Naval Warfare Books


Vause, Jordan

1997, United States Naval Inst.
ISBN 1557508747

Type. Biography
Pros. In-depth coverage of a few men not often discussed
Cons. None to speak of

Although the title of this book calls up an image commonly applied to U-boat commanders, the author's purpose is to show that this image, in common with all other images associated with the U-boat man, does not stand up to close scrutiny. His goal is to demonstrate that no one image is correct, and that the men in question were all quite different from one another in terms of background, personality, achievements and ideas.

The book includes sections on Jürgen Oesten, Wolfgang Lüth, Victor Oehrn, and Erich Topp. The most famous aces, Günther Prien, Joachim Schepke, and Otto Kretschmer, are mentioned briefly, as is the ill-fated Oskar Kusch. The Merten-Buchheim quarrel over Das Boot is discussed in the framework of these two individuals' wartime experiences, and Vause also offers a literary comparison of Das Boot to the only other major U-boat novel yet published, Haie und kleine Fische (Sharks and Little Fishes). Herbert Werner and his famous memoir Iron Coffins are also examined.

Two of the most interesting sections of the book are its few paragraphs about Horst Bredow and his U-boot-Archiv in Cuxhaven, and an insightful chapter on Karl Dönitz. The book also includes background chapters on the U-boat arm since 1914.

Overall, Vause succeeds in his quest to demonstrate that, far from being one-sided warriors cast from an identical mold, U-boat commanders, like anyone else, were unique individuals quite dissimilar one from another.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

Published on 26 Nov 1999.

This title is highly recommended.