Firsthand Accounts from World War II
1999, United States Naval Inst.
Hardcover, 288 pages, 41 photos
The author interviewed seventeen enlisted men and five commanders who served on U-boats in World War II. The interviews were conducted half a century after the end of that conflict, and several of those who provided their stories died soon after; thus, the author's contribution to historical research in preserving these recollections is invaluable. Especially notable is the inclusion of so many stories of enlisted men, whose voices are not often heard.
Being strictly a work of oral history, the book naturally suffers from the limitations of that genre. The author presents the interviewees' memories of events without analysis. While this accurately indicates how the men remembered their experiences and the war itself, it would have been useful if, by means of footnotes or a postscript at the end of each chapter, any discrepancies had been noted or useful comments providing historical context been included.
The chapter on Kretschmer was rather disappointing, in that it included little new information. Although the author interviewed him just two months before his death, much of the chapter seems to be based on the popular but not strictly accurate Night Raider of the Atlantic; it seems Silent Otto had the last laugh here, living up to his name until the end.
In spite of these limitations of genre, the book makes excellent reading and provides insight into the varied and dangerous nature of U-boat operations as experienced by both those who gave the orders and those who carried them out.
Review written by Tonya Allen.
Published on 26 Nov 1999.
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This title is highly recommended.
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