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Jürgen Wattenberg was born 28 December 1900 in the beautiful city of Lübeck, where he lived after the war until his death on 27 November 1995. He entered the German Navy and was in Crew (Class) 21 at the German Naval Academy in Flensburg/Mürwik.
In the early 1930's he was Cadet Training Officer aboard the cruiser EMDEN during the time the German Fleet embarked on a 'round-the-world cruise. His cadets referred to him as "the Watchmaker" because every little details had to be absolutely correct. During a train ride in Japan, headed for a formal ceremony, his cadets all sat at stiff attention while Wattenberg stood at attention - so not to cause a wrinkle or crease in his starched Whites.
During one port call, the U.S. Navy had a fleet anchored there as well and naturally, the German cadets and the American cadets met ashore and became friends, traded ideas etc. It turned out that the underwear issued to the German cadets was not very comfortable nor well liked by the cadets - but the boxer shorts the Americans wore under their uniforms was much better, so some of the German cadets bought the American briefs. That was NOT issue, and word got back to Wattenberg that some of his cadets were wearing the American skivvies and not the ones they were issued so at an inspection, he ordered one cadet........... named Otto Kretschmer... to drop his pants! Without hesitation, Otto complied and Wattenberg told his aide to note on the morning inspection report that 'Otto Kretschmer is wearing sporting trunks under his uniform'. Otto's friend and fellow cadet, Joachim Schepke, was not caught, even though it was his suggestion that they buy the American skivvies.
When war broke out, Wattenberg was Navigations Officer aboard the pocket battleship GRAF SPEE and so, was interned in Argentina when the ship was scuttled. As with many of the German officers, he departed Argentina and made his way back to Germany - he never would tell us how he did this. He went through U-Boat schooling and was given command of U-162, a Type IX-C long range Frontboot.
On one patrol to the Caribbean, he sank a sailing ship named DOUGLAS and once the ship slid under the water, Wattenberg spotted two pigs swimming in the debris. These were quickly brought aboard and one was sent directly to the cook for the evening meal while the other was given a reprieve and named Douglas for the ship from whence he came.
Formal pose as Korvettenkapitän With a forlorn looking Douglas
When the patrol ended, Wattenberg handed the pig to his Flotillenchef as a gift, and so Douglas became another casualty of war - in the kitchen pot.
During his Caribbean patrols, he had a favorite spot off the island of Barbuda where he would flood down and let U-162 lie on the sandy bottom at about 180 feet during the day where repairs could be made and his men could rest before they went hunting at night.
During one such restful day (3 September 1942), his soundman picked up the propeller noise of an approaching ship. Wattenberg brought the boat to periscope depth and he saw one lone British destroyer and judging by the direction from which he was coming, Wattenberg concluded that this was a replacement destroyer coming from England with probably a green crew. He fired two torpedoes at this 'lone' destroyer but the torpedo broached, giving the destroyer ample time to change course and avoid the torpedo, but now the location of U-162 was known.
As fate would have it, this was not one lone destroyer with an untested crew coming from England - this was a group of three British destroyers returning from dropping off a convoy and they were not green! These were the battle hardened destroyers HMS PATHFINDER, HMS QUENTIN and HMS VIMY and they wasted no time in giving U-162 a tremendous beating. It didn't take long for Wattenberg to realize that his stricken submarine was too badly damaged to survive, and he ordered the boat to the surface and all hands to abandon ship. Only three men were lost, the remainder taken prisoner.
That would have been the end of the war for most men, but Wattenberg was not going to just sit out the war in a POW camp. He was transferred to Pappago Park in Arizona in the USA and there, he organized a breakout. Many of the officers there were U-Boat Skippers so he had no trouble finding willing helpers. A large number managed to escape - but escaping into the Arizona desert with no food, water, money or transportation was no escape at all. The US Army offered a reward for the capture of the escaped prisoners - $25 if you captured one and brought him back to the POW camp or $10 if you captured him and had the Army pick him up.
One by one the men were captured or returned to the camp on their own, suffering without food or water - but not Wattenberg. He and a couple of others lived like Indians - even taking Indian names from books they had read as school boys - in a cave they found in the desert. There was an abandoned car on the roadside that the prisoners had to pass each day on their work detail, so they would sneak food and water into the car which Wattenberg would pick up at night but this could not go on for long and after about thirty days, Wattenberg returned to the camp - the last of the German prisoners to do so.
Some years after the war, he became CEO of the St. Pauli Brewery in Germany and he eventually retired from that position. He returned to his beautiful Lübeck where he and his wife remained until their passing in the middle 1990's. He was a fine man and he helped us greatly with our history.
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