Dr. Beynon served in USS BOWFJN (SS287) and subsequently earned his doctorate at The Ohio State University. He is a retired university professor having served at Bowling Green State University and the University of Maine at Fam1ington. He presently resides in Deland, Florida. He is the author of The Pearl Harbor Avenger-USS BOWFIN.
Admiral Karl Donitz, commander in chief of the German U· boat force, was a leader who held the care of his men in high regard. He attended the weddings, the births of children, the birthday parties, and above all he kept the families informed of the well being of his submarine sailors.
The admiral was not a “sun–downer” as he held an informal change of command with a high degree of camaraderie among his submariners. 1 The men under the admiral always knew they had his support. He allowed them some degree of freedom but at the same time he was demanding. Upon reporting after a patrol, one of the aces was told “You must leave the boat.”i This skipper was not of the same mind and let him know in no uncertain terms. Without saying, the admiral was to be obeyed.
An example of the support the men received is from this incident. One of his aces had been investigated by the Abwehn Intelligence Service for association with a Jewish woman and drinking with a black African man in a Hamburg bar. The climate within the nation was frenetic activity which could condemn a person for the slightest slur cast upon the nation’s leadership. Upon receiving the dossier about the incident, the report was dismissed with an annotation which read … “Complete Rubbish.”3 This type of support was shared in turn by the men in the command who affectionately called him “The Lion.”
Always looking for ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of his Submarine Force Donitz demanded of his skippers any bit of information they deemed valuable. He needed to have a first hand feel of the problems facing the boats at sea.
“U-boats must stay dived by day, so as to remain unseen at all costs. They need to try to attack as often as possible during the first night, since it is almost impossible to maintain contact on subsequent days, due to the bright lights as we11 as small patrol boats. There is considerable danger of being bombed by fast ‘tractors’.
If there are too many boats in the convoy to be sunk, then a chosen U-boat must move at top speed so as to get in the convoy’s path three hours before dawn. This boat then needs to travel underwater at three or four knots in the same direction as the convoy’s course, so that it will have a good vantage point for the convoy three to four hours before dusk. The crew can relax during the other daylight hours.
This method of keeping contact can only hold good for suitable sea areas, and could be successfully employed with one of the convoys coming out of the Strait of Gibraltar. The delegated U-boat needs then, as a matter of course, to abandon an attack in order to move ahead.
The safety of the convoy is assured by air cover. Once the convoy is spotted, set a course at the furthest possible point from which it is visible and for thirty minutes take a parallel course with a speed which allows you to overtake the enemy.
Above the convoy, the planes have lights fitted, on their circuits and obviously travel over the boat. Since, however, their night vision is the same as yours, always keep sufficient distance. Then, at the edge of visibility, tum so that the convoy is at 0 degrees. With a running fix, mount the attack from ahead.
When the plane approaches, the boat must still move forward a little in the water and keep this up until the plane leaves the area. The aircraft will always first throw a star-shell, since till then it does not know whether it is dealing with the white spray around one of its own patrol boats. Once the ships are as far as possible all overlap-ping, shoot, tum and run. Save the next freighter in line for the stem tubes.”
The admiral was always at the ready to reward his submariners for service beyond the call, sometimes the rewards were medals but more importantly he had a standard procedure of offering staff positions. He also rotated his highly decorated officers to staff and training positions. This allowed new recruits to benefit from front-line experiences.
Although in charge of his men as he tried to cajole or persuade them to bend to his will, the final choice always remained with the captain of the boat.
The admiral . . . The Lion … the beacon of light for all who served in his Submarine Force, was finally brought to justice by the war tribunal judging war-time criminals.
During his career, the fatherly submarine admiral chose four submarine skippers as his favorites. These men led the force in ships sunk and total tonnage. They in turn were called ACES. They were four distinct personalities. Rolf Mutzelburg was perpetually cheerful; Adalbert “Adi” Schnee was cautious but effective; Eric Topp was destined for a staff position and his ACE among aces was Teddy Suhren.
The chosen one was Johann Heinz Paul Anton Reinhard Suhren. Early in his career he came upon the nickname “Teddy.” It came about because of his inability to march and conform to parade ground maneuvers. As a cadet in the rank behind Teddy remarked; “My goodness, Reinhard, your marching makes you look like a teddy bear.”
