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Erich Würdemann

Erich Würdemann

German World War II U-boat commander
The basics
Occupations Korvettenkapitän Submariner
Countries Germany
Gender male
Birth January 15, 1914 (Hamburg)
Death July 12, 1943 (Atlantic Ocean)
Erich Würdemann
The details

Erich Würdemann (15 January 1914, in Hamburg – 14 July 1943, west of Vigo in the Bay of Biscay) was a German U-boat commander in World War II and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.


In April 1933, Würdemann joined the Reichsmarine, which became the Kriegsmarine two years later. During the first year of the war he served on the destroyer Paul Jacobi, before transferring to the U-boat force in November 1940. After the usual training he served for one patrol aboard U-43 under Wolfgang Lüth, before commissioning the Type IXC U-boat U-506 in September 1941. He sailed on 5 war patrols, sank 15 merchant ships for a total of 76,714 gross register tons (GRT) and damaged 3 ships of a combined 23,358 GRT.

Survivors of the Laconia being picked up by U-156 (foreground) and U-506 (background)

Würdemann's most successful patrol (his second) took him into the Gulf of Mexico in May 1942, where he sank nine ships and damaged three. His next patrol took him to the waters off West Africa, where he sank another five ships and was involved in the Laconia incident. After U-156 sank the passenger liner RMS Laconia, which was carrying 450 British and Polish soldiers and about 1,800 Italian prisoners of war, the U-boat commenced rescue operations, and was joined by others in the area, including U-506; but the U-boats were later attacked by an American aircraft, which resulted in Admiral Dönitz issuing an order to the Navy not to pick up survivors.

Würdemann sailed to the waters off South Africa in early 1943 and sank two more ships. Finally, on 14 July 1943, six days into his fifth patrol, Würdemann was killed, along with all but six of his crew, when U-506 was sunk in the Atlantic west of Vigo, Spain by depth charges dropped from a Consolidated B-24 Liberator of the United States Army Air Forces' 1st Antisubmarine Squadron.

Summary of career

Ships attacked

As commander of U-506 Erich Würdemann is credited with the sinking of 13 ships for a total of 61,011 GRT, further damaging three ships of 23,418 GRT and damaging one ship of 6,821 GRT so severely that it was a total loss.

Date Name Nationality Tonnage
3 May 1942 Sama  Netherlands 567 Sunk
10 May 1942 Aurora  United States 7,050 Damaged
13 May 1942 David McKelvy  United States 6,821 Total loss
16 May 1942 Sun  United States 9,002 Damaged
16 May 1942 William C. McTarnahan  United States 7,366 Damaged
17 May 1942 Gulfoil  United States 5,189 Sunk
19 May 1942 Heredia  United States 4,732 Sunk
20 May 1942 Halo  United States 6,986 Sunk
20 May 1942 Yorkmoor  United Kingdom 4,457 Sunk
31 May 1942 Fred W. Green  United Kingdom 2,292 Sunk
21 August 1942 City of Wellington  United Kingdom 5,733 Sunk
23 August 1942 Hamla  United Kingdom 4,416 Sunk
5 September 1942 Myrmidon  United Kingdom 6,278 Sunk
13 September 1942 Lima  Sweden 3,764 Sunk
23 September 1942 Siam II  United Kingdom 6,637 Sunk
7 March 1943 Sabor  United Kingdom 5,212 Sunk
9 March 1943 Tabor  Norway 4,758 Sunk


  • Wehrmacht Long Service Award 4th Class (1 April 1937)
  • Iron Cross (1939)
    • 2nd Class (16 April 1940)
    • 1st Class (18 June 1942)
  • Destroyer War Badge (23 October 1940)
  • U-boat War Badge (1939) (26 March 1942)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 14 March 1943 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-506
  • Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht on 22 May 1942
  • ^ Busch & Röll 2003, p. 320.
  • Scherzer 2007, p. 799.

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