Karl-Friedrich Merten

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Karl-Friedrich Merten
Karl-Friedrich Merten.jpg
Karl-Friedrich Merten
Born (1905-08-15)August 15, 1905
(Poznań, Poland)
Died May 2, 1993(1993-05-02) (aged 87)
Allegiance Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Reichsmarine
Years of service 1928–45
Rank Kapitän zur See
Unit 2nd U-boat Flotilla
Commands held U-68, February 11, 1941 – January 21, 1943
Awards Iron Cross 1st Class
U-boat War Badge with Diamonds
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Karl-Friedrich Merten (15 August 1905 – 2 May 1993) was a German U-boat commander during World War II. He is credited with the sinking of 27 ships for a total of 170,151 gross register tons (GRT) of allied shipping. For this achievement he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (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.

Military career[edit]

Born in Posen (Poznań, Poland), he joined the Reichsmarine in 1926.[Note 1] After training he spent many years on surface ships. He joined the U-Boat service on 1 May 1940. From October 1940 until January 1941 he joined U-38 as a trainee Captain with the experienced Heinrich Liebe.

Karl-Friedrich Merten, Wolfgang Lüth, Friedrich Guggenberger, Werner Töniges receiving the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross from Adolf Hitler, Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer and Karl Dönitz

On 11 February 1941, Merten commissioned U-68 and lead 5 successful patrols. He operated all over the world, patrolling in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Indian Ocean. U-68 was in the U-boat wolf pack Eisbär (Polar Bear Group), consisting of four submarines, U-68 (Merten), U-156 (Werner Hartenstein), U-172 (Carl Emmermann), U-504 (Hans-Georg Friedrich Poske) a fifth U-boat, U-159 (Helmut Witte) joined the group later, which in the course of a few weeks during September/October 1942, sank more than 100,000 GRT of shipping off South Africa.

On 22 September 1941 Merten torpedoed his first ship the 5,302 GRT British Steamer SS Silverbelle sailing in convoy SL-87 and on the 6 November 1942 he sunk his last ship the 8,034 GRT British Steamer SS City of Cairo, bringing his total to 27 ships of 170,151 gross tons.

After his final patrol Merten was appointed to the U-boat flotilla in Pillau, and other training appointments curtailed his operational career. Nevertheless, when the war ended he stood seventh in the table of U-Boat commanders in terms of tonnage sunk. After the war he made a new career (somewhat ironically) in shipbuilding, retiring in 1974.

Long after the sinking of the SS City of Cairo he was invited to a post-war reunion of survivors where one observed: "We couldn't have been sunk by a nicer man".

He died on 2 May 1993 in Waldshut.

Summary of Raiding Career[edit]

Ships attacked[edit]

As a U-boat commander of U-68, Merten is credited with the sinking of 27 ships for a total of 170,151 gross register tons (GRT).

Date Ship Nationality Tonnage Fate[1]
22 September 1941 Silverbelle  United Kingdom 5,302 Sunk
22 September 1941 Darkdale  United Kingdom 8,145 Sunk
28 October 1941 Hazelside  United Kingdom 5,297 Sunk
1 November 1941 Bradford City  United Kingdom 4,953 Sunk
3 March 1942 Helerus  United Kingdom 7,366 Sunk
8 March 1942 Baluchistan  United Kingdom 6,992 Sunk
16 March 1942 Baron Newlands  United Kingdom 3,386 Sunk
17 March 1942 Allende  United Kingdom 5,081 Sunk
17 March 1942 Ile de Batz  United Kingdom 5,755 Sunk
17 March 1942 Scottish Prince  United Kingdom 4,917 Sunk
30 March 1942 Muncaster Castle  United Kingdom 5,853 Sunk
5 June 1942 L.J. Drake  United States 6,693 Sunk
5 June 1942 C.O. Stillman  Panama 16,436 Sunk
10 June 1942 Ardenvohr  United Kingdom 5,025 Sunk
10 June 1942 Port Montreal  United Kingdom 5,882 Sunk
10 June 1942 Surrey  United Kingdom 8,581 Sunk
15 June 1942 Frimaire  Free France 9,242 Sunk
23 June 1942 Arnaga  Panama 2,345 Sunk
12 September 1942 Trevilley  United Kingdom 5,298 Sunk
15 September 1942 Breedijk  Netherlands 6,861 Sunk
8 October 1942 Gaasterkerk  Netherlands 8,679 Sunk
8 October 1942 Koumoundouros  Greece 3,598 Sunk
8 October 1942 Sarthe  United Kingdom 5,271 Sunk
8 October 1942 Swiftsure  United States 8,207 Sunk
9 October 1942 Belgian Fighter  Belgium 5,403 Sunk
9 October 1942 Examelia  United States 4,981 Sunk
6 November 1942 City of Cairo  United Kingdom 8,034 Sunk


Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht[edit]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Wednesday, 8 April 1942 Bei den Erfolgen deutscher Unterseeboote im Atlantik zeichnete sich das Boot des Korvettenkapitäns Merten besonders aus.[5] A boat under the leadership of Korvettenkapitän Merten distinguished itself in the success of the German submarines in the Atlantic ocean.

Rank Promotions[edit]


  1. ^ The German Reichsmarine which was renamed the Kriegsmarine on 1 June 1935.


  1. ^ "Ships hit by U-68". uboat.net. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Busch & Röll 2003, p. 221.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Busch & Röll 2003, p. 222.
  4. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 538.
  5. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 80.
  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (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 Wehrmachtteile [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. 
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 

External links[edit]