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Günther Hessler

German World War II U-boat commander
The basics
About
Occupation Korvettenkapitän Submariner
Country Germany
Date of birth
Date of death Apr 04, 1968 Bochum-Laer, Bochum, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Awards German Cross in Gold, Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Authority VIAF id ISNI id Library of congress id
The details
Biography

Günther Hessler (14 June 1909 – 4 April 1968) was a Kriegsmarine Fregattenkapitän during World War II. He commanded the Type IXB U-boat U-107, sinking twenty-one ships on three patrols, totalling 118,822 GRT of Allied shipping, of which 86,699 GRT was sunk on one patrol alone. He stands 21st on the list of highest scoring U-Boat aces of World War II. Hessler was also a 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 bravery in combat or successful military leadership.

Career

Günther Hessler joined the Reichsmarine of the Weimar Republic on 5 April 1927 as a member of "Crew 1927" (the incoming class of 1927). He underwent basic military training in the 8th company, 2nd department of the standing ship division of the Baltic Sea in Stralsund (5 April 1927 – 3 July 1927). Hessler was then transferred to the training ship SSS Niobe (4 July 1927 – 31 October 1927), attaining the rank of Seekadett (midshipman) on 1 October 1927. After more than 16 months aboard the light cruiser Berlin (1 November 1927 – 17 March 1929) he underwent officer cadet training at the Naval Academy at Mürwik, which included navigational training cruises on the tender Frauenlob and the survey vessel Meteor. Hessler then advanced in rank to Fähnrich zur See (officer cadet) on 1 April 1929.

U-107 returning from war patrol November 1941

On 2 October 1936 he was appointed watch officer on the Aviso Grille, Adolf Hitler's state yacht, and on 30 March 1938 transferred to the battleship Gneisenau. In 1937 he married Karl Dönitz's daughter, Ursula. The marriage produced two sons, Peter and Klaus, and a daughter, Ute. Hessler took command of torpedo-boat Falke on 27 March 1938. He remained in this position until 8 January 1940, earning the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 18 November 1939. Falke was assigned to the 5th Torpedobootflottille on 4 April 1939. On the outbreak of World War II Falke was tasked with laying defensive naval mines and escort and security duties in the North Sea. In April 1940 Hessler transferred to the U-boat arm, and six months later commissioned the U-107, without, unusually, having served as either a 1. Wachoffizier (1. WO—1st watch officer) or a Kommandantenschüler ("Commander-in-Training").

On his first patrol (24 January 1941 – 1 March 1941) Hessler sank four ships with a total of 18,514 GRT, but he became famous on his second patrol (29 March 1941 – 2 July 1941) — the most successful patrol of the entire war — sinking 14 ships with a total of 86,699 GRT. Oberleutnant zur See Helmut Witte was his first watch officer on these two patrols.

His third patrol (6 September 1941 – 11 November 1941) accounted for another three ships, totalling 13,641 tons, giving Hessler a career tally of 21 ships totalling 118,822 GRT, including two Royal Navy ocean boarding vessels HMS Crispin and Manistee. Hessler then handed over command of U-107 to Harald Gelhaus and transferred to the Befehlshaber der U-Boote (BdU). He served on the naval staff as 1. Admiralstabsoffizier (Asto—officer of the admiralty staff) from 24 November 1941 until the end of the war in Europe on 8 May 1945.

Post-war

After the war Hessler spent over a year in Allied captivity, and testified at the Nuremberg Trials on behalf of the Ubootwaffe and his father-in-law, Großadmiral Karl Dönitz. In 1947 Hessler was commissioned to write The U-Boat War in the Atlantic, a definitive account of the German U-boat offensive, by the British Royal Navy. Assisted by Alfred Hoschatt, the former commander of U-378 and also a staff officer of the BdU, he completed the three volume work in 1951. Hessler died in 1968 aged 58.

Summary of career

Ships attacked

As commander of U-107 Günther Hessler is credited with the sinking of 19 merchant ships with a total of 108,411 gross register tons (GRT) and two auxiliary warships of 10,411 GRT.

