Reinhard Suhren

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Reinhard Suhren
Reinhard Suhren.jpg
Reinhard Suhren
Nickname(s) Teddy
Born (1916-04-16)16 April 1916
Langenschwalbach, Taunus
Died 25 August 1984(1984-08-25) (aged 68)
Halstenbek, Hamburg
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Kriegsmarine
Years of service 1935–45
Rank Fregattenkapitän
Unit SSS Gorch Fock
destroyer Z3 Max Schultz
1st U-boat Flotilla
27th U-boat Flotilla
Commands held U-564, 3 April 1942 – 1 October 1942
F.d.U. Nordmeer

World War II

Awards Iron Cross 1st Class
U-boat War Badge
Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Relations Gerd Suhren
Other work Petroleum industry

Commander Reinhard Johann Heinz Paul Anton Suhren (16 April 1916 – 25 August 1984) was a German U-boat commander in World War II and younger brother of Korvettenkapitän (Ing.) and Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) recipient Gerd Suhren. Suhren began his U-boat career in March 1938. He spent a year as 1st watch officer on U-48 where he received the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross for his contribution in the sinking of 200,000 gross register tons (GRT) of merchant shipping. In April 1941 he took command of U-564. As a commander, he is credited with the sinking of 18 merchant vessels of 95,544 gross register tons (GRT), 1 war ship of 900 metric tons (890 long tons; 990 short tons) and damaged four merchant vessels of 28,907 GRT for which he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub mit Schwertern).

Suhren left the boat and became an instructor in October 1942. He then served in the 27th U-boat Flotilla along with Korvettenkapitän Erich Topp. During the last year of the war Fregattenkapitän Suhren was the Führer der U-Boote Norwegen (Leader of U-boats in Norwegian waters) and from September 1944 the Commander-in-Chief of U-boats of the North Sea. After the war he worked in the petroleum industry and died of stomach cancer on 25 August 1984.

Childhood, education and early career[edit]

Suhren was born on 16 April 1916 in Langenschwalbach in the Taunus in his grandmothers house. He was the second child of Geert Suhren and his wife Ernestine Ludovika Suhren, née Ludovika. Suhren had an older brother Gerd and a younger sister, Almut.[1] He received his Abitur from the Landständischen Oberschule in Bautzen. Prior to graduation, during his last summer vacation, Suhren was allowed and accepted at a sailing course at the Hanseatic Yacht School in Neustadt in Holstein. The course had some paramilitary components and learning to march was one of them. During one of these marches the boy behind Suhren yelled out: "Hey Reinhard, when I look at you marching, it reminds me of a Teddy bear." Later, the same boy met Suhren again during basic military training and greeted Suhren with the words: "Hey, Teddy, you're here too?" The nickname "Teddy" would stick with him from then on.[2]

He began is naval career with the Reichsmarine on 5 April 1935 as a member of "Crew 1935" (the incoming class of 1935).[Note 1] He received his military basic training in the 2nd company (2. Kompanie) in the 2nd department (II. Abteilung) of the standing ship division (Schiffsstammdivision) of the Baltic Sea in Stralsund (5 April 1934 – 17 June 1935). He was then transferred to the school ship Gorch Fock (18 June 1935 – 26 September 1935) attaining the rank of Seekadett (midshipman) on 25 September 1935. Following his promotion he was posted to the light cruiser Emden (27 September 1935 – 16 June 1936).[3]

Suhren sailed on Emden's sixth training cruise, which started on 23 October 1935 and took him and her crew to the Azores, West Indies and Venezuela, through the Panama Canal to Guayaquil, where the celebrated Christmas. The journey then continued to Puerto San José and Portland, Oregon to Honolulu. From Honolulu they continued to Middle America, back through the Panama Canal and after visiting a few harbours in the West Indies to Baltimore and Montreal. Their final stopover was Pontevedra, Spain before they returned home on 11 June 1936.[4]

