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On his retirement On the bridge in WW II
at the rank of Fregattenkapitän
When you met GERD THÄTER, you immediately liked the man. He was open, genuine and funny. He was everyone's uncle and he had no trouble joking about himself. In fact, he referred to himself as the "Schwartz Schaff" (Black Sheep) of his family. His father, a World War I U-Boat Skipper, retired at the rank of Vize Admiral (three stars). His brother retired at the rank of Konter Admiral (two stars). GERD retired at the rank of Fregattenkapitän (three and a half stripes, or Junior Captain). He always seemed to do things that would get him into trouble. As a midshipman some time prior to the outbreak of what would become World War II, he was a midshipman in charge of a group of midshipmen on board the old battleship SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN anchored in harbor. A Royal Navy battleship carrying Admiral Sir Duff-Cooper entered the harbor and GERD was ordered to have his group hoist the appropriate flag recognition signals. He refused, saying that he
"Would not honor that war monger in any way!" and so GERD graduated a little later than his classmates.
When war broke out, he was I.W.O. on a Type VII-C that was ordered into the Mediterranean and they made the passage through the Straits of Gibraltar without incident. He was aboard that boat for a short time, then ordered home to Germany (via train) to take command of U-466 and soon after, was ordered to take her into the Mediterranean. Once again, he made the passage without incident.
On reaching Toulon Formal pose
The sunburst emblem seen on the photo above left was on the conning tower of U-466 and it was on GERD's father's U-Boat in World War I. The meaning was that they had the sun in their hearts.
In August of 1944, the USAAF 8th Air Force bombed Toulon nearly off the map, and U-466 was damaged beyond repair. The boat was dockside and most of the crew was off the boat, but three of his crew were killed. U-466 was scuttled off Toulon in the Mediterranean and GERD was ordered back to Germany to take command of another boat, a Type XXI 'electro-boot'. He commissioned U-3506 but the war ended before they could depart Hamburg on a war patrol. He and the Skippers of U-2505 and U-3004 had their boats in the bunker known as Elbe II or as we knew it, the "Lost Bunker" where they scuttled the three boats. HARRY COOPER (1-LIFE-1983) and EDDIE PHILLIPS (220-A/LIFE-1986) walked on the decks of these boats in their bunker in 1988.
They could not take to the sea, so GERD and "Ali" CREMER (114-+-1985) formed an anti-tank battalion in the Hamburg area and destroyed several tanks.
His final posting in the Kriegsmarine was in Flensburg/Mürwik at the Naval Academy, which had become the seat of the German Government after Adolf Hitler had turned over the reins of government to Großadmiral Karl Dönitz. He was a commanding officer of the personal guard detachment of Karl Dönitz for some weeks after the surrender. It was a young sailor under his direct command who erroneously shot Wolfgang Lüth.
When Germany was allowed to have a navy again in the middle 1950's, GERD wasted no time in shipping over and he had many assignments including that of Naval Attaché to Canada.
GERD joined us for our "Patrol" in Chicago in 1994 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. In this photo by STEVE SHOCK (2213-A/LIFE-1992), GERD is flanked by his wife Gila and STEVE. There was a special section reserved for World War II veterans, so we ushered GERD into this spot. A US Navy veteran was sitting next to GERD and they began to talk and were getting friendly until the American asked GERD what ship he served on. When GERD told him that he was a German U-Boat commander, the USN veteran moved to another seat. GERD just chuckled about this.
I personally have spent many pleasant hours in the Thäter home in Germany, chatting with GERD as Gila poured the tea. This was a warm house, filled with friendship and love. It was like a second home to me.
Anyone who ever met GERD misses him greatly. He was like everyone's uncle.
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