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Otto Kretschmer's U-boat



Otto Kretschmer was a famous U-Boat commander of the Second World War, and was the most successful Ace of the Deep. From September 1939 until being captured in March 1941, he sank 47 ships for a total of 274,333 tons.  He earned the nickname "Silent Otto" both for his successful use of the "silent running" capability of the U-Boats as well as for his reluctance to make propaganda broadcasts.

Even though Kretschmer served only three years out of seven in WWII, he would never be surpassed in terms of tonnage sunk. He was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, the U-boat War Badge, the Iron Cross 1st Class, the Knight's Cross, the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, and the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.

In April 1940, after eight patrols, Kretschmer left his U-23 for the newly-completed Type VIIB U-99, and started his legacy. In the first four patrols of the U-99, Kretschmer started striking convoys at night on the surface, taking down merchant ships with highly accurate shots, using only one torpedo per target ship in order to save ammunition, and the quote "One torpedo ... one ship" is attributed to Kretschmer from around this time.

His most successful patrol occurred in November-December 1940. During that patrol U-99 sank three British armed merchant cruisers, HMS Laurentic, HMS Patroclus and HMS Forfar.  Put together, the three AMCs totalled over 46,000 gross tons. These three successes earned Kretschmer the number-one spot on the Aces list, and was never surpassed.

On his last patrol in March 1941, he sank 10 more ships. During a counterattack by British escorts, U-99 was disabled by depth charges dropped from the British destroyer HMS Walker.  On March 17, Kretschmer surfaced and scuttled his boat. Three of his men were lost. Kretschmer and the remainder crew were captured.

Kretschmer's records:

40 ships sunk for a total of 208.869 GRT
3 auxiliary warships sunk for a total of 46.440 GRT
1 warship sunk for a total of 1.375 tons
5 ships damaged for a total of 37.965 GRT
1 ship taken as prize for a total of 2.136 GRT
2 ships a total loss for a total of 15.513 GRT

Wolf Pack Tactic:

The Wolf Pack or “Rudeltaktik” as the Germans called it was made famous by Karl Donitz and was to have a devastating impact on allied shipping. Despite being implemented only after the fall of France, the origins of this idea first dated back to the First World War. During the First World War, the British had defeated the U-boats by introducing the convoy system. This called for the formation of a group of ships to sail together as a group and under the protection of escort warships. Under the convoy system, U-boats could no longer find isolated easy targets scattered all over. The few U-boats who managed to find a convoy had difficulty attacking as it was escorted by antisubmarine vessels.

The wolf pack tactic was devised to defeat the convoy system. The idea was to form a pack of U-boats, and to delay an attack until all boats were in position to conduct a massed organized attack. This would overwhelm the escorts as the sheer number and surprise of the attacking boats would throw the defense into disarray. The first boat to make contact was designated as the “shadower” – whose job was to maintain contact and to report the convoy’s position. The shadower would remain out of the visible range of the convoy, often submerging by day and traveling on the surface by night. When enough boats have converged with the convoy, an attack started, usually after dusk where the U-boats’ small silhouette made detection difficult.

In the attack, each individual commander was free to use any tactics. Some fired at long range, outside the perimeter of the escorts, with a spread of several torpedoes. Some, particularly Otto Krteschmer headed straight into the center of the convoy, and fired at point blank range, picking off ship by ship as they sailed passed. Whichever tactics employed, the general strategy was to attack by night, and withdraw by day, with continuous attacks lasting several days, as more boats arrived on the scene.

This had devastating effects and easily overwhelmed the escorts. When an escort pursued one U-boat, another would attack at a different location, creating total chaos. Kretschmer later wrote in his war diary describing the attack on a convoy, “The destroyers are at their wit’s end. Shooting off star shells the whole time to comfort themselves and each other.”

Wolf Pack operations inflicted heavy losses. Tonnage figures skyrocketed, and soon reached an all time high. One of the most famous Wolf Pack attacks took place between the nights of October 16th to the 19th, 1940. Convoy SC7 was repeatedly attacked by a pack of seven boats, sinking 20 ships out of 34 in the convoy. The very next night, convoy HX79 was attacked with further losses of 14 ships, making a total of 34 ships in 48 hours. These attacks mounted against the two convoys became to be known as “The Night of the Long Knives”.

Although the idea originated as early as World War One, but many shortcomings prevented the implementation of this tactic. First, U-boats were dispersed far out across the oceans and Germany lacked the powerful radio transmitters needed to communicate with the boats. Second, there was no governing body which was needed to co-ordinate the attacks.  After the First World War, and after Donitz had been appointed as commander of the U-boat Force, he had refined the Wolf Pack strategy and worked out the theoretical elements.

In the beginning of the Second World War, the Wolf Pack tactic still could not be implemented due to an insufficient number of boats and the lack of powerful radio transmitters. This, however, was to change after the fall of France. With the collapse of France, Germany now had control of powerful land based transmitters on the coast of France, which were perfectly capable of sending messages to U-boats across the Atlantic. Also by this time, Donitz had a small fledgling of U-boats and thus was able to begin Wolf Pack tactics from July 1940 onwards.


The making of numerous holes on the wood floor took numerous hrs.  The creation of thousands of real tiny real nails covering the entire hull was a feast of artistic achievement that no second modeler in the world has done.  Also, only master painters can do the realistic rust appearance.  This art piece would be accepted by the most picky museums.

- Real deck, not computer-printed paper (very difficult and time consuming to make.)

- Plank-on-frame, hollow hull construction (very important), weighing less than 6 lbs  (A solid hull of this model would be over 20 lbs which feels like a heavy toy rather than an art piece.)

- Windows and portholes are cutouts (not black decals), thanks to the hollow structures.

- >95% of parts are wood and metal

- "Rust"  appearance to portray realism of a steel craft "living" in seawater.

38" L x 8" T x 4" W   $1,900    S & H is $90