Following his journey on Emden, Suhren attended the main cadet course at the Naval Academy at Mürwik (20 June 1936 – 31 March 1937).[Tr 1] This course was briefly interrupted for two navigational training courses, the first on the tender Nordsee (10–15 August 1936) and the second on the steamer Hecht (16–21 November 1936). During this time frame at the naval academy he advanced in rank to Fähnrich zur See (officer cadet) on 1 July 1936.[3] He then underwent a number of specialized training courses which included a torpedo course in Mürwik (1 April – 19 May 1937),[Tr 2] an anti-aircraft artillery course at Wilhelmshaven (20 May – 7 June 1937),[Tr 3] a pathfinder course for cadets at Kiel-Wik (8–12 June 1937),[Tr 4] a communication course for cadets at Mürwik again (13 June – 3 July 1937),[Tr 5] a naval infantry course for cadets at Stralsund (4–28 July 1937),[Tr 6] and lastly an artillery course for cadets at Kiel-Wik (29 July – 2 October 1937),[Tr 7] Suhren was then transferred to the destroyer Z3 Max Schultz (3 October 1937 – 29 March 1938) for further ship based training. On this assignment he was promoted to Oberfähnrich zur See (Senior Ensign) on 1 January 1938.[5]

Max Schultz at the time was under the command of Korvettenkapitän (Corvette Captain) Martin Baltzer. Baltzer would later be promoted in rank to Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral) and hold the position of chief of the Marinepersonalamt (Naval Personnel Office) in the Oberkommando der Marine.[6] Suhren and Baltzer did not share a positive personal relationship during their career. According to Suhren, their conflict began during their mutual time on Max Schultz. Suhren claimed that later during his career, Baltzer personally prevented him from advancing in rank to Kapitän zur See (Captain at Sea).

Suhren career with the U-boat force started on 30 March 1938 with his assignment to the U-boat school. In parallel he attended another torpedo course (30 March – 11 June 1938) at Flensburg. He was promoted to Leutnant zur See (Second Lieutenant) on 1 April 1938. His training at the U-boat school included a specialized U-boat Torpedo Officer course (13 June – 2 July 1938) and U-boat course (3 July – 28 August 1938) which concluded his stay at the U-boat school.[5] As a second Watch Officer he served on U-51, U-46 and U-47 from 6 November 1938 to 21 April 1939.

World War II[edit]

Bernhard Rogge, Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock and Suhren receive the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross from Adolf Hitler on 10 January 1942. Karl-Jesco von Puttkamer, Hitler's naval adjutant is standing to left.

He spent one and a half years as first Watch Officer on U-48 (22 April 1939 – 9 November 1940) going on nine war patrols. Here he served under the command of Herbert Schultze on five war patrols, under Hans-Rudolf Rösing on two war patrols, and under Heinrich Bleichrodt for a further two war patrols.[5] Otto Ites was the second Watch Officer and Horst Hofmann the coxswain on all of these patrols, and Erich Zürn was the chief engineer on all but three patrols. Suhren received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for assisting in the sinking of 200,000 GRT of allied shipping. The award had been requested by Bleichrodt on account of his Knight's Cross presentation by Dönitz. Bleichrodt expressed that he would refuse to wear his Knight's Cross if Suhren was not also honoured. He argued that the success of U-48 was more so attributed to Suhren than himself as commander. The request, with the support of Engelbert Endrass, was approved and the Knight's Cross was presented by Hans-Georg von Friedburg, the 2nd Admiral of the U-boats and responsible for staffing.[7]

After returning from his last and longest mission, when U-564 came to the port of Brest, Suhren greeted his friend Horst Uphoff—named Hein and commander of U-84—with the words "Hein, Hein, sind die Nazis noch am Ruder?" Literally translating to "Hein, Hein, are the Nazis still at the rudder?" This made news in the entire U-Boat service.[8][9]

Reinhard Suhren

In April 1941 he took command of U-564, a Type VIIC U-boat. Suhren's chief engineer on U-564 was Oberleutnant zur See (Ing.) Ulrich Gabler. After World War II, Gabler became one of the leading experts on conventional submarine construction and honorary professor at the University of Hamburg for shipbuilding. Suhren had recommend Gabler for the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, a request that was turned down and Gabler received the German Cross in Gold on 15 October 1942. U-564 was in Gotenhafen, present-day Gdynia, when on 5 May, Adolf Hitler and Wilhelm Keitel, with a large entourage, arrived to visit the battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz, which were also in Gotenhafen at the time. Suhren, and his brother Gerd, who also happened to be in Gotenhafen at the time, both already decorated with the Knight's Cross, were invited to lunch with Hitler and his entourage.

