Kriegsmarine Officers – Admirals

Großadmiral Karl Dönitz Official portrait.
Großadmiral Karl Dönitz Official portrait.

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Grand Admirals

Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz

Karl Dönitz (German pronunciation: [ˈdøːnɪts]; 16 September 1891 – 24 December 1980) was a German naval commander during World War II. He started his career in the German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine, or “Imperial Navy”) before World War I. In 1918, while he was in command of UB-68, the submarine was sunk by British forces and Dönitz was taken prisoner. While in a prisoner of war camp, he formulated what he later called Rudeltaktik (“pack tactic”, commonly called “wolfpack”). At the start of World War II, he was the senior submarine officer in the German Navy. In January 1943, Dönitz achieved the rank of Großadmiral (Grand Admiral) and replaced Grand Admiral Erich Raeder as Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy (Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine). On 30 April 1945, after the death of Adolf Hitler and in accordance with Hitler’s last will and testament, Dönitz was named Hitler’s successor as Staatsoberhaupt (Head of State), with the title of Reichspräsident (President) and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. On 7 May 1945, he ordered Alfred Jodl to sign the German instruments of surrender in Rheims, France. Dönitz remained as head of the Flensburg Government, as it became known, until it was dissolved by the Allied powers on 23 May.

Grand Admiral Erich Raeder

Erich Johann Albert Raeder (24 April 1876 – 6 November 1960) was a naval leader in Germany who played a major role in the Naval history of World War II. Raeder attained the highest possible naval rank—that of Großadmiral (Grand Admiral) — in 1939, becoming the first person to hold that rank since Alfred von Tirpitz. Raeder led the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) for the first half of the war; he resigned in 1943 and was replaced by Karl Dönitz. He was sentenced to life in prison at the Nuremberg Trials, but was released early due to failing health. Raeder is also well known for dismissing Reinhard Heydrich from the German Navy in April 1931 for “conduct unbecoming to an officer and gentleman”.

Admirals

Admiral Theodor Burchardi

Friedrich Wilhelm Theodor Burchardi (14 May 1892 – 12 August 1983) was an Admiral with the Kriegsmarine during World War II and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He is noted for his organisational achievement in the evacuation of 2 million people from Courland and Eastern Prussia at the end of World War II in Operation Hannibal and the Evacuation of East Prussia.

Admiral Wilhelm Franz Canaris

Wilhelm Franz Canaris (1 January 1887 – 9 April 1945) was a German admiral, and chief of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, from 1935 to 1944. During the Second World War, he was among the military officers involved in the clandestine opposition to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. He was executed in the Flossenbürg concentration camp for the act of high treason.

Konteradmiral Eberhard Godt

Eberhard Godt (15 August 1900 – 13 September 1995) was a German naval officer who served in both World War I and World War II, rising eventually to command the Kriegsmarine’s U-boat operations. He joined the Kaiserliche Marine in 1918 and resigned after the ceasefire in November of that year. In March 1920 he reenlisted in the Reichsmarine and served aboard surface ships until 1935 when he transferred to the U-boat arm. In January 1938 he was appointed the second in command of the U-boat force’s operations behind Karl Dönitz. He continued in this role until January 1943 when he assumed tactical command of U-Boat operations after Dönitz was promoted to command the Kriegsmarine.

Following the war he wrote a history of Kriegsmarine operations in World War II as member of the Naval Historical Team.

Admiral Friedrich Guggenberger

Friedrich Guggenberger (6 March 1915 – 13 May 1988) was a German admiral and U-boat commander in the Second World War. From November 1940 until his capture in July 1943, he was credited in Nazi propaganda with sinking 17 ships for a total of 66,848 gross register tons (GRT) and damaging another for 6,003 GRT. He was responsible for sinking the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal in November 1941. For these achievements he received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, among other commendations. After the war he became the Deputy Chief of Staff in the NATO command AFNORTH.

Admiral Theodor Krancke

Theodor Krancke (30 March 1893 – 18 June 1973) was an admiral with the Kriegsmarine during World War II and a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Under the command of Krancke, during the five-month-long raiding cruise, the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer sank 13 merchant ships, one armed merchant cruiser Jervis Bay, and captured three merchant ships representing 115,195 tons of Allied and neutral shipping.

During the Allied Invasion of Normandy Admiral Krancke, as Commander-in-Chief of Navy Group Command West headquartered in Paris, controlled all German naval vessels in France, as well as the various land-based naval units and the naval coastal artillery and antiaircraft batteries along the French Atlantic coast.

