Kriegsmarine Officers – U-Boat Commanders A thru L / Kriegsmarine Offiziere – U-Boot-Kommandanten A durch L

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Korvettenkapitän Gerhard Bigalk

Gerhard Bigalk, 26 November 1908 – 17 July 1942, was a Fregattenkapitän with the Kriegsmarine during World War II and commander of U-751. He was also a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Bigalk spent some years in the merchant marine before joining the Kriegsmarine in April 1934. He initially trained as an observer in the naval air force and saw service during the Spanish Civil War, making 21 combat flights in 1937. He joined the U-boat force in November 1939. He trained into 1940, taking command of the school boat U-14 between June and August 1940. He then took command of the newly built submarine U-751 when it commissioned in January 1941.

Between June 1941 and July 1942 Bigalk commanded U-751 on seven combat patrols, sinking six ships totaling 32,412 tons, and damaged one ship of 8,096 tons. This included the 11,000-ton British escort carrier HMS Audacity, sunk on 21 December 1941 during his fourth patrol, for which Bigalk was awarded the Knight’s Cross.

Bigalk died on 17 July 1942 when U-751 was sunk with all hands by depth charges dropped by a Whitley bomber from No. 502 Squadron RAF and a Lancaster bomber from No. 61 Squadron RAF in the North Atlantic north-west of Cape Ortegal, Spain.

Bigalk received a posthumous promotion to Korvettenkapitän on 5 April 1945

Korvettenkapitän Heinrich Bleichrodt

Heinrich Bleichrodt, 21 October 1909 – 9 January 1977, was one of the most successful German U-boat commanders of the Second World War. From October 1939 until retiring from front-line service in December 1943, he sank 25 ships for a total of 152,320 gross register tons (GRT). For this, he received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, among other commendations. He earned the nickname “Ajax” during his time with the U-boats.

Fregattenkapitän Albrecht Brandi

Albrecht Brandi, 20 June 1914 – 6  January 1966, was a German U-boat commander in World War II. Together with Wolfgang Lüth, he was the only Kriegsmarine sailor who was awarded the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds. Brandi was well known as a daring and aggressive U-boat commander.

During his naval career, Brandi destroyed twelve ships, including one minelayer and two destroyers. With these victories, Brandi became the U-boat commander who destroyed the most warships. However, he is not the U-boat commander with the most ships sunk; that record is held by Otto Kretschmer with 47 victories. Brandi is ranked number 24 on the top-scoring list of Germany’s U-boat commanders.

Korvettenkapitän Nikolai Asmus Clausen

Nikolai Asmus Clausen, 2 June 1911 in Flensburg – 16 May 1943 in the Atlantic Ocean west of Madeira, was a German naval officer in the Second World War. He was posthumously promoted to Corvette Captain. On eight enemy trips as a submarine commander, he sank 23 ships with 74 813 GRT.

Korvettenkapitän Peter-Erich Cremer

Peter-Erich Cremer, 25 March 1911 – 5 July 1992, was a German U-boat commander during the Second World War. He was half-English on his mother’s side. He was also a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Commander Engelbert Endrass

Lieutenant Engelbert Endrass (German: Engelbert Endraß), 2 March 1911 – 21 December 1941, was a German U-boat commander in World War II. He commanded the Type VIIB U-boat U-46 and the Type VIIC U-567, sinking twenty-two ships on ten patrols, for a total of 118,528 tons of Allied shipping, to become the 23rd highest scoring U-boat ace of World War II. He was also a 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 recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. It was Germany’s highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Engelbert Endrass.

Fritz Frauenheim*

Fritz Frauenheim, 9 January 1912 – 28 September 1969, was a German U-boat commander of the Second World War. From September 1939 until retiring from front line service in December 1940, he sank 19 ships for a total of 78,853 gross register tons (GRT) and damaged two others. For this, he received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), among other commendations.

Kapitänleutnant Friedrich Guggenberger*

Friedrich Guggenberger, 6 March 1915 – 13 May 1988, was a German admiral and U-boat commander in the Second World War. He was highly successful during the war. From November 1940 until his capture in July 1943, he sank 17 ships for a total of 66,848 gross register tons (GRT) and damaged another for 6,003 GRT. He was also 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.

Korvettenkapitän Robert Gysae

Robert Gysae, 14 January 1911 – 26 April 1989, was a Korvettenkapitän with the Kriegsmarine during World War II. He was also a 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 recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Gysae commanded U-98 and U-177, sinking twenty-five ships on eight patrols, for a total of 146,815 gross register tons (GRT) tons of Allied shipping, to become the fifteenth highest scoring U-boat ace of World War II.

Korvettenkapitän Reinhard Hardegen

Korvettenkapitän Reinhard Hardegen, 18 March 1913 – ?, is a German U-boat commander who sank 22 ships, amounting to 115,656 gross register tons (GRT) sunk, making him the 24th most successful commander in World War II. He was never known to be a virulent Nazi supporter, however. After the war, he spent a year in British captivity before running a successful oil company and serving in Bremen’s Parliament for over 32 years.

Kapitän zur See Werner Henke

Lieutenant Commander Werner Henke, 13 May 1909 – 15 June 1944, born in Thorn, Germany (now Toruń in Poland) was the commander of U-515 in the Battle of the Atlantic of World War II. U-515 was sunk by the US task group 22.3, commanded by Daniel V. Gallery on April 9, 1944, and Kapitänleutnant Henke was captured along with about 40 of his crew. He was shot and killed while attempting to escape from the POW interrogation center in Fort Hunt, Virginia in the United States.

