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U-35 Watch Officer and Commander Otto Kretschmer

Otto Kretschmer was born on 01 May 1912 in Heidenau, Kreis Liegnitz, Germany, and entered the Reichsmarine in 1930 (Crew 30).

Oblt. Otto Kretschmer was the Watch Officer of U-35 from 03 November 1936 - 30 July 1937. Upon the death of Kptlt. Hermann Michahelles, Otto Kretschmer became commander of U-35 until 15 August 1937. He continued to serve as Watch Officer of U-35 until 30 September 1937.

I was a lieutenant on U-35, in the second submarine flotilla, and together with U-28, we were the first to go into the Atlantic, to Ponta Delgada in the Azores. As was customary, the boat went out for practice maneuvers in the Bay of Lübeck before departure." After continuous ups and downs on that cold December day, Kretschmer and the captain went up on the conning tower, where Otto lit up a cigar to indicate that the crew needed a rest. "I thought maybe he would let me smoke it to the end, but I looked at his eyes and thought, 'No, he will not.'" To delay any more dives, Otto announced he was going down onto the deck to get the water out of the gun and promptly descended the ladder, with cigar still clamped between his teeth.
"I was on the foredeck, adjusting the gun, when PSSSSSSH he was diving. Then up came the green sea, and I ran to the conning tower and tried to climb the periscope, hoping that I could be seen in the optics. But of course it was too oily, and I couldn't get up." Still clinging to the periscope, Otto surged downward with U-35. "When the water was dark green I let loose and popped up again."
In the impending darkness, without a life vest, Otto began to think he could not long survive in the frigid water. "It was December, and I had on heavy clothing - my leather suit with rubber at wrists and ankles - so it kept in some air to help me float. Also I had seaboots, and they held au; but in the end I had to paddle like a dog because the air was disappearing."
As Kretschmer wondered whether he could hold out, U-35 came from nowhere and threw Otto a life ring, but he was so numb with cold he could not climb aboard. "They pulled me out, pushed me up onto the conning tower, and then I said to the captain, 'Reporting back on board, sir.' He said, 'Thank you, thank you very much. Please go down.' No apology."
"When I got down I took off all my wet things and drank a good deal of rum - you see, there was no heating in the boat. I lay down on the bunk and vigorously exercised my arms and legs, and then I asked for hot water bottles to put on myself so I could get warm again. Otherwise I would have died there on the bunk."
Were it not for the captain looking through the periscope as U-35 dived, noting as he did that something was "funny" - that perhaps someone was out there - Otto Kretschmer soon would have disappeared. When the boat arrived in port, someone told a reporter about the incident, and an article appeared in a local paper that Kretschmer had survived a near-fatal accident in the Baltic with a cigar in his mouth. "Obviously the cigar part was not true," smiled Otto. (He has given up smoking.)
Before U-35 set out for southern waters, the captain informed Otto, who was in charge of provisions: "Rule number one is to feed the crew. If the crew is well fed, everything will work." Otto followed instructions to allow everyone access to the food stores for twentyfour hours a day, letting each sailor take what he liked. Unfortunately, at the end of the trip the consumption had gone way over the budget, and Otto was held accountable.
"I was going to have to pay for all that myself, so I told the authorities that I had only followed the commander's instructions. But the commander denied knowing anything about it, and even though I said I would swear to it and that others had witnessed, I still had to make it good." The naval staff explained that he could cut back somewhere and credit would be applied to his debt, so Kretschmer told the crew that from then on, since they had eaten so much, they could have their usual late meal of bread and butter, but with nothing on top except tinned fish. "The fish cost ten pfennigs only, but this saved us a lot of money. It was the only way." And it worked.
Otto continued his duties on U-35, with a mission to Spain as part of an international force involved in the Spanish Civil War. Four U-boats were assigned to guard the borders of Spain against Soviet and other reinforcements, and "we had two lines to protect - one at the French border in the Bay of Biscay. We were at El Ferrol, then at Cádiz and then Tangier, Morocco. The intention was to keep the civil war inside Spain.
[59]

A brief audio clip of his assignment to U-35 can be heard at http://uboat.net/men/interviews/kretschmer_1.ram:

I was a First Lieutenant in the submarine U-35 which had to go to Spanish water in the framework of the international non-intervention forces, which were composed of naval ships of all European countries, and had the task to find means that no intervention from outside took place during the Spanish Civil War.

danzig.jpg (93984 bytes) danzig2.jpg (81915 bytes)
U-35 at commissioning in Kiel. Otto Kretschmer is the last man on the right with a white belt; Hans Fechter, Erwin de Terra, Karlgeorg Schuster, Klaus Ewerth, Kurt Schmidt, Anton Thimm, Walter Arnaschus and Willi Ensuleit are also recognizable. [78]

Otto Kretschmer (right) with Hermann Michahelles (left) on board U-35. [51]

Urbahns01b.jpg (62631 bytes) The crew of U-35, including Otto Kretschmer, in September 1937 in Kiel. [90]


A much more complete description of his career after U-35 can be found at http://uboat.net/men/kretschmer.htm

Otto Kretschmer passed away on 05 August 1998.

On 5 July 1998, shortly before his death, he resigned from the Sharkunters Advisory Board with the following letter (excerpt):

"I am very sorry, but I must quit the SHARKHUNTERS Advisory Board with the effect of to-day (5 July 1998).
The reasons: Your magazine KTB has published so much nonsense about me and my submarines that my reputation as a submariner must be restored at least in this country. ...
Still your friend

Otto"

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