U-Boat Vet Who Inspired ‘Das Boot’ Dies Aged 107

A U-boat submarine World War II veteran said to have inspired the 1981 film ‘Das Boot’ has died aged 107 in Germany.

Friedrich Grade served as chief engineer aboard the U-96, the German sub made famous by the Oscar-nominated movie.

The film, directed by filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen, showed the life of a U-boat crew hunting Allied convoys off the French Atlantic coast.

Grade died peacefully in his sleep in a retirement home near Bornheim on 13th October, according to German media.

In the film, Grade was played by Klaus Wennemann as ‘LI’ (Lead Engineer).

He joined the Navy in 1935 after developing a keen interest in submarine technology.

Grade was reportedly critical of the Nazis, and even after he retired from the German Navy, he continued to work as an engineer.

Friends and residents at his retirement home would bring him everything from broken toasters to radios to repair.

Picture shows Friedrich Grade, 107, undated. He died asleep peacefully in a retirement home near Bornheim, Germany, on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023. (Newsflash)

During the COVID-19 crisis, Grade reportedly played Battleships with his fellow residents, sinking ships by phone.

Grade was reportedly well-read and until recently, continued to drive a car, having obtained his licence in 1934.

But he said: “Only on country roads. The motorway becomes too stressful. The eyes dim. I’m starting to see material wear and tear too.”

The U-96 was part of the 7th U-boat Flotilla, stationed in Saint Nazaire, on the French Atlantic coast.

It was commissioned in September 1940, a year after the start of the war.

It conducted 11 patrols, sank 27 ships and was a member of 11 wolfpacks, the German U-boats that sank Allied ship convoys during WWII.

It was finally sunk by the US Air Force while in the submarine pens in Wilhelmshaven, Lower Saxony, on 30th March 1945.

During her years at sea, she never lost a single crew member.

The hit movie – nominated for six Academy Awards – was originally based on the 1973 novel ‘Das Boot’ by Lothar-Guenther Buchheim and spawned a hugely successful TV series.

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