In August 1941 he sank the British corvette HMS Zinnia. In May 1942 he sunk the Mexican oil tanker Potrero del Llano. The sinking of this ship, compounded with U-106's attack on another tank, the Faja de Oro, would bring Mexico to declare war on the Axis powers.

In October 1942 he left the boat and became an instructor. Later he served in the 27th U-boat Flotilla along with Korvettenkapitän Erich Topp. During the last year of the war the newly appointed Fregattenkapitän Suhren was Führer der U-Boote in Norwegian waters and from September 1944 for the North Sea.

Later life[edit]

Suhren was taken prisoner of war by British forces in Oslo, Norway, where he and Rösing were imprisoned in the Akershus Fortress for a year. Here he received news that his parents and sister committed suicide in 1945, after failing to escape from the Sudetenland.[10] He was released from captivity on 12 April 1946 and traveled to Germany where he first stayed with friends in Bad Schwartau.[11]

Suhren had married Jutta-Beatrix, the daughter of a Luftwaffe staff officer, in 1943. Suhren had managed to evacuate both his wife and his mother-in-law from Danzig to Oberstdorf in the Allgäu region of the Bavarian Alps in early 1945. Here his wife worked at an American officer's casino where she befriended an American soldier. Consequently the marriage was divorced. Suhren married his second wife Hannelore. The marriage produced three daughters named Katrin, Gesa and Mara.[12]

Suhren was asked multiple times to join the military service in the Bundeswehr, the post World War II armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. He refused, declaring that he could not serve in a navy which looked down upon all former soldiers of Wehrmacht as criminals.[13]

The Bundesmarine lost U-Hai, a modernized type XXIII submarine formerly U-2365, in a storm on 14 September 1966 roughly 138 nautical miles (256 km) northwest of Helgoland in the Dogger Bank. Only the cook, Obermaat Peter Silbernagel, survived the sinking, 19 members of the crew including the commander, Oberleutnant Joachim-Peter Wiedersheim, lost their lives. The German news magazine Der Spiegel interviewed Suhren on the possible causes of the sinking. The article was published on 10 October 1966. In this interview Suhren carefully alluded to a possible cause. He suggested that lack of proper training could have been a factor.[14]

Suhren died of stomach cancer on 25 August 1984. The funeral ceremony was held on 5 September 1984 at the Ohlsdorf Cemetery, near Hamburg. Among those attending were Herbert Schultze, Erich Topp, Eberhard Godt, Otto Kretschmer, Klaus Bargsten, Hans Meckel and Peter-Erich Cremer. The Bundeswehr provided an honour guard as a mark of respect.[15] According to his last will, his cremated remains were buried at sea where U-564 was lost. U-564 had been sunk on 14 June 1943, north-west of Cape Ortegal, in position 44°17′N 10°25′W / 44.283°N 10.417°W / 44.283; -10.417 by an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley aircraft. There were 18 survivors from U-564 including the commander, 28 of her crew perished.

Summary of Career[edit]

Suhren, as 1st Watch Officer on U-48, was credited with the destruction 200,000 gross register tons (GRT) of merchant shipping. He further sank 18 merchant ships for a total of 95,544 GRT, 1 warship sunk for a total of 900 metric tons (890 long tons; 990 short tons) and damaged 4 ships for a total of 28,907 GRT as commander of U-564.

