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Otto Kretschmer - The Life of the Third Reich's Highest Scoring U-Boat Commander

Lawrence Paterson

The deadliest man beneath the waves: How Hitler’s legendary U-boat commander became the most successful submarine officer of WW2.

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Otto Kretschmer was only in combat from September 1939 until March 1941 but was Germany's highest-scoring U-boat commander sinking 47 ships totalling 274,333 tons. This definitive work details his personal story and the political backdrop from his earliest days. Aged 17 he spent 8 months studying literature at Exeter University where he learned to speak English fluently. The following year, on 1 April 1930, he enlisted as an officer candidate in the Weimar Republic's small navy. After completing his officer training and time on the training ship Niobe he served aboard the light cruiser Emden. In December 1934 he was transferred to the light cruiser Köln, then in January 1936 made the move to the fledgling U-boat service. His first operational posting was to the 2nd U-Flotilla’s Type VII U35 where he almost drowned during training in the Baltic Sea! During the Spanish Civil War, he was involved in several patrols as part of the international non-intervention force.

ISBN: 9781784381929
Format: Hardback
Author(s): Lawrence Paterson
First Publishment Date: 1 March 2018

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  1. Highly recommended review by PW-M on 30/07/2018

    Otto Kretschmer is summed up by the author Lawrence Paterson as “something of an enigma- not politically driven but rated as a hard core Nazi”. What is beyond doubt is that he was Germany’s most successful U-boat Commander sinking over 200,000 tons of shipping. Joining the Reichsmarine in 1930, Otto Kretschmer joined the U-boat service in 1936, rapidly rising to command of U23 in late 1937. At the outbreak of war, Kretschmer conducted patrols in the North Sea and had already been identified by his Flotilla commander as one to watch.
    His early success and his calm and decisive manner made him a natural submariner and he was chosen to take command of the larger new Type VIIIB U-boat, U99. Kretschmer demanded high standards from his crew. He didn’t accept Doenitz’s view that submariners should look like pirates, dirty and unshaven; his crew were always immaculately turned out, even at the end of a patrol.

    A perfectionist in his deadly art, Kretschmer perfected the surfaced night attack on convoys using every advantage of the U-boat – a low silhouette, good surfaced speed and excellent fire control. His leadership of his crew was exemplary; in his words he always acted with honour. His standing orders were clear and succinct, including requiring that survivors be treated well.

    In attacks on a convoy in March 1941, U99 was sunk and his U –boat ace colleagues Schepke and Prien were also sunk during the same action. In captivity he continued to act in the words of one his interrogators as “an officer and gentleman”. Throughout his career his manner can best be described as Prussian in character; he was taciturn and known as “Silent Otto” as he kept WT transmissions to an absolute minimum. Was he a true Nazi or merely fiercely nationalistic? He certainly disliked the Nazi propaganda machine and was never involved in politics. Perhaps it is easiest to sum him up as the consummate military man who continued to serve as a naval officer after the war.

    Well illustrated and written, this is an absorbing book about a supremely confident and utterly professional submarine commander. Highly recommended.

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