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Die eisernen Särge

4.26  ·  Rating Details ·  1,342 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
"With Werner we sweat out attacks in the foul air of the U-Boat, cringing with him at every bomb."--New York Times.

The former German U-boat commander Herbert Werner navigates readers through the waters of World War II, recounting four years of the most significant and savage battles. By war's end, 28,000 out of 39,000 German sailors had disappeared beneath the waves.

Paperback, 399 pages
Published July 2001 by Heyne Verlag (first published November 30th 1968)
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Nov 01, 2015 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
This book is an incredible true story about a U-boat captain who survived the entire war, one of about two dozen to do so. I had previously read Das Boot by Lothar-Günther Buchheim many times, which describes the German point of view of the Battle of the Atlantic circa late 1941. Iron Coffins completed the picture, and showed both the early phase of the battle, when the U-boats nearly swept the Allied convoys from the Atlantic, and the end-game phase of the battle when most U-boat crews were sla ...more
Dec 16, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The U-505 in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry looks like the pride of the hobbit navy.

It's customary to give statistics in a book like this -- though Herbert Werner thankfully confines his to an engineering diagram -- so here goes: The pressure hull of a Type IXC U-boat is just over 192 feet long and just under 14.5 feet wide. Given that the average American man is 5'9 1/2" with an arm span to match, you could theoretically fit two guys standing fingertip-to-fingertip across the beam of
John Valesano
Jun 27, 2015 John Valesano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii
An amazing memoir of Captain Werner's experiences in the German U-boat campaigns of World War II from its early glory days to its near anhilation by wars end. His writing is so vivid and engaging that you feel like you're in the U-boat with him fearing for your life listening to the screws of the Allied destroyers and depth charges that are searching to sink your sub and send you to your grave in an iron coffin. You can almost feel and smell the damp moldy foul air of a sub that has been out at ...more
John Humber
When I was a boy of about 13 a Royal Navy submarine came to the port where I lived. This was unusual as it was a commercial and fishing port rather than a naval port. There was an open day and it was possible to go aboard the submarine. I was fascinated and have remained fascinated by submarines ever since.

