Book Review: Black Flag: The Surrender of Germany's U-Boat Forces


by Lawrence Paterson

Minneapolis: Zenith/MBI, 2009. Pp. xii, 196. Illus., appends., notes, biblio., index . $30.00. ISBN: 978-0-7603-3754-7

The military aspects of what happened after the surrender of the Third Reich -- not to mention Japan -- have largely been overlooked in the literature, yet powerful German forces remained under arms in many areas, and the German submarine fleet still had many boats at sea, which is the subject here.

Black Flag takes a look at the largely untold story of the surrender of literally hundreds of boats and thousands of men. Paterson, author of several earlier works on the U-boats (U-Boats in the Mediterranean, 1941-1944, The First U-Boat Flotilla, etc.), wisely tells this story through the use of particular cases to illustrate broad patterns -- surrenders at sea, boats interning themselves, seizures by the Japanese, the fate of shipyards, bases, and personnel ashore, including many serving in "marine divisions" attached to the army, and the post-war disposition of submarines.  These accounts help the reader comprehend the scale of the forces involved, supplemented by useful tables.  The author makes several errors: the "Morgenthau Plan" to turn Germany into several agricultural mini-states was never official American policy; in European usage "marine" refers tomaritime or naval, rather than, as in Anglo-American usage, a dedicated corps of seagoing infantry; and he is apparently unaware that the protracted post-war detention of many German personnel, in technical violation of the Geneva Convention, was due to fear of dumping hundreds of thousands of men on Germany's destitute economy, potentially leading to widespread hunger and public disorder, providing grist for a communist uprising, but these are relatively minor errors given the story Paterson has to tell.

A valuable work for those with a serious interest in the U-boat war, the German Navy, or war at sea, and those interested in war-termination..

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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