U-Boat Ace: The Story of Wolfgang Luth

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For this occasion we submerged, decorated the bow compartment with flags, and turned this administration of the oath into a real ceremony. The man had previously learned the oath by heart. In my address I told him about the duties of a German soldier. The crew attended uniformly dressed in brown tropical shirts. Everybody got a decent haircut for the occasion.

One has to think of such trifles if ceremonies of this kind are being improvised and military ceremonies are necessary from time to time to stimulate the enthusiasm of the men. He became an excellent man who was awarded the Iron Cross and the submarine insignia, and he is staying on board without having to go through the usual basic training. Normally no alcohol is allowed aboard. Therefore I support the petty officers on board wherever I can.

Photos capture top Nazi submarine captain Wolfgang Lüth | Daily Mail Online

I tell them not only all the things that are forbidden and the things they cannot do to establish discipline, but rather how many possibilities there are and what means they have at their disposal to gain the respect of the men. Most of them are so young that they need that advice. Sometimes when we are submerged I call them together, instruct them in disciplinary problems, and indulge them to tell me all their troubles. After you have had a heart to heart talk with them you reproach yourself for not having talked with them before to help them solve their problems.

I also feel it is a mistake to treat a seasoned seaman like a boot. The seaman must, if possible, shoulder more responsibility than his younger comrades.

Photos capture top Nazi submarine captain Wolfgang Lüth

Success is easy to take; it raises morale. The good soldier can show his true mettle only when the odds are against him. On enemy missions things never go as well, or for that matter as badly, as you expect them to. You just have to have the guts to stick it out. If you have success you have to let your crew share in it. It is a matter of temperament how a commander makes his crew feel their part in the fight. It is difficult for the submarine man; he cannot actively participate in the fight or just go out and perform heroic deeds. However, if somebody makes a single slip the shot carefully prepared long in advance misses the target.

At one time I ran smack into a convoy in the middle of the night. I barely dodged a destroyer and sneaked close by a steamer into the middle of the convoy. Visibility was limited, and I had not yet a clear view of the situation. I slowed down because I told myself that he who thinks slowly, must go slowly, or he might come to grief.

After I had given the most important orders down into the boat I called the chief engineer who was in the central control station, to give him a short description of what was going on above,. Since the men knew what the game was I did not have to drive them on. This not only gives the crew a heightened feeling of confidence, but also prepares them for the climax of the attack. When the entire boat counts together, the victory bottle is uncorked in anticipation and the victory march is prepared for playing over the loud-speaker, the seconds pass. If depth charges are dropped after a hit, there usually is also an opportunity to tell the men a few more interesting details about the attack.

If one manages to keep on the surface, a few deserving crew members are allowed to come up on the bridge for a moment to watch the sinking steamer. By day, while at periscope depth, there are always situations in which one can let some of the men look through the periscope. In the heat of battle such things are not often possible. For that very reason one should always take advantage of good opportunities.

One day, after I had received my diamonds, I spotted a large steamer which had the same speed as the submarine. After a long chase I was able to sink her, so to speak in gratitude for the award. During such a long chase I gladly let the men take a look at the plotting chart and have them search through the ship register to try to identify the type and size of the steamer, so that the hunting fever gradually spreads through the entire boat. I permit a few men to come up on the bridge to pick up the steamer through the binoculars.

The entire crew must be able to participate in such experiences. Before entering port, I dive once more in the Bay of Biscay and hold muster. I tell the men what they can tell at home and what is forbidden. Since every German thinks that only secrets are interesting. I show them that many other things which are not secret can also be interesting. We were very successful and sank several steamers. The ordinary daily routine must be perfectly organized.

Navigation menu

The ship must become a home to the sailor. Naturally there must not be too much regimentation. The rhythm of a normal life must be preserved as much as possible. Since the change from day to night cannot ordinarily be felt on a submarine it must be brought about by artificial means. During supper the dim lights are switched on, and we have evening concert on records from half an hour before the watch changes until half an hour afterwards.

We arrange it so that the last papers are given out when we reach port. Of course we also arrange the bill of fare accordingly and the menu will contain items which indicate that it is a holiday. The head may be a problem at the beginning of a mission when there are still a few inexperienced hands aboard who do not know how to work the pumps.

