29 January 1908|
|Died||27 July 1997
|Allegiance|| Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1927-1945|
6th U-boat Flotilla
|Commands held||U-2,1 October 1936 – 31 January 1938
U-38, 24 October 1938 – 22 July 1941
|Battles/wars||Battle of the Atlantic (1939-1945)|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
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 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 recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. It was Nazi Germany's highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Heinrich Liebe.[Note 1]
Born in Gotha, Liebe began his Reichsmarine career in 1927. Promoted to Oberfähnrich zur See on 1 June 1931, Liebe served on the World War I battleship Schleswig-Holstein for four years. In September 1935, Liebe transferred to the U-boat arm.
On 1 October 1936, Liebe was promoted to Kapitänleutnant and assigned commander of U-2, a Type II U-boat attached to the U-Bootschulflottille. On 24 October 1938, Liebe commissioned U-38, a Type IX U-boat assigned to 6th U-boat Flotilla.
World War II
U-38 embarked on her first war time patrol on 19 August 1939 from Wilhelmshaven. Operating off Lisbon, Portugal on the outbreak of war, Liebe managed to sink two British freighters before returning to port on 18 September. On 2 November, Liebe set sail for Norwegian water on his second patrol.
Liebes fourth patrol, on 8 April 1940 was also set in Norwegian waters, to support Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway. During this patrol, Liebe shared the same negative experience of failed torpedoes as many other u-boat captains operating in the area. In mid April 1940, Liebe fired on the British heavy cruiser Effingham, but all the torpedoes fired failed to detonate.
U-38 left on her fifth patrol on 6 June 1940, tasked with patrolling the Western Approaches off southern Ireland. Liebe managed to sink six ships during this patrol, and also succeeded in landing a German agent in Ireland on 12 June. During his sixth patrol, Liebe sank three ships, and were ordered to the new 6th U-boat Flotilla base in Lorient, France. During this patrol, on 14 August, Liebe received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
On 9 April 1941, Liebe set sail for operations off Freetown, Africa. This was Liebe's ninth and last patrol with U-38, during which he sank 8 ships for a total of 47,279 GRT. For these successes, Liebe received the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross on 10 June 1941. On 29 June, U-38 returned to Lorient. On 22 July, Liebe transferred off the U-38, which was put under the command of Heinrich Schuch.
Following his departure from U-38, Liebe was assigned to the staff of Oberkommando der Marine. In August 1944, he was transferred to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of Submarines (Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote or BdU), Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, during which tenure he was promoted to Fregattenkapitän on 1 October 1944.
After the war
After the war Liebe returned to his hometown in the Soviet sector to live with his parents. Since he refused to train Soviet submariners, he felt that was to blame for his being held to menial occupations. He died in July 1997 and is buried in Eisenach, Germany.
Summary of career
|Date||Ship||Nationality||Tonnage||Fate and location|
|6 September 1939||Manaar||United Kingdom||7,242||sunk at|
|11 September 1939||Inverliffey [Note 2]||United Kingdom||9,456||sunk at|
|7 December 1939||Thomas Walton||United Kingdom||4,460||sunk at|
|11 December 1939||Garoufalia||Greece||4,708||sunk at|
|13 December 1939||Deptford||United Kingdom||4,101||sunk at|
|9 March 1940||Leukos||Ireland||216||sunk at|
|17 March 1940||Argentina||Denmark||5,375||sunk at|
|21 March 1940||Algier||Denmark||1,654||sunk at|
|21 March 1940||Christiansborg||Denmark||3,270||sunk at|
|26 March 1940||Cometa||Norway||3,794||sunk at|
|2 April 1940||Signe||Finland||1,540||sunk at|
|14 June 1940||Mount Myrto||Greece||5,403||sunk at|
|15 June 1940||Erik Boye||Canada||2,238||sunk at|
|15 June 1940||Italia||Norway||9,973||sunk at|
|20 June 1940||Tilia Gorthon||Sweden||1,776||sunk at|
|21 June 1940||Luxembourg||Belgium||5,809||sunk at|
|22 June 1940||Neion||Greece||5,154||sunk at|
|7 August 1940||Mohamed Ali El-Kebir||United Kingdom||7,529||sunk at|
|11 August 1940||Llanfair||United Kingdom||4,966||sunk at|
|31 August 1940||Har Zion||United Kingdom||2,508||sunk at|
|1 October 1940||Highland Patriot||United Kingdom||14,172||sunk at|
|17 October 1940||Aenos||Greece||3,554||sunk at|
|18 October 1940||Carsbreck||United Kingdom||3,670||damaged at|
|19 October 1940||Bilderdijk||Netherlands||6,856||sunk at|
|19 October 1940||Matheran||United Kingdom||7,653||sunk at|
|27 December 1940||Waiotira||United Kingdom||12,823||sunk at|
|31 December 1940||Valparaiso||Sweden||3,760||sunk at|
|4 May 1941||Japan||Sweden||5,230||sunk at|
|5 May 1940||Queen Maud||United Kingdom||4,976||sunk at|
|23 May 1940||Berhala||Netherlands||6,622||sunk at|
|24 May 1941||Vulcain||United Kingdom||4,362||sunk at|
|29 May 1941||Tabaristan||United Kingdom||6,251||sunk at|
|30 May 1941||Empire Protector||United Kingdom||6,181||sunk at|
|31 May 1941||Rinda||Norway||6,029||sunk at|
|8 June 1941||Kingston Hill||United Kingdom||7,628||sunk at|
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award 4th Class (2 October 1936)
- Olympic Games Decoration (20 April 1937)
- Iron Cross (1939)
- U-boat War Badge (1939) (16 December 1939)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Italian War Cross with Swords (2 December 1941)
- War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords (3 September 1944)
- Mentioned three times in the Wehrmachtbericht (5 July 1940, 31 May 1941 and 9 June 1941)
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|Friday, 5 July 1940||Die deutsche Unterseebootwaffe hat in der letzten Zeit wieder eine Reihe namhafter Erfolge im Kampf gegen England erzielt. So versenkte ein von Kapitänleutnant Liebe geführtes Unterseeboot neuerdings 34 400 BRT. Damit hat dieses Unterseeboot bisher insgesamt 85 000 BRT feindlichen Handelsschiffsraums versenkt.||The German submarine force has recently again achieved a number of notable successes in the fight against England. A submarine under the command of Captain Lieutenant Liebe has recently sunk seven 34 400 tons. This submarine has now totaled 85 000 tons of enemy merchant shipping sunk.|
|Saturday, 31 May 1941||Ein Unterseeboot unter Führung von Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Liebe versenkte feindliche Handelsschiffe mit 44 000 BRT.||A submarine under the command of Captain Lieutenant Heinrich Liebe has sunk enemy merchant shipping totalling 44 000 tons.|
|Monday, 9 June 1941||Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Liebe und Oberleutnant zur See Endraß haben als vierter und fünfter Unterseebootkommandant eine Versenkungsziffer von 200 000 BRT überschritten.||Captain Lieutenant Heinrich Liebe and First Lieutenant at Sea Endraß have as fourth and fifth submarine captain exceeded the 200 000 tons sunk.|
- Until late September 1941, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves was second only to the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), which was awarded only to senior commanders for winning a major battle or campaign, in the military order of the Third Reich. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves as highest military order was surpassed on 28 September 1941 by the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern).
- While the Inverliffey was a British vessel, she was flying the flag of Ireland the day that she was sunk.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-38". WWII U-boat successes. Uboat.net. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
- Busch and Röll 2003, p. 48.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 504.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, pp. 251–252.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 547.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 555.
- 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.
- 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 (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9.
- 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.