Interviews
Editor's Note: We regret to report the recent passing of Admiral Horst von Schroeter. He was a gentleman and true friend to us at Winidore Press.

This article is reproduced from pages 424 to 431 of The Iron Time.

When Horst von Schroeter first showed us his decorations, something did not seem quite right about his Knight’s Cross. On closer inspection it was revealed that he had actually received a modified Iron Cross Second Class. Some refer to this type award as the Second Class “Übergröße,” or oversized example. Interestingly, Horst von Schroeter’s Knight’s Cross was simply a standard size Second Class that had been modified (see page 306-307). He was asked if he was absolutely sure this is the award he received at the presentation ceremony.

“We were on our way to prisoner-of-war camp in the French zone, near Kreuznach. We were going through the area in a train, very slowly, and had been warned by the population that the French would take from us anything they wanted. And that became true because on the first day we had to get out all of our things, place them out, and take three steps back. The French went along and picked up what they wanted. But because we were warned I handed my baggage to a German civilian. This was in the late afternoon, and it was getting dark. He took it and he brought it to a friend of mine living in his village. And when I came back from the French two years later, I got my baggage back from my friend.

“In this baggage for instance, had been all my medals. My original medals. And so I am convinced I got this Knight’s Cross from Admiral von Friedeburg in June ‘44, because I have all the other old medals with the swastika. Yes, I am absolutely convinced.”

That point settled, the conversation moved on to Schroeter’s experiences during the war.

“The first patrol started on the 13th of January, ‘42. This was the first day we were allowed to torpedo ships. We went out on the 23rd of December, ‘41, from Lorient and the passage took about three weeks in order to spare fuel.

“I was the watch officer on a boat (U-123) of the first group of submarines fighting along the east coast of the U.S. We started right in the neighborhood of New York and went down to Cape Hatteras. There were no defenses or attacks against our U-boats. We had only one bomb thrown by a small civilian boat. And when we where on the way back (to Germany) after firing our torpedoes, we were pursued by a Norwegian steamer. He had seen us on the surface and tried to ram us. It took all our power to get free, and he transmitted continuously, ‘I am pursuing a submarine.’ It took about a half-hour until we saw an airplane. Then we dived and all went fine. This is significant in relationship to our early operations along the East Coast. We could go along, being aware that the enemy was not prepared for our offensive. The commander of the boat, Captain Hardegan, decided that we would, in daytime, spend some time out on the deck with the entire crew sleeping, minus the poor men on watch, of course. Then at dusk, we hurried toward the coast to pick up targets. We would come in so close to the shore that we could see cars driving along the coastal roads at night, their headlights burning. We smelled the forests of the coast, some two, three miles away. The water we were in was only ten to 15 meters deep. We would not have been able to dive, of course.”

It was a fascinating point Horst von Schroeter had made regarding being able to smell the trees. The question was posed if he felt that one’s senses, like smell, might become sharper when at sea for so long. Schroeter laughed for a moment.

“It might be. Maybe you can imagine what it smells like on a submarine with the diesel in it. It smells quite different than trees! We knew we smelled the forest because it is quite different from anything on the boat or in the sea.”

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