German Combat Divers in World War II by Michael Jung

German Combat Divers
German Combat Divers

Divers at war

This superbly researched and objectively written book by acclaimed diving historian and author Michael Jung has been expertly translated from German into English by David Johnston.

It chronicles in vivid detail how Germany slowly but surely developed combat frogmen and exploited their revolutionary skills during WW2.

The Germans initially had ready access to the advanced diving skills and equipment in the Italian Navy.

Even so, the book reveals the reluctance of the conventional military institutions to recognize the considerable value of combat frogmen.

I found the connection with Hans Hass of particular interest. Hass was enjoying a privileged life as a diving marine biologist during the war and one of his team, Alfred von Wurzian, went on to introduce Hass’s oxygen diving techniques to the German Navy.

Despite the headstart, the Germans didn’t really capitalise significantly on their new capability until relatively late in the war, by which time it was too late.

But what comes over very strongly is the undeniable courage and tenacity of their combat divers. Many of their daring exploits are described in detail.

The relationships between the German and Italian personalities proved to be a mixed bag, ranging from unquestioning trust and respect to suspicion and even hostility.

Having been initially trained by the Italians, the book claims that the German divers quickly out-grew their teachers and became even more proficient.

This certainly cannot be refuted for their many coldwater operations in northern Europe.

Jung describes the inspirational leadership of several key individuals, notably Hass’s protégé, Wurzian, and Frederick Hummel, and he pulls no punches in revealing the destructive internal politics and personality clashes that contributed to the delayed development and deployment of the combat frogmen.

The training schools and well-developed techniques are also described. About 700 combat German frogmen were trained during the war, though only about 60 were actually employed in operations.

Nevertheless, these divers accomplished spectacular successes, many at the cost of their own lives.

They demonstrated convincingly that a handful of skilled combat divers could achieve what waves of tanks and bombers found impossible.

This book is a riveting read – Michael Jung is to be congratulated for such an authoritative and balanced work.

John Bevan

Schiffer Publishing/Bushwood Books
ISBN 9780764330926
Hardback, 159pp, £27.50

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