Heinz Schaeffer, a Berliner by birth, had long nurtured a love for the sea. So much so that, at 13, he volunteered to serve as a deckhand on a schooner, often doing the most dirtiest of jobs. The skipper of the schooner, a former naval officer, knowing of Schaeffer's zest and aptitude for boating, helped him to learn his way around a ship. Within a year, Schaeffer had earned a master's certificate, which qualified him to assume command of any sailing boat on the rivers and inland waterways of Germany. Subsequently, after Schaeffer had completed his formal education, he volunteered, age 17, for the Kriegsmarine in late 1938, passing an extensive series of exams that took 14 days to complete.
Schaeffer goes on to share with the reader the gruelling wartime training regimen of seamen trainees and his experiences of serving abroad U-boats in the Atlantic between 1941 and 1943. It wasn't an easy life. Of the 40,000 seamen who served aboard U-boats during the Second World War, 3/4 of them were killed while on active service.
Schaeffer's command of the U 977 proved to be his first and last command of a submarine. Ordered in April 1945 to proceed to Norway, the U 977 embarked on a remarkable voyage that was to take it to the Argentine 4 months later. All in all, this was a highly informative, colorful, and insightful book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Any reader who loves stories of adventures on the high seas will delight in reading "U-BOAT 977."