Kapitän zur See Wolfgang Lüth commanded five U-boats (U-13, U-9, U-138, U-43 and U-181) sinking 47 ships for a total of 225,756 tons. He was one of the most complex personalities of the U-boat War. On the one hand, he was an inspiring leader and tactician who got the most from his men and his boat; and on the other, he was an ardent and outspoken Nazi. While interesting, this lecture is not comfortable reading. The reader is forced to confront Lüth's dark side.

        Lüth's general approach to leadership, that if you take care of your men they will take care of you, is universally accepted. Many of the specific leadership techniques described by Lüth in this lecture were developed to maintain morale during the long cruises to distant waters typical for the type IX and IXD2 boats Lüth commanded. These techniques were less useful during North Atlantic patrols made by the majority of U-boats.

        This translation of Lüth's Lecture is by the Office of Naval Intelligence. According to Jordan Vause, who wrote the excellent Lüth biography, "U-boat Ace, the Story of Wolfgang Lüth", the translation is poor but the reader will get a sense of Lüth's leadership style and a glimpse of life aboard a U-boat.


A lecture given by the German Submarine Commander, Lt. Commander Lueth, German Navy, on 17 December 1943.


Navy Department
        The following is a lecture by Lt. Commander Wolfgang Lueth on the problems of leadership in a submarine, given at a convention of naval officers at Weimar on 17 December 1943.  Lueth was one of the outstanding German submarine commanders.  He was born in 1913, and joined the German Navy in 1933.  In August 1943 he received the swords and diamonds to the Oak Leaves award, worn with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross; he was the seventh man to receive this decoration, and the first member of the Navy.  At that time it was claimed that he had sunk forty-six ships totaling 254,000 GRT.  In addition he was credited with sinking one enemy submarine, damaging two more ships and a destroyer, and executing a successful mining operation.  He made sixteen successful cruises, one of which is said to have been the longest submarine cruise of the war.  Lueth was given the nickname of “der grosse Jager”, or “the great hunter”.


Episodes from a submarine out on a mission
By Lt. Commander Lueth
Given at the Convention of Naval Officers at Weimar on 17 December 1943.
Grand Admiral, Gentlemen:
        It is my job as submarine commander to sink ships.  To do this I need a cooperative crew so that everything clicks.  If the men are really to cooperate, they not only have to know their jobs well – all the little details of their daily routine – but they also have to like their work.
        I wish to describe to you here a number of episodes which are to show you along what lines I have directed life aboard, and how we live.  I have spent a long time on enemy missions, the entire four years.  What I am going to tell here is based only on my own experiences; these are my own ideas.  I shall try to skip basic principles, to avoid platitudes, and to relate only episodes which can serve as examples of how it can be done.  Each trip was different, and each time I was surrounded by different officers and men.  There is no formula which applies to all cases.  I have learned new things during each of my sixteen missions, so that I had gathered considerable experience by the time I started on my last mission which lasted more than seven and one half months.
        I am now going to describe to you briefly conditions aboard a submarine, because they are so entirely different from those aboard other naval vessels.
        Life aboard is monotonous for long periods.  For many long weeks one must be able to bear failures, and when depth charges are added life becomes a “war of nerves” – which, however, affects principally the leaders.  We feel something like a flier in the air who is attacked, let us say, by three fighters.  This man, however, must be able to hear clearly every shot which is intended for him, even if it misses, yes, even if it misses him by several thousand meters.  Therefore he feels not only the shots that hit home, but every single shot that is fired.  All these blasts have a tormenting intensity.  Then the lights go out and he sits in the dark, and when it is dark all men become more afraid.  Unlike the plane the submarine cannot fly away, but has to remain motionless with out being able to defend himself or shot back.  All that requires stouthearted men.
        To this must be added that life aboard a submarine is unnatural and unhealthy compared to life on a sailing vessel, just as unhealthy as city life compared to life in the country.
        There is no constant change between day and night, for the lights have to burn all the time inside the boat.  There are no Sundays and no weekdays, and there is no regular change of seasons.  Therefore life is monotonous and without rhythm, and the captain must attempt to compensate for these disadvantages as far as possible.  Added to this is the continuous change of climate, which affects even the healthiest man after a certain length of time.  The boat passes from the trade wind zones to the tropics, from humid regions to clear weather zones, and touches one climate zone after the other, particularly on route to and from her zone of operations.  There is no regular time for sleeping, since most of the fighting is done at night.  Continuous responsibility rests with the captain for weeks and he must be alert at all times.  The stench on board, the racket, and the motion of the ship all add up to produce a bad state of morale.  Smoking and drinking strong coffee
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are also factors which must not be ignored, for both affect the men’s stomachs and nerves, particularly if they indulge in them at night on an empty stomach.  I have seen young fellows of twenty-three become unfit for submarine duty within two years.  Of course, one must not get drunk too often when ashore; that is a peacetime luxury.  During my enemy missions I have never drunk that popular mid watch coffee, which tastes so horrible because it is much too strong; I have never smoked more than one to two cigars daily, and I have only seldom got drunk ashore.
