What the US Navy Learned from the Crew of U-128 – Not Much (Part 1 of 3)

Below are excerpts, with my comments, from the declassified summary report of all interrogations of all crew members of U-128. You can find the complete document here.

On the whole, the crew of U-128 was both more friendly and more polite than some of those that had proceeded her. The majority of ratings and enlisted men “had been drafted” into the U-boat arm, and, although many of the enlisted men had only recently entered the service, the crew as such could not be called inexperienced. This fact seems due mainly to the group of petty officers, “13 of whom had been in the German Navy previous to the outbreak of the war,” one of them having entered in 1928 and two in 1933.

The German U-Bootwaffe and many surviving veterans vigorously maintained the myth that all U-Boat men were volunteers. This has been dis-proven many times in memoirs and in reports such as this. The other key fact in the above paragraph is the large number of experienced Petty Officers, 13 of whom were regular German Navy sailors who had enlisted long before the war. Men such as these would have proved vital in keeping this U-Boat and any U-Boat operating.

No doubt, however, the good treatment they had received played its part in unlimbering some of the prisoners most of whom were happy that for them the war was over. They were, in the words of some prisoners, “very lucky”.

They certainly were. German U-Boat losses had become so catastrophic in May of 1943 that the submarines were withdrawn from the North Atlantic and sent to less dangerous areas such as the waters off Brazil where U-128 was sunk. The US maintained substantial anti-submarine forces of ships and aircraft in Brazil which declared war on Germany and Italy on August 22nd, 1942.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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