There is also a notebook which every visitor has to sign. If the head is not clean, I get hold of the last one and he has to pump. To make this measure seem less grim, everyone is allowed to write little verses in the book. Gradually these become so numerous that they can fill half an evening of entertainment. Of course on a long mission it is necessary to have general ship cleaning. I is interesting that I was almost the only man aboard who really knew how to clean a ship, how to chip paint, and how to swab decks and benches. Hardly a member of the crew had ever been on a battleship, where you really learn these things.

This general ship cleaning is done on Saturdays, accompanied by lively record music to make it more pleasant. The arrangement of the menu is difficult, for the men start to crab about the food all too easily.

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I therefore let the various compartments draw up the menu. Of course the longer we are out on a mission the closer I have to control the fare, so that all the best things will not be eaten up at the beginning. I do not insist on these things because I am an aesthete, but because I believe that the authority of the petty officers suffers if they do not take care of themselves under all circumstances. I have seen petty officers who sat down at the table with dirty hands and unbuttoned clothes, or who snapped at a mess attendant because the plate was not absolutely clean while at the same time a man was sitting next to them who dirtied his plate with his greasy hands.

Such a difference of standards makes the mess crew feel insecure and leads to constant friction, and this can easily be avoided. One must see to it that the men crab about the food rarely and only in justified cases. Bread is also baked aboard. Because our baking oven was out of order this was a difficult affair.

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We remedied the situation by arranging a baking contest. This way we finally did get decent bread after all. But there are also other minor details which you have to remember. If you have neither indelible ink nor name tags, and therefore the laundry which is hung up to dry in the electric motor compartment is not marked, it gets lost occasionally and unnecessary annoyance is caused. Experience has shown that it takes about two weeks for it to turn up again.

If exceptions are made in certain articles the men must be told about it very frankly. However, he can only inform the captain of any dissatisfaction if the men tell him about it, thus he must have their full confidence. We did not hold sick call aboard. I feel that this is not necessary for fifty healthy men. Not because they feel sorry for themselves or want to shirk their duty but, on the contrary, in order always to be fit for duty.

It is better to have a boil treated immediately than to wait until it has become too big for fear of being called a sissy. A healthy way of life is necessary on board. I not only order every man to wear his woolen waistband, but I also do not permit drinking ice water in the tropics. I have forbidden young hands to smoke on an empty stomach, and I see to it that the mid watch coffee is not made quite as strong as is usual in the Navy.

On one mission we had a case of diphtheria. Fortunately we did not notice it until the man was already completely paralyzed and the danger of contagion had passed.

Otherwise we would have been so worried that we would have that we would all have gargled until our throats were sore. After many weeks the paralyzed man was fit for duty once more, and during the last two months he did full duty although he had been lying in the aft compartment all this time and had scarcely seen day light. Upon arrival in port he was declared unfit for submarine duty for some time. I was angry about that; there are physical defects in spite of which one can be a good submarine man.

There are doubtless many submarine men who have been declared unfit for duty in keeping with the regulations, when nobody wanted to take the responsibility of sending them against the enemy again, though it would have been possible. But when so many soldiers are risking their lives, others should have to risk their health in this tough war. I have also had cases of gonorrhea and even syphilis on board which, however, could be cured by the doctor. Three days before shoving off I stop all shore leave without previous notice so that the men will not make a last quick visit to a whorehouse. I never had to contend with sexual problems on board, not even during the mission which lasted seven and one half months.

To be sure, I have not permitted the men to hang pictures of nude girls on the bulkheads and over their bunks. When we arrive in port I like to see to it that the men buy as much as possible for their families, so that they spend their money in a sensible way. At the base the men should be left alone at times so that they can relax and do as they like. Up to now I have had seventeen officers on my ship, of whom only four had trouble getting adjusted; there were seven midshipmen, among them one failure.

All the others were exceptionally good, and helped to shape life aboard so that every day was Sunday. Even such minor detail can help to create the proper community spirit aboard. You have to take pains with your young officers. It is obvious that they are not all alike and are apt to get out of line at times.

That shows bad taste. The same is true if they like to listen to American and British jazz. Whether they like it or not has nothing to do with the matter. They simply must not like it, just as a German man must not like a Jewess. In a tough war everyone must have learned to hate his enemy without reservation. This is not only for moral reasons, but also because it is hard to stop such things once they have started, because it is hard to draw the line afterwards, and above all because the men are quick to pick up such habits.

Once I had a watch officer who always slept undressed in his bunk; as if that were not enough, he never came on battle station at night without dressing first. He never even forgot to put on his oil skin pants and hat. His personal well-being was that important to him before he came on battle station. He never drank coffee because he was a hypochondriac and believed he had something the matter with his stomach; he a cup of milk instead. Since we had no cows aboard, and therefore not much milk, I forbade this. Then he poured some hot water into the milk and said that this was a substitute for coffee.