Because it was a port my home town was heavily bombed and my generation (post-war baby-boomers) grew up with empty, derelict spaces in the streets where bombs had fallen. Largely because of th
Jul 28, 2008 Fire-fish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best war story of all times. A story by a man who was a german submarine captain and survived... it is more then a story of the war: it is a story of challenge, accomplishment, love, complete loss, and discovery .. at the setting of an immanent death.
Jan 01, 2013 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is decent read, but take some parts with a grain of salt. For example, he claims to taken part in the attack on Convoy SC122 and says that U239 sunk several ships. But U230 not recorded as having sunk anything in this convoy. In fact, there is no record of U239 actually attacking the convoy, though he peripherally took part in the operation. "Iron Coffins" contains less details about life on U Boats than about his travels on leave through France and Germany. I would have liked to see more ...more
May 06, 2015 Tomi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a hard book to read - not that it isn't eminently readable, because it is. But it also drew me in to the point of hoping the narrator (a U-boat commander in WWII) would be safe...even though he was sinking Allied ships! This book helped me see what it was like for an ordinary German serviceman during the war (although every time he was upset with "the enemy" I muttered, "You guys started it!"). Werner explained how obedience and duty are ingrained in the German people; so when the U-boats w ...more
May 17, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii-axis
Absolutely phenomenal, amazingly written and such a page turning story. Truly one of the best memoirs I have ever read. A no holds barred look at the U-Boat war from the happy times to the last desperate gasps. Highly recommended.
Carol Storm
May 05, 2015 Carol Storm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant first-hand account of German submarine warfare in World War II. A must for anyone who has ever seen DAS BOOT!
Aug 21, 2009 Nevrlost rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very complete book of the various stages of the Battle of the Atlantic from the perspective of a U-boat captain that survived. As with many WWII books, various aspects of training, equipment capabilities, and tactics are presented throughout the book. What I was unaware of was how intense the attacks on U-boats by Allied forces were during the last stages of the war. It was a miracle for any U-boat just to make it out to sea and return to base safely.
Mar 16, 2008 Padraic rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book following Werner throughout the war from the highs of the German uboat campaign int he eary years of the war to the disaster to the uboat service by eventual Allied air and naval supremacy. Another great read.
Matteo Di giovanni
La prima cosa che viene in mente dopo aver letto questo libro è: "che fortuna!" Werner infatti rende benissimo l'idea di come la vita di un sommergibilista al fronte fosse davvero appesa ad un sottilissimo filo che si sarebbe potuto spezzare da un momento all'altro in situazioni in cui la salvezza, pur essendo fortemente condizionata dall'abilità dell'equipaggio, era determinata il più delle volte dal caso. Infatti, molti camerati di Werner non sono sopravvissuti a eventi che hanno invece fortun ...more
Sep 10, 2009 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very well-written and interesting account of the wartime experience of a U-boot officer. Werner starts us out in the "Happy Time," when the U-boots were decimating the lend-lease convoys and the Kriegsmarine had the upper hand. Then in the middle part of the book "Disaster from the air," the tide starts to turn. Not only are the crash dives and tactical back-and-forths amazing, but we also see the mental gymnastics that the U-boot men go through to maintain faith in their cause. Durin ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An astounding story of survival against all odds. He literally waited a few weeks for first assignment to find out it would never return, then sunk aboard his first submarine on his first day, but through amazing story they got it back to surface. Then he was aboard the 3rd for 30 minutes before it sunk, but spent much of the war in 4th, then survived the U-boat massacre during D-Day in a delipidated 5th as Captain, only to be on the shore to watch it sink, and scrabble for the rest of the war i ...more
Nov 03, 2013 Doug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This true tale starts out dry and matter-of-fact, but gathers force in the middle part of the narrative. As adversity mounted, so did my engagement with the story. Herbert Werner is nearly unique in living through the entire U-Boat war and rising from cadet to commander in the process. His luck is positively amazing, given the hundreds of other boats that, in situations exactly like his, were sunk. The view of the war through German eyes is interesting (compare to Guy Sajer's better-written The ...more
This was an incredible book. Hearing the story from someone that was on the loosing side of a war (Is there really a "winning" side?), makes the account much cleaner. There is no posturing, no propaganda, It's simply a soldier's story of how he believed in his country and how he believed he was fighting the good fight and victory would be Germany's because they were the "good guys" just like Britain was convinced that they were right and noble.

As the war drags on though, Werner begins to see thi
Tyler Hughes
The book I read was “Iron Coffins: A Personal Account of the German U-boat Battles of World War II” by Herbert A. Werner. The book is a non-fiction book about a personal life on a German submarine. Life on the U-Boat was crowded and tiring. There was not much moving space in the U-boat so if there was an emergency you had to be ready. Life on the U-boat you required you to be ready to fight unexpectedly. Because of this they would run drills a lot which means they would wake you up.

The author’
Mar 03, 2014 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Authors purpose for writing this book is informative. I was thinking that reading this book would be like reading a text book. It was more like reading a good story that wasn't a real life story. This is about how the people where working on the German U boats and the ridiculous things that the German Generals would tell them to do. The author wrote this book along the lines of historical fiction. The main character was a person who was inside the German U boats. He was on his boat on D-Day ...more
Jul 20, 2015 Guy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is 'the' book about life inside a U-boat during the Second World War.

It is written by Herbert A. Werner and documents his rise from cadet to U-boat commander and recollects his experiences in this titanic struggle from the early 'happy years' to the turning of the tables and ultimate demise of the U-boats.