        The morale of the crew depends on the following factors:
        1.                  The discipline aboard.
        2.                  Success.  If a commander is successful his crew will love him more, even if he is a numbskull, than one who is unsuccessful.  However, for a commander who is not successful it is particularly important to have a crew with high morale.
        3.                  A well-organized daily routine aboard.
        4.                  The example and correct attitude of the officers.
        5.                  Real spiritual leadership for the men, together with a genuine concern for their personal welfare.
        It is the duty of the captain to see to it that a high esprit de corps prevails on his ship, and that the opinions of incompetent men count little.  He should act aboard perhaps like a gardener who roots out the weeds and tends the good plants.  That is not too difficult, for we deal mostly with eager young men.  The men are from twenty to twenty-two years old; the petty officers are twenty-three to twenty-five years old.  It is also to our advantage that most of the men are skilled craftsmen who have served apprenticeships, and that there are hardly any intellectual misfits among them who got only part way through secondary schools because they were thrown out or were too stupid to continue.  Such men can have a very adverse effect on the crew.  However, if they are closely watched their talents can also be used to good advantage.
        My crew included men from all regions of Germany.  Twenty percent of them came from the Rhineland and the rest came from all other parts of Germany, even from Austria and the Sudetenland; in my daily dealings I have had good and bad experiences with all of them.  Most petty officers were married and the rest were honestly engaged.  I consider that an advantage.  Though I know that a woman can break a man’s fighting strength, and I have often observed that married men returned from their leave particularly well rested for a new mission.  Married petty officers must be told what is required of the wife of a fighting man.  I was glad to have the opportunity at one time of inviting most of the wives of my men to my home for coffee.  I was glad to meet them and to be able to tell them that we expect them to be brave.  I believe that afterwards several of them felt better able to bear their burden, and I asked my wife to write to them now and then and keep in touch with them.
        Much has been written about the award of medals, and this subject will continue to be a controversial one.  This only shows the importance of the problem.  The fact must not be ignored that there are some men who, when decorated with the Iron Cross First Class, suddenly develop diseases which cannot be spotted by an X-ray machine and which are generally known by the watch word of heart and stomach ailments and rheumatism.  If every submarine man would submit to a conventional physical check-up, only few would be found fit for duty.  It is necessary to appeal to a man’s iron willpower to maintain his health and to overcome minor difficulties.  If two men are up for the Iron Cross First Class and only one can receive it, I prefer to give it to the man who stays on board rather than to the one who is lucky enough to be advanced to petty officer or chief petty officer and therefore has to leave the ship.  After all, the Iron Cross is not to be awarded for charity; it is a decoration for bravery before the enemy, and the bearer has to prove himself even more worthy of it after the award.
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On a long mission I cannot apply the penal provisions of the disciplinary punishment regulations, because I cannot imprison anybody, and liberty restrictions or withholding of pay are also impractical.  If I punish a man with two weeks in the brig I have to say to him “In a few months we shall be home again, and then you will have to sweat it out.”  In the meantime we experience success and danger together in which the man proves his worth.  We return home feeling triumphant having accomplished something.  Am I to lock the man up then for an offense committed months ago?  I consider this unwise.  Nevertheless, I do hold disciplinary hearings while at sea.  In the case of a grave offense all officers are present.  I want everybody to be neatly and uniformly dressed.  If, for instance, a man was impertinent to a superior of committed some other infraction, an offense for which he might get three days, I deprive him for three days of his bunk.  In that case he has to sleep on deck without a mattress or a blanket, and, since this is uncomfortable, it is more effective than three days arrest.  On long missions the younger men often break a lot of dishes.  Admonitions, as you know, are of little avail, especially since mess duty is often very difficult during rough weather.  Now I have china muster every week, and if too much is missing the mess attendant has to eat out of a can for three days.  To deprive a man of the smoking privilege is also hard punishment.  To forbid a skat fan to play for three days also works miracles.  On one trip our rations were short, yet one man obtained in an uncomradely manner additional rations in such quantities that I had to make an example of him.  I punished him by giving him the silent treatment for two weeks, as used to be customary among cadets, and actually nobody talked to him and he slept on a hard bunk all that time.  Afterwards the case was closed; nothing more was said about it, and comradeship was fully restored.