Date U-boat Name of Ship Nationality Tonnage Fate
27 June 1941 U-564 Kongsgaard  Norway 9,467 Damaged at 60°00′N 30°42′W / 60.000°N 30.700°W / 60.000; -30.700 (Kongsgaard (ship))
27 June 1941 U-564 Maasdam  Netherlands 8,812 Sunk at 60°00′N 30°35′W / 60.000°N 30.583°W / 60.000; -30.583 (Maasdam (ship))
27 June 1941 U-564 Malaya II  United Kingdom 8,651 Sunk at 59°56′N 30°35′W / 59.933°N 30.583°W / 59.933; -30.583 (Malaya II (ship))
29 June 1941 U-564 Hekla  Iceland 1,215 Sunk at 58°20′N 43°00′W / 58.333°N 43.000°W / 58.333; -43.000 (Hekla (ship))
22 August 1941 U-564 Clonlara  Ireland 1,203 Sunk at 40°43′N 11°39′W / 40.717°N 11.650°W / 40.717; -11.650 (Clonlara (ship))
22 August 1941 U-564 Empire Oak  United Kingdom 484 Sunk at 40°43′N 11°39′W / 40.717°N 11.650°W / 40.717; -11.650 (Empire Oak (ship))
23 August 1941 U-564 HMS Zinnia (K98)  Royal Navy 900 Sunk at 40°25′N 10°40′W / 40.417°N 10.667°W / 40.417; -10.667 (HMS Zinnia (ship))
24 October 1941 U-564 Alhama  United Kingdom 1,352 Sunk at 35°42′N 10°58′W / 35.700°N 10.967°W / 35.700; -10.967 (Alhama (ship))
24 October 1941 U-564 Ariosto  United Kingdom 2,176 Sunk at 36°20′N 10°50′W / 36.333°N 10.833°W / 36.333; -10.833 (Ariosto (ship))
24 October 1941 U-564 Carsbreck  United Kingdom 3,670 Sunk at 36°20′N 10°50′W / 36.333°N 10.833°W / 36.333; -10.833 (Carsbreck (ship))
11 February 1942 U-564 Victolite  Canada 11,410 Sunk at 36°12′N 67°14′W / 36.200°N 67.233°W / 36.200; -67.233 (Carsbreck (ship))
16 February 1942 U-564 Opalia  United Kingdom 6,195 Damaged at 37°38′N 66°07′W / 37.633°N 66.117°W / 37.633; -66.117 (Opalia (ship))
3 May 1942 U-564 Ocean Venus  United Kingdom 7,174 Sunk at 28°21′N 80°23′W / 28.350°N 80.383°W / 28.350; -80.383 (Ocean Venus (ship))
4 May 1942 U-564 Eclipse  United Kingdom 9,767 Damaged at 26°30′N 80°00′W / 26.500°N 80.000°W / 26.500; -80.000 (Eclipse (ship))
5 May 1942 U-564 Delisle  United States 3,478 Damaged at 27°06′N 80°03′W / 27.100°N 80.050°W / 27.100; -80.050 (Delisle (ship))
8 May 1942 U-564 Ohioan  United States 6,078 Sunk at 26°31′N 79°59′W / 26.517°N 79.983°W / 26.517; -79.983 (Ohioan (ship))
9 May 1942 U-564 Lubrafol  Panama 7,138 Sunk at 26°26′N 80°00′W / 26.433°N 80.000°W / 26.433; -80.000 (Lubrafol (ship))
14 May 1942 U-564 Potrero del Llano  Mexico 4,000 Sunk at 25°35′N 80°06′W / 25.583°N 80.100°W / 25.583; -80.100 (Potrero del Llano (ship))
19 July 1942 U-564 Empire Hawksbill  United Kingdom 5,724 Sunk at 42°29′N 25°56′W / 42.483°N 25.933°W / 42.483; -25.933 (Empire Hawksbill (ship))
19 July 1942 U-564 Lavington Court  United Kingdom 5,372 Sunk at 42°38′N 25°28′W / 42.633°N 25.467°W / 42.633; -25.467 (Lavington Court (ship))
19 August 1942 U-564 SS British Consul  United Kingdom 6,940 Sunk at 11°58′N 62°38′W / 11.967°N 62.633°W / 11.967; -62.633 (British Consul (ship))
19 August 1942 U-564 SS Empire Cloud  United Kingdom 5,969 Sunk at 11°58′N 62°38′W / 11.967°N 62.633°W / 11.967; -62.633 (Empire Cloud (ship))
30 August 1942 U-564 Vardaas  Norway 8,176 Sunk at 11°35′N 60°40′W / 11.583°N 60.667°W / 11.583; -60.667 (Vardaas (ship))


