SHARKHUNTERS Salutes Veterans
REINHARD HARDEGEN (102-LIFE-1985)
Kriegsmarine, Flier, and U-Boat Skipper; Knights Cross with Oak Leaf, U-Boat Combat Badge with Diamonds
Born 13 March 1913 in Bremen and celebrated his 98th birthday in 2011. When we spoke with him on the telephone he said that he was in good health …but he wasn’t playing much golf anymore.
He was initially a flier but when control of everything flew went over to Hermann Göring and the air arm was taken from the Kriegsmarine and given to the Luftwaffe, he was ordered into the U-Bootwaffe. He always chuckled when he heard that the U-Bootwaffe was all volunteers. He quickly pointed out that he did not volunteer for the U-Bootwaffe – he was ordered there and like a good soldier, he obeyed.
|Due to his advanced rank (he was already Kapitänleutnant) he was attached to a combat boat as a Kommandantenschüler (Commander in training) aboard one of the most successful Frontboots (combat boats) of the war – the Edelweißboot (U-124) commanded by WILHELM SCHULZ (162-1986).
The two Skippers on the bridge of U-124
|He commissioned the Type II-D coastal boat U-147 and his success was minimal. In May of 1940, he relieved Knights Cross winner Karl-Heinz Moehle of command of the Type IX-B boat U-123. With this boat he conducted two Feindfahrten (war patrols) against the United States. Here he is seen returning from his first American Patrol when he kicked off Operation PAUKENSCHLAG (Drumbeat).& This was opening of action against the USA and he was the first of the Drumbeat boats on station – he was off New York. He was amazed that the cities were brightly lit, coastal steamer traffic was fully lit and not using code in their radio transmissions – and that there was no U.S. Navy ASW patrols. He had great success on this patrol with no serious counterattacks.
This photo was shot as they returned to Lorient and the 2nd U-Bootflottille. I.W.O. Rudolf Hoffmann is at the left, HARDEGEN is in center and II.W.O. Leutnant zur See (Later Vizeadmiral) HORST von SCHROETER (5430-1997) is at the right.
HARDEGEN was decorated with the Knights Cross after this Feindfahrt.
|After his second Feindfahrt off the American coast, this time off Florida, he was decorated with the Oak Leaf to his Knights Cross as we see in this photo of Kapitänleutnant HARDEGEN signing the ‘Golden Book‘ of important people in Bremen. Only 28 Skippers were so decorated during World War Two.
The Knights Cross with Oak Leaf
|REINHARD HARDEGEN did not join the Bundsmarine in the middle 1950’s when Germany again had a navy but rather went into politics and served 32 years in the Bremen Government. A fine and honorable man, and very distinguished looking, he always joined us for our “Patrols” in North Germany and signed autographs freely. This photo was taken during one of our “Patrols” in the mid-1990’s.
Always friendly and helpful to Sharkhunters, he sat for not one but two television interviews when Sharkhunters President HARRY COOPER (1-LIFE-1983) asked. HARRY has been a guest in the Hardegen family home many times – a house so large that it had to have two addresses! An avid golfer all his life, Captain HARDEGEN had a huge back garden that was maintained as a putting green. His biggest problem were the deer that came into his back garden to eat the flowers and their hooves were not kind to the beautifully manicured grass.
He was one of the participants of ‘the Captain’s Table‘ which was an informal monthly luncheon with himself, OTTO KRETSCHMER (122-1985) are various other Skippers. Of this group, only REINHARD HARDEGEN is still living when this was prepared for the website in December 2011.
|To the left is a composite photo of Captain HARDEGEN on the bridge as a young man and as he nears his 100th birthday.|
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