21 October 1909|
|Died||9 January 1977
|Years of service||1933-1945|
|Unit||7th U-boat Flotilla
2nd U-boat Flotilla
27th U-boat Flotilla
22nd U-boat Flotilla
|Commands held||U-48, 4 September 1940 – 16 December 1940
U-67, 22 January 1941 – 4 June 1941
U-109, 5 June 1941 – 31 January 1943
|Awards||Iron Cross 1st Class
U-boat War Badge with diamonds
Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves
Croce di Guerra al Valor Militare
War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords
Lieutenant Commander Heinrich Bleichrodt (21 October 1909 – 9 January 1977) was one of the most successful German U-boat commander 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 with Oak Leaves, among other commendations. He earned the nickname "Ajax" during his time with the U-boats.
Bleichrodt was born in Berga, Kyffhäuser on 21 October 1909. He entered the navy in 1933 and spent his initial training on the cadet ship Gorch Fock, followed by a period on the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. He was commissioned an ensign on 1 April 1935, promoted to sub-lieutenant on 1 January 1937 and to Lieutenant on 1 October 1939.
With the submarine fleet
After training, Bleichrodt spent a period aboard the small training boat U-8 followed by a single patrol with later Knight's Cross winner Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Rollmann aboard U-34 during June and July 1940. This was a highly successful cruise, sinking eight ships for a total of 22,434 GRT, with Bleichrodt receiving the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 25 July. He was then given command of his own U-boat, U-48 on 4 September 1940. He began his first war patrol aboard her on 8 September, going on to sink eight ships for a total of 36,189 tons.
On 15 September he sank HMS Dundee. He went on to torpedo and sink the SS City of Benares on 18 September before returning to port on 25 September. Unknown to Bleichrodt, there were 90 children on board the liner being evacuated to Canada under the Children's Overseas Reception Board's initiative in order to escape the effects of the Blitz. 258 people, including 77 of the evacuees, died in the disaster. The sinking was controversial, but the ship was not marked as being an evacuation transport, and it is unlikely that Bleichrodt would have been aware that children were amongst the passengers. He was also limited in what aid he could have provided even if he had been aware. He had been awarded the U-boat War Badge 1939 on 24 September, and on his arrival in port on 25 September he received the Iron Cross 1st Class.
He put to sea again on 5 October and undertook another highly successful patrol, sinking eight ships, including three merchantmen from the ill-fated convoys SC-7 and HX-79. He returned to Kiel on 27 October having sunk 43,106 tons of shipping. Three days before returning, U-48 was radioed and Bleichrodt was informed that he was to be awarded the Knight's Cross. Bleichrodt refused to wear it until his IWO Oberleutnant zur See Reinhard 'Teddy' Suhren was also awarded one. Bleichrodt pointed out that Suhren had overseen all surface shooting on previous missions and was also entitled. Suhren duly received the Knight's Cross in November that year.
U-67 and U-109
Bleichrodt left U-48 on 16 December 1940 and briefly took command of U-67 on 22 January 1941 until 4 June 1941. He did not carry out any war cruises before being moved to take command of U-109 on 5 June 1941. He carried out six patrols with her, not achieving the same degree of success he had had with U-48, but still sinking 13 ships for a total of some 80,000 tons. He received the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross on 23 September 1942, followed by the U-boat War Badge with Diamonds in October. He was promoted to Korvettenkapitän on 1 November 1943.
Breakdown and retirement from front-line service
Bleichrodt appears to have suffered a breakdown whilst at sea on 26 December 1942. He radioed U-boat headquarters to request an immediate return to port, but this was initially denied. On 31 December Bleichrodt insisted that he return, and handed command to his 1WO, who brought U-109 back to Saint Nazaire. He was transferred to a training job with the 27th U-boat Flotilla, spending five months there followed by a year in the 2nd ULD (U-boat training division) as tactical instructor for the officers. He received a final promotion to Lieutenant Commander on 1 November 1943, and in July 1944 he was appointed as Chief of the 22nd U-boat Flotilla, a post he held until the end of the war.
