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Ten Years and Twenty Days -- The Memoirs of Karl Döenitz

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Ten Years and Twenty Days

The Memoirs of Karl Döenitz



Frontline Books, London - 2019

Price – 520 pages – Non-Fiction

Order: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/


Brief overview

This is a reprint of the Admiral’s Memoirs from WWI through the end of WWII and a bit beyond.  Admiral Döenitz was involved in U-boats from WWI and progressed to being the overall commander.  After Hitler’s death, he became his successor, dealt with the surrender of Germany and spent time in prison afterwards so there’s nothing about his childhood or early years. Even Wikipedia only touches lightly on this.




The New Task

Wolf-Pack Tactics

U-Boat Building Policy 1935-39

The Decisive Months of 1939

The U-boat War Begins: September 1930-March 1940

The Norwegian Operation and the Torpedo Crisis

The Battle of the Atlantic: July-October 1940

Organization of U-boat Arm and of U-boat Construction

The Battle of the Atlantic: November 1940-December 1941

America’s War Against Us Before December 11, 1941

Operations in American Waters: January-July  1942

Convoy Battles and Distant Operations: July-September 1942

The Laconia

Improvements in U-boat Equipment and Armament

More Convoy Battles and Operations in Distant Waters: October-December 1942

Commander-in-Chief of the Navy

Collapse of the U-boat War: January-May 1943

My Tasks as Commander-in-Chief 1943-1945

July 20, 1944

The U-boat War from May, 1943 to the End

Head of the Government


Appendix 1: U-boat of the German Navy

Appendix 2: Defence of Merchant Shipping Handbook 1938

Appendix 3: Causes of Torpedo Failures

Appendix 4: The Second World War

Appendix 5: U-boat Building Programs

Appendix 6: Figures Concerning the German U-boat War1939-1945





My first impression was that this is a large and complex body of work given the page count and the small type.   It is, but don’t let that stop you.  It’s written from his memories, papers, and most importantly, his point of view as a dedicated military man, Hitler supporter, and unrepentant Nazi.  I had to do a bit of soul-searching on these last points as are there limits to what a military person should do when it comes to following orders.  There were some questions of his actions and his post-war sentence was based on basically "being in charge".   I’ll let other readers decide.


The book is well-written but a bit dry in that it’s more of “I did this”, “here was the problem and how I solved it” type of book.  While it doesn’t really touch on him as a person, it is very in depth on his decisions, thought processes, loyalties, and actions both strategic and in his daily interactions with his men and the leaders of Germany.  And I think those points make this worth reading if for no other reason than have insight as to what motivates leaders, civil and military.


I will say that this book isn’t for everyone as it is not entertaining, but factual and  pretty deep into his mentality. He seems to have written this book to justify his actions and to justify that he wasn’t a “bad” Nazi who didn’t deserve his prison term.


Spoiler alert:  The “Ten Years and Twenty Day” refers to his time in prison after the war, not his time in command.

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