by Lothar-Gi7nther Buchheim Published 1978 by Alfred A. Knopf. Inc. 1 (1978: distributed by Random House) ISBN-I 0:03944143 7 3
For those of us assigned to a SubLant Guppy II in the l 950’s, how can we forget those Atlantic crossings- mountainous seas and immersion suits that always seemed to leak in spite of the 0 ring seals for glove-to-sleeve and boot-to-pantleg.
However it is doubtful that any of us know of photographs being taken during those adventurous times. U-Boat War will bring back all of those memories.
Lothar-Gunther Buchheim served as a Lieutenant in the German Navy. Early in WWII, at the age of 23, he was assigned to U96 as a war correspondent and tasked, for propaganda purposes, to document the reality of war from the aspect of submarine life.
Although he was an artist and not a photographer, he states in his introduction that “every aspect, every detail counted, bore witness to the reality of war, for unless I captured it on film it was irretrievably gone.” Thus, he acquired a camera and took about 5,000 photographs. In U-Boat War he presents about 200 selected photographs that support the text in an amazing manner. The most impressive photographs are those taken from the bridge. One must wonder how his camera survived the adverse conditions- and how he did not get washed overboard while taking some of those shots. Inside U-96 he photographed the crew in every compartment and during almost every type of event-eating, sleeping, working torpedoes, being depth-charged and operating the controls of most of the machinery. The expressions on the faces of the crew convey submarine life and all of its challenging reality.
The author wrote this book before publication of The Secret In Building 26. and thus before the declassification of the information regarding how we broke the German code for their Enigma machines. Thus the author’s comments on the loss of so many UBoats adds to the knowledge as to why the Allied forces were so successful for so long.
While the majority of the book is the author’s view of WWII, from 1941 until the end, the last few pages present The Submarine War: A Historical Essay, by the distini.ruished German historian Michael Salcwski. The reader gains not only a moving awareness of submarine life but also an interesting overview of the High Command’s policies in pursuing submarine warfare during WWII.