JÜRGEN WATTENBERG (154-1984)
When JÜRGEN WATTENBERG was a training officer with the rank of Kapitänleutnant, two of his cadets in the cadet crew during the ’round the world cruise of the German Fleet in the early 1930’s were Joachim Schepke and OTTO KRETSCHMER (122-1985). OTTO told us that WATTENBERG was nicknamed ‘the Watchmaker‘ because everything had to be absolutely correct and accurate. In Yokohama, they took a train from the base into town and OTTO told us that all the cadets had to remain seated – at attention, on the train while WATTENBERG stood at attention during the ride to make sure there were no wrinkles at all in his spotless uniform.
The outbreak of war September 1939 found WATTENBERG as Navigation Officer aboard the Panzerschiff (pocket battleship) GRAF SPEE in the South Atlantic. After that famous battle with the three Royal Navy cruisers and GRAF SPEE was scuttled in flames in the mouth of the River Plate, WATTENBERG was one of the officers who were interned in Buenos Aires. As we’re learning in the KTB Magazine of Sharkhunters, the Third Reich had an extremely extensive ‘Spook‘ network in South America, headquartered in Buenos Aires. It wasn’t long before WATTENBERG and many others escaped South America and returned to Germany to continue their duty as German officers.
JÜRGEN WATTENBERG received U-Boat training and U-Boat Commander’s training, and was given command of the long-range Type IX-C boat, U-162 on 9 September 1941.
JÜRGEN WATTENBERG and U-162 were in the war only one more year, being sunk on 3 September 1942 but during this year, he conducted several Feindfahrten (war patrols) in the North Atlantic, then off the South American coasts and finally in the Caribbean where she was sunk with the loss of three men. During this year she sank many ships which was reported in great detail in the Sharkhunters KTB Magazine.
WATTENBERG had a favorite spot in the Caribbean where he would put U-162 on the sandy bottom in the daylight hours so his men could rest and make repairs as needed, then come up at night to hunt. On that fateful day, his sound man picked up screw noises of a destroyer in their area. WATTENBERG deduced that a lone destroyer on the course she was making must be a replacement destroyer with green, untested men aboard so he came to periscope depth and fired a torpedo at this ship. The torpedo broached, alerting the Royal Navy destroyer that they were under attack from a German U-Boat.
Unfortunately for WATTENBERG and his crew, this was not one rookie destroyer – these were three battle hardened destroyers…..HMS VIMY, HMS PATHFINDER and HMS QUENTIN, just returning from escorting a convoy. They had no responsibility now except to beat the hell out of this lone U-Boat, which they did. U-162 was sunk with three men lost and the rest of the crew, 42 men, taken prisoner.
One of the ships sunk by WATTENBERG was the sailing ship DOUGLASS and when the ship went down, two pigs swam away from the wreckage. They were quickly plucked from the sea and one of them was immediately “invited to dinner” with the crew of U-162. Naturally, he WAS the dinner. The other pig was named Douglass after the ship they sank, and he was adopted as sort of a pet on that patrol. When they returned to homeport at Lorient, France with the 2nd U-Bootflottille this photo was taken as JÜRGEN was presenting Douglass to Flotillenchef (Flotilla Commander) Korvettenkapitän Viktor Schütze. Douglass suffered the same fate as the other pig in that he graced the dinner table at the officer’s mess that night.
After WATTENBERG was captured by the British, he and his officers were handed over to the Americans and put into P.O.W. camp at Papago Park, Arizona where he initiated one of the greatest P.O.W. escapes ever in the history of war. He and about sixty other officers tunneled a long distance out of the camp and escaped – but escaped into the Arizona desert! The Army offered a reward of $25 for each, if someone captured the prisoner and brought him in. But the reward was only $10 if someone captured a prisoner and the Army had to come and get him. One by one they were captured or, realizing the hopelessness of their situation, gave themselves up …all except WATTENBERG.
A lover of American wild west stories and history, WATTENBERG adopted the name “Watache” which apparently means “Lone Warrior” and he lived in a cave in the Arizona desert for a month. As the P.O.W.s would depart the camp on work details, they had to pass an abandoned car and they would surreptitiously place food and water in the car, which WATTENBERG would retrieve later on. He was a tough and resourceful warrior, but he could not defeat the Arizona desert and after a month of relative freedom, he turned himself in to the Army and was returned to the P.O.W. camp at Papago Park.
After the war, JÜRGEN WATTENBERG returned to Germany and ultimately became CEO of St. Pauli Girl Brewery in Hamburg. He was with us at the 1988 Sharkhunters “North Germany Patrol“.