Capt. Reinhard Hardegen was among the National Socialists charged with leading the attacks for what the Germans dubbed “Operation Drumbeat,” which spanned May 1942 through April 1943.
He told the Times in 1992 that he initially thought it was a foolhardy mission.
“We were expecting the worst,” Hardegen, then 78, said. “But the Americans were totally unprepared. It was unbelievable how many ships we sank. We had our choice of targets.”
The submarines were so close to shore, he said, that his crew marveled at Coney Island’s Ferris wheel when it was lit up at night.
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