Teddy Suhren was destined for great things. His early youth found him displaying a kind of calm under pressure. His confidence was most unusual as was his unerring ability to make important decisions in moments of danger. On 5 April 1935, he enlisted as a trainee attached to the 2nd naval division of the Kriegsmarine. His father gave him advice which he used his entire career:
“You can’t do anything, you don’t know anything; to start with make yourself out to be a dimwit and be grateful that you are in a position to learn so many new things that are important for your life. And that advice has never been proved wrong.”
This piece of wisdom served him well at each level of his career.
He used this fatherly admonition well at the Red Castle by the Sea (the German Naval Academy). It was here that he excelled in artillery school; achieving a record 7 .5 of a possible 9. Because of his passion for the wild-side of life, Teddy often times ran contrary to superior orders. He missed a 5 a.m. curfew from the Rose Monday Festival; the infraction threatening his Seaman Officer examination. The result was a 3.5 point reduction in his record. Although the action was disappointing Suhren remained his resolute self. He describes the scene as:
“.. Apparently my mere appearance was tantamount to a provocation, especially since I was the smallest and didn’t pussyfoot around and didn’t allow myself to be browbeaten. I was myself, and determined to stay so.”
The reluctance to bow to authority continued as he served aboard boats U-1 and U-47. While serving on U-48, and under the eyes of Fuhrer der Unterseeboote (Admiral Karl Donitz), he was dressed down for the use of profanity during gunnery practice. Although the reprimand was deserving, Suhren was widely acclaimed as an excellent marksman. His gunnery skills translated into his ability for torpedo accuracy. Of the 300,000 tons that the U-48 sunk, Teddy was responsible for 50% of the total. As first watch officer and being responsible for torpedo armament, the achievement earned him the Knight’s Cross. Continuing on as watch officer and before he left the boat, for his own command, the boat had fired 119 torpedoes … 65 under orders from Suhren … with a strike ratio of 46 percent.
In February of 1941, U-564 was launched. This became his command on 3 April, 1941. In addition to adding his reputation to the new boat, Teddy incorporated a new Wappen. This was an emblem that graced the conning tower. For the boat, the sign was a large black cat, with the symbol “3 X” above an arched back with tail held high. In most countries, including Germany, one black cat is considered bad luck; but 3 would tum away misfortune.
Under Commander Suhren, the new dermal schwarze kater went to find the enemy. Teddy had, in addition to the British enemy, opposition within his own country. Witness the following:
On 6 September, all German Jews had to wear the Star of David. He was disturbed and asked a group what it meant? The reply; “My dear sir, this is the Star of David which we are obliged to wear.”
That was running through my mind when I sat down in a street cafe. Two members of the Hitler Youth crossed over to me. They wanted my autograph of something signing. I was pretty short with them and refused. It wasn’t the young people to blame, and they were surprised and offended. So had I been, but for quite a different reason.
Early in 1942, Captain Suhren was almost the victim of an accident. He had ordered a bootsmann (boatswain) to investigate a loud noise from the boat’s upper deck. During the scene, the sea swells were practically drowning the officer. At the same time, Suhren overlooking the problem, went to the man’s rescue without harness or life jacket. Suddenly a towering wave hit the boat causing the captain to be swept overboard. A life ring helped retrive him to safety. The only loss was his pride.
Teddy’s statement describing the incident, which included loss of personal and issued equipment stated;
“One cannot blame bootsmann Webendorfer that the com-mander climbed down onto the upper deck to help repair the damaged hatch cover. Furthennore, I do not consider bootsmann Webendorfer to be responsible for what the commander carries in his pockets. All efforts to retrive the lost items remained unsuccessful, and I should like to request that the lost items be replaced. (signed Suhren).”
Everything was replaced except the pistol and stopwatch. The report was circulated throughout the submarine service as a part of the “Humor in Wartime” series.
Teddy’s last patrol was a run into the Caribbean Sea. As he was being briefed about the patrol he was told:
“Suhren, make sure you bring your boat safely back home and then come ashore, Prien, Kretschmer and Schepke would in theory have been ideal for the job, but they are all gone. Prien, Schepke are dead, Kretschmer is a prisoner. Topp has already come ashore-and you are next.”
