Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

Steel Boats, Iron Hearts

The Wartime Saga of Hans Goebeler and the U-505

Goebeler, Hans Jacob

1999, Wagnerian Press
Paperback, 253 pages, 16 photos

Type. Biography
Pros. Rare look info enlisted man's experiences.
Cons. Minor typos and editing issues - nothing to reduce its value though.

Hans Goebeler, the man perhaps most famous for “pulling the plug” on the German U-boat U-505 on June 4, 1944 in an attempt to scuttle the boat, has published his memoirs with the help of John P. Vanzo. This is almost the only accont I’ve seen that is written from the enlisted man’s perspective which already gives the book a special feeling.

Hans Goebeler, who passed away last February, wrote this book about his experiences on the U-505 during the last 10 years or so using his memory and available log-books. He covers his strong desire to join the Kriegsmarine and once in their ranks to opt for the U-boat force (which was very selective of their recruits). His training as diesel mechanic managed to land him his dream assignment in late 1941. He then was transferred to the brand new U-505.

Goebeler goes into detail on each mission U-505 sailed on and describes how each of the 3 commanders differed and how they led their men in wildly different styles. He does not hide his (and from his description in the book almost the entire crew’s) feelings of contempt for his second commander Peter Zscech and his selection of 2 other officers (whoom he only gives codenames to protect their families). This description of how the 3 of them treated their crew is about the most amazing I’ve seen in a long time – such is their reported arrogance and elitism. The great morale left by its first commander was crushed in mere weeks it seems, never a good thing on any ship – let alone on a submarine.

Hans' efforts to scuttle the boat were in vain as the US Navy pulled off a miracle save of the boat and towed it to Bermuda where the men from U-505 were kept in isolation from other POWs to conceal the fact that U-505 had been captured intact (read more about the boat here).

This book is a pleasure to read – his views are very strong on both patriotism (love for Germany that is), comradeship and God, which some people might find a bit hard to digest – and I read it in one or two sessions. A considerable portion of the book is spent on the “relaxing” in port at Lorient, seems like he had some pretty good times in between patrols, like so many sailors tend to do much to the "pleasure" of the local military police normally :)

This is a privately published book by Mr. Goebeler’s widow, Erika, and is only available in limited quantities. Publishing houses are right now considering publishing the manuscript on a larger scale in the year 2000. But this means that this is perhaps the only issue of this book guaranteed to be printed unchanged as Hans wanted.

I recommend that you write to the address at the top of this page and get a copy of this book.

U-505, the boat Hans served on, is now on display in Chicago.

Review written by Guðmundur Helgason.

Published on 2 Dec 1999.

- We have errata information for this title. Check it out!

This title is highly recommended.

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