- Series: Fortunes of War
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Cerberus Publishing Ltd.; 1st edition (June 25, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1841450286
- ISBN-13: 978-1841450285
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,564,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Phantom Raider: Nazi Germany's Most Successful Surface Raider (Fortunes of War) Paperback – June 25, 2005
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Paperback, June 25, 2005
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Top customer reviews
I believe the book should have more to say since the ship was at sea for two years.
Nonetheless the book deserves four stars because the story is good.
Phantom Raider is divided into 26 short chapters and has 205 pages of narrative. The author provides 27 B/W photos but no maps or appendices - it's a rather no frills book. That aside, the narrative is coherent and flows at an almost movie-script pace. The author begins with the conversion of the Atlantis from a civilian freighter at Bremen in the winter of 1939/40 and discusses the initial training of the crew. Mohr is a bit self-effacing at times, in that he gives a few details that his background was far from the norm for a Kriegsmarine Leutnant - he had a PhD and spoke a number of languages. He adds humor noting the lengthy discussions about exactly what kind of paintings should go on the wardroom rooms; nothing to remind home-sick sailors of Germany, nothing racy to remind them of women. Once Atlantis was at sea and had to regularly change its disguise he notes the difficulty of re-painting a ship's hull in the middle of the Atlantic. Once Atlantis starts capturing Allied merchantmen on the high seas, Mohr brings the reader right along, describing boarding parties in which the author participated. He provides all sorts of rich details about raider operations, many of which don't appear in other accounts. Even Rogge's Scottish terrier `Ferry,' the ship's mascot, is mentioned.
Mohr spends a good deal of time discussing the effect of the unprecedented 622-day long patrol on the morale of the Atlantis' crew. Fortunately, he doesn't try to white-wash events and mentions several instances of indiscipline among the crew. He also discusses relations with captured British prisoners, who enjoyed a more civil relationship with their captors than was the norm. According to Mohr, water shortages and dull diets were the main bane of the cruise, aside from the constant apprehension about a British cruiser appearing suddenly. As part of his duties, Mohr regularly listened to British BBC reports - Atlantis had to be aware if the ships that they were pretending to be was sunk elsewhere - which enabled him to realize that German wartime propaganda was getting increasingly worse by 1941. To his credit, Mohr is frank that he was a loyal German officer and doesn't try to pretend that he was against the regime, but he succeeds in showing that the crew of the Atlantis was not so isolated that they didn't realize the war was going against Germany. Based both on Mohr's account and post-war accounts by former British prisoners, it is apparent that Atlantis fought about as `clean' a war as it was possible to fight and far outside the norm for other theaters of the war.
Another interesting part of the book which is barely mentioned in other accounts about the Atlantis went to the isolated Kerguelen Island and ran aground. Mohr describes how seriously damaged the ship was and this nearly ended their war career there. The last part of the book is the most exciting, where Mohr describes the sinking of the Atlantis by the British cruiser Devonshire in November and how he eventually made it back to France aboard an Italian submarine. Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable naval memoir and while it could stand to be updated with an appendix or map, it still packs far more veritas than many of the hastily-thrown-together Second World War memoirs we see appearing these days.
It was surely preferable for an Allied merchant ship to be engaged by a chameleon like Ship Sixteen captained by Bernard Rogge and his ADC Ulrich Mohr than a U Boat, since they were usually given a chance to surrender when the "German Raider" identity was revealed within firing range. There was a learning process here. Rogge originally tried a shot across the bows but found that they continued to send radio SOS messages. He then tried ordering them to halt and not broadcast but that usually didn't work either (they turned to escape and continued to send SOS messages) so eventually he showed a large illuminated message quickly followed by shellfire against the radio room if there was any evasive action or broadcasting.
In any event Rogge's ship kept changing its identity with flags, lettering, paint, wooden structural alterations etc. to look for the most realistic matches with ships registered around the world and eventually managed to sink more Allied shipping (21 ships over 661 days) than any other surface ship. An interesting feature was Rogge's "Admiral Colombo" wall map of the Indian Ocean, with the subtitle "Think like your opposite number". He spent a good deal of time making reasonable assumptions about the whereabouts of Ship Sixteen based on existing knowledge and making sure he was somewhere else.
The book almost reads like a novel (better really) especially the episode when they were almost shipwrecked on the remote Kerguelen Islands near the Antarctic circle.