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.
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
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.
|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.