On the bridge I often talk to the watch officers. Under what conditions do we attack and from what side, etc.? With the aid of the chart I discuss the situation with them and let them offer suggestions. Naturally, the officers must be left alone in their mess often enough to give them time to grumble about the captain.

To be sure, the meals are taken together, however, in a decent looking uniform and on a white or at least tolerably white bed sheet for a tablecloth. It is also pleasant to see a book make the rounds which one can discuss afterwards. My experiences with midshipmen are good. In the beginning they are sometimes still very young and understand of course practically nothing about life on a submarine.

At first I had to think about where to put them. I did this first because it is the only way to learn from the bottom up how life is conducted on board, and second because it has been my experience that they will know more than the men within a fairly short time. But otherwise I intentionally assign them more duties than other crew members. They really have to work if they want to get somewhere. It is common knowledge that when depth charges start to explode everybody looks to the officers.

I had an officer who had such a dry sense of humor and was so calm that he fell sound asleep during a depth charge attack. He only woke up when the instruments started to fall on his head. When we surfaced and found ourselves in a mine field, I asked him whether he thought we should keep more starboard or port. I am not talking here about the technical maintenance of the ship but about the trifles which it pays to heed. Next to the officer, the radio operator carries the main responsi-.

He sits at the hydrophones and hears the destroyer long before the crew knows anything about it. I forbid him to report the destroyer and her movements to me out loud. Each message is brought to me by a runner, who is a calm man and reports it to me n a low voice. The free watch must be induced to go to bed and sleep. One must see to it that they actually breath through the potash cartridges; naturally this includes also the officers off duty, particularly because it is uncomfortable. After everything has been prepared, it is a good time for the captain to go to bead. That makes the crew happy and the men begin to think that things are only half as bad as they seem.

And I go through the ship and tell them all the things we are going to do to get the enemy; this is very important and must be done whenever possible. The 1st watch officer should be the liaison man between the crew and the captain. This is not always easy for a young officer, especially with petty officers of the same age. I help him with advice. Only very few young officers can afford to address their men by their first name. That is by no means always necessary to gain their confidence.

Since the chief engineer does not stand watch, he must make special efforts to hold frequent bull sessions with his men in order to establish a closer relationship. Perhaps we could do this or that, this way or that way. Chess and skat tournaments are easy to arrange. This little book follows the career of one of the German Navy's Submarine Aces and what a story it is! It tells of Luth's exploits in a number of submarines as he advances in seniority and rank during his patrols fom the N.

Atlantic to the western Indian Ocean. His lack of compassion for the sailors on the vessels he sank astounded me and is at complete odds to the way he managed the men in his crews! Life on board a fighting ship is described in detail and seems quite authentic, with the crowding and resultant problems with space and hygiene. The ending is in fact quite sad and surprising after all he survived! Great read!

U-Boat Ace: The Story of Wolfgang Luth

March 3, - Published on Amazon. Jordan Vause paints a compelling, well-researched and unvarnished portrait of legendary U-boat commander Wolfgang Luth. At pages it is a short, succinct biography of a misunderstood man who mastered the art of personnel management within one of the most perilous and demanding workplaces on earth: a World War II submarine.

Luth's achievement is even more remarkable in that most U-boat cruises lasted a few weeks or less; Luth's last war patrol, in U, lasted six months, which briefly set a world record for submarine cruise duration , taking him half way round the world to the middle of the Indian Ocean.


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That his crew not only didn't mutiny, or at least hate Luth after being couped up together for so long is a wonder; that after reaching port, and decades later, they all universally loved Luth and their time spent together. This book is a must-read for both lovers of U-boat lore and serious students of management-under-extremes. February 21, - Published on Amazon. I am a veteran of the US infantry and usually stick to books dealing with ground warfare, but I decided to give this book a try.

I am so glad I did. It centered around the boat captain and his crew and how they dealt with the rigors of the war at sea.

World War II (U-Boat Wolf Pack Tactic)

It spanned the entire war. Can I borrow this item? Can I get a copy? Can I view this online? Ask a librarian. King, U. Keble Chatterton. Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and other First Nations people are advised that this catalogue contains names, recordings and images of deceased people and other content that may be culturally sensitive. Book , Online - Google Books.

Annapolis, Md. Luth, Wolfgang. Kriegsmarine -- Biography.

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