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

Excerpts from the summary report about the Kommandant, Oblt. Steinert:

The commanding officer, Oberleutnant Hermann Steinert, was on his first patrol as a commander. He belongs to the 1936 term, and since most of his comrades of the same term have by now been promoted to Kapitänleutnant it may be assumed that his promotion to this rank will take place shortly.

Then and now each crew of German Navy officers is promoted to Oberfähnrich, Leutnant, and Oberleutnant at the same time. Thereafter promotion is strictly on merit.

Nothing whatever is known about his [Oblt. Steinert’s] previous career except that he has been in the U-boat arm for some time, probably serving as executive officer. His experience, however, was not such that it inspired much confidence in his crew, who considered him overcautious. His attitude towards the interrogating officers was always correct and polite, but, as his security consciousness was somewhat exaggerated, relations were not so cordial as with his executive officer.

U-Boat crewmen at this time wanted a Kommandant who was aggressive enough to get them into a relatively safe firing position and fire a spread of torpedoes at a ship, then escape. They weren’t concerned with sinking ships. They were concerned with firing all the torpedoes as soon as possible. Once all the torpedoes had been fired, the U-Boat could return to base.

Kapitänleutnant Siegfried Sterzing, executive officer on U-128, though of the same term (meaning Crew 36) as his commanding officer, outranked him due to a promotion received on the last patrol. It was conceded, however, that Oberleutnant Steinert had more experience on U-boats, and there was no evidence of any conflict due to the peculiar situation created by Sterzing’s promotion. The latter was found to be a pleasant and amiable officer. In spite of the fact that he displayed strong leanings towards the Nazi doctrines, he was able to discuss the war as well as the political situation in a matter-of-fact manor.

This is a very bizarre situation with the Kommandant outranked by the First Watch Officer (IWO) or Executive Officer in the US Navy. I have never run across this before and I wonder if this information is actually correct.

Published by

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/

Leave a Reply