Kapitän zur See Ernst Kals

Ernst Kals, 2 August 1905 – 2 November 1979,  was a Kapitän zur See with the Kriegsmarine during World War II. He commanded the Type IXC U-boat U-130 on five patrols, and sank twenty ships, for a total of 145,656 tons of Allied shipping. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.

Hans-Werner Kraus

Hans-Werner Kraus, 1 July 1915 – 25 May 1990, was a German U-boat commander in the Kriegsmarine of Nazi Germany. He was a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.

Kraus served as 1st watch officer on U-47 from January 1940 until November 1940 having replaced Engelbert Endrass. He later commanded U-83 and U-199. He was on board the latter when it was attacked by Brazilian Air Force aircraft on 27 June 1943. Kraus evaded only to be targeted by a VP-74 Mariner (BuNo 6571) piloted by Lt. Harold C. Carey. The German crew shot it down and the crew were killed. Kraus was sunk by aircraft off the coast of Brazil on 31 July 1943. Captured, he was sent as a POW to the United States. Kraus was one of the 25 POWs who escaped from Camp Papago Park, Arizona, during the night of 23–24 December 1944 but was recaptured.

Otto Kretschmer*

Otto Kretschmer, 1 May 1912 – 5 August 1998, was the most successful German U-boat commander in the Second World War and later an admiral in the Bundesmarine. From September 1939 until his surrender in March 1941, he sank 47 ships, a total of 274,333 tons. For this, he received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, among other awards. He earned the nickname Silent Otto both for his successful use of the silent running capability of U-boats as well as for his reluctance to transmit radio messages during patrols. After the war, he served in the German Federal Navy and retired in 1970 with the rank of Flottillenadmiral (flotilla admiral).

Fregattenkapitän Günter Kuhnke

Günter Kuhnke, 7 September 1912 – 11 October 1990, was a Korvettenkapitän with the Kriegsmarine during World War II and later a Konteradmiral with the Bundesmarine. He was also a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.

He commanded the U-28, U-125, and U-853, sinking eleven ships on nine patrols, for a total of 42,252 gross register tons (GRT) of Allied shipping plus the special service vessel HMS Prunella. He commanded 10th U-boat Flotilla from January 1942 until October 1944, then 33rd U-boat Flotilla until May 1945.

Fregattenkapitän Günter Kuhnke commanded the destroyer Z-2 (D171)from 14 July 1959 until 15 November 1960.

Korvettenkapitän Georg Lassen

Corvette Captain Georg Lassen, 12 May 1915 – 18 January 2012, was a German U-boat commander who served with Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine during World War II. He was a Watch Officer on U-29 at the outbreak of the war and later the skipper of the U-160 and winner of the Iron Cross. He sank 26 ships for a total of 156,082 gross register tons (GRT) during 4 patrols, leading to a remarkable average of 39,020 GRT per patrol. His total tonnage made him the 10th most successful U-boat ace of the war.

Commander Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock

Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, 11 December 1911 – 18 April 1986, was a German naval officer and submarine commander during World War II. He was sixth among the top ten Aces of the Deep during the Second Battle of the Atlantic against the Allies, in terms of tonnage of merchant ships sunk. He commanded four U-boats, and his most notable and successful tour was commanding the U-96 a Type VIIC U-boat, which gained widespread recognition when one of its patrols was documented and publicized by an accompanying war correspondent Lothar-Günther Buchheim. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) for his achievements as a U-boat commander. The story of the U-96 was eventually made into a mini-series and film called Das Boot, in which he was portrayed by Jürgen Prochnow.

Commander Heinrich Liebe

Commander Heinrich Liebe, 29 January 1908 – 27 July 1997, was a highly decorated German naval officer who served as a U-boat commander during World War II until he transferred to Oberkommando der Marine (Naval High Command). He sank 34 ships for a total of 187,267 gross register tons (GRT), placing him fourth on the Aces of the Deep list. He was also a 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 recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. It was Nazi Germany’s highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Heinrich Liebe.

Kapitän zur See Wolfgang Lüth

Kapitän zur See (Captain) Wolfgang August Eugen Lüth, 15 October 1913 – 14 May 1945, was the second most successful German U-boat ace of World War II. His career record of 46 merchant ships plus the French submarine Doris sunk during 15 war patrols, with a total displacement of 230,781 gross register tons (GRT), was second only to that of Korvettenkapitän (Lieutenant Commander) Otto Kretschmer, whose 47 sinkings totaled 272,958 GRT.

Lüth joined the Reichsmarine in 1933. After a period of training on surface vessels, he transferred to the U-boat service in 1936. In December 1939 he received command of U-9, which he took on six war-patrols. In June 1940 he took command of U-138 for two patrols. In October 1940 he transferred again, this time to the ocean-going submarine U-43 for five war-patrols. After two patrols on U-181, the second being his longest of the war, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten). He was the first of two U-boat commanders to be so honored during World War II, the other recipient being Albrecht Brandi.

Lüth’s last service position was the commander of the naval academy at Mürwik (Flensburg).

He was accidentally shot and killed by a German sentry on the night of 13/14 May 1945. Lüth was given the last state funeral in the Third Reich, the only U-boat commander to be so commemorated.

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