13 May 1909|
Rudak, Thorn, German Empire
|Died||15 June 1944
Fort Hunt, Virginia
|Buried at||Fort George G. Meade|
|Years of service||1934–44|
|Unit||4th U-boat Flotilla
10th U-boat Flotilla
|Commands held||U-515, 21 February 1942 – 9 April 1944|
|Battles/wars||Battle of the Atlantic|
U-boat War Badge
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Korvettenkapitän Werner Henke (13 May 1909 – 15 June 1944) born in Thorn, Germany (now Toruń in Poland) was the commander of U-515 in the Battle of the Atlantic of World War II. U-515 was sunk by the US task group 22.3, commanded by Daniel V. Gallery on 9 April 1944 and 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 Province 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 German cruiser Admiral Scheer. In five years' training he spent only 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 Schleswig-Holstein, where he participated in the first shots of World War II in the Battle of 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 15:10 on 9 April 1944 in the mid-Atlantic north of Madeira at USS Guadalcanal and depth charges from the destroyer escorts USS Pope, USS Pillsbury, USS Chatelain and USS Flaherty. Sixteen of the crew were killed by American fire while abandoning the U-boat, but 40 survived and were rescued by the warships.by bombs from the US escort carrier
A British propaganda broadcast had falsely accused Henke of shooting British survivors of Ceramic, a passenger ship that U-515 had sunk on 7 December 1942. Henke therefore believed the British wanted to try him as a war criminal. Knowing this, Captain Gallery, hoping to extort intelligence from him or his crew, 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 did cooperate.
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 being ordered to stop and a guard shot him dead with a sub-machine gun.
It is thought that he preferred this form of honorable death over extradition to the British and a phony “showcase” trial as a war criminal to disgrace him and the German Kriegsmarine.
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.
Summary of career
|12 September 1942||Stanvac Melbourne||Panama||10,013||Sunk||1 killed|
|12 September 1942||Woensdrecht||Netherlands||4,668||Total loss||1 killed|
|13 September 1942||Nimba||Panama||1,854||Sunk||20 killed|
|13 September 1942||Ocean Vanguard||United Kingdom||7,174||Sunk||11 killed|
|14 September 1942||Harborough||United Kingdom||5,415||Sunk||5 killed|
|15 September 1942||Sørholt||Norway||4,801||Sunk||7 killed|
|17 September 1942||Mae||United States||5,607||Sunk||1 killed|
|20 September 1942||Reedpool||United Kingdom||4,838||Sunk||5 killed|
|23 September 1942||Antonius||United States||6,034||Damaged|
|23 September 1942||Lindvangen||Norway||2,412||Sunk||15 killed|
|12 November 1942||HMS Hecla||Royal Navy||10,850||Sunk||283 killed|
|12 November 1942||HMS Marne||Royal Navy||1,920||Damaged|
|7 December 1942||Ceramic||United Kingdom||18,713||Sunk||656 killed|
|4 March 1943||California Star||United Kingdom||8,300||Sunk||50 killed|
|9 April 1943||Bamako||Free France||2,397||Sunk||6 killed|
|30 April 1943||Bandar Shahpour||United Kingdom||5,236||Sunk||1 killed|
|30 April 1943||Corabella||United Kingdom||5,682||Sunk||9 killed|
|30 April 1943||Kota Tajandi||Netherlands||7,295||Sunk||6 killed|
|30 April 1943||Nagina||United Kingdom||6,551||Sunk||2 killed|
|1 May 1943||City of Singapore||United Kingdom||6,555||Sunk|
|1 May 1943||Clan Macpherson||United Kingdom||6,940||Sunk||4 killed|
|1 May 1943||Mokambo||Belgium||4,966||Sunk|
|9 May 1943||Corneville||Norway||4,554||Sunk|
|18 May 1943||HMS Chanticleer||Royal Navy||1,350||Total loss|
|17 December 1943||Kingswood||United Kingdom||5,080||Sunk|
|20 December 1943||Phemius||United Kingdom||7,406||Sunk||23 killed|
|24 December 1943||Dumana||United Kingdom||8,427||Sunk||39 killed|
- 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 & Röll 2003, p. 292.
- Thomas 1997, p. 267.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 222.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 70.
- 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: 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.
- 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.
- 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 (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.