        Once I had a chronic grumbler aboard who also liked to be disobedient towards superiors who could not handle him.  He crabbed about everything, similar to some types in civilian life.  Once when we had no success for weeks and his grumbling threatened the morale of the crew I called a muster.  I dived to forty meters, got everything well settled, left three good men in the control and electric motor compartments, addressed the man in a loud voice: “Either you return with me as my friend, or when you return I shall send you to a penal company at the Eastern Front.  For the time being you will pull two weeks extra duty according to an exact schedule.”  I gave him this in writing and had him sign it.  Then I had it printed in the ship’s paper which hangs on the bulletin boards, one across from the radio room and one at the head in the aft compartment where it can be read with the necessary leisure.  The man performed the extra duty in the tropics to my full satisfaction.  He sorted out bad potatoes, cleaned up the bilges, shifted the supplies, and relieved his comrades of the kind of work that is necessary but is very unpleasant to perform.  He continued to do his work so well that he now wears the Iron Cross, and I have recommended him to my successor as combat helmsman.
        I do not let the mess petty officer distribute fruit, chocolate, and similar things in a routine manner but I keep them under my thumb.  Fruit as a reward for a job well done or withheld as punishment for greediness is a good means for education on a long trip.
        These are all things which can be done very well on board.  They are more effective when sensibly applied than the penalties provided by the disciplinary punishment regulations.  It is important that the crew be notified of the punishment in a proper manner, either through the ship’s paper or the bulletin board, or at muster.  Any chicanery must be prevented, and the man must never notice that his captain is irritated.  He must feel that in the end he is appreciated as
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an equal among comrades.  Generally I had the tendency to punish as little as possible.  This cannot be done by putting your hands in your lap and letting everything take its course, but by taking particularly good care of one’s men, by truly leading and educating them, and by issuing clear orders to make obedience easier.
        One day after I had received the Oak Leaves at sea my aft lookout spotted a destroyer too late.  There was nothing for us to do but dive and wait.  Our success was jeopardized, and we were exposed to unnecessary danger.  Nevertheless I did not punish the man.  We had so much stuff thrown at us that we could not surface for over fifteen hours.  The looks he got from his comrades when the depth charges started to explode were punishment enough.  The fact that I did not punish him paid off well.  He is now an excellent man.
        I have also had men with prison records aboard, and I got along well with them.  Naturally they must not be thieves who stole from their fellow crew members or similar inferior types.  At one time a destroyer was attacking us with depth charges, when suddenly at great depth a valve of the bilge water line burst.  Water rushed into the boat.  The electric switchboard at the central control station caught fire, and the lights went out.  Fortunately I had a man with a prison record who wanted to redeem himself.  He jumped into the fire and extinguished it.  He received the Iron Cross First Class and is now a petty officer.  It was a bargain for both of us, for him as well as for me.  In almost every case the purpose of punishment is to educate the man, not to destroy him.  The chance to redeem himself is often a strong incentive for such a man.
        It is obvious that a precise routine must be adhered to on board.  It is a matter of honor that the watch is relieved on time.  I also stress the observance of military courtesy aboard.  This necessarily applies more in port than at sea, where it must suffice to call “Attention” when the captain enters a compartment for the first time during the day, and to have the senior enlisted man report what is going on, just as the watch officer on the bridge has to report.  While lying in port muster must be stood at least once a day.  I feel that a dignified color ceremony is particularly important.  From time to time a locker muster must be held at sea, too, and one must constantly check to see that all gear is properly stowed.  Besides this, it must be added that the captain must be accessible at all times aboard, so that important matters are not postponed out of misplaced respect for his person or fear of his bad mood.
        The lookout is particularly important on a submarine.  His qualifications depend even more on his character than on his good eyes.  During all my cruises we spotted far more than 100 planes but we were bombed only three times.  Several times the lookout spotted planes even at night, and twice he even heard them in time.  Despite this, I permit the men to talk and smoke while on watch.  I know that young crews must be forbidden to do so while in training at home, where not a word may be spoken during the watch.  The lookout must first get a “solid foundation”.  But if you've been at sea for months, you can’t let the men stand watch for four hours without speaking a single word.  When I know that they are alert, I permit them to sneak up to each other back to back and exchange a few words with their eyes on their binoculars.  Whether smoking is permitted at night is decided by the watch officer on the basis of visibility.  I should like to remark here that I forbid the younger men to smoke on an empty stomach before breakfast from 0400 and 0800.
