|Nickname(s)||Ihrer Majestät bestaussehender Offizier ("Her Majesty's best-looking officer")|
8 March 1912|
|Died||17 March 1941
south-east of Iceland
|Allegiance|| Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1930–41|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Joachim Schepke (8 March 1912 – 17 March 1941) was a German U-boat commander during World War II. He was the seventh 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 by the Third Reich to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. It was Germany's highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Joachim Schepke.[Note 1]
Schepke is credited with the sinking of 36 allied ships.
Schepke was the son of a naval officer, and he joined the Reichsmarine in 1930. In 1934 he was assigned to the newly created U-boat arm, and in 1938 he commanded U-3. At the outbreak of World War II he took U3 to war against Allied shipping. After a short stint commanding U-19 and serving in a staff position Schepke received the command of U-100, a Type VIIb boat. After 5 patrols in U-100 she was heavily damaged on 17 March 1941 by depth charges from HMS Walker and Vanoc while executing an attack on Convoy HX-112. U-100 was forced to surface and was detected on radar and consequently rammed by Vanoc. Schepke and 37 crew members perished in the ocean; six crew members were rescued. Schepke was last reported on the bridge of U-100. When Vanoc rammed his boat, he was crushed into his own periscope standards, and he went down with his boat.
Schepke claimed to have sunk 37 ships, for a total of 213,310 gross register tons (GRT), and damaged 4 more. If true, this would have made him the third skipper to have sunk over 200,000 tons. While he did positively sink 34 ships, he was known to Admiral Dönitz and throughout the fleet to exaggerate his tonnage claims; fellow U-boat men came to use the expression "Schepke tonnage" to reference them. Nonetheless, with 34 ships Schepke ranked first in number of ships sunk, and was recommended by Dönitz for Knight's cross with Oak Leaves for this achievement.
Schepke, Günther Prien and Otto Kretschmer were friendly rivals in the U-boat service, and were the most famous U-boat commanders in the early years of the war, where all except Kretschmer eventually met their ends. Schepke was the favourite of these three, because in contrast to Kretschmer he was a convinced Nazi. He wrote and illustrated the book "U-Boot Fahrer von Heute" (U-Boat Men of today) in 1940 (Berlin, Deutscher Verlag 1940). In February 1941 he made a speech in the Berlin Sportpalast for thousands of Berlin schoolchildren about the U-boat war. Before and after his death the German propaganda ministry held him as an example for German youth to follow.
Summary of career
As commander of U-3, U-19 and U-100, Schepke is credited with the sinking of 36 ships for a total of 153,677 gross register tons (GRT), further damaging four ships of 17,229 GRT and additionally damaging one more ship so heavily that it was a total loss of 2,205 GRT.
|30 September 1939||U-3||Vendia||Denmark||1,150||Sunk|
|30 September 1939||U-3||Gun||Sweden||1,198||Sunk|
|9 January 1940||U-19||Manx||Norway||1,343||Sunk|
|23 January 1940||U-19||Battanglia||United Kingdom||1,523||Sunk|
|23 January 1940||U-19||Pluto||Denmark||1,598||Sunk|
|25 January 1940||U-19||Everene||Denmark||4,434||Sunk|
|25 January 1940||U-19||Gudveig||Denmark||1,300||Sunk|
|19 March 1940||U-19||Charkow||Denmark||1,026||Sunk|
|19 March 1940||U-19||Minsk||Denmark||1,229||Sunk|
|20 March 1940||U-19||Bothal||Denmark||2,109||Sunk|
|20 March 1940||U-19||Viking||Denmark||1,153||Sunk|
|16 August 1940||U-100||Empire Merchant||United Kingdom||4,864||Sunk|
|25 August 1940||U-100||Jamaica Pioneer||United Kingdom||5,471||Sunk|
|29 August 1940||U-100||Dalblair||United Kingdom||4,608||Sunk|
|29 August 1940||U-100||Hartismere||United Kingdom||5,498||Damaged|
|29 August 1940||U-100||Astra II||United Kingdom||2,393||Sunk|
|29 August 1940||U-100||Alida Gorthon||Sweden||2,373||Sunk|
|29 August 1940||U-100||Empire Moose||United Kingdom||6,103||Sunk|
|21 September 1940||U-100||Canonesa||United Kingdom||8,286||Sunk|
|21 September 1940||U-100||Torinia||United Kingdom||10,364||Sunk|