In addition to hearing this would be his last run, he had another problem. The Naval Branch of Propaganda Kompanie had ordered aboard a war correspondent to film the cruise. Teddy was most disturbed by the order as he resented the intrusion aboard his boat. He shunned publicity with a passion. He hated interviews as witnessed in a previous incident,
Indeed, he seemed inhibited, as if he knew he was being watched. I had the impression he was too clever to be able to relax and enjoy himself in his new found position of fame. He did not like himself to be praised by a public with whom as a U-boat man he was not likely to have much in common.
The U-564 was an experienced crew of 44 men. Twenty-nine of which had served since the commissioning. Teddy Suhren was a skipper who exhibited deep loyalty. He had developed an intensive friendship with his chief engineer. . . Lietender Ingenieur Ulich Gabler. Teddy refused to accept an order and in fact negated by refusing to sail without Gabler. One more patrol was granted. Another example of leadership was showed when the captain found a decreasing amount of rum in the boat’s medical cabinet. The navigating officer had been “tapping off’ more than his share. A compromise solution was cut between the two sailors demonstrating the captain’s ability as an effective and popular skipper.
German U-boats were supplied at sea by Milchkuh U-tankers called Milk Cows. En-route to his assigned station, Teddy requested a re-fueling with the thought that an extra day of fuel he could well extend his stay in the distant Caribbean.
Alerted by a radio message Suhren prepared his torpedoes (ETAS) for firing. The armament contained 8 foot long batteries, which were topped off with electrolyte and the pre-heating elements were energized. This plan extended the range of each torpedo by 60 percent. The prey was a convoy of35 ships out of England. U-564 was ready for action. Keeping contact with Admiral Donitz, the captain sent the following message:
“Convoy grid BD 9592, attacking. Surhen.”
Just as the boat was ready to fire her armament, the convoy turned starboard and was out of range. So the preparation had to begin anew. Her periscope had been sighted. As a British escort headed her way, the boat was ordered “secure all stations.” Upon returning to periscope depth, a disappointed captain viewed a disappearing convoy. Constant enemy aircraft kept the boat on an up and down course which began to frustrate Suhren. He ordered”
“LI, up to periscope depth-again. Up and down the whole time, it is like being in a lift. These fiendish air patrols of the Allies … Up above it is getting dark, night is beginning. First and second watch officers to the captain. Listen in, when we surface now, we’ll split up the four sectors between us-and keep your eyes open. Wooden eye-stay alert.”
Even the best of the submarine captains showed the stress and strain of war patrols. Teddy himself recorded:
“I keep concentrating on the puffs of smoke and warn the watch not to startle me by shouting. They are to point out any occurrences in good time-and quietly. My nerves are not made of steel. I stay glued to the smoke cloud too, and don’t dare close my eyes for a moment. Suddenly I hear lookout on my right say discreetly, Plane.”
Time after time she beat the odds against survival. On 19 July after three days of pursuit, the boat was in position to await to convoy. Because of the gloomy weather and absence of centimetric radar, the 564 while on the surface went undetected. In preparation for firing, Teddy positioned his boat so that the convoy ships were overlapping.
Finally after waiting three hours, the order “Rohre einer bisvier Los” was given. All four forward torpedoes (eels) were fired. The run of two minutes proved straight and true.
“Two flashes and billowing smoke clouds. After that a third ear-splitting bang, a massive burst of flame and an entire steamer flies into the air. It’s the one with two funnels, it carried a load of munitions.”
The vessel carrying the munitions was SS EMPIRE HAWKSBILL. She was a OEMS (defensively armed merchant ship). The explosion totally destroyed the vessel with its crew of 46 men.
This success was not without mishap. As the captain ordered the bridge crew below, he remained top-side to view his work. Suddenly a blast of air was heard escaping from the boat’s diving cells and she headed for the bottom. Teddy became confused as he left the bridge and inquired:
“What the devil is going on? Bucketsful of water are starting to crash on my head as I pull the hatch shut behind me … I’m furious. Have you all taken leave of your senses? Who gave this order? (Sturkor) is completely taken aback at being shouted at. But, Boss, you gave the order yourself.