After the war, Bleichrodt was held by the Allies on war crimes charges pertaining to the sinking of the City of Benares, when he was accused of sinking the steamer with the full knowledge that it had been transporting evacuees. Bleichrodt denied this and refused to apologise to the survivors.
He later moved to Munich, eventually becoming the manager in a factory.
Bleichrodt died in Munich on 9 January 1977 at the age of 67.
- Iron Cross (1939)
- U-boat War Badge with Diamonds (1939)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Croce di Guerra Italiana al Valore Militare (1 November 1941)
- War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords (1 January 1945)
- Mentioned three times in the Wehrmachtbericht (21 September 1940, 18 October 1940 and 21 October 1940)
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|Saturday, 21 September 1940||Das unter Führung von Kapitänleutnant Bleichrodt stehende Unterseeboot hat neun Dampfer mit insgesamt 51 862 BRT versenkt, ein weiteres Unterseeboot versenkte drei feindliche Dampfer mit 15 000 BRT, ein drittes zwei Dampfer mit 12 000 BRT.||The submarine under the leadership of Captain Lieutenant Bleichrodt sunk nine steamers with a total of 51 862 GRT, another submarine sank three enemy steamer with 15 000 GRT, a third two steamers with 12 000 GRT.|
|Friday, 18 October 1940||Ein Unterseeboot unter Führung vom Kapitänleutnant Bleichrodt, von dem bereits Teilergebnisse gemeldet worden sind, hat auf seiner letzten Unternehmung insgesamt 42 000 BRT feindlichen Handelsschiffraum versenkt. Damit hat Kapitänleutnant Bleichrodt insgesamt 93 862 BRT vernichtet.||A submarine under the command of Captain Lieutenant Bleichrodt, already of which partial results had been reported, has sunk on its last undertaking a total of 42 000 GRT of enemy merchant shipping. This brings Captain Lieutenant Bleichrodt destroyed total to 93 862 GRT.|
|Monday, 21 October 1940||Durch die Beteiligung ihrer Unterseeboote an der Vernichtung der beiden britischen Geleitzüge hat Kapitänleutnant Bleichrodt die Erfolge seiner jetzigen Fahrt gegen den Feind auf 53 300 BRT, Kapitänleutnant Schepke auf 40 565 BRT gesteigert.||The contribution of their submarines in the destruction of two British convoys has increased the success of Captain Lieutenant Bleichrodt current patrol against the enemy to 53 300 GRT, Captain Lieutenant Schepke to 40 565 GRT.|
- Bleichrodt's career at Uboat.net
- U-boat aces
- Busch and Röll 2003, p. 83.
- Williamson and Pavlovic 1995, p. 48.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 225.
- Busch and Röll 2003, p. 84.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 308.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 334.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 337.
- Busch, Hans-Joachim; Röll (2003). Der U-Boot-Krieg 1939–1945 — Die Ritterkreuzträger der U-Boot-Waffe von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 [The U-Boat War 1939–1945 — The Knight's Cross Bearers of the U-Boat Force from September 1939 to May 1945] (in German). Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn Germany: Verlag E.S. Mittler & Sohn. ISBN 978-3-8132-0515-2.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- Kurowski, Franz (1995). Knight's Cross Holders of the U-Boat Service. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-88740-748-2.
- Range, Clemens (1974). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Kriegsmarine [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Navy]. Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-87943-355-1.
- Schaulen, Fritjof (2003). Eichenlaubträger 1940 – 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe I Abraham – Huppertz [Oak Leaves Bearers 1940 – 1945 Contemporary History in Color I Abraham – Huppertz] (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 978-3-932381-20-1.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6.
- Williamson, Gordon & Pavlovic, Darko (1995). U-Boat Crews 1914–45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Limited. ISBN 1-85532-545-4.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 1, 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
Korvettenkapitän Wolfgang Lüth
|Commander of 22nd U-boat Flotilla
July 1944 – May 1945