Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Iron Coffins: A Personal Account of the German U-boat Battles of World War II” as Want to Read:
Iron Coffins: A Personal Account of the German U-boat Battles of World War II
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Iron Coffins: A Personal Account of the German U-boat Battles of World War II

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,673 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
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, 388 pages
Published June 6th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published November 30th 1968)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Iron Coffins, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Iron Coffins

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Sep 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
John Valesano
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 28, 2008 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.
John Humber
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Eindrucksvolles Buch über die U-Boot Fahrten und das Leben an Bord eines U-Bootes von Kapitän Werner während des zweiten Weltkrieges.
Leider ist die Schreibe des Autors doch ein wenig trocken, was den Spass am Lesen doch ein wenig trübt. Daher hat es dann doch ein wenig gedauert, bis ich mit dem Buch durch war.
Aber die Geschichte nach seiner Gefangennahme bis zur Flucht nach Deutschland ist sehr spannend geschrieben und der absolute Höhepunkt des Buches in meinen Augen.
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii
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 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant first-hand account of German submarine warfare in World War II. A must for anyone who has ever seen DAS BOOT!
May 23, 2009 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 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Nathan Trachta
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it

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
Oct 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 01, 2007 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.
Adam Wuiske
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Have read this book four times. It is one of the most amazing tales I have ever read. Cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Matteo Di giovanni
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Commander Werner may have been one hell of a submarine captain, but he's not that great of a writer. That's not to blame the man - I don't expect him to be a brilliant novelist as a sidejob - but it makes Iron Coffins a little tough to go through. The book tells an unbelievable story that sticks with you and makes you think about right and wrong in the face of war and evil, and you keep wondering how Werner and his crew get through all the shitstorms and survive them all as one of the very few t ...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
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Iron Coffins is an excellent memoir about being in a German U-boat during WWII. Werner describes the incredible conditions that the U-boat crews underwent and provides an interesting view of France and Germany during WWII.

The books account of how anyone could tolerate the conditions and survive being in a U-boat is well worth reading for anyone interested in WWII.
Aug 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting book and an amazing story! This guy must have avoided death at least a couple hundred times. Just when you think his story is over, he goes on to discuss his imprisonment after the war. I found this to be even more amazing than the U boat stories.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Memoirs: Ten Years and Twenty Days
  • Stuka Pilot
  • Clear the Bridge!: The War Patrols of the U.S.S. Tang
  • Soldat: Reflections of a German Soldier, 1936-1949
  • Steel Boat Iron Hearts: A U-boat Crewman's Life Aboard U-505
  • Das Boot
  • Japanese Destroyer Captain: Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Midway - The Great Naval Battles As Seen Through Japanese Eyes
  • Submarine!
  • Lost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler's Most Brilliant General
  • Panzer Battles: A Study of the Employment of Armor in the Second World War
  • Thunder Below!: The USS *Barb* Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II
  • In Deadly Combat: A German Soldier's Memoir of the Eastern Front
  • Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunted, 1942-1945 (Modern Library War)
  • Samurai!
  • Silent Running
  • The Battle of Kursk
  • War Without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa 1941-42
  • The Terrible Hours: The Greatest Submarine Rescue in History
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
More about Herbert A. Werner

Nonfiction Deals

  • A Guide to the Present Moment
    $7.99 $2.99
  • Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Breaks of the Game
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth
    $11.74 $1.99
  • Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
    $12.74 $2.99
  • How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Dry
    $9.99 $3.99
  • Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The Measure of a Man
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions
    $13.99 $2.99
  • 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Best Friends: The True Story of the World's Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Let. It. Go.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Clara's War: One Girl's Story of Survival
    $8.49 $1.99
  • The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey
    $17.48 $1.99
  • The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice
    $12.49 $1.99
  • The Noticer Returns: Sometimes You Find Perspective, and Sometimes Perspective Finds You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Scar Tissue
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Running with Scissors
    $9.99 $3.99
  • The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics
    $9.99 $2.99
  • 1968: The Year That Rocked the World
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love and Manic Depression
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between)
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes
    $9.99 $2.99
  • And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini
    $22.95 $1.99
  • Facing Your Giants: The God Who Made a Miracle Out of David Stands Ready to Make One Out of You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of It
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Egg and I
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More
    $12.74 $1.99
  • City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas
    $14.99 $2.99
  • Just Another Kid
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Second World War
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body's Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free
    $8.73 $1.99
  • The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do
    $10.00 $1.99
  • Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting
    $19.93 $2.99
  • Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
    $10.47 $1.99
  • The Dangerous Book for Boys
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War
    $13.00 $2.99
  • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
    $15.99 $2.99
  • Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids
    $11.24 $1.99
  • Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man's Voice from the Silence of Autism
    $13.99 $1.99
  • I Am Not Myself These Days (P.S.)
    $13.24 $1.99
  • Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It
    $9.49 $2.99