The book captures the grimness of operating in a submarine perfectly and give the insider a great insight to the theatre - ideal for historian yet 100% accessible and enjoyable for th
Aug 25, 2014 Klemens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Książka niewątpliwie znana fanom tematyki, często także oceniana bardzo wysoko.
Czyta się ją bardzo szybko - poznajemy wojenne/okołowojenne losy bohatera/autora, jego przyspieszone dorastanie, walkę w marynarce dla swojej ojczyzny (wraz z kolejnymi stopniami kariery), jego miłości, rozterki, a w końcu gorycz porażki i powojenne koleje losu.
Często w szczegółach poznajemy codzienne życie podwodniaków służących na U-Bootach - kurczące się zapasy paliwa i jedzenia, przenikliwe zimno, okropny gorąc, n
Nathan Trachta
Jun 28, 2015 Nathan Trachta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Recently I decided to take the dive into submarine warfare again and in doing so I decided to read this classic; honestly this was my first time reading it though I've known about since I was a kid in the 70s. Of all books on submarine warfare in WWII this is the gold standard. Leutnant ser See Wener's personal account from induction and service as a junior officer through being a captain of his own boat to capture is truly a great book, worthy of 4.5 stars. The honesty he shares with us about h
Regardless of your religious beliefs, it's hard to read this book through and not believe that some higher power was watching over Herbert Werner. If the facts weren't well documented, this tale would be completely unbelievable. Every ten pages I would have to stop and share with someone what had just happened; the man went from one incredible exploit or near-disaster to the next. Not only is his story extremely compelling, but his writing style is easy and enjoyable as well. You get an excellen ...more
Cam Nelson
Nov 10, 2013 Cam Nelson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply amazing. In a league with Remarque and Juenger... probably superior to them both if one actually sits down and reads their works and compares them to Werner. Nevermind what apprehensions one might have about reading a war memoir, especially one entitled "Iron Coffins"; Werner's book is a moving story of survival and heartbreak both at sea, in port, and on the homefront. The number of times Werner cheated death and escaped from the Allies defies belief. The descriptions of life in port in ...more
Feb 29, 2012 Nadir rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military, ww2
This is an excellent personal history of the German U-Boat war during World War II. Much of their operational technique is discussed and in that regard it is very enlightening. Their early successes where they seem to sink Allied shipping at will is matched by their very rapid demise beginning in mid 1943. Their staggering losses after that are such that the reader is amazed their crews continued to leave port.

While the book is entirely about the service of a single German sailor, the book tell
Jul 22, 2014 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engrossing, particularly toward the end when it becomes increasingly clear that the Axis is getting pummeled and the author is being ordered to undertake what amount to suicide missions. And the post-surrender chapter, which deals with prison camp life and his escapes, is fascinating.

I would have preferred less nostalgia about the bordellos and more description of what day-to-day life on the boat was like. (I was expecting the book to be more like Das Boot in this respect.) Thirty to sixty days
Robert Lewter
Jun 03, 2013 Robert Lewter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! What a classic. I have read U-boat commanders accounts from WWI, but this is the first from WWII.I knew that the Allies put a beat down on the German Navy, but I had no idea that the German U-boat Fleet was almost totally annihilated. This mans story was truly enthralling. I can see why this book had been read so much that some of the pages had to be taped to stay in. If you are even mildly interested in WWII history, this is a book you should read.
Aug 24, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My co-worker, Jay, recommended this book to me and I enjoyed it very much. Herbert Werner was an amazing person, and this book succeeds because of his matter-of-fact voice combined with his experiences as a U-Boat captain and his survival. Mr. Werner doesn't embellish his experiences, but lets them stand on their own merits. One of the best books I've read about the experience of war by those who have fought it.
Apr 09, 2015 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No matter what you think of the Germans during WW II most did not belong to the Nazi party and served as soldiers on both side. This was true of most of German navy. This story from one of the few who survived the entire war serving in submarines is riveting. The story of his life both during mission and between them and the close calls and the sad reality of seeing almost everyone he knew die on subs and in the cities.
Jan 11, 2009 Jeanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An account of WWII's war of the Atlantic from the perspective of one of the few surviving German U-Boat captains. Filled with evocative descriptions, action sequences, a slice of history I have not seen described anywhere else. This has been a favorite book of mine for 25 years, and it has lost none of its power over time.
Nov 06, 2007 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History folk
Shelves: top-shelf, history
I read this one after reading Shadow Divers.
It made me look at war and the people who fight wars in a whole different way.
By the end of this book I found myself cursing the British and American forces, and had to remind myself which side I was on.
This story could have been written about any sub crew from either side of the war. Wonderfully written and enlightening
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Herbert Werner was a Kriegsmarine naval officer who (by his own reckoning), was one of only about "two dozen captains still alive" at the end of World War II. He served in five U-boats, as an Ensign, Executive Officer and Captain in the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel, the North Sea, the Baltic, the Norwegian Sea and the Mediterannean.

He survived the sinking of U-612 in the Baltic and the loss
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