“Who … what … how? Heavens what the poor chap has done is perfectly reasonable. When I send the bridge watch down, as I had done in this case because of all the debris running down, it’s always a prelude to an Alarm. But I didn’t shout alarm this time, but PK man … in fact PK, PK. Our bloody passenger from the Ministry of Propaganda.”
To avoid the onrushing escort and her depth charges, a newly installed evasive device was elected. The “Bold” was a fizzing sonar decoy launched from the stem. This action attracted the depth charge attack and the 564 once again crept silently away.
The use of the Bold (short for-Kubold-meaning goblin) was the most effective of the counter measure devices. It comprised a I Scm diameter capsule filled with 3 70g of calcium and zinc within a mesh bag. The compound was contained in a water proof alumi-num canister. When it rose to 30 meters, a valve opened allowing a trickle of sea water. The water started the action producing hydrogen gas creating a large mass of bubbles sufficient for 25 minutes. Resembling the echo caused by the contact of a submarine.
With this success for her effort’s realization for all the destruction heaped upon them. Sensing no immediate danger, the captain ordered periscope depth. After an all clear, the boat surged forward into the safety of darkness.
“We knew it was going to be a risky escape, but we also knew that on the surface, at night, end-on to the enemy were virtually invisible and able to use our top speed. Gabler could work wonders with those diesels.”
Captain Suhren was not expecting contact from the escort. As the enemy headed toward her, he ordered both electric motors and diesel engine power at 17 knots. This propulsion allowed the boat to slowly creep away from her pursuer. The gamble paid off as the escort was slowly lost in the darkness. Once more Teddy’s fortune held fast. Escape was the reward.
As all submariners know safety is not a guarantee. Just as progress was being made the boat went into a violent vibration. Both exhaust valves were pouring out a heavy black smoke. Captain Teddy heard a report from the engine room “Boat unfit to dive. Starboard diesel out of action.” In spite of the report, a dive order was given to take the boat to 30 metres. All hands raced to the forward compartment to hasten the dive. The action was described as:
The boat manages to dive, and I can hear the electric motors starting up, but I can’t believe my eyes. Standing in the center area, I can’s see my hand in front of my face. Smoke every-where; everyone coughing and choking. Has the lighting failed? Why hasn’t the emergency lighting come on? The darkness persists, and the boat dives down. Judging by the sounds, we must be about 50 to 60 metres down.
The LI is trying to get the boat level, but, as he trims her, U 564 goes up at the bow again. We can’t go on like that, sagging as the stem and in the end we get going with a dive. The air is full of smoke, thick enough to cut with a knife. We press handkerchiefs over our noses and mouths, and some grab the emergency breathing apparatus. Whilst we are all at sixes and sevens, the patrolling escort is closing in at top speed, with fire in her belly.
On the surface two escorts were steaming down on the damaged boat. A total of 20 depth charges rained down around the escaping 564. She finalty settled down and the charges did little damage.
Unaware that the boat had escaped total destruction, the escort HMS Gorleston’s captain wrote in his proceedings report;
“Although it was not possible to attempt to obtain any evidence, U-boat’ s depth and movements were so welt known that I find it difficult to imagine that he escaped destruction from such a heavy pattem.”
The U-564 with little damage but entirely consumed in smoke began a regular damage control procedure. The tension was eased somewhat by the Chief Engineer who beltowed in his loud voice; “That it was as dark as a bear’s arse in here.”
Teddy Suhren calted off any further attacks on the convoy; it had escaped. The crew went about the usual duty roster and the captain retired to his bunk completely exhausted. His after thoughts were described as:
“It had been a sight for the gods. Never again would I see the like of it at sea. The fireworks display of the blazing muni-tions ship was a unique experience. Pictures of that night etched themselves indelibly on my mind. The shadows of the escorts, the star shells above us … ”
Thus ended the 7’h patrol of Teddy’s boat.
In celebration of the patrol Teddy ordered a “celebration tea,” the birthday party called Geburtstagfeier. All hands were in good health except the leading seaman Ernst Schlittenhand. He was suffering from extreme rheumatism sufficient for the captain to radio for a transfer to the first returning boat. While enroute to the meeting with U-203, the boat sighted 2 Azore Island fishing boats. The two vessels were a screen for 2 British battleships and 3 destroyers. A crash dive and further surveillance was ordered. Five hours later Captain Teddy, a disappointed man, gave up as the British group disappeared from view. He determined a submerged attack was futile and a surface attack was too much against the firepower of the 5 vessels.