Vizeadmiral Kurt-Caesar Hoffmann

Vizeadmiral Kurt-Caesar Hoffmann (26 August 1895 – 19 May 1988) was a Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross recipient during World War II and commander of the battleship Scharnhorst. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Admiral Günther Lütjens

Johann Günther Lütjens (25 May 1889 – 27 May 1941) was a German Admiral whose military service spanned more than thirty years and two world wars. Lütjens is best known for his actions during World War II and his command of the battleship Bismarck during its foray into the Atlantic Ocean in 1941. In its aftermath, the episode entered into naval legend.

Born in 1889, he entered into the German Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) in 1907. A diligent and intelligent cadet he progressed to officer rank before the outbreak of war, when he was assigned to a Torpedo boat Squadron. During World War I, Lütjens operated in the North Sea and English Channel and fought several actions with the British Royal Navy. He ended the conflict as a Kapitänleutnant (captain lieutenant) with the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class (1914) to his credit. After the war, he remained in the service of the navy, now renamed the Reichsmarine. He continued to serve in torpedo boat squadrons eventually becoming a Commanding Officer in 1925. In the Weimar Republic era, Lütjens built a reputation as an excellent staff officer.

In 1933, the year the National Socialists came to power under Adolf Hitler, the navy was remodeled again and renamed the Kriegsmarine. He soon became acquainted with Erich Raeder and Karl Dönitz; the only two Commanders-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine in World War II. His capability and friendship led to his promotion to Kapitän zur See (Captain at Sea) and a sea command at the helm of the cruiser Karlsruhe. In the six years of peace, he had risen to the rank of Konteradmiral (rear admiral), a promotion conferred upon him October 1937.

In September 1939, World War II began with the German invasion of Poland. Lütjens received the a prompt award of the Clasp to the Iron Cross 2nd Class (1939) three days later. His command of destroyer operations in the North Sea over the winter, 1939–40, earned him the Clasp to the Iron Cross 1st Class. On 1 January 1940, he was promoted to Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral). In April 1940, he was given temporary command of the entire German surface fleet during the initial landing phase of Operation Weserübung, the invasions of Denmark and Norway. His actions earned him the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) in June. The award was to express recognition of extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

In the aftermath of the campaign, he was appointed the commander of the German surface fleet and promoted to Admiral on 1 September 1940. He was involved in the tentative planning for Operation Sea Lion, the planned invasion of the United Kingdom, but the plans were shelved after the Battle of Britain. German intentions turned to blockade and Lütjens made the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau the centerpiece of his battle fleet; using the latter vessel as his flagship. In January 1941, he planned and executed Operation Berlin, an Atlantic raid to support U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic by attacking British merchant shipping lanes. The operation was a tactical and propaganda victory. It came to a close in March 1941 when the ships docked in German-occupied France after sailing some 18,000 miles; a record for a German battle group at the time. His success led him to being chosen for further operations.

In May 1941, Lütjens commanded a German task force, consisting of the battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, during Operation Rheinübung. In a repeat of Berlin, Lütjens was required to break out of their naval base in occupied Poland, sail via occupied Norway, and attack merchant shipping. The operation went awry and the task force was soon spotted and engaged near Iceland. In the ensuing Battle of the Denmark Strait, HMS Hood was sunk and three other British warships were forced to retreat. The two German ships then separated. Three days later, on 27 May, Lütjens and most of the ship’s crew lost their lives when Bismarck was caught and sunk.

In 1955, the Federal Republic of Germany was remilitarized and entered NATO. The Bundesmarine was established the following year. In 1967, this organisation recognised Lütjens and his service by naming the destroyer Lütjens after him.

Generaladmiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg

Hans-Georg von Friedeburg (15 July 1895 in Strasbourg – 23 May 1945 in Flensburg) was the deputy commander of the U-Boat Forces of Nazi Germany and the last Commanding Admiral of the Kriegsmarine.

Konteradmiral Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer

Karl-Jesco Otto Robert von Puttkamer (24 March 1900 – 4 March 1981) was a German rear admiral who was naval adjutant to Adolf Hitler, the leader (Führer) of Nazi Germany during World War II.

Vizeadmiral Friedrich Ruge

Friedrich Oskar Ruge (24 December 1894 – 3 July 1985) was an officer in the German Navy and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, awarded by Nazi Germany to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He served as the first commander (Inspector of the Navy) of the post-war German Navy.

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German Military History with a focus on World War 2 History including other areas of German History