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Knight of the North Atlantic (ePub)

Baron Siegfried von Forstner and the War Patrols of U-402 1941–1943

Maritime > Seaforth Publishing

By Aaron S Hamilton
Seaforth Publishing
File Size: 73.9 MB (.epub)
ISBN: 9781399096737
Published: 30th March 2022


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As World War II recedes further into the past, still each year hundreds of new books are published about some aspect of this global conflict. Many offer new insights from recently declassified documents. Other’s look to re-interpret what was thought to be well understood events. This book is no exception. The history of U-402, a Type VIIC German U-boat, is another tile in the mosaic of the war, and more specifically the Battle of the Atlantic.

U-402’s conning tower was emblazoned with the shield of its sponsoring German city of Karlsruhe. Upon that shield was the Latin word ‘Fidelitas’ – Fidelity – and Baron Siegfried Freiherr von Forstner, the U-boat’s captain, embodied that word through his deep sense of loyalty to his profession, country, and crew. Born of an aristocratic military family, with a tradition of U-boat service, von Forstner served without the pretentiousness of title, even after winning the Ritterkreuz (Knight’s Cross). He fought the war like a knight of old, with a defined code of chivalry, as he duelled with escorts, went to the aid of fellow U-boats, and rescued his enemy from the sea. As the North Atlantic battlefield grew deadlier with each successive patrol, von Forstner remained focused on his duty to sink Allied tonnage while keeping his crew alive. His daring and conduct at sea captured the respect of Captain, US Coast Guard (Ret) John M Waters, who was a Watch Officer onboard the escort USCGC Ingham that fought U-402 in several convoy battles. After the war, he became the unexpected chronicler of his former enemy, and established an enduring friendship with von Forstner’s family.

The story of von Forstner and U-402 parallels the rise and fall of the Wolfpack, and reflects the ebb and flow of the Battle of the Atlantic from the early operations in European waters, to Operation Paukenschlag (Drumbeat) off the US East Coast, to the climatic convoy battles of the North Atlantic in 1943. This is a truly gripping account of the Atlantic conflict, and the large selection of photographs adds a realism and authenticity found in very few accounts of the U-boat war.

The author is very experienced and knowledgeable on this subject and his intimate grasp of the technical details and workings of, in this case, a Type VIIc U-Boat are truly amazing. This allows Hamilton to recreate each of the eight war patrols undertaken by U-402, in places on a minute by minute basis. In contrast to other works of its kind which rely heavily on Nazi war-propaganda photographs, the text is also supported by a proliferation of privately sourced images with extensive captions, lend an immediacy and realism to the text.

Warship World Magazine

This book is highly recommended.

Read the Full Review Here

Naval Review

This is a quite excellent book with good maps, an extensive bibliography and unusual images and it is very well produced. But above all it explores the day-to-day experience of life for the U-boat crewman and as a result is much more than a dry account of patrols, attacks and sinkings.

The Mariner's Mirror Vol. 108 No. 4 Nov 2022

Hamilton succeeds in making von Forstner and the crew of U-402 real people with whom we can empathise, and the final section of the book – a dive onto the now peaceful and overgrown remains of one of U-402’s victims – is a fitting conclusion to the story and reminder, if one were needed, of the price of war.

Read the review here

Australian Naval Institute

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About Aaron S Hamilton

Aaron Stephan Hamilton is an academically trained historian. He holds both a Bachelor's and Master's degree in History, as well as the Field Historian designator awarded by the US Army's Combat Studies Institute. He is an amateur maritime archeologist with a focus on submarine history. For more than twenty-five years he has researched and published ground-breaking studies about the final year of World War II in Europe. His recent book, Total Undersea War, was published by Seaforth and has been critically acclaimed for its depth of research and original subject matter.

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