Continuing on patrol, the captain became very frustrated based on two problems; (I) lack of fuel and (2) the four torpedoes which were used were not available. He was headed to a fruitful hunting area lacking fuel and armament. Replacing fuel was not a problem. Torpedo supply became a major issue.
Teddy learned that boats were returning with unspent torpedoes. He planned with his crew a method to secure the armament. The idea was to wrap the “eels” in 16 life jackets to be guided by men in 2 rubber dinghies. From the sending boat, the stern was lowered until the torpedo was free-floating. The 564 semi-flooded tanks were blown clear and the boat rose beneath the torpedo. Block and tackle solved the problem of restoring the “eels” to the forward torpedo room. In a matter of 3 hours the problem of no torpedoes to full complement was solved. The exercise was quite a feat as each torpedo weighed 1.5 tons.
Continuing his patrol, the captain was in search of targets in the rich vessels of the Caribbean. In preparation for air attacks, a fifth look-out was added to the bridge watch. As the days passed with little action, Suhren radioed Donitz for instructions. An order to proceed to an area North of Trinidad was given.
Little action was available but the closeness to land afforded many air-craft risks. The dreaded cry of “Flieger” was enough to drop the boat into a crash dive. She was being attacked from out of the sun on a 20 metre surface level. The U-564 went down on an angle so steep that all loose fixtures went flying bow-ward. With few metres of protection the planes depth charges, well placed, severely rattling the boat’s hull. A fire was ignited in tube number 5 causing a bit of alarm. Quickly extinguished and with no water leakage all was under control.
During the final run by the plane, one depth charge exploded very close to Surhen’s boat causing heavy damage. Men were thrown from their feet. Lights shattered, broken glass was everywhere. Captain Teddy in his usual calm manner went about assessing control damage. There was some concern about the seawater pressure against a damaged hull.
All quarters reporting no damage and no leaks created a calmer atmosphere. Still the concern of 90 pounds of sea pressure per square inch against an aging hull worried the captain.
With the boat at 60 metres, the trip procedure was put into effect. Suhren sensed something was wrong as the boat kept edging toward the bottom. The fear of silently going deeper until the sea pressure crushed the boat went throughout the boat. Orders to blow the forward ballasts and put the bow planes on hard rise was the only solution to the dilemma. During the action, the man responsible for operating the central panel turned the hand wheels in the wrong direction. Only the quick action of the captain reversing the procedure was the free fall gradually arrested. The depth was at 160 metres putting 240 pounds of pressure against the hull. The depth was I 0 metres below the rated test depth; finally the boat settle at 200 metres.
The need now was to restore the boat after all the damage. Teddy supervised the activities assessing the damage. It was extensive but not serious. With no material damage, the problem was turned to personnel concerns. Being submerged offered safety but the ability to relax was hampered by the dampness and humidity. Witness Suhren’s remarks:
“We used to find it so hot in the Caribbean Sea that even when we were under water the temperature reached up to 60 degrees, which made it very uncomfortable for the whole crew. But even then, we made it possible to bring them all back to the mainland without having lost too much weight.”
Continuing the run and with all aboard back to normal, a message from U-108 reported the long awaited convoy traffic. Teddy readied his boat for action and then gave the crew time to relax and to await the exertion of attack energy and anxiety.
The quietness was suddenly interrupted by a message from the U-162. Captain Wattenberg informed the boat of the convoy’s latest position:
“KR KR; convoy in grid Ed9460, north-easterly course, steady speed, Wattenberg”
Teddy’s boat was only 35 nautical miles from the sighting. He converged with Wattenberg and operated a surface attack sinking the American ship SS WEST CELINA. Two hours later, the boat picked-up the laden ships of the convoy. In consultation with his bridge officers, the 564 was ordered to battle stations-surface attack. Just as the captain fired the torpedoes, an escort vessel appeared and caused the torpedoes to be released too early and too far from the targets. Five shots went astray, the stop watches counting the seconds turned into complete silence. Teddy the marksman had missed.
