Review Steel Boat, Iron Hearts: A U-boat Crewman's Life Aboard U-505

AWP

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#1
Steel Boat was written by Hans Goebeler and chronicles his life about U-505. He made every war cruise with her save the transition from Kiel to Lorient and was present during her capture by the US Navy on June 4, 1944. It is an excellent account of life aboard a U-boat from 1942-1944 and has a little bit of everything related to a crewman's life. I thought it was a very candid book although some periods of time were left blank. Whether by accident, design/ literary flow, or intentional, I do not know. Maybe those were just mundane sections of a cruise? No idea.

For those not familiar with the U-505, it was captured by the US and eventually placed on display in Chicago. it is an excellent and "must see" exhibit if you are in Chicago. U-505 is the only U-boat in North America and one of the few inn the world intact and available for tours. Those are $20+ dollars as I recall and we seemed to be hurried through the boat, but it is eye opening. Read this book before you go. A few other notable events:

- One of its skippers, Peter Zschech was the only U-boat commander to commit suicide while at sea. I don't recall this from the tour and it is chilling to think you stand where his body dropped.
- U-505 was the most heavily damaged submarine of the war to make it back to port following a bombing by the RAAF. The pilot and crew were killed in the attack (by their own bomb it appears) and Goebeler pays ample tribute to he and his crew.
- The book even contains a vignette about dick surgery while underway. Yes, dick surgery.

Anyway, this is a very good book if you're in WWII or naval history.
 

Red Flag 1

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#3
Steel Boat was written by Hans Goebeler and chronicles his life about U-505. He made every war cruise with her save the transition from Kiel to Lorient and was present during her capture by the US Navy on June 4, 1944. It is an excellent account of life aboard a U-boat from 1942-1944 and has a little bit of everything related to a crewman's life. I thought it was a very candid book although some periods of time were left blank. Whether by accident, design/ literary flow, or intentional, I do not know. Maybe those were just mundane sections of a cruise? No idea.

For those not familiar with the U-505, it was captured by the US and eventually placed on display in Chicago. it is an excellent and "must see" exhibit if you are in Chicago. U-505 is the only U-boat in North America and one of the few inn the world intact and available for tours. Those are $20+ dollars as I recall and we seemed to be hurried through the boat, but it is eye opening. Read this book before you go. A few other notable events:

- One of its skippers, Peter Zschech was the only U-boat commander to commit suicide while at sea. I don't recall this from the tour and it is chilling to think you stand where his body dropped.
- U-505 was the most heavily damaged submarine of the war to make it back to port following a bombing by the RAAF. The pilot and crew were killed in the attack (by their own bomb it appears) and Goebeler pays ample tribute to he and his crew.
- The book even contains a vignette about dick surgery while underway. Yes, dick surgery.

Anyway, this is a very good book if you're in WWII or naval history.
Next book for me ^^^^.
 

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#5
Which periods were left blank Free?
I don't really recall beyond making the observation as I read the book. One section was several weeks' worth as the boat returned from a patrol (maybe mundane stuff and nothing to write about?), but there were one or two others. It created gaps in the story, but nothing significant. He's very candid, so I can't see the gaps containing damning information, but you never know. It raises questions, but doesn't take anything away from the book.
 

Devildoc

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#7
Well, there are two U-Boats off the NC coast you can tour....for free....;-)

I will have to put this book on my list.....
 

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#9
German or not you have to have respect for any man that had the balls to fight the war below the seas. Some hard men.

Thanks @Freefalling, this one is high on the list now.
U-boat crews had anywhere from a 75-80% (depending on the source and how you split hairs) casualty rate. In the book the author comments on how many boats were being lost and that the crews knew their odds sucked.
 

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#10
U-boat crews had anywhere from a 75-80% (depending on the source and how you split hairs) casualty rate. In the book the author comments on how many boats were being lost and that the crews knew their odds sucked.
It is a testament that men performed their duty, and did it well, in some of those units. Some of the bomber units in England had similar casualty rates, yet they kept going back.

I had read somewhere, sometime, that the number 25 was put up as the rotation for heavy bomber aircrews as the actuarial Gods said surviving 30 was nearly impossible (though it was the RAF limit). Likely a myth but does point out the probability of being a casualty. I am sure being a German submariner was similar.
 

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#11
It is a testament that men performed their duty, and did it well, in some of those units. Some of the bomber units in England had similar casualty rates, yet they kept going back.

I had read somewhere, sometime, that the number 25 was put up as the rotation for heavy bomber aircrews as the actuarial Gods said surviving 30 was nearly impossible (though it was the RAF limit). Likely a myth but does point out the probability of being a casualty. I am sure being a German submariner was similar.
It was 25 and became something like 50 by the end of the war. The German everything pretty much served until death, injuries, or peace.
 
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#12
U-boat crews had anywhere from a 75-80% (depending on the source and how you split hairs) casualty rate. In the book the author comments on how many boats were being lost and that the crews knew their odds sucked.
The fact that there even exists a story about a U-boat taking a hit and surviving to make it back to port is amazing. To know how bad the odds are and still do the job is worthy of the utmost respect in my book. 75-80%? Jesus.
 

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#13
It was 25 and became something like 50 by the end of the war. The German everything pretty much served until death, injuries, or peace.
It's been so long since our country has been a battlefield it's easy to forget that Germany, England, France, USSR, were literally in it to win it.

RE: the bomber mission number I understand that the number went up as the number of bombers being shot down went down and that it was more likely to live through 50 missions in 1944 than 25 in 1942.
 

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#14
The fact that there even exists a story about a U-boat taking a hit and surviving to make it back to port is amazing. To know how bad the odds are and still do the job is worthy of the utmost respect in my book. 75-80%? Jesus.
Subs the world over took a beating, but as the authors mentioned, and I've read elsewhere, literally one mistake can doom a boat. Open the wrong valve at the wrong time? Done. At least one U-boat (U-1206) may have sank because of a faulty toilet.

It's been so long since our country has been a battlefield it's easy to forget that Germany, England, France, USSR, were literally in it to win it.

RE: the bomber mission number I understand that the number went up as the number of bombers being shot down went down and that it was more likely to live through 50 missions in 1944 than 25 in 1942.
A look at the rotation policy: http://www.afhra.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-080424-048.pdf
 

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#15
Reading books about WW II U-Boats, or submarines in general are rather shocking. The living conditions are retched. Nothing is ever really dry, mold is growing on everything. The boats are crammed with food, sailors, and spare parts. You have no personal space, and share your bunk with one or two other sailors. Unless you were in a US Navy boat, there was no air conditioning, and the humidity was always too high for comfort. If you were in the North Atlantic, you froze your nuts off. If you were in a Jap boat, with the diesels running on the surface, it was hot and wet all over. In the US boats, over 50% of you torpedoes you launched, you heard bounce off your target. All the hours spent getting position to launch a fish was for nothing. If the enemy heard the thud for what it was, you still got your ass pounded with depth charges.

The U-Boat, Submarine books that have been recommended here, and the sister book thread, are all great reads. Grab one and read it, I promise you will not regret it.
 
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