|21 September 1940||U-100||Dalcairn||United Kingdom||4,608||Sunk|
|22 September 1940||U-100||Empire Airman||United Kingdom||6,586||Sunk|
|22 September 1940||U-100||Scholar||United Kingdom||3,940||Sunk|
|22 September 1940||U-100||Frederick S. Fales||United Kingdom||10,525||Sunk|
|22 September 1940||U-100||Simla||Norway||6,031||Sunk|
|18 October 1940||U-100||Shekatika||United Kingdom||5,458||Damaged|
|18 October 1940||U-100||Boekelo||Netherlands||2,118||Damaged|
|19 October 1940||U-100||Blairspey
credited but likely sunk by Fritz Frauenheim
|20 October 1940||U-100||Caprella||United Kingdom||8,230||Sunk|
|20 October 1940||U-100||Sitala||United Kingdom||6,218||Sunk|
|20 October 1940||U-100||Loch Lomond||United Kingdom||5,452||Sunk|
|23 November 1940||U-100||Justitia||United Kingdom||4,562||Sunk|
|23 November 1940||U-100||Bradfyne||United Kingdom||4,740||Sunk|
|23 November 1940||U-100||Ootmarsum||Netherlands||3,628||Sunk|
|23 November 1940||U-100||Bruse||Norway||2,205||Total Loss|
|23 November 1940||U-100||Salonica||Norway||2,694||Sunk|
|23 November 1940||U-100||Leise Maersk||United Kingdom||3,136||Sunk|
|23 November 1940||U-100||Bussum||Netherlands||3,636||Sunk|
|14 December 1940||U-100||Kyleglen||United Kingdom||3,670||Sunk|
|14 December 1940||U-100||Euphorbia||United Kingdom||3,380||Sunk|
|18 December 1940||U-100||Napier Star||United Kingdom||10,116||Sunk|
- Iron Cross (1939)
- U-Boat War Badge (1939) (3 January 1940 – 30 April 1940)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Mentioned six times in the Wehrmachtbericht
|9 October 1930:||Seekadett (Midshipman)|
|1 January 1932:||Fähnrich zur See (Officer Cadet)|
|1 April 1934:||Oberfähnrich zur See (Senior Ensign)|
|1 October 1934:||Leutnant zur See (Second Lieutenant)|
|1 June 1936:||Oberleutnant zur See (First Lieutenant)|
|1 June 1939:||Kapitänleutnant (Captain Lieutenant)|
- In 1940, 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).
- Williamson & Bujeiro 2004, pp. 3, 7.
- Macintyre, Donald U-boat Killer, (Avon Publications, 1956)
- Blair 1996, p. 218.
- Hadley 1995, pp. 81, 84, 112.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 3.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 58.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 9.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 11.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 16.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 25.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 26.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 27.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 29.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 33.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 32.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 34.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 36.
- Rohwer 1999, p. 39.
- Busch & Röll 2003, p. 71.
- Thomas 1998, p. 252.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 659.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 376.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 53.
- Busch & Röll 2003, p. 70.
- Blair, Clay (1996). Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters 1939-1942. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-58839-8.
- 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.
- Fuhren, Franz (1943). Kapitänleutnant Schepke erzählt. Mit einem Geleitwort von Großadmiral Dönitz. Minden: Köhler Verlag.
- Hadley, Michael L. (1995). Count Not the Dead: The Popular Image of the German Submarine. Montreal, Quebec: McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN 978-0-7735-6526-5.
- Schepke, Joachim (1940). U-Boot-Fahrer von heute. Erzählt und gezeichnet von einem U-Boot-Kommandanten. Berlin, Deutscher Verlag 1940
- 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.
- 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.
- Jürgen, Rohwer (1999). Axis submarine successes of World War Two: German, Italian, and Japanese submarine successes, 1939-1945. Greenhill Books. ISBN 978-1557500298.
- Williamson, Gordon; Bujeiro, Ramiro (2004). Knight's Cross and Oak Leaves Recipients 1939–40. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-641-6.
- 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.