Letters & Opinion

Captain Otto Kretschmer

Maurice Frankenhuis’ letter to Captain Otto Kretschmer reacting to his remarks upon the launching of the first new submarine since the end of World War II.

Otto Kretschmer, U-Boat Commander

October 24, 1961
Capt. Otto Kretschmar
Commander of the Federal Navy’s Forces
Bonn, Germany

Dear Captain Kretschmar:

In the October 22, 1961, edition of The New York Times, I read an article, beginning, “The Germans, who developed the submarine into a major weapon of war, launched today the first submarine they had built since 1945.”

There was also a photograph of this submarine and the comment, “She is said to be as fast underwater as Hitler’s wartime U-boats were on the surface.”

The article also read:

“U-Boat Spirit” Recalled

Captain Kreitschmar, recalling that the first U-boat had been constructed in Kiel fifty-five years ago, expressed a wish that the new submarine would have ‘an efficient crew that is filled with the old U-boat spirit.’ The captain’ s wife christened the ship.

I sincerely hope that your wish is not fulfilled, that those who will man the craft will not be filled with the old U-boat spirit.

If in the event of war this should be the case, may God have mercy on the souls who would be the victims of the German U-boat crafts. May I remind you of the ruthless submarine warfare during World War 1914-1918. This was as merciless and cruel as some of the forces of Hitler’s Reich during World War 1939-1945.

I could give you many examples. The most striking one was the sinking of a steamer of a neutral country, the Netherlands “TUBANTIA.” The Germans accused the British of having torpedoed this ship in 1916. However, after investigation, it was discovered that it was NOT a British submarine which torpedoed the “TUBANTIA” but a German U-boat. The German Government apologized later and paid an indemnification.

A medal was even struck, which reads:

“Englands Gruss an die neutrale Tubantia.”

Reverse: “Er kann der Beste nicht im Frieden leben wenn es dem Boesen Nachbar nicht gefaellt, 1916.”

Sinking of Lusitania 1915, medal reverse

And one shouldn’t forget the sinking of the passenger ship, the “LUSITANIA,” sunk by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915, which cost the lives of 1,198 innocent men, women and children, a criminal act which aroused the whole world and ultimately caused the United States to enter the war against the Axis powers.

A medal was also struck in Germany to commemorate th1s act which reads:

“Cuna-linie – Fahrkarten Ausgabe – C. U. N. A. R. D. Geschaeft ueber Alles.”

Reverse: “Keine Bannware! Der Grossdampfer “Lusitania” durch ein Deutsches Tauchbot versenkt  – 7 Mai 1915.”

This medal was very popular in the allied countries, casts having been made of this specimen and used for propaganda purposes, to show the ruthlessness of German submarine warfare.

Please find enclosed several photographs of the above mentioned medals, and, in the meantime, I am

Yours truly,