13 May 1909|
|Died||15 June 1944
Fort Hunt, Virginia
|Buried at||Fort George G. Meade|
|Years of service||1934 – 1944|
|Unit||4th U-boat Flotilla
10th U-boat Flotilla
|Commands held||U-515, Feb 21, 1942 – Apr 9, 1944|
|Battles/wars||Battle of the Atlantic|
Iron Cross 1st Class
U-boat War Badge
Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves
Lieutenant Commander Werner Henke (May 13, 1909 - June 15, 1944) born in Thorn (Toruń) in Germany (now Poland) was the commander of U-515 during the Battle of the Atlantic of World War II. U-515 was sunk by the American 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.
Henke was raised in Rudak, a small village just outside Thorn. When Thorn reverted to Polish rule in 1920 after the end of World War I, the Henke family moved to Celle in the state of Hanover. Henke joined the Reichsmarine in April 1934 after several years in the merchant marine.
Henke attended the Naval Academy at Mürwik and served on the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. In five years of training he only spent one week studying U-boat warfare. He spent nearly two years stationed at the Pillau (now Baltiysk) naval base starting in 1937. In May 1939 he was assigned to the battleship SMS Schleswig-Holstein, where he participated in the first shots of World War II at Westerplatte.
In April 1940 he commenced six weeks of training at the U-boat school at Neustadt in Holstein. Before completing this training however, he was convicted of desertion and sent to a punishment unit. In November he was assigned to U-124.
In November 1941 he was sent to submarine commander's school, and on 21 February 1942 U-515 was commissioned with Henke in command.
Henke was captured when U-515 was sunk at 1510hrs on 9 April 1944 in the mid-Atlantic north of Madeira at 34.35N, 19.18W by bombs from the US escort carrier USS Guadalcanal and depth charges from the destroyer escorts USS Pope, Pillsbury, Chatelain and Flaherty. 16 of the crew were killed and about 40 survived.
Henke had been accused in a US propaganda broadcast of shooting British survivors of SS Ceramic, a passenger ship, that U-515 had sunk on December 7, 1942. Henke falsely believed the British wanted to try him as a war criminal. Knowing this, Captain Gallery, hoping to extort intelligence from him or his crew, idly threatened to turn him over to the British if he did not cooperate. Captain Gallery was successful in getting Henke to sign a paper agreeing to cooperate with interrogators. Henke reneged on the agreement but upon seeing that their captain had agreed to talk, many of his crew signed similar agreements and lived up to them.
Henke was interned in the interrogation center known as P. O. Box 1142 in Fort Hunt, Virginia. While there his interrogators threatened to hold him to his agreement to cooperate or be extradited to England to face war crime charges. On 15 June 1944, he dashed to the fence of the interrogation center and began to climb over. He continued to climb after a guard ordered him to stop and he was fatally shot.
A ceremony is held at the gravesite every year on Volkstrauertag in November, the German equivalent of Memorial Day, at which the Naval attaché of the German embassy in Washington, DC, lays a wreath with a ribbon in the colors of the German flag in commemoration of all those buried at this gravesite. Flowers are not uncommon to see in front of the grave.
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award 4th Class (1 October 1936)
- Spanish Cross in Bronze (6 June 1939)
- Sudetenland Medal (23 October 1940)
- Iron Cross (1939)
- U-boat War Badge (1939) (4 May 1941)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Mulligan 1993
- Busch and Röll 2003, p. 292.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 222.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 70.
- 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.
- Mulligan, Timothy P (1993). Lone Wolf. The Life and Death of U-Boat Ace Werner Henke. Westport, Connecticut; London, UK: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-93677-5.
- 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.
Media related to Werner Henke at Wikimedia Commons
- Werner Henke in the German National Library catalogue
- Werner Henke @ uboat.net
- List of graves at Fort Meade
- German dignitaries honor prisoners of war buried at Fort Meade