Describe life for a German Kreigsmariner aboard a U-Boat in the Atlantic during World War II.

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brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, I think I would like to take whatever class you're taking this quarter.  You've been asking some great questions on here the past week.

Life on any submarine during World War II was cramped, hot, smelly and dark.  U-boats were among the more advanced submarines of their time, but this did little to make the life of a submariner any more comfortable.  Upon leaving port, the U-boat would be crammed with supplies in every available compartment, and hanging from the ceiling would be nets of sausages, fruit, bread and canned goods.  Hitting your head on something became a daily occurrence, until you learned how to act and move on a U-boat.

The smell inside a German submarine was that of diesel fuel, cigarette smoke and body odor.  Water was strictly rationed, so you could forget about showering regularly, and almost all aboard would have heavy beards by the end of a patrol, including the Captain.

Another aspect of life was terror.  I cannot imagine being depth charged while confined in a tin can submarine several hundred feet below the surface.  It had to be the most vulnerable, helpless feeling there was.  Sailors just had to trust to God or fate or random chance and hope that day was not their day to die.  But by the end of the war, the German submarine force had the highest loss percentage of any branch of the German military.

For a better idea of what life was like under those conditions, watch Das Boot, a popular German movie wth subtitles, or read Grey Wolf, Grey Sea by E.B. Gasaway.