HJC: Jordan Vause. His chapter is very intriguing and rather suspenseful. He is one of my favorite authors. I liked his U-Boat Ace book, but his book Wolf — I forget the subtitle . .
TPS: I think it is U-Boat Commanders in World War II . . .
HJC: Yes, I think that’s right. In my opinion, that book shines a light into the U-boat community that is extraordinarily revealing. His article on the loss of U-505 is similar in style but different from all the other chapters in Hunt and Kill. It’s not exactly counter-factual, but . . . I am unsure exactly how to describe it.
TPS: Well, first, it is very different than all the rest, but it is definitely not counter-factual or a “what-if scenario.” The chapter is entitled “Desperate Decisions: The German Loss of U-505.” When Jordan proposed covering this topic, I jumped at the chance because I knew he would do a great job. What he does — and I believe it is the first article of its kind on this aspect of U-505‘s career — is examine the command structure and decision-making process inside the boat from the time it was discovered until its capture.
HJC: With its central focus on why the boat was not scuttled. . .
TPS: Yes, but I think it is much deeper than that. What he does is essentially say, look, what options does a commander have when he is forced to blow the ballast tanks to save his boat, but knows he will surface in the middle of a Hunter-Killer group? Most people don’t think about this, but the options you have available once you surface are largely determined by what you do before, during and after you blow the ballast tanks. You have certain decisions you can make — certain options. Jordan explores those and follows the chain of command and decision-making, bringing in outside experts like Jürgen Oesten and Sigfried Koitschka, both former U-boat commanders and U-boat aces, and other former Kriegsmarine personnel, to evaluate the decisions made, and the decisions that were not made but could have been chosen. It is an intriguing — I think you used that adjective earlier — perspective. I think it will be well-received. At least, I hope so!
HJC: I read the final chapter — at more than 60 pages it is a small book! — by the boat’s curator, Keith Gill, with a lot of interest because virtually everything in that chapter was new to me.
TPS: It was new to me, too! (laughter) I think it was Tim Mulligan who suggested we bring aboard Keith, and that was a very good idea. First, as you said, he is the curator of the boat at the museum. Obviously he knows U-505 — the boat itself — better than anyone. Right now he is spending his days crawling through it matching paint chips and restoring the interior to its original condition, as far as possible. With a 6’4″ frame, it is not easy!