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Born 25 March 1911 in Metz, "Ali" as he became known, was in Naval Class 1932. When the war began, he was a destroyer man serving aboard Z-6, THEODOR REIDEL but he soon went into the U-Bootwaffe and put U-333, the boat of the "Three Little Fishes" into commission on 25 August 1941.
There were a couple reasons that his conning tower emblem was three fish. One of his favorite sayings was "Alles kleine Fische" which translates to "It's all little fish" or a more to the point, "it's really not important". Another reason is that "Ali" liked American music and at that time, there was an American favorite which went:
Down in the meadow
in an itty-bitty pool
swam three little fishes
and their momma fishey too
and the chorus went:
Boop, boop, didum, dadum
Boop, boop, didum, dadum
Swim, said the momma fishey,
Swim if you can,
And they swam and they swam
right over the dam
Right - I always wondered why we sang such goofy songs back then as well, but that's where "Ali" got the conning tower emblem, seen here.
On patrol in January of 1942, Cremer sank three ships but disaster awaited him. On his return to his homeport, the 3rd U-Bootflottille at La Rochelle, he spotted what appeared to be a tramp steamer, and he sank it too. Unfortunately, it was the German blockade runner SPREEWALD that he sank.
He came to America on his second feindfahrt (war patrol) but as he tried to sink the tanker BRITISH PRESTIGE, the tanker rammed the U-Boat, causing a lot of damage. Quickly a destroyer came on the scene and further blasted U-333, causing yet more damage. "Ali" managed to bring his badly crippled submarine back home, with four tonnage flags flying.
His third feindfahrt took him off the African coast where, on 6 October 1942, the paths of U-333 and the RCN corvette HMCS CROCUS crossed and the epoch battle commenced. The corvette was firing all guns at the U-Boat and then rammed the sub astern while the fire from the Oerlikons and pom-pom guns continued to blast the conning tower. The I.W.O. and six crewmen were killed and "Ali" was badly wounded, but despite his wounds and despite the constant fire from the corvette, he continued to hand the wounded down the hatch before going below himself and diving the boat. U-333 was seriously damaged including the forward tubes being knocked totally out of line, and Cremer was badly wounded. Admiral Dönitz immediately ordered the Type XIV "Milch Kuh" tanker-supply submarine U-459 to rendezvous with U-333. The meeting took place four days later and the doctor came aboard U-333 to tend to "Ali" and the other wounded men.
The successes were getting harder and harder to achieve, and his next two patrols bore no fruit but in April 1944, U-333 again was badly damaged in an exchange with ASW units.
As the war drew nearer and nearer to its end, Cremer commissioned the new Type XXI super submarine U-2519, but the war ended before he could make any war patrols with that boat. He scuttled that boat in the estuary of Kiel on 3 May 1945, but the boat was raised by the Allies after the war and broken up for scrap.
After scuttling his boat, Cremer, together with Gerd Thäter (194-+-1986), formed an anti-tank group working in and around Hamburg. Thäter had just scuttled his Type XXI boat, U-3506, and so they formed this anti-tank group and destroyed several tanks.
When the war was over, these two men accompanied Großadmiral Dönitz to the Naval Academy at Mürwik/Flensburg where Dönitz set up the new and short-lived seat of the German Government. They organized the Dönitz Guard Battalion and it was one of their men, a young 18 year old sailor, who fatally shot Wolfgang Lüth one dark night when Lüth did not return the counter-sign.
Once joining Sharkhunters, Captain Cremer was extremely helpful with information, photos and his wartime memories for our archives and our KTB Magazine. He was with us for our first overseas "Patrol" in Germany in 1988. It was from Cremer's personal diary that we confirmed that Dönitz was indeed, in the Führerbunker on 20 April and thus, upholding the story told by Spanish spy Don Angel Alcazar de Velasco of certain things that took place in the bunker those final days.
"Ali" Cremer was a fine man - always ready to help Sharkhunters. In his later years, he had contracted prostate cancer and when I'd ask him about his condition, the answer was always the same. He would tell me that he did not accept the cancer and so, it could not harm him. It was a tough and admirable position to take - but sadly, the cancer was stronger than "Ali" thought, and it finally took his life.
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