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Kapitän Merten was born 15 August 1908 in Posen and he was in the Naval Class 1926. His one and only U-Boat command was U-68, but he was highly successful with that boat, sinking some 29 ships with a total of 180,869 gross tons.
When he was just a Leutnant zur See, he was Gunnery Officer aboard the cruiser KÖNIGSBERG then was posted to T-157. Later he was commanding officer of the escort vessel F-7 and then became Cadet Training Officer aboard the old coal burner SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN but he wanted service in the U-Bootwaffe.
Early on in 1940 he volunteered for the U-Bootwaffe and later sailed aboard U-38 under HEINRICH LIEBE (1670-1990) as Kommandantenschüler (Commander in Training). upon completing his training, he commissioned the Type IX-C long range U-68 at her AG Weser building yards in Bremen on 11 February 1941. He commanded this boat on five very successful war patrols. One of his most notable accomplishments was commanding the rescue effort that brought many U-Boats together in the South Atlantic to rescue the survivors of the raiders PYTHON and ATLANTIS after their crews scuttled the ships. Under Merten's command, several U-Boats literally towed the lifeboats all the way back to the French ports.
Merten later was posted to command the 26th U-Bootflottille at Pillau and lateron, he commanded the 24th U-Bootflottille at Memel. He was instrumental in the safe evacuation of some 50,000 civilian inhabitants and 6,000 Hitler Youth out of Memel as the Red Army was closing in.
After the war, he evaded the conquering Allies until October 1948 when he was arrested and brought before the Frimaire Tribunal in France. The French hatred of the Germans notwithstanding, Merten was released in March of 1949.
Many years after the war when the book and movie "das Boot" was released, KURT BABERG teamed up with Captain KARL-FRIEDERICH MERTEN to write a book entitled:
"Nein! So was das nicht!" which means "No! It was not this way!" The subtitle was 'eine anti-Buchheim schrift' or 'an anti-Buchheim writing'. In this book, they dispute much of what Buchheim wrote in this book. Most U-Bootfahrer did not like what Buchheim wrote in this book and they were furious about what Buchheim wrote in his next book, which contained a great many insults against Großadmiral Karl Dönitz.
Captain Merten was with us for our 2nd Sharkhunters Convention when he joined us in Hamburg and spent the day riding the harbor tour with our group, signing autographs etc. Captain Merten also sent us some combat films taken of his boat and from his boat, which we converted into videotape H-8 for our Members. In a letter to Sharkhunters in the late 1980's, Captain Merten said that he would help Sharkhunters to his utmost because he wanted us to keep the history of his comrades alive and historically correct.
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