SHARKHUNTERS Salutes Veterans
HANS-GEORG HESS (125-1985)
|Born 6 May 1923 in Berlin, the son of a chemistry professor at the university there, HESS did not attend the Naval Academy at Mürwik as so many of the other Skippers did because the war was already going on. He joined the Kriegsmarine at age 17.
He first served in minesweepers as many did, then he volunteered for the U-Bootwaffe and was posted aboard U-466 under command of Kapitänleutnant GERHARD THÄTER (194-1986) where he worked his way up from the ranks to eventually being I.W.O. (First Watchkeeping Officer or XO) on that boat.
HESS rose to the rank of Oberleutnant zur See der Reserve, meaning that he was a reserve officer and not an Academy graduate.
|U-995 was not a busy boat and certainly was not successful under her first Skipper, Kapitänleutnant Walter Köhentopp because, in mid-1944 it was evident that the war was lost for Germany and also that a huge number of U-Boats were not returning from their very first Feindfahrt (war patrol) so Captain Köhentopp did not put the boat into any situations that could kill the boat. His men knew that they would come out of the war alive because he would not expose the boat to combat. Köhentopp was then accused of not being aggressive enough, busted to common seaman and became an AA gunner. Command of U-995 was given to HESS, a young ‘Draufganger‘ (fire breather) who became a lawyer after the war and eventually became a Doctor of Law in Germany.
When HESS made a speech, he didn’t talk – he thundered! Walls shook, windows rattled, men cringed! He was a powerful speaker, and so it was when he took over command of U-995 in late summer 1944. With the crew standing at attention on the foredeck, this 21-year-old kid with his new ‘White Cap‘ mounted to the bridge and thundered out;
The crew knew that this young firebrand was going to get them all killed.
| FANG DEN HUT!
When HESS took command of the boat, he told his men they could select any conning tower emblem they wanted but it could not have anything to do with the National Socialist Party and could not be any of the old heraldic symbols or emblems. The crew chose “Fang den Hut” which means ‘Catch the Hat‘, an old German children’s game.
So this crew, these 45 men, painted their new Turmabzeichen (tower emblem) on the conning tower fairweather, departed on their first Feindfahrt under HESS…………and expected to die.
By the end of the war, their young ‘Draufganger‘ Skipper had proven himself more than capable in many situations and brought his boat and his men home safely after not one or two Feindfahrten, but from five war patrols at a time when nine out of ten boats did not return from their very first patrol.
They not only returned safely, they sank ships. They sank a Soviet ship just before Christmas and were able to pull two survivors out of the freezing water. “Igor” and “Iwan” as the crew of U-995 dubbed them, warmly celebrated Christmas with the crew aboard U-995, then the crew was saddened when they reached homeport and had to hand them over to the authorities and a very uncertain fate.
For his accomplishments in a very difficult time in the war, HESS was decorated with the Knights Cross. Only 145 men of the U-Bootwaffe received this very impressive award.
After the war, his boat, U-995 was handed over to the Norwegian Navy where she was renamed KAURA and served there for more than a decade. U-573 had been interned in Cartagena during the war then was S-7 in the Spanish Navy. When she was decommissioned, the Spanish Navy offered her to the German Government to be used as a Memorial. The German Government quickly refused. When KAURA (the former U-995) was about to be decommissioned, the Norwegian Navy offered her to the German Government and got the same reply. However, the VDU (Verband Deutscher U-Bootfahrer or German Submarine Veterans Association) stepped forward and Norway handed the boat over to them. U-995 now rests in concrete bunkers by the German Navy Memorial in Laboe, a town near Kiel, and the waters of the Baltic are literally fifteen feet away. She is open to the public as a tribute and memorial to the nearly 30,000 U-Bootfahrer who still sleep in their iron coffins and she is the only Type VII-C submarine left in the world. She is beautifully maintained by the VDU – a true memorial!
U-995 almost ready to head out to sea…
At the 1987 “Patrol in Paradise”
|At the first ever (1987) Sharkhunters “Patrol“, HESS is
5th from the left (behind TRIEBEL (197-1986) in blue shirt) at Atlantis
Dive Shop owned by Captain SPENCER SLATE (1657-1990).
|During our time on the water with SLATE, HESS
took command of the dive boat as
GERD THÄTER (194-1986) supervises.
|Starboard view of the conning tower||Portside view of the conning tower|
|The Skipper, HANS-GEORG HESS proudly||standing next to his old ‘girlfriend’|
HANS-GEORG HESS and Sharkhunters President HARRY COOPER (1-LIFE-1983) became best of friends and COOPER was a guest in the HESS home often. HESS almost never missed a Sharkhunters gathering in Germany.
|Discussing tactics and history||Enjoying tea and cake|
HANS-GEORG HESS was without question, the strongest supporter of Sharkhunters in all Europe. He helped put more and more veterans in contact with COOPER and Sharkhunters, he provided the chantychor (sailor’s singing group) at the 1988 Sharkhunters Convention in Hamburg, hosted our three-hour harbor cruise and helped in so many ways even to ‘putting out fires‘ when problems came up. HESS was without question, the giant solid steel bridgepost for Sharkhunters in Europe.
CLICK HERE to see HANS-GEORG HESS aboard an American submarine
HANS-GEORG HESS served ten years on our Sharkhunters Advisory Board and you can see the Board Members by clicking here TO THE ADVISORS PAGE