Post by Quadibloc Post by Lawrence Watt-Evans
The movie was based on actual events, and people I know in the
intelligence community who should know say that it wasn't terribly
inaccurate except in drastically downplaying how much the Canadians
did to assist in the escape.
There was also the movie U-571 - based on the British capture of an Enigma machine
from a German submarine (U-559), but in the movie, the Americans did it.
Although U-559 makes a cameo appearance in _Cryptonomicon_ (Stephenson),
Göring’s treasure ship, U-553, plays the part of the prodigious,
Waterhouse sent him to find a stethoscope, and Shaftoe went
chambering through the U-boat until he found a wooden box.
He opened it up and saw right away it was full of medic
stuff. He pawed through it, looking for what Waterhouse
wanted, and there was the bottle, plain as day, right in
front of his face. His hand brushed against it, for god's
sake. He saw the label as the beam of his flashlight swept
But he didn't grab it. If it had said morphine he would
have grabbed it in a second. But it said morphium. And it
wasn't until about thirty seconds later that he realized
that this was a f*cking German boat and of course the words
would all be different and there was about a 99 percent
chance that morphium was, in fact, exactly the same stuff
as morphine. When he realized that he planted his feet in
the passageway of the darkened U-boat and let out a deep
long scream from way down in his gut. With the noise of
the waves, no one heard him. Then he continued onwards
and carried out his duty, handing over the stethoscope to
Waterhouse. He carried out his duty because he is a
... (Shaftoe sets the fuse on explosives to blow the
U-boat's safe off the wall of the captain's cabin,
yells "Fire in the hole!" then scampers back towards
the bow to snag some substitute smack.) ...
There's that box-it ended up on a bunk. Shaftoe yanks it
closer and hauls it open. The contents are all jumbled up,
and there's more than one purple bottle in there, and he
panics for a moment, thinking he'll have to read all of
the labels in their creepy Germanic script, but in a few
seconds he finds the morphium, grabs it, pockets it.
... (A big roller slams into the outside of the boat ...
Everything has gone black) ...
As Sergeant Robert Shaftoe lies there with his face pressed
against that chilly grid, taking a few deep breaths and
trying to regain his nerve, a big wave rocks the boat back
so hard that he's afraid he's going to fall backwards and
plummet all the way to the submerged bow. The swill in the
battery hold rolls downhill, gathering power and velocity
as it falls, and batters the forward bulkhead of the hold
with terrifying power; he can hear rivets giving way under
the impact. As this happens, most of the battery hold is
exposed to the beam of Bobby Shaftoe's flashlight, all the
way down to the bottom. And that is when he sees the
splintered crates down there-very small crates, such as
might be used to contain very heavy supplies. They have
been busted open. Through the gaps in the wreckage, Shaftoe
can see yellow bricks, once neatly stacked, now scattered.
They look exactly like he would imagine gold bars. The only
thing wrong with that theory is that there are way too many
of them down there for them to be gold bars. It is like when
he turned over rotten logs in Wisconsin and found thousands
of identical insect eggs sown on the dark earth, glowing with
For a moment, he's tempted. The amount of money down there
is beyond calculation. If he could get his hands on just
one of those bars-
The explosives must have detonated, because Bobby Shaftoe
has just gone deaf. That's his cue to get the f*ck out of
here. He forgets about the gold-morphine's good enough
plunder for one day. He half scrambles and half climbs up
the grid, up the passageway, up the skipper's cabin, smoke
pouring out of its hatch, its bulkheads now weirdly ballooned
by the blast wave.
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