Walther Forstmann

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Walther Forstmann
Born March 9, 1883
Died November 2, 1973 (1973-11-03) (aged 90)
Allegiance  German Empire
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Kaiserliche Marine
Years of service 1900–19, 1939-45
Rank Kapitän zur See
Commands held U-12, August 1, 1914 – February 9, 1915
U-39, February 11, 1915 – October 14, 1917
Battles/wars U-boat Campaign (World War I)
Awards Knight's Cross with Swords of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern
Order of the Red Eagle 4th class
Pour le Mérite

Walther Forstmann (March 9, 1883 – November 2, 1973) was one of the most successful and highly decorated U-boat commanders in the Kaiserliche Marine during World War I. He also served in the Kriegsmarine during World War II in different staff positions.

In his time as commander of U-12 and U-39 in World War I, he conducted 47 patrols and succeeded in sinking 146 ships for a total tonnage of 384,304 gross register tons (GRT). As such he is the second most successful submarine commander ever (by tonnage sunk), after de la Perière.

World War I[edit]

On August 12, 1916 Kapitänleutnant Forstmann of U-39 was awarded the Pour le Mérite for his achievements so far in the First World War.

In 1917 Forstmann, in command of U-39, sank five valuable steamers within only two days in the Straits of Gibraltar with over 20,000 GRT, the SS Normanton (3,862 tonnes), SS Mersario (3,847 tonnes), SS Almora (4,385 tonnes), SS Nuceria (4,702 tonnes) and the Japanese steamer SS Sitosan Maru (3,555 tonnes). The ships carried a total load of 31,500 tonnes of coal, of which more than 26,000 tonnes were meant for Italy for use in the winter.


Forstmann wrote his memoirs after the war in the book Hunting in the Mediterranean (German: Auf Jagd im Mittelmeer). In 1921 he qualified as an attorney and in 1924 he became social departmental head and director with the August Thyssen coal company in Duisburg.

From 1929 to 1933 he was a city delegate and parliamentary group leader of the German People's Party in Duisburg.

Between 1933 and 1950 he was a member of the board (1951-1953 member of the supervisory board) of four large housing cooperatives of the Ruhr steel plants.

World War II[edit]

In the Second World War Forstmann served as chief of different commands in Osnabrück and Copenhagen. In Copenhagen, he was the commander of the Wehrwirtschaftsstab Denmark, Germany's chief industrial purchasing entity in occupied Denmark.[1] He was promoted to Kapitän zur See on July 1, 1942. He retired from the navy in 1945.

Post war career[edit]

1951 - 1955 He became one of the advisors of the housing company - Rheini dwellings A.G. in Duisburg which was responsible for the movement of several villages to enable development of open cast coal mining. In 1954 he became a member of the supervisory board of this company.

In 1956 he was involved in the design structure of the 30 Pestalozzi villages and became vice-president of the German settler federation, chairmen of the executive committee of youth centre place work e. V.

Awards and decorations[edit]

In 1968 he received an honorary Doctorate from the Roman Accademia Tiberina and in 1972 another from the university of the Mediterranean in Rome.


  1. ^ See Phil Giltner, In the friendliest manner : German-Danish economic cooperation during the Nazi occupation of 1940-1949 (Peter Lang, 1998).

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