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Thursday, January 1, 2015

U-Boat 977

Type VIIC U-boat, same type as U-977
U-Boat 977 is Heinz Schaeffer's account of his career in the German Navy. It's short, very readable and very entertaining if you are a gear-head or even if you are not. There is an introduction by Nicholas Monsarrat. I've read a couple of his books and enjoyed them immensely. He isn't too happy with Heinz, but then he'd been on the other side.

The book itself has a number of technical details I was unaware of, but those are only there to help explain the circumstances of what's happening. He talks about all aspects of life in the Navy, good times and bad, interactions with subordinates, superiors and peers. People's attitudes were the most interesting / curious. I was going to put up a couple of quotes, but it felt like I would be quoting the whole book. Let's see if I can find one by just opening the book at random.
Chapter 5 - Christmas Eve 
For four weeks the wind had been howling from every quarter at 55 to 60 miles an hour, with heavy rain and the thermometer only a few degrees above zero, I was up on the bridge. There was of course no protection there, just the icy steel bulkheads, so it was impossible to work up any warmth. Lashed to the rail as I was, the leather safety-belt reinforced with steel bit deep into my ribs. It had been known for the watch on the bridge to be washed overboard in heavy seas -- in one boat the relief had gone up to take over and just found no one there. The force of the seas breaking over us now was terrific, but the boat shot on like an arrow, with very little pitching or rolling and the waves going over us like a breakwater.
Update: Forgot to mention the main reason for dragging this book with me all the way to Buenos Aires. Herr Schaeffer's last voyage as Captain of the U-977 brought him to Mar del Plata, Argentina, which is just down the coast from B.A.

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