Saturday, 16 March 2013
The Boat - Lothar Gunther Buchheim
Title: The Boat
Author: Lothar-Gunther Buchheim
Publisher: Bantam Books
Content: During World War 2, the Kreigsmarine had a total of 40,000 submariners; of these, 30,000 were lost during combat operations. No other arm of any other military lost as high a percentage of personnel as the submarine service of Germany. Life on board a u-boat was defined by terror, deep comradeship, great courage and nervous collapse. Conditions were harsh and life at sea was unforgiving and brutal. Enemies from within (in the form of State representatives) and without (in the form of environment and the allies) formed the backdrop of daily life for the officers and men of the submarine service. The close quarters and collective experience of u-boat service creates a unique leadership challenge for the Officers and senior NCO’s of the German Navy. This novel, while a work of fiction, draws upon the real life experiences of the author and his confreres and encapsulates these challenges into the storyline. The ability to operate effectively is undermined by the constant stress and sleep deprivation of life at sea. Layered upon this is the gradual swinging of the pendulum towards the allies as they gain the upper hand in the war; thereby leaving the Germans further struggling to survive. Finally, the effect of sinking ships and having to watch other sailors perish as a result leaves an indelible impact upon the psyche of those involved. The book is hard and unforgiving; not an easy read. It sheds light on the humanity and brutality of war and its effect upon all personnel. It also reminds the reader of the unique challenges of the leader in these circumstances.