        During one cruise one of my men was killed and several others wounded.  As replacement I picked a volunteer ordinary seaman from a German steamer at sea.  He was nineteen and had
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Served on German ships since he was fourteen.  He came aboard with a straw hat on his head and said: “Day, Cap'n, this is where I am supposed to get on”.  He had no idea of military discipline.  I assigned him my best petty officer to teach him military discipline and the basic facts.  After two weeks we swore him in.  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.  Appropriate songs for the ceremony had been prearranged, so that the  singing really clicked.  We also made the young seaman a present of the “Duties of a Man-of-War’s Man” which one of the men had carefully written down.  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.  When he went on leave I sent a fellow crew member along for his protection so that he could tell him: “You must salute this man, he is a superior, watch your step, this man belongs to the railroad patrol; but the admiral over there in that beautiful uniform is a railroad man who wont brother you.”
        Normally no alcohol is allowed aboard.  However, the men are very grateful if they can take a swig from the bottle now and then on a special occasion, as when a steamer has been sunk, if it is someone’s birthday, or if somebody got soaked while working on the upper deck.
        The closer the petty officers cooperate with their officers,  the better will be the discipline aboard.  Therefore I support the petty officers on board wherever I can.  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.  “A soldier must be self-confident” is an old axiom.  The seaman must, if possible, shoulder more responsibility than his younger comrades.
        Success is easy to take; it raises morale.  My efforts on board, however, are directed toward keeping up the crew’s morale when things are not going well, too.  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,
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and he relayed it to the crew over the loud-speaker.  Since the men knew what the game was I did not have to drive them on.  Before the boat turned for the attack I called down: “The run starts!”.  This not only gives the crew a heightened feeling of confidence, but also prepares them for the climax of the attack.  For instance, when the torpedo is on the way I add: “It will be at least forty seconds before it hits!”.   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.  And if after two minutes there is still no explosion, the waiting is ended with the expression “Schiet!”.  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.  At one time I posted a sample letter on the bulletin board: “Dear Erika, I have returned safely.  We were very successful and sank several steamers.  Once we even caught a shark, and I won first prize in the chess tournament…”  I add a lot of other things, and they can pick out whatever suits them best.
         The ordinary daily routine must be perfectly organized.  The ship must become a home to the sailor.  Naturally there must not be too much regimentation.  Because rest periods are particularly necessary on a submarine, it is one of the submarine man’s main principles that his off-duty hours and his sleep are inviolable.  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 (2000) until half an hour afterwards.  Sunday is always a special occasion and begins with a recorded program, initiated regularly by the song “Yes, this is my Sunday fun, to stay in bed at least until ten.”  The evening concert always ends with a fine record, the “Abendlied” sung by the Regenaburg Domspatzen.  I tell my men: “If you do put on a clean shirt every once and a while, don’t do it on Tuesday or Friday; do it on Sunday, so at least some of you will run around in Sunday clothes.”  Every man brings along enough illustrated magazines so that it is possible to distribute six new ones every Sunday.  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.  For safety’s sake there is a sign there which reads:
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“Make it short!”.  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.  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 also insist that the men have decent table manners, especially in the petty officers’ quarters.  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.  We remedied the situation by arranging a baking contest.  Four men who were professional bakers had to compete with each other, and we gave each new loaf of bread so much publicity over the radio and in the ship’s paper that it could not have been done better at the Reichstag elections.  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.  The ship’s store must also be watched; it must be run on the basis that every man gets an equal share, the captain not more than the youngest seaman.  If exceptions are made in certain articles the men must be told about it very frankly.  In all these problems the watch officer must really be the men’s best comrade and the link between captain and crew.  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.  But  have always trained my men to see the doctor or the captain even about trifles.  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 every submarine man’s duty to stay healthy.  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.
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        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.  If you are hungry you wouldn’t paint bread on the wall.  It is also advisable to leaf through the books aboard every once and a while, time and again you turn up one which can be thrown overboard because it appeals only to man’s lower instincts.  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.  Many escape to the whorehouse simply because it is “pleasanter and more interesting” there and they feel themselves unobserved.
        The spirit of the crew depends mainly on an exemplary officers’ corps.  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.
        Life in the officers’ mess must be above reproach, for the crew looks up to their officers, whose esprit de corps transmits  itself to them.  I also address all my men as “seamen”.  After all they are all seafaring men; it doesn’t matter whether a man works on the engines now or tuned the sails in past decades – they are all doing it for their ship.  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.  Nevertheless you can’t let them hang the picture of the Fuehrer on the left side of the bulkhead in the officers’ mess and on the right side one of a girl from a box of candy which they bought in Paris.  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.  It is also obvious that obscenities and dirty jokes  are not to be told on a crowded ship and on such a long journey.  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.
