Battle Beneath the Waves

Robert C. Stern, Battle Beneath the Waves: The U-Boat War (London: Arms and Armour, 1999)

Short pieces on selected u-boats from WWI to WWII, including contextual discussions on the technological development of the boats. The stories for each U-boat and its and its crew’s fates are reconstructed from war documents, captain’s logs and interviews with survivors. It is quite fascinating learning about how primitive the first boats were. Of course, compared to modern nuclear behemoths, even the U-VII’s – the work horses of the Kriegsmarine – and the U-IX’s of WWII are rather primitive. But the VII’s were far more advanced compared to the U-I.

(Near the end of the war, Germany was developing the U-XXI; a few, I think, were even built, but they never reached operational numbers. But this version of the u-boat became the base for modern submarine development for the major navies, chiefly because its main operating principles were that it could stay submerged much longer than previous submarines and it was faster on its electric engines (submerged) than on its diesels.)

Skipped most of the WWI material; my interest is really in WWII, so any material on that era’s u-boats is welcome as fodder for my Silent Hunter immersion. The historical material functions in two ways, as it were: it deepens the immersion in the game, but also reminds one of the deprivations suffered by submarine crew, despite the hero-worship they enjoyed, and as antidote to the romanticisation which can happen through something like Silent Hunter, a computer game.

Another interesting point, as I have also discovered in Lothar-Gunther Buchheim’s book, U-Boat (coincidentally, the book on which Das Boot was based), is how for the most part in the early days of the war, the elites (officers) of the German Navy weren’t too fond of Hitler. As commanders and crew started suffering losses, Hitler and Doenitz (admiral of the navy) hastened young commanders who were also Nazi ideologues through the navy academies.

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