Grey Wolf - A Novel In History

Background Research:


Here is a little information regarding the research I did in writing Grey Wolf

I started the project in mid 2006. Over the last few years I spent a great deal of time reading memoirs, histories, newspaper accounts and researching various websites. Of course, much of the time was spent vetting the available information as best I could to make the most accurate representation of life on a U-boat possible, and in confirming the circumstances of the patrol on which the narrative is based.

As mentioned on the home page, the novel is based on the first war patrol of U-29 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Otto Schuhart. Since the novel is obviously a fictionalized account of this patrol, I did take some license here and there to make all the pieces fit. I did, however, work very hard to make the story as accurate as possible with regards to the details of U-29's trip.

In order to ensure that accuracy, I acquired a copy of U-29's Kriegstagebuch (KTB) from the U.S. National Archives. A KTB is a War Diary or, in this case, a Ship's Log. I also used the KTB of Kommodore Karl Dönitz, the Commander in Chief of U-boats. Dönitz would later be promoted through the Admiral ranks up to the highest attainable, that of Grossadmiral, Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine (Navy). I used these documents to get the most accurate information regarding the boat's course as it went out to sea and returned home, the weather conditions, details of each attack they made, weapon and ship malfunctions and damage, and what the contents of their orders from High Command had been, and when they were received.

I did take some artistic license in the sailing route; I had my boat operate out of a different base than did U-29. I changed the names of the vessels U-29 attacked during the patrol and I created a number of fictional characters, including the members of her crew. I also created some dialogue between Historic persons, but either extrapolated their conversations from the Historic Record through orders attributed to them, their own words (either in a KTB or a memoir or other historic document) or by virtue of the decisions made by them as a result of one action or another.

I also used the Bow Number of a U-boat that had never been commissioned. The boat in Grey Wolf is U-115. It is of the Type VIIC, the most numerous submarine type ever produced by any nation. The 'C' variant was available at the time frame of the narrative, but not in great numbers. U-29 herself was a Type VIIA. Construction of the original U-115 had been ordered but was canceled by Dönitz. The design was of the U-Cruiser Type. They were to have an additional Main Deck Gun and other surface warfare armaments, but Dönitz did not favor this type of U-boat since it was fundamentally un-submarine-like in its purpose, which was to engage targets primarily while on the surface. He knew that any submarine, or in the case of submersible boats which is what WWII subs really were, was inherently vulnerable while surfaced. While such a boat would, no doubt, have had success against an unarmed merchant vessel, it stood little chance against a well armed one and none whatsoever against a warship while on the surface. Its large size would also have made it easier to detect once submerged and harder to handle as well. In using U-115, I gave myself the creative ability to place her anywhere, and at any time, for the purposes of this and subsequent novels. That is also why I fictionalized her crew. (Unfortunately, I'm not the only author that had this idea and the number U-115 does appear in another book, but it is not a collaboration.)

My intention in novelizing U-29's patrol, and in so painstakingly researching this book, is to make it as entertaining to the Historian as it is to the casual fan of historical novels.

I hope I have been successful.