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Iron Coffins: A Personal Account Of The German U-boat Battles Of World War II Paperback – June, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (June 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030681160X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306811609
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Page for page, one of the most exciting accounts of submarine warfare...First-rate." -- Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Commander Herbert Werner served on five submarines from 1941 to 1945 and came to the United States in 1947.

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Customer Reviews

A gripping story (and sometimes very candid) and by all accounts well reccomended.
Thistle 746
Anyone who has read more than one first-person account of submarine warfare in WWII will find this book interesting.
James Hercules Sutton
Back to the book...if you want to know what is was like to be crammed in one those coffins then read this book.
Andrew Mullen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

119 of 120 people found the following review helpful By odanny on January 24, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First off, it should be noted that Capt. Werner beat the odds. He survived to tell his tale. 80% of his fellow submariners would perish under the waves as in the later years of the war each mission was essentially a suicide mission. One of these "ramming" suicide missions was even ordered of his boat in the weeks after D-Day, and incredibly, some of his fellow sailors on other submarines would die following these orders.

Werner's odyssey began when, on his first mission, the U-230 got stuck on the ocean floor and the crew spent 16 hours jettisoning water and weight out the torpedo tubes, and then ran from one end to the other to rock the boat free. So started his career. The number of close calls he and his ship would encounter over the course of the war, and survive, is equivalent to winning a lottery. Werner and crew had lady luck on their side at times, but many other escapes were a direct result of his competence and the crews bravery. It is a fascinating tale. The new radar that submarines employed in 1942 was later discovered to be acting like a homing beacon for allied aircraft, leading to the deaths of many crews from giving away their position before this error was discovered and fixed. By 1943 the Allies had prefected their hunt and destroy tactics so that many of these subs were unable to escape when their positions were verified. Many, many last reports from Werners classmates and fellow submariners were received onboard the U-230 before they went down with the loss of all hands. These haunting messages were continually relayed to Werner and his sub and somehow this man was able to keep from being part of the majority of brave sailors who died an anonymous death in the deep waters of the Atlantic ocean.

Simply an unforgettable book to read. One of the finest first person accounts of WWII that I have read to date. Ranks right up there with the works of Guy Sajer and Eugene Sledge.
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84 of 88 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the very best book I have read actually describing the conditions inside a German u-boat during World War II Atlantic Ocean war patrols. It is well written with both action and information in mind. The action standpoint is superb and makes the reader wonder how Capt Werner and his crew ever survived the punishment they took in their little fragile "egg" as aircraft and ships constantly dropped bombs and depth charges on them. From the information standpoint, Werner gives us a very comprehensive and interesting description of what it is like inside the early u-boats. It is hard to imagine how the crew lived like they did in their constantly rocking boat: without bathing for months, eating moldy food, suffering from constant humidity, freezing or roasting as the season might be (no airconditioning or heaters), and not having proper sanitary conditions (using a bucket in rough seas, etc.) Very good detail on u-boat life both aboard ship and in port. From another information standpoint, Werner gives us a good description of what average Germans were thinking as the war progressed, what sort of damage ordinary citizens were taking as the war proceeded in depth over Germany both from the heavy air bombardment plus the advancement of Allied armies from the south, east, and north. Werner is also a "ladies man" so we do hear a lot about the girlfriends in every port, so to speak, plus German submariners' night life in different occupied locations. (They seemed to like France a lot.Read more ›
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70 of 77 people found the following review helpful By AstroNerdBoy on March 22, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first time I read 'Iron Coffins', it was for a term paper in high school. At that point, all Germans in WWII were evil Nazi stooges with the mental capacity of a slug in salt. Once I started reading Mr. Werner's excellent book, I actually found myself sharing in the excitement as a U-Boat sank Allied ships. I also found myself feeling the dread as Allied escort ships dropped thier deadly depth charges. Iron Coffins is a fast paced book that is hard to put down. One is able to truely experience what the war was like through Mr. Werner's eyes. Once you've finished, your understand something...that just because you are at war with an evil nation doesn't make it's people all evil. Mr. Werner may not have been a celebrated U-Boat commander, but if it weren't for him, we would never truely understand the meaning of the term 'Iron Coffin.'
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Bill Hensler VINE VOICE on January 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
Mr. Werner gives a great book to the reading public of being a submarnier in the German WWII Kreigsmarine. It's an excellent read. Indeed, this book was used as sort of a template for the fair German WWII movie "Das Boot"

Mr. Werner covers the highly technical training he first received in the Kreigsmarine as a cadet. He writes about living in pre-war Germany, a very nice place to live. When he gets his commission and becomes an ensign in the Kreigsmarine his luck is with him and he's assigned to one of the best commanders in the Germany Navy.

Mr. Werner's tale covers the three distinct periods of German's WWII time line. First, he writes of the early successes and victories where a single U-boat would sink 18K to 30K of shipping in a single sorte. Note, while Pearl Harbor was a military disaster for the USA the German U-boats sank dozens of ships in a single month. Mr. Werner was an intregal member of this highly effective team.

The one part of Mr. Werner's book that rings true is the turning of the war in the period of March to May of 1943. In that time frame nearly 100 German U-boats were sunk. In one harrowing patrol their submarine saw no ships and spent all its time being bombed, straffed, or debth charged.

The last part of the book deals with the destruction of the U-boat arm and Germany. Basically, everything goes into destruction for Germany. The new generation U-boats are too far and too few to change anything. The new torpedos are too few to really matter.

Mr. Werner wrote this book and, at the time, didn't know the allies had captured all the German submarine Enigma coding equipment. The Allies were decoding the submarine messages faster than the Germans themselves in WWII. One reason - discoved by accident - that Mr.
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