Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock

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Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock
Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MW-3483-05, Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock.jpg
Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock (center)
Nickname(s) Recke
Born (1911-12-11)11 December 1911
Bremen
Died 18 April 1986(1986-04-18) (aged 74)
Bremen
Allegiance  Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Reichsmarine
 Kriegsmarine
Years of service 1931–45
Rank Fregattenkapitän
Unit SSS Horst Wessel
cruiser Karlsruhe
7th U-boat Flotilla
9th U-boat Flotilla
11th U-boat Flotilla
Commands held U-8
U-5
U-96
9th U-boat Flotilla
U-256
11th U-boat Flotilla
Battles/wars

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Fregattenkapitän Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock (11 December 1911 – 18 April 1986) was a submarine commander in the Kriegsmarine of Nazi Germany during World War II. He was sixth among the top ten successful U-boat commanders during the Battle of the Atlantic against the Allies, in terms of tonnage of merchant ships sunk. He commanded four U-boats, and his most successful tour was commanding the U-96 a Type VIIC U-boat, which gained widespread recognition when one of its patrols was documented and publicized by an accompanying member of a propaganda company Lothar-Günther Buchheim. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. The story of the U-96 was eventually made into a mini-series and film called Das Boot, in which he was portrayed by Jürgen Prochnow.

Early life and career[edit]

Lehmann-Willenbrock was born on 11 December 1911 in Bremen, in what was then the German Empire. He joined the 0Reichsmarine of the Weimar Republic in April 1931, as an Officer Candidate, and received his basic training with the Naval Infantry. He was promoted to Sea Cadet in October 1931 and attended Navy Officer Training from March 1932 to January 1933. He was then advanced to the rank of Midshipman and spent the next two years performing at-sea training. In August 1933, he was also appointed as navigation officer of the naval tender "Weser". He was advanced to Senior Midshipman in January 1935.[1]

In April 1935, Lehmann-Willenbrock was commissioned as a Leutnant zur See (Lieutenant) and assigned as signals officer onboard the cruiser Karlsruhe. The following year, in September 1936, he was assigned for five months to the Naval Barracks at Glücksburg before receiving orders to report as Watch officer onboard the sailing vessel Horst Wessel. Lehmann-Willenbrock reported to the ship in February 1937, having received a promotion to Senior Lieutenant one month earlier. He served on the ship for twenty six months before applying to join the German Navy's submarine branch[2]

U-boat service[edit]

Lehmann-Willenbrock transferred to the U-boat arm of the German Navy in April 1939. Upon serving as an executive officer on U-8, he was promoted to captain and took command of U-5 in December 1939. His first patrol, which lasted 15 days, was along the coast of Norway during Operation Hartmut, the U-boat operation in support of the invasion of Norway.

Upon the return of U-5, Lehmann-Willenbrock was transferred to the newly commissioned U-96, a Type VIIC U-boat. During three patrols under Willenbrock's command, U-96 sank 125,580 tons of Allied shipping. In 1941, U-96 sunk three British troop ships: Oropesa (16 January), Almeda Star (17 January) and Anselm (15 July), each with considerable loss of life. The seventh patrol was the approximate time that Lothar-Günther Buchheim boarded U-96 and documented the boat's operations in his book Das Boot.

Lehmann-Willenbrock left U-96 in March 1942 to be promoted to Korvettenkapitän and appointed commander of the 9th U-boat Flotilla, stationed in Brest. On 2 September 1944 he assumed command of U-256 and escaped the besieged Brest just a few days before the town's surrender. He reached Bergen, Norway, on 23 October. In Bergen he was appointed commandeer of the 11th U-boat Flotilla in December, and held the position until the German surrender in Norway on 9 May 1945.

U-boat combat summary[edit]

During his patrols with U-96, Lehmann-Willenbrock was awarded with the Iron Cross 2nd Class, the Iron Cross 1st Class, the U-Boat War Badge, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves for his achievements. He sank 24 ships for 170,237 gross register tons (GRT), damaged two ships for 15,864 GRT and damaged one ship as a total loss for 8,888 GRT.

