Skip to main content

U-boat Duel

June 2024
1min read

The Enemy Below

directed by Dick Powell, CBS/Fox War Classics Collection, 98 mins., $19.95 . CODE: BAT -2

Beneath a turquoise South Atlantic sky, a Buckley -class destroyer escort under the command of Robert Mitchum fights a single-ship duel with a German U-boat. Although the German skipper, Curt Jurgens, says the Hitler-is-a-madman-who-has-disgraced-our-profession-of-arms stuff that was pro forma for World War II movies in 1957 (when this one was made), he is nonetheless a canny, almost clairvoyant seaman who is determined to come out of the engagement alive, and the moves and countermoves become increasingly complex and perilous. Shown the movie a couple of months back, one North Atlantic destroyer-escort veteran exclaimed at the beginning, “How the hell did I miss this when it came out?,” then watched hypnotized as Mitchum dropped his depth charges and fired his K-guns, every now and then murmuring, “That’s just the way it was.” When the movie ended, he said, “Wonderful!” and then added, with proprietary satisfaction, “Wasn’t the DE a fine-looking warship!”

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.