The Golden Horseshoe - The Wartime Career of Otto Kretschmer, U-Boat Ace
By Terence Robertson
Published by Frontline Books (www.frontline-books.com)
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Otto Kretschmer was one of the highest scoring German U-Boat Captains in World War 2. His exploits are vividly retold in this interesting and exciting biography. His U-Boat career started in the 1930s and by the outbreak of the Second World War he was well versed in “standard” German U-Boat tactics.
During the war he revolutionised “standard” U-Boat tactics and Admiral Doenitz the Commander in Chief of the German U-Boats highly praised Kretschmer for this. The standard tactic had been for a submerged U-Boat to fire a fan of torpedoes at an enemy vessel. Kretschmer considered this mode of operation a waste of torpedoes and decided that he would fire a single torpedo at a single target. He also considered that the U-Boat should be on the surface and infiltrate inside the convoy shield and open fire whilst between the enemy’s escorting destroyers and their merchant ships with the valuable cargoes.
Kretschmer sailed under the emblem of a golden horseshoe (hence the title of the book). On his return to his base he used to fly small triangular pennants with the horseshoe emblem. Each of these pennants represented a ship sunk by Kretschmer. However his luck ran out and his U-Boat was sunk by the Royal Navy - surprisingly by a ship whose emblem was also a horseshoe but turned upwards to catch “all the luck”!
After his capture he was interned in various Prisoner of War (PoW) camps. During his captivity he was promoted and awarded the higher grades of the Knight’s Cross. Also during his captivity he held an “illegal” Court of Honour against fellow officers from a different U-Boat. Their U-Boat had been captured intact by the Allies and the officers of this U-Boat were called traitors and cowards by Kretschmer. It is illegal for Court-Martials to be held by PoWs but Kretschmer as the Senior German Officer called them Courts of Honour instead. He tried his fellow countrymen and this affected his eventual release by the Allies after the end of the War. Indeed these Courts of Honour could be attributable to the death of one of the senior officers of the captured U-Boat. There was significant animosity towards these officers by their naval peers so they were transferred to an air force camp.
Kretschmer did not seek much publicity both during and after the war. As a result of this the author has done a significant service towards recording the exploits of this infamous U-Boat ace. Once you start reading this outstanding book you will not want to stop until you have reached the last page!