        There are things which cannot be tolerated under any circum-
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stances.  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.  Then he didn’t eat this or that, and literally demanded an extra sausage for himself.  Before something like that comes to the captain’s attention the crew has of course spotted it long ago, and the officers’ mess is brought into ridicule.
        On the bridge I often talk to the watch officers.  I ask them what we would do under today’s weather conditions to dodge a suddenly approaching destroyer, when we would have to today if a plane approached, when we would remain surfaced?  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.  They must be positive suggestions dictated by an aggressive spirit however, for I am scared enough myself and in that I don’t need help from anybody else.
        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.  Also the daily “Doppelkopf” (card game), or whatever makes for pleasant conviviality, must not be forgotten.  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.  There was no room in the officers’ quarters, and neither did I want to put them into the petty officers’ quarters, so I put them into the bow compartment. 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.  Naturally they are invited to the officers’ mess now and then to eat and play cards or for conversation.  But otherwise I intentionally assign them more duties than other crew members.  During their off-duty hours they have to calculate reckonings, make trim calculations, or receive instructions so that the men can only say: “To be a midshipman is not really as wonderful as it looks in the movies.  They really have to work if they want to get somewhere.”  The result of this treatment was that the midshipman knew something, were efficient, and I liked to have them on my missions.
        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.  Since this was his off-duty period, he actually went right back to sleep and only mumbled something about “turbulent times”.  When we surfaced and found ourselves in a mine field, I asked him whether he thought we should keep more starboard or port.  He gave me an honest answer: “It doesn’t matter; if we wake up tomorrow we have steered right.”  That was not impertinence; it fit his soldier temperament.
        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-
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bility.  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 word destroyer is never mentioned, instead the term “small vessel” is used so that some men do not become unnecessarily excited.  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.
        The officers must be inventive in order to keep up the men’s enthusiasm, particularly on such long trips.  I do not arrange everything that should be done during the off-duty hours myself, but call the officers and men together and tell them: “See to it that we get something organized again.  Perhaps we could do this or that, this way or that way.”, and I add some suggestions but remain in the background and let the men do the rest.
        Chess and skat tournaments are easy to arrange.  The score of each round is announced over the loud-speaker or through the ship’s paper.  The first couple of times everybody is enthusiastic, but later that becomes boring. Too, and you have to think up something new again.  There are the celebrations and holidays, which can be arranged in a nice manner.  At Christmas time candles or fir wreaths made of twisted towels and green colored toilet paper were lit in every room.  Christmas baking lasted for two weeks, and everybody was permitted to nibble a little just like at home.  On Christmas Eve a home-made Santa Claus, who wears only a bed sheet in the tropics, stands in the festively decorated bow compartment and presents every man with some candy and a book with a dedication.  All this, of course, is accompanied with appropriate verses and phrases.  We sang Christmas carols and the captain gave a Christmas speech.  After the celebration we ate supper on the gaily decorated tables.  The officers’ mess was dissolved and the officers ate with the men.
        There is nothing new to write about the ceremony when crossing the equator.  It is prepared long in advance and can be arranged quite well despite the increased danger from air attack, though only in a limited way.  The educational value of this ceremony, if it is rough enough, should not be underestimated.  I am of the opinion that young men should experience once in their lives how much a healthy body can endure; the captain’s only duty is to see that the rough play does not degenerate into sadism.
        On a man’s birthday the “Birthday Serenade” by “our” Paul Linke sounds over the loud-speaker.  The captain and the officers appear in the control room with the can of fruit, a cake, and a bottle of cognac, and everybody gets a sip to celebrate the day.  The “Birthday Serenade” is played until the ceremony is over.  We say many other things on board with music, too.  The off-duty watch officer will know that the ship is diving when they hear the diving march: “We’ll do it
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all right, we’ll do it all right, we’ll get the thing done yet.”  (Wir schaffen ea schon, wir schaffen es schon, wir werden das Ding schon dreb’n”), which we play for the chief engineer while he is regulating the trim.  When we are about to surface we signal the watch to get ready with the march “Today we shove off into the blue sea” (“Heut stechen vir ins blaue Meer”).
        If we sight whales, or even a dead whale floating around with an enormous oil trail, or life boats, or if there is a thunderstorm, or when a St. Elmo’s light or an aurora borealis can be seen, the crew is bailed topside one by one, if possible, to let them share the experience.
        All these things are trifles, of course, one can forget about them or do them in an altogether different way.  However, there can be no doubt that on the whole they do affect the life and the spirit aboard.
