the Do-24T-2 CH+EW Werk Nr. 0031 (this Werk Nr. is mentiones in Seenotstaffel 7 but has not yet been confirmed in any other documentation) that also got into trouble and had to leave their aircraft behind.
The Seenotdienstfuhrer Agais, Oberleutnant Fengler, greated both the crews and the next day a Junkers Ju-52 flown by Oberfeldwebel Brill, brought them from Reggio di Calabria to Brindisi. From there on they traveled by train to Tarent, where they boarded a six-engined Blohm und Voss Bv-222, flown by Oberleutnant Schirmacher, who flew them to Crete. On June 21st they were back where their adventure started.