Teddy absorbed this disappointment as he ordered the reloading of the forward tubes secured from the annament kept in the bilges. After an hours work which included getting the boat into firing position, Captain Teddy was ready for his second attempt. A periscope glimpse revealed four ships. His selection was 2 large tankers, one freighter and one other vessel. The targets were worth 28,000 tons.
“All four torpedoes hit as targeted. Two ships sank quickly, but it was impossible to tell a the time whether it was a tanker or freighter. The other tanker, glowing bright red with an internal explosion, at first made a slow getaway as if to wait for the sinking of the other two ships. Then she quickly sank to the stemposts and was … up to the bridge in water.”
The boat’s escape pattern was altered as a British escort and an aircraft took chase. The hunt was finally abandoned by the escort but continued by a B-18 bomber. The alarming klaxon alerted the crew for a swift descent into the sea’s dark waters. They were at least rewarded by the sounds of crushing bulkheads of the sinking tanker.
As Teddy took the boat deeper, she was going down at 10 metres every 30 seconds. Finally she trimmed out at 50 metres. Fifteen minutes later the boat surfaced into darkness sufficient to conceal her escape.
The report of the boat’s efforts listed 2 sunk and 2 in a sinking mode. Once again, the on-the-scene report was changed to only 2 sunken enemy by someone who sat behind a desk.
U-564 remains submerged during the day to avoid heavy aircraft opposition. The warm Caribbean sea waters caused the boat’s temperature to rise beyond human endurance. To relieve the fetid air and the human stench and to charge the batteries, the boat surfaced each evening. The captain was concerned about the health of his men. Complaints were being voiced about body sores and rashes. He was determined to avoid such conditions constantly found among his combat boats. He surmised:
“We also made sure of hygiene, which was difficult. The men didn’t receive a lot of water to wash themselves with. They grew beards, and none of this helped cleanliness. So then our chief engineer, Gabler, and his diesel officer, (Krah) decided that something had to be done. At the back of the diesel room one could remove the floor boards, and into that space they built a bath, just big enough for one to sit in and also have a shower. We were able to have a shower with warm water of the engine cooling system. In those days we had seawater soap … a marvelous idea! All we had to do now was to keep check on who was due, and then everyone received a litre of fresh water to rinse himself off with. That paid off very well, because the crew, even in this tremendous heat, felt very comfortable. We also had on board a freshwater producer, but it took one litre of diesel to produce one litre of freshwater.”
This captain, in addition for caring for his men, always had his mission in mind. He was always ready for news which would direct his latest move. U-boats were reporting successes but to Suhren’s dismay his luck was running short. He was in search of a new goldmine. In the midnight hours of27 August, he was directing the boat into calm seas, bright skies with heightened anticipation. Hard work was rewarded; a solo tanker came into binocular view. The bright moon light ruled out a surface attack on the 8176 ton Norwegian vessel. Firing two air torpedoes, with an estimate hit in less than a minute. Thirty seconds later the report was heard: “A direct hit.” Ten minutes later, the vessel was abandoned. Still afloat one more shot was made ready to put her on the bottom.
To the fear of all torpedo men, the eel was runinig hot and snagged within the tube. The danger of a pre-mature explosion was averted at the last moment as the shot finally was cleared and went astray. Teddy had missed again. He had to claim victory, so the gun crew put 35 shells into the Norwegian vessel. She was doomed as Captain Teddy ordered: “7750 hours, EE 9923. Shot our bolt. Head for home.”
Headed for port, this victorious captain was surprised by the crew. A message had been received from the highest German hierarchy. Teddy heard the message.
“In recognition of your proven heroism, I grant to eighteen men of the German Armed Forces the Oak Leaves with Swords to the Knight’s Cross. Adolf Hitler.”
A second award was forthcoming: To Suhren: I am delighted to be able to inform you, with my heartfelt congratulations, of your promotion to Korvettenkapitan in token of your exceptionally distinguished service against the enemy. ObdM, Raeder. Heartfelt best wishes, Heil und Sieg. BdU.
The event was recorded by the assigned photographer as Teddy was given wider oak leaves for his cap and new piston rings for his sleeve. Teddy in response, congratulated his crew knowing full well they also deserved the accolades. He reminded them the captain was only as good as his crew.