        The men must know what they are fighting for and must be eager to risk their lives for it.  It is necessary to get rid of a certain passive philosophy in some of the men.  On Sunday I sometimes dive and hold muster under water to tell them something about the Reich, and the centuries old struggle for it, and about the greatest men of our history.  On the Fuehrer’s birthday I tell them something about his life and about my visit to Fuehrer Headquarters.  Another time I tell them about racial and population problems, all from the viewpoint of the struggle for the realization of the Reich.  I talk to the petty officers separately about women and other subjects which can be more easily discussed with them than with the entire crew.  I have the officers hold lectures about subjects they are interested in.  The chief engineer, for instance, talks about coal as a raw material; an officer of the watch about the Atlantic, its climate and fauna, about the Gulf Stream, flying fishes, and the trade winds – all things which belong to the general education of a seaman.  According to orders, we only avoid talking about religion.  We speak about Germany, the Fuehrer and his National Socialist movement.
        Such lectures are very effective to fill out spare time.  If one has introduced the men to something in their own language they will often talk about it for days, for the submarine man spends a large part of his spare time on his bunk shooting the breeze with his shipmates.
        The men are also encouraged to read good books, and they have voluntarily read books by Beumelburg, Jelusich, and other historical writers.  This or that problem “casually” brought up in the bow compartment, and the ensuing discussion, can also arouse the interest for good books.  Of course, to influence them that way the officers have to sit down with their men for lengthy conversations.  An officer’s entrance should not suddenly interrupt the men’s conversation; on the contrary, they should be glad to be able to talk to an older comrade about things that are not yet clear to them.

        We had on board the volume of the 1933 issues of the illustrated news magazine “Die Wochenschau”, a very good paper, which still showed in its first number of January 1933 many pictures of Jews.  The crew was at that time on the average only ten years old, and had never experienced anything like that.  Then came the day of the assumption of power, the Reichstag fire, the day of Potsdam, the super highways, the Reich Labor Service, etc.  The men were surprised about many of these pictures, because they could not imagine that there had been a time in Germany when all these things to which we are now accustomed were still being fought for.  We hung pictures from this paper in our “show window” duty roster, and there were always interested spectators crowding around.  To the right and left were added comments in red and blue pencil.

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        During long missions we also hold classes for the men.  I set loose curricula to which the officers and petty officers can adhere.  Of course, it is impossible to make exact plans on an enemy mission.  Every watch officer holds classes for the men of his own watch on subjects which every seaman should but unfortunately doesn’t know.  About wind and waves, flags and insignia, plotting and chart reading, etc.  As is customary, we also have a ship’s paper.  In the first section it brings short excerpts from the political news.  I feel that this part is so important that I have always written it myself.  The second part is for local news and contains humorous descriptions of the events of the last few days.  Especially appreciated were the “Special Submarine News” which in combination with the radio news service kept us so well informed about the political situation that after seven and one half months we knew perhaps more about it than the people at home, who are distracted from a larger perspective by the multitude of small things in everyday life.
        Before the start of a mission it is important to see to it that enough books come on board.  The library should consist of an intelligent mixture of good and lighter books, for a sailor likes to read when he lies on his bunk.  And since books can influence a man very strongly, the reading material becomes the captain’s responsibility.  Another detail must be mentioned in this connotation.  It is practical to construct, with means available on board, little reading lamps for all cots in the crew quarters so that the men can readily read fairly comfortably.  After all, one cannot expect them to spend their spare time, too, in the more or less bumpy forecastle, where the lights are none too good for reading; this is sometimes not possible in any case, since torpedoes are often stowed there.  Furthermore, the men have stood on their feet long enough during the watch, and they want to lie down comfortably.
        No matter how many records there are on board, during a long mission they soon become boring.  Therefore I permit only the one hour of music every day.  Each compartment, and every man on his birthday gets a chance to arrange a program, so that every taste is satisfied.  For this purpose I divide the records into several groups.  Good but difficult music which is hard to understand and cannot be played on board, good and serious, but understandable music, like the Egmont Overture, Rienzi, the Prelude by Liszt, and so forth.  One of these must be played every day at the beginning of the concert.  A large part of the program consists of good music that is easy to understand, taken mostly from German operettas.  The rest of the program is filled with pleasant and easily understood music.  I always see to it that not too many sentimental songs are played, since they often do not fit into a system which is to make the men tough.  Our men have a much greater appreciation of German culture than is generally realized.  If, for instance, we wanted to play Mozart’s “Kleine Nachtmusik”, the first officer of the watch told the men in a few words over the loud-speaker something about the piece, and the men really did listen to it with a little more appreciation.  Naturally, it is impossible as well as unnecessary to persuade the men to like only serious music, but now and then it must be possible to lift them above their everyday life.
        In areas where the danger of air attack was not so serious, the off-duty watch sang at night in the bow compartment.  They sang mostly seamen’s songs which before the war had also been sung on the sailing training ships of the Navy.  I stressed that, for if we seamen don’t sing typical seamen’s songs, who else in the Navy or at home would do so?  After all we do not need too many marching songs since the Navy does not march very much.