Date Ship Nationality Tonnage
(GRT)
Convoy Fate[3] Location Deaths
11 December 1940 Rotorua  United Kingdom 10,890 HX-92 Sunk 58°56′N 11°20′W / 58.933°N 11.333°W / 58.933; -11.333
22
11 December 1940 Towa  Netherlands 5,419 HX-92 Sunk 58°50′N 10°10′W / 58.833°N 10.167°W / 58.833; -10.167
18
12 December 1940 Macedonier  Belgium 5,227 HX-92 Sunk 57°52′N 08°42′W / 57.867°N 8.700°W / 57.867; -8.700
4
12 December 1940 Stureholm  Sweden 4,575 HX-92 Sunk 57°50′N 08°40′W / 57.833°N 8.667°W / 57.833; -8.667
32
14 December 1940 Empire Razorbill  United Kingdom 5,118 OB-257 Damaged 59°31′N 13°15′W / 59.517°N 13.250°W / 59.517; -13.250
0
14 December 1940 Western Prince  United Kingdom 10,926 Sunk 59°32′N 17°47′W / 59.533°N 17.783°W / 59.533; -17.783
14
18 December 1940 Pendrecht  Netherlands 10,746 OB-259 Damaged 45°18′N 36°40′W / 45.300°N 36.667°W / 45.300; -36.667
0
16 January 1941 Oropesa  United Kingdom 14,118 Sunk 56°28′N 12°00′W / 56.467°N 12.000°W / 56.467; -12.000
106
17 January 1941 Almeda Star  United Kingdom 14,936 Sunk 58°16′N 13°40′W / 58.267°N 13.667°W / 58.267; -13.667
360
13 February 1941 Arthur F. Corwin  United Kingdom 10,516 HX-106 Sunk 60°25′N 17°11′W / 60.417°N 17.183°W / 60.417; -17.183
46
13 February 1941 Clea  United Kingdom 7,987 HX-106 Sunk 60°25′N 17°10′W / 60.417°N 17.167°W / 60.417; -17.167
59
18 February 1941 Black Osprey  United Kingdom 5,589 HX-107 Sunk 61°30′N 18°10′W / 61.500°N 18.167°W / 61.500; -18.167
25
22 February 1941 Scottish Standard  United Kingdom 6,999 OB-287 Sunk 59°20′N 16°12′W / 59.333°N 16.200°W / 59.333; -16.200
5
23 February 1941 Anglo-Peruvian  United Kingdom 5,457 OB-288 Sunk 59°30′N 21°00′W / 59.500°N 21.000°W / 59.500; -21.000
29
24 February 1941 Linaria  United Kingdom 3,385 OB-288 Sunk 61°00′N 25°00′W / 61.000°N 25.000°W / 61.000; -25.000
34
24 February 1941 Sirikishna  United Kingdom 5,458 OB-288 Sunk 58°00′N 21°00′W / 58.000°N 21.000°W / 58.000; -21.000
43
28 April 1941 Caledonia  Norway 9,892 HX-121 Sunk 60°03′N 16°10′W / 60.050°N 16.167°W / 60.050; -16.167
12
28 April 1941 Oilfield  United Kingdom 8,516 HX-121 Sunk 60°05′N 17°00′W / 60.083°N 17.000°W / 60.083; -17.000
47
28 April 1941 Port Hardy  United Kingdom 8,897 HX-121 Sunk 60°14′N 15°20′W / 60.233°N 15.333°W / 60.233; -15.333
1
19 May 1941 Empire Ridge  United Kingdom 2,922 HG-61 Sunk 54°47′N 11°10′W / 54.783°N 11.167°W / 54.783; -11.167
31
5 July 1941 Anselm  United Kingdom 5,954 Sunk 44°25′N 28°35′W / 44.417°N 28.583°W / 44.417; -28.583
254
31 October 1941 Bennekom  Netherlands 5,998 OS-10 Sunk 51°20′N 23°40′W / 51.333°N 23.667°W / 51.333; -23.667
8
19 February 1942 Empire Seal  United Kingdom 7,965 Sunk 43°14′N 64°45′W / 43.233°N 64.750°W / 43.233; -64.750
1
20 February 1942 Lake Osweya  United States 2,398 Scuttled 43°14′N 64°45′W / 43.233°N 64.750°W / 43.233; -64.750
39
22 February 1942 Kars  United Kingdom 8,888 HX-175 Total Loss 44°15′N 63°25′W / 44.250°N 63.417°W / 44.250; -63.417
50
22 February 1942 Torungen  Norway 1,948 Sunk 44°00′N 63°30′W / 44.000°N 63.500°W / 44.000; -63.500
19
9 March 1942 Tyr  Norway 4,265 Sunk 43°40′N 61°10′W / 43.667°N 61.167°W / 43.667; -61.167
13

Later life[edit]

After a year in captivity, Lehmann-Willenbrock returned to West Germany in May 1946 and worked on salvaging ships in the River Rhine. In 1948, he moved to Buenos Aires where he was worked as a skipper on several trade ships. After returning to Germany, he served as captain on several merchantmen, and was appointed captain of the German freighter Otto Hahn, the first of only four merchant cargo nuclear ships. Buchheim's book Der Abschied ("The Goodbye") describes one of its voyages, which Buchheim joined as a passenger. He was decorated in 1974 with the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1982, Lehmann-Willenbrock accompanied Wolfgang Petersen and the Das Boot cast and crew as an advisor to the film. Afterwards, he returned to his home at Bremen, where he remained until his death.

Summary of Service[edit]

Dates of rank

Awards and decorations

References[edit]

  1. ^ "U-boat Registry of Officers", German Federal Archives, Entry: Lehmann-Willenbrock Heinrich Fkapt.01.12.44, 11.12.1911-18.04.1986 - U-5, U-96.
  2. ^ Alman, Karl, Der Landser. Nr. 123 = Ritterkreuzträger. Fregattenkapitän Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock. Pabel Verlag (1963), pg 23-27
  3. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur (1995–2013). "Ships hit by U-96". uboat.net. Guðmundur Helgason. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Busch & Röll 2003, p. 110.
  5. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 499.
  6. ^ a b Busch & Röll 2003, p. 111.

Bibliography[edit]

  • 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. 
  • 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 Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • 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. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Kapitänleutnant Wolf-Harro Stiebler
Commanding officer, U-8
14 October 1939 – 30 November 1939
Succeeded by
Kapitänleutnant Georg-Heinz Michel
Preceded by
Kapitänleutnant Günter Kutschmann
Commanding officer, U-5
5 December 1939 – 11 August 1940
Succeeded by
Kapitänleutnant Herbert Opitz
First Commanding officer, U-96
14 September 1940 – 28 March 1942
Succeeded by
Kapitänleutnant Hans-Jürgen Hellriegel
Preceded by
Kapitänleutnant Ernst-Günther Brischke
Commanding officer, U-256
2 September 1944 – 18 October 1944
Ship struck
Preceded by
Kapitänleutnant Jürgen Oesten
Commander of the 9th U-boat Flotilla
May 1942 – September 1944
Succeeded by
disbanded
Preceded by
Fregattenkapitän Hans Cohausz
Commander of the 11th U-boat Flotilla
December 1944 – May 1945
Succeeded by
disbanded