Date Name of ship Flag Tonnage Fate
3 February 1941 Empire Citizen United Kingdom 4,683 Sunk at 58°12′N 23°22′W / 58.200°N 23.367°W / 58.200; -23.367 (Empire Citizen (ship))
3 February 1941 HMS Crispin Royal Navy 5,051 Sunk at 56°38′N 20°05′W / 56.633°N 20.083°W / 56.633; -20.083 (HMS Crispin (ship))
6 February 1941 Maplecourt Canada 3,388 Sunk at 57°33′N 17°24′W / 57.550°N 17.400°W / 57.550; -17.400 (Maplecourt (ship))
23 February 1941 HMS Manistee (F 104) Royal Navy 5,360 Sunk at 58°13′N 21°33′W / 58.217°N 21.550°W / 58.217; -21.550 (HMS Manistee (F 104) (ship))
8 April 1941 Eskdene United Kingdom 3,829 Sunk at 34°43′N 24°21′W / 34.717°N 24.350°W / 34.717; -24.350 (Eskdene (ship))
8 April 1941 Helena Margareta United Kingdom 3,316 Sunk at 33°00′N 23°52′W / 33.000°N 23.867°W / 33.000; -23.867 (Helena Margareta (ship))
9 April 1941 Harpathian United Kingdom 4,671 Sunk at 32°22′N 22°53′W / 32.367°N 22.883°W / 32.367; -22.883 (Harpathian (ship))
9 April 1941 Duffield United Kingdom 8,516 Sunk at 31°13′N 23°24′W / 31.217°N 23.400°W / 31.217; -23.400 (Duffield (ship))
21 April 1941 Calchas United Kingdom 10,305 Sunk at 23°50′N 27°00′W / 23.833°N 27.000°W / 23.833; -27.000 (Calchas (ship))
30 April 1941 Lassell United Kingdom 7,417 Sunk at 12°55′N 28°56′W / 12.917°N 28.933°W / 12.917; -28.933 (Lassell (ship))
17 May 1941 Marisa Netherlands 8,029 Sunk at 06°10′N 18°09′W / 6.167°N 18.150°W / 6.167; -18.150 (Marisa (ship))
18 May 1941 Piako United Kingdom 8,286 Sunk at 07°52′N 14°57′W / 7.867°N 14.950°W / 7.867; -14.950 (Piako (ship))
27 May 1941 Colonial United Kingdom 5,108 Sunk at 09°13′N 15°09′W / 9.217°N 15.150°W / 9.217; -15.150 (Colonial (ship))
28 May 1941 Papalemos Greece 3,748 Sunk at 08°06′N 16°18′W / 8.100°N 16.300°W / 8.100; -16.300 (Papalemos (ship))
31 May 1941 Sire United Kingdom 5,664 Sunk at 08°50′N 15°30′W / 8.833°N 15.500°W / 8.833; -15.500 (Sire (ship))
1 June 1941 Alfred Jones United Kingdom 5,013 Sunk at 08°00′N 15°00′W / 8.000°N 15.000°W / 8.000; -15.000 (Alfred Jones (ship))
8 June 1941 Adda United Kingdom 7,816 Sunk at 08°30′N 14°39′W / 8.500°N 14.650°W / 8.500; -14.650 (Adda (ship))
13 June 1941 Pandias Greece 4,981 Sunk at 07°49′N 23°28′W / 7.817°N 23.467°W / 7.817; -23.467 (Pandias (ship))
24 September 1941 John Holt United Kingdom 4,975 Sunk at 31°12′N 23°32′W / 31.200°N 23.533°W / 31.200; -23.533 (John Holt (ship))
24 September 1941 Dixcove United Kingdom 3,790 Sunk at 31°12′N 23°41′W / 31.200°N 23.683°W / 31.200; -23.683 (Dixcove (ship))
24 September 1941 Lafian United Kingdom 4,876 Sunk at 31°12′N 23°32′W / 31.200°N 23.533°W / 31.200; -23.533 (Lafian (ship))

Awards

  • Iron Cross (1939)
    • 2nd Class (18 November 1939)
    • 1st Class (1 March 1941)
  • U-boat War Badge (1939) (3 July 1941)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 24 June 1941 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-107
  • German Cross in Gold on 9 November 1944 as Korvettenkapitän with the Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote
  • Mentioned twice in the Wehrmachtbericht on 1 May 1941 and 8 June 1941

Works

  • Great Britain Ministry of Defence (Navy) and Hessler, Günther (1989). U Boat War in the Atlantic 1939–1945: German Naval History. Stationery Office. ISBN 978-0117726031.

Translation notes

The contents of this page are sourced from a Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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