        I have talked about skat and chess tournaments.  We also arranged other competitions, singing for instance.  Everyone had to sing a song through the microphone, and the entire crew gave grades like in school.  The first prize was a free watch which

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the captain had to take over.  The second prize for a seaman was to start the Diesel engine, or for a machinist to come to the bridge and direct the ship instead of the captain.  We also arranged a real strength exhibition like in the Olympic Games, complete with radio reporting and close-packed spectators.  A heavy weight was attached to the end of a rope hanging from a stick fifty centimeters long.  This weight had to be lifted by turning the stick until the rope was completely wound around it.  Whoever could raise and lower the weight more often was the winner.  I tell you these things in such detail only to show you that there is an infinite variety of possibilities on board to arrange an hour of fun now and then for the crew.  We also held a lying contest, and everybody had to tell the story over the loud-speaker that he would tell at home at his father’s beer table, at least as exaggerated as Muenchausen.  We got some really wonderful tall stories, some of them fit to print.
        To make the men remember the ship’s doctor’s instructions on hygiene we arranged a poetry competition.  Everyone had to compose four to eight line verses which expressed in a humorous way what the doctor had said.  We also held a drawing contest.  The entries had to be drawings of funny incidents on board.  Those who could not draw very well could explain their funny figures with a few words.  A good idea and a sharp wit counted more than the ability to draw.  All entries, of course, were put into the “show window”.  Furthermore, books of general educational value are also popular on board.  Pamphlets with vocational instruction and particularly maps and reference books are studied.  As the time passes the most incredible questions arise.  Somebody asks whether cows give more milk if a radio is played often in their vicinity; whether it is true that the holes in cheese are made with compressed air; or someone maintains that cannot hear the thunder during a thunderstorm at sea.  Some believe that horse meat tastes bad because horses have no kidneys and sweat everything through the ribs.  Inn such cases reference books have to be consulted to settle the arguments.  It goes without saying that we have maps on the wall which show our fronts.  They hang near the bulletin board where the ship’s paper is displayed, and next to the duty roster which we use as a show window to exhibit particularly interesting pictures, types of warships, special announcements, or newspapers.
        Handicraft is also popular and the men are quite skillful, but it is not as simple on board a submarine as the book says it is.  I have almost never succeeded in getting the necessary materials on board.  The proper wood for carving is especially scarce.  The men in the engine room have the advantage in that respect, for some of the waste materials from the shipyard are quite useful.
        I have mentioned here a number of general examples.  They are meant merely to serve as suggestions, and can either be followed or changed according to temperament.  One thing is clear, though:  The captain must be concerned about his men and take care of them.  It is not enough to issue orders and to punish a man now and then for noncompliance.  Discipline and spartan training in the little routines of everyday are most important to the captain if he wants to be successful.  But this is already well known, and therefore I will not go into further details.  Beyond this, however, it must be demanded that the crew live for the ship, and gladly follow the captain.  And now I wish to show on the basis of a few failures which I have experienced that there are situations which cannot be mastered simply by orders and obedience.  In such cases the captain is dependent on the fact that he and the crew have their hearts set on the same thing.

        We had been at sea for a hundred days and everything had clicked.  Suddenly we had to crash dive, but we could not submerge.  I looked at the manometer, but it was hardly moving.  I thought: “Well, it is always that way: when you are in a hurry it seems that the boat sinks particularly slowly”.  I ordered a check to find the source of the defect and discovered that the air vent

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in the Diesel engine compartment would not open.  What had happened after everything had gone smoothly a hundred times?  While surfacing a second class petty officer had checked the vent with a valve pin, but had forgotten to pull it out again as he should have done.  During the crash dive the air vent stayed shut.  The man who stood by on that post only looked at his indicator panel, and when he heard a click he was satisfied and reported: “Air vent open”.  I ordered the air vent opened by hand, but that takes too long, and I surfaced to clear the situation.  But just as I opened the conning tower hatch the air vent opened and the ship submerged again.  I, the captain, had nearly fouled things up.  We kept going down and were unable to blow out the negative buoyancy quick diving tank.  That valve was always hard to turn, and we needed a wrench, which was always fastened to a rope so that it would be ready at the right time.  But on that day of all days it was missing.  We sank rapidly.  Then we started to blow the tanks.  After a few minutes we noticed that the pump was not sucking properly.  The men in the trim corner had not paid close attention.  When, after cruising underwater for some time, we wanted to pump the Diesel bilges, that pump also failed to work properly.  It had gradually accumulated all the pants buttons and rags which the crew of the bow compartment had dropped into the bilges.  You just can’t relax in making sure that all duties at sea are performed properly.

