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Hirschfeld: The Story of a U-Boat Nco 1940-1946 [Hardcover]

Wolfgang Hirschfeld
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov 1996
Whilst there have been many memoirs written by U-boat commanders of the Second World War, a book such as this, based upon the diaries of a senior Petty Officer telegraphist, written in 'real time' is something very special. Wolfgang Hirschfeld, whose diaries Geoffrey Brooks has translated is a born story teller. The principal chapters describe his experiences during six war patrols in U-109, in which he served as the senior telegraphist. His is a tale which covers the whole kaleidescope of emotions shared by men at war - a story of immense courage and fortitude, of remarkable comradeship born of the dangers, frustrations and privations shared and of transitory moments of triumph. Throughout runs a vein of humour, without which resistance to stress would have been virtually impossible. We get to know one of Germany's great U-boat aces, 'Ajax' Bleichrodt, holder of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and, in a special biographical appendix, learn how he finally cracked under the strain. The role of Admiral Karl Donitz, the dynamic commander of the U-boat service, so fascinatingly described by Hirschfeld, is of special interest - not least because even this dedicated Nazi had clearly realized by September, 1942, that the war was fast being lost. In 1944 Hirschfeld was promoted Warrant Officer and found himself on a large, schnorkel-equipped boat (U-234) heading for Japan with a load of high technology equipment and, in addition, a quantity of uranium ore. The possible significance of that uranium has been deeply researched by Geoffrey Brooks and is discussed in a second appendix.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 253 pages
  • Publisher: SOS Free Stock (Nov 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557503729
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557503725
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 14.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,681,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Buyer beware 13 May 2013
Format:Paperback
I purchased an earlier version of this book primarily because of my interest in U-234 and her cargo. These matters are covered in some detail in the final two chapters of this book which has been put together by Geoffrey Brooks, allegedly from conversations and correspondence with Hirschfeld, plus his 'secret diary', of which more later.

U-234 sailed from Japan in mid-April 1945 carrying a number of important passengers, some of whom were to help the Japanese produce the Me 262 jet aircraft. The boat also carried some 240 tons of cargo that mainly consisted of spares and general supplies for U-boats, U-boat bases and other German naval stations in East Asia, but also included 93 tons of various items for the Japanese armed forces. For many years, stories about the latter have centred primarily on 560 kgs of uranium oxide and claims that at least one complete example of an Me 262 jet aircraft was aboard. While it is true that U-234 was indeed carrying uranium oxide for the Japanese Army, prompting lurid speculation about its purpose, exactly why it was being sent to Japan is still not known.

The Hirschfeld/Brooks account of the loading of the uranium oxide is fanciful and absurd, to say the least. According to the book, Hirschfeld apparently stood on the bridge watching two Japanese senior officers on their hands and knees on the foredeck yet was able to see them writing "U-235" on ten 9-inch square containers that were then put into one of the vertical mine shaft containers. That Hirschfeld's eyesight was so good is beyond belief, but the episode is complete invention.
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3.0 out of 5 stars u-boat warfare 15 Sep 2014
By Aileen
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An average account of u-boat warfare during WW2. seen through the eyes of a none commissioned radio officer (German) yes it is interesting, though not a classic, but would still recommend.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very very insightful 14 May 2008
By Gisli Jokull Gislason VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
I don't give 5 stars that often but I found this book was very informative, entertaining and exciting.

Hirschfeld was a communications NCO on various German submarines and the book provides a good first person perspective on serving on an U-boat. Since he was a radio man he had access to a wealth of information making his story even better. This book is surprising in detail, everything from lice to being captured and well treated by the US Navy. And the action is described in such a way that you want the U-boat to succeed.

For anyone who enjoyed Das Boot or has the slightest interest in the War of the Atlantic I heartly recommend this book.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Anyone with the slightest interest in World War II submarine warfare will be unable to put this book down. It gives a graphic account of what these true heroes really went through each time they put to sea. Enjoy!
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A spurious tale 18 Feb 2013
By Ubootfahrer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I purchased an earlier version of this book primarily because of my interest in U-234 and her cargo. These matters are covered in some detail in the final two chapters of this book which has been put together by Geoffrey Brooks, allegedly from conversations and correspondence with Hirschfeld, plus his 'secret diary', of which more later.

U-234 sailed from Japan in mid-April 1945 carrying a number of important passengers, some of whom were to assist the Japanese in manufacturing the Me 262 jet aircraft. The boat also carried some 240 tons of cargo that mainly consisted of spares and general supplies for U-boats, U-boat bases and other German naval stations in East Asia, but also included 93 tons of various items for the Japanese armed forces. For many years, stories about the latter have centred primarily on 560 kgs of uranium oxide and claims that at least one complete example of an Me 262 jet aircraft was aboard. While it is true that U-234 was indeed carrying uranium oxide for the Japanese Army, prompting lurid speculation about its purpose, exactly why it was being sent to Japan is still not known.

The Hirschfeld/Brooks account of the loading of the uranium oxide is fanciful and absurd, to say the least. According to the book, Hirschfeld apparently stood on the bridge watching two Japanese senior officers on their hands and knees on the foredeck yet was able to see them writing "U-235" on ten 9-inch square containers that were then put into one of the vertical mine shaft containers. That Hirschfeld's eyesight was so good is beyond belief, but the episode is complete invention. Ten 9-inch containers would obviously not have accommodated 560 kgs of uranium oxide, nor was it ever in any of the vertical bow containers; it was in fact stored in containers located in horizontal compartments on either side of the U-boat.

Similarly, the claim that an Me 262 aircraft was aboard is also completely false. I have obtained a number of authentic documents relating to U-234, and where aircraft types are mentioned at all, the documents are perfectly clear in stating that only aircraft drawings – I repeat, drawings – were being carried to Japan, plus tooling for a few components known to be difficult to manufacture. Nowhere in the archives of the UK, US or Germany is there a shred of evidence to support the authors' claims that 'an Me 262 jet fighter in its component parts [was] stowed in the hold amidships'.

Finally, what of that 'secret diary' that Hirschfeld is supposed to have maintained? In his introduction, Brooks writes, 'I have based this book on Hirschfeld's private war diaries...' However, in Chapters 9 and 10, we find that when Hirschfeld was taken prisoner by the Americans in May 1945, most of his personal possessions, including the diaries, were stolen! 'My diaries, U-Boat leathers and fur outfit were gone,' we are told.

It is clear, therefore, that contrary to Brooks' and Hirschfeld's claims, such diaries – if they ever existed at all – could not have formed the basis of this book. Thus, in view of the misinformation and false allegations presented with regard to the uranium oxide and the Me 262, doubt is naturally cast over the accuracy of the rest of the work considering that it is largely based on this non-existent diary. Anyone buying this book is therefore warned to treat what they read with extreme caution and should disregard entirely anything about the Me 262. This is just a myth initiated and repeated by sensational publications such as this so often that it is erroneously accepted as fact. For the reasons given, readers of this book, and any researcher tempted to quote from it, would indeed be as naive as the other reviewers if they regard it as a reliable source of information.
5.0 out of 5 stars An ordinary seamans account of life in the U boat service 8 Oct 2013
By james henry baker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Brilliantly written. it's different to read an account from one of the crew, rather than a commander of a U Boat
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