Naval Warfare Movies

The Enemy Below

Director: Dick Powell
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Curt Jurgens, Theodore Bikel, Doug McClure

Published: 1957
Country: USA
Length: 98 min.
Keywords: WWII, Feature, Recommended

This is the VHS release (see more).


In this feature, an American destroyer battles a U-boat in a deadly contest of wits. The commanders of both vessels share much in common. War-weary, yet highly experienced and determined to fulfill their respective missions, they play every card and guess one another's every ruse. While the U-boat captain doggedly pursues his goal to rendez-vous with a German raider and then turn homeward, the destroyer's commander stays relentlessly on his track, intending to delay the U-boat until additional destroyers can arrive.


The song sung by the crew on the submerged U-boat is So Leben Wir, aka Der alte Dessaurer. For lyrics and audio file please see

This film presents a sympathetic treatment of the U-boat captain, one of the first American films to do so in the years following the end of World War II. It conveys a strong anti-war message; both commanders have experienced personal losses in this war, and both view themselves as simply men with a job to do - cogs in a nonsensical machine. There is no mention of politics or ideology (with the exception of an over-zealous U-boat officer who earns the scorn of the rest of the crew) and the idea of revenge is repudiated by the destroyer captain. The U-boat commander, a veteran of the last conflict, is particularly dismayed by the mechanization and impersonality of the current war, and remembers fondly the luck and skill required of U-boat men during World War I.

This film received an Academy Award for best special effects. The destroyer was portrayed by the USS Whitehurst (DE-634). Based rather loosely on a novel by Alfred Rayner.

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