        After a particularly long period in the shipyard far more than a third of my crew were new men, especially among the ratings.  The first steamer which I spotted during that mission was a particularly fat morsel, proceeding at high speed.  After a long chase we maneuvered into attack position at night and I said to the 1st officer of the watch, who was on his first cruise: “Now aim the first shot at the foremast and the second shot calmly at the aftermast”.  This watch officer wanted to make a particularly good job of it and said: “Tube I fire!” so calmly and quietly that the fire control man could not hear it in the coning tower.  It did not seem loud enough to me, either, and I told him to order the second shot louder.  He did so then, but the fire control man had forgotten to remove the safety pin before firing, and the second shot did not go off either.  He was new on board and so was the torpedo mate, therefore the communication through the speaking tube did not function the way it had been practiced before. Immediately I ordered a switch over to the remaining two tubes and fired them at the steamer.  However the distance had become very short.  The tin fish were out, but the steamer had seen us and was turning toward us.  We were about to be rammed and the shots had missed!  I wanted to turn hard to port and ordered: “Hard left, starboard engine full speed ahead! Port engine full speed astern!”, but our helmsman turned the rudder at first to starboard and I had to correct him, so that the boat took a while to start turning.  The machinist mate, an old experienced hand, started the port Diesel engine at full speed astern and thought that the new mate was confused because his starboard Diesel engine was now running at full speed ahead.  He jumped to the starboard Diesel engine and switched it into reverse also.  Now I stood there with both engines running full speed astern and the rudder in the wrong position.  However, we got clear and continued to chase the steamer, but she turned on steam and ran the decisive mile faster than we could.  When you finally realize that you have lost her and that the whole thing has been fouled up you feel like crying.  But you must never weaken.

        One day there was a terrible noise in the middle of the night.  We thought of aerial bombs or some similar catastrophe.  Instead, the wall of the compensating tank had burst and the air had escaped with a great roar.  At the same time the negative buoyancy quick diving tank was damaged and put out of order.  The pressure gauge had been checked but it had not indicated any critical pressure.  But it is not only necessary to look at the pressure indicated by the manometer, but also to check whether it is working properly and does not jam at 10 atmospheres overpressure.  Or another time we discovered three days after we had left port,
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when the sun finally broke through the low hanging clouds, that it was in the southeast at noon instead of the south.  The compass seemed absolutely correct, and the chief engineer reported after some time to the captain that the compass was correct and the sun must be in the wrong position.  After several exact reckonings we found that we had steered 300 off our course for three days and had come uncomfortably close to mine fields.  But it is always the captain’s fault.  I had not bothered to see to it that the gyrocompass was compared with land bearings during our departure.
        During one mission I had a very likable chief quartermaster, who, however, had the constant habit of jumping the gun.  When we passed through one of our own mine fields I told him that tomorrow morning at 0300 he should begin zigzagging, because then it would begin to get light and we would have to count on enemy submarines; and I added that tomorrow at 0500 we would change our course from 3000 to 2900.  At 0500 in the morning I came out on the bridge and saw that he had already changed the course without me.  What had happened?  At 0300 he had started to zigzag and had changed course from 3000 to 2900, and after he had proceeded on this course for some time he confused port with starboard and made the next track to 2400; we had been zagging for two hours in the mine area, because for two hours we had deviated 300 from our course.  It’s an uncomfortable feeling, and it’s annoying to be blown sky high because of such stupidity.  I couldn’t help saying: “If we hit a mine now and blow up, even in heaven I’ll kick you in the butt.”  We turned at once and went back on the same course.  What good is it for the captain to think while he is being blown up that it is somebody else’s fault after all?  No, he should check everything himself before it is too late.  Enough bad experiences have been made already.
        All such failures can be avoided for the most part.  In the final analysis if something goes wrong it is always the captain’s and the officers’ fault.  They must know that there are situations in which there can’t be someone standing behind every crewmember to give orders, in which orders may come too late, and in which it is decisive that the men are attached heart and soul to “their boat”.  I am convinced that many a boat was lost through such trifles, and that many were unsuccessful because of such incalculable and unexpected mishaps.
        It is the duty of every captain to have faith in his men; he must want to have faith in them, even if they have disappointed him at one time or another.  For beyond this we know for a fact that our young men are thirsting for action with unqualified devotion.  This is an important advantage over the Anglo Americans.  If our men are led into action united in the national socialist spirit with revolutionary ardor, then they will always follow gladly on new assignments and to new attacks.  We must only show them respect and we must like them.



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