Wehrmachtbericht reference[edit]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
17 February 1945 Seit Tagen verfolgen unsere Unterseeboote den im Wehrmachtbericht vom 11. February erwähnten stark gesicherten Nachschubgeleitzug nach Murmansk. Nachdem Torpedoflugzeuge bereits 4 Schiffe und 5 Zerstörer versenkt haben, gelang es unseren unter der Führung von Fregattenkapitän Reinhard Suhren nachstoßenden U-Booten, den Geleitzug kurz vor Erreichen seines Zieles unmittelbar unter der Küste zu fassen und 7 vollbeladene Schiffe mit 47 000 BRT., 1 Geleitzerstörer und 1 Bewacher zu versenken, sowie 2 weitere Dampfer mit zusammen 14 000 BRT. und 1 Bewacher so zu torpedieren, daß mit ihrem Sinken ebenfalls gerechnet werden kann.[22] For days now our submarines pursue the already in the Army report of 11 February mentioned heavily secured convoy to Murmansk. After torpedo planes have already sunk 4 ships and 5 destroyers, pursuing submarines under the leadership of our Frigate Captain Reinhard Suhren were able to intercept the convoy shortly before reaching his goal, near the coast, and to sink 7 ships fully loaded with 47 000 GRT, a destroyer and a guard escort, as well as torpedo 2 other steamers with a total of 14 000 GRT and a guard escort, that one can count on their sinking as well.

Translation notes[edit]

  1. ^ main cadet course—Hauptlehrgang für Fähnriche
  2. ^ torpedo course for cadets—Torpedolehrgang für Fähnriche
  3. ^ anti-aircraft artillery course for cadets—Fla-Waffenlehrgang für Fähnriche
  4. ^ pathfinder course for cadets—Sperrlehrgang für Fähnriche
  5. ^ communication course for cadets—Nachrichtenlehrgang für Fähnriche
  6. ^ infantry course for cadets—Infanterielehrgang für Fähnriche
  7. ^ artillery course for cadets—Artillerielehrgang für Fähnriche


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


  1. ^ Paterson 2005, pp. 13, 14.
  2. ^ Brustal-Naval & Suhren 1999, p. 13.
  3. ^ a b Busch & Röll 2003, p. 92.
  4. ^ Hildebrand, Röhr, & Steinmetz 1993, v. 3., p. 56.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Busch & Röll 2003, p. 93.
  6. ^ Hildebrand, Röhr, & Steinmetz 1993, v. 6., pp. 55–56.
  7. ^ Brustal-Naval & Suhren 1999, p. 65.
  8. ^ Brustal-Naval & Suhren 1999, p. 123.
  9. ^ "Reinhard Suhren". Der Spiegel (in German) 42. 1966. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  10. ^ Brustal-Naval & Suhren 1999, pp. 15–16.
  11. ^ Paterson 2005, p. 196.
  12. ^ Paterson 2005, pp. 196–197.
  13. ^ Paterson 2005, p. 197.
  14. ^ "Wo fängt menschliches Versagen an?". Der Spiegel (in German) 42. 1966. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  15. ^ Paterson 2005, pp. 197–198.
  16. ^ Brustal-Naval & Suhren 1999, p. 97.
  17. ^ Busch & Röll 2003, p. 94.
  18. ^ a b c Scherzer 2007, p. 735.
  19. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 417.
  20. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 57.
  21. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 40.
  22. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 450.
  • Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges [With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War] (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6. 
  • Brustal-Naval, Fritz; Suhren, Teddy (1999). Nasses Eichenlaub: als Kommandant und F.d.U. im U-Boot-Krieg [Wet Oak Leaves: as Commander and F.d.U. in the U-boat War] (in German). Frankfurt/Main, Berlin Germany: Ullstein. ISBN 978-3-548-23537-0. 
  • 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. 
  • Hildebrand, Hans H.; Röhr, Albert; Steinmetz, Hans-Otto (1993). Die Deutschen Kriegsschiffe. Biographien – ein Spiegel der Marinegeschichte von 1815 bis zur Gegenwart. (10 Bände) [The German Warships. Biographies - a Mirror of Naval History from 1815 to the Present. (10 Volumes)] (in German) 3, 6. Ratingen, DE: Mundus Verlag. ISBN 3-7822-0211-2. 
  • Kurowski, Franz (1995). Knight's Cross Holders of the U-Boat Service. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-88740-748-2. 
  • Paterson, Lawrence (2005). U 564 auf Feindfahrt—70 Tage an Bord [U 564 on War Patrol—70 Days on Bord] (in German). Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-613-02528-8. 
  • 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 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 

External links[edit]