As the boat approached her final rest, the crew was ordered to fresh haircuts and trimmed beards. This order was contrary to the usual but the captain wanted his crew looking spruce and healthy as they arrived.
The boat itself was decorated with victory pennants attached to the attack periscope. Nine flags were proudly flying. The U-564 finally had come to rest. Coming aboard was Dr. Richter, a surgeon, who pronounced the crew in a healthy condition after 70 days at sea. The strain on the captain was described as:
“I myself felt in some way a different person. The officers standing around me seemed more distant, their laughter more remote. But there was no reason why it should have been different. After previous patrols I hadn’t felt the same way, this sensation of begin apart. Perhaps the stress of alt those weeks of being responsible for them hadn’t worn off yet. But the feeling of being isolated didn’t go away.”
In spite of his mental condition, Suhren still retained his sense of humor. Spotting his friend Horst “Hein” Uphoff on shore he shouted: “Well Hein are the Nazi still at the helm?” Upon hearing they were, Teddy ordered all engines “full astern” as the boat slowly headed for the open seas again.
The final tie-up, the departing crew, and the mandatory briefing of the captain give us one more story. Admiral Donitz had a gentle but firm rebuke for Teddy. As he was telling the story of the “dark as a bear’s arse” he was cut short. Using his sternest voice, The Lion, reminded the captain of his vaulted position within the Wehrmacht and thus he should choose his language more carefully. In spite of the dress-down by the Admiral, the final version of the boat’s War Diary read: “Excellent undertaking by this proven commander. The convoy attacks, both in conception and execution, were carried out in an exemplary manner.”
Continued rewards were also given to Suhren. He met with Grofsadmiral Raeder:
“This time I came up to Berlin on the overnight train in the proper manner as befits a soldier. I appeared at 1355 hours in the Kaiserhof. There I met the Oberbefehlshaber de Marine already there and said, apologetically so to speak, “Oh, Grofsadmiral, are you here already?’ Where upon he replied with a laugh, “Yes, yes, and you without a trail of exhaust fumes today!”
After a brief visit with Hitler to receive his decoration of the Swords to his Knight’s Cross, he was invited to the private retreat of the Fuhrer. He rubbed shoulders with the heights of power and danced with Eva Braun and her sister.
Legends of Teddy’s disrespect for authority and his prowess at the bar made their way as far as the United States Navy. As the story goes:
“Bargsten’ s most intimate friend and classmate was KK Reinhard “Teddy” Suhren. It was stated that Suhren, good looking, and popular, could considerably lower the alcoholic stocks of any port in which he found himself … On another occasion Suhren was stalking a convoy which he had previously reported … In due course he received an ‘inspirational message’ from Donitz telling him to ‘pursue relentlessly and fiercely.’ Upon returning from this cruise, which was highly successful, Suhren was summoned to Donitz’ office to give his report. In the course of the interview, Suhren violated decorum by referring to the signal as unnecessary, if not insulting. Donitz was momentarily taken aback by this impudence, but recovered in time to seize Suhren by the neck, lay him across a table and administer a sound spanking to the naughty boy.”
In retirement and enjoying a celebrated life, Teddy Suhren learned of his boat. U-564 being classified as Vennitz zwei Stern-“missing two stars.” The German parlance for ‘confinned lost. .. ‘ Two years later the war ended. This outstanding warrior was taken prisoner by the British Oslo in 1945. By 14 April 1946 he was released and traveled home to a defeated Germany. He prospered as a business man distilling 38 percent black rum from sugar. His “Schnapps Factory” was producing ‘torpedo spirits.’ The product was more valuable than the Reichmark notes.
On 25 January 1984 in his beloved Hamburg, the life of the ACE of Aces came to an end. Exactly 31 years after the U-564 had gone to the ocean’s bottom, another man was laid to rest. Teddy had requested his ashes be released at the exact location of his beloved boat. At 46 degrees, 30 minutes N, 07 degrees, 18 minutes West, the ashes of Reinhard “Teddy” Suhren were scattered among the swells of the Atlantic Ocean .
There and no roses on a sailor’s grave.
No lilies on an ocean wave.
The only tribute is the seagulls sweeps
And the teardrops that a sweetheart weeps