Memoirs, Ten Years and Twenty Days

Memoirs, Ten Years and Twenty Days

Memoirs, Ten Years and Twenty Days

Memoirs, Ten Years and Twenty Days

Excerpt

Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz has been condemned by many as a fanatical Nazi leader; others have recognized him as one of the great military commanders - and one of the ablest - of World War Two. Neither of these controversial verdicts, however, can be deemed complete, for they ignore certain essential factors in his make-up.

His formative years were spent in the Imperial German Navy, where he became inbued with the virtues of honourable behaviour, selfless devotion to duty, patriotism and unswerving loyalty to the regime. He served as a U-boat commander during the First World War and developed into a leader of the utmost vigour and forcefulness whose success was based upon determination, incisiveness and an inimitable charisma that won the hearts of his men. Leading by personal example, it was he who built the formidable ésprit de corps of the U-boat service, and the devotion of his men was maintained to the very end of his life in December 1980, in spite of the fact that the U-boats had endured the highest loss rates of all the German armed forces in the war.

Always he channelled his whole, untiring energy into the task at hand. As Commander, U-Boats, he saw himself as responsible for the efficient conduct of the submarine war, looking after the welfare of his men, pursuing strategic and tactical developments, and presenting the needs of his arm of service as forcefully as possible to his commander-in-chief, Grand Admiral Raeder, and the 'Seekriegsleitung'.

In January 1943, Hitler (whom he had met on but few occasions) promoted him to the post that Raeder had occupied. His first action, which came as a great surprise to many, was to persuade Hitler to reverse his decision to scrap the big surface ships. Now Doenitz was responsible not only for the U-boat arm but for the whole navy, and to carry out his new role he needed Hitler's confidence. This he won by pleading the Navy case, while scrupulously avoiding meddling . . .

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