Last U-Boat Captain Reinhard Hardegen—See Update

Reinhard HardegenSome interesting if not exactly likable politicians were born on this day. Slavery apologist John Calhoun was born in 1782. Not my favorite president Grover Cleveland was born in 1837. And good man at the wrong time Neville Chamberlain was born in 1869.

George Plimpton, a writer I like more than I should, was born in 1927.

Brad Dourif is 63 today. I find him a very likable actor. He has made me happy in parts as diverse as Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Doc Cochran in Deadwood. He was also really great in Ragtime, which kind of makes up for the incredible job he did as the bigot Deputy Pell in Mississippi Burning.

The man of the day, however, is the last surviving U-boat captain Reinhard Hardegen. He is celebrating his 100th birthday today. After World War II, he spent 32 years as an MP in West Germany as a Christian Democrat. There is one very interesting part of his life story. After the end of World War II, he was arrested because he had the same last name as an SS officer. It took him a year and a half to prove that he was a different guy.

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!

Update (18 March 2013 7:27 pm)

According to Hans in the comments: Hardegen is not the last surviving U-boat captain, just the oldest surviving. I have no way of knowing if he’s right, but given he took the time to comment, I’ll bet he is. So there you go. The main thing is that Hardegen is the only U-Boat captain to turn 100 today. (I haven’t checked, but I feel pretty confident in that one!)

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Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Last U-Boat Captain Reinhard Hardegen—See Update

  1. A common mistake repeated once again: Reinhard Hardegen is the oldest, but NOT the last surviving U-boat captain of the German WWII navy.

  2. @Hans – Thanks for the information! I put an update in the article. I would have just edited it, but that "fact" is in the title. (I suspect you can guess which website I got it from.)

    Anyway, we get a little loose with our birthday posts. Since doing them, I think that Irwin Shaw is the only person we really know much about.

  3. the captain of U-18 and then U-23 is still alive at least he was when he wished me a happy birthday this year he will turn 91 January 25

  4. @Charles – Yes, I think that was what Hans was getting at above. Silly me for wading into military history!

  5. Strange to see this as my wife’s grandfather was on one of the ships that was sunk by this Uboat commander. It just brings to mind how my wife’s family history changed as a result.

  6. @Todd day – I’m sorry to hear that. But I try to be understanding of people who are caught in the middle of wars. I probably wouldn’t have mentioned him except that he was a Christian Democrat and he was turning 100.

  7. @Steve Sheldon – I have a few ideas. Do a search for "Reinhard Hardegen" on Amazon. You might be able to get in contact with a writer who has interviewed him. The same goes for magazine articles and interviews. You could also contact the Christian Democrats Bremen, where I believe he still lives. You could also check the news of the last few years to see if he’s attended any public functions and contact the people who put on the event. In my experience, people are very good about forwarding correspondence–especially if you ask nicely. Finally, you could just send a letter to him via general delivery in Bremen. He’s so famous, I’m pretty sure it would make it to him.

    Good luck!

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