July 24, 1978 12:00 PM

by Lothar-Günther Buchheim

Buchheim’s novel The Boat was a best-seller both in Germany and in the U.S., but this nonfiction account of life aboard a World War II submarine is far more engrossing. Buchheim, a young officer assigned to chronicle the battle for the sea-lanes, took most of the 205 photographs in this book. Some were obviously staged. But many—the chance encounter with another U-boat at sea (above), the engine room during the stalking of a convoy, the commander calmly sitting out a depth charge attack (though the blasts were so close they shook Buchheim’s hand)—are striking portrayals of the camaraderie, claustrophobia, tension and terror aboard a sub. Hitler’s U-boats sank more than 2,500 Allied ships, but at a terrible price. By the end of the war almost 800 of Germany’s 1,100 submarines had been lost and some 30,000 of the 40,000 volunteer sailors who manned them were dead. (Knopf, $17.50)

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