Heinz Franke (30 November 1915 in Berlin-Steglitz – 5 April 2003 in Sasbach) 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.
Franke joined the Kriegsmarine in April 1936 and served for more than two years on the battlecruiser Gneisenau, and was on board during her two patrols in 1939.
Franke transferred to the U-boat force in October 1940 and after training became first watch officer (I WO) of U-84. After three patrols he took command of the school boat U-148 in December 1941, and spent ten months in the Baltic Sea.
In October 1942 he was appointed commander of U-262 and on his first patrol he sank the Norwegian Flower class corvette HNoMS Montbretia. In May 1943 Franke was ordered to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to pick up some captured U-boat men who planned to escape, but the breakout failed. In November 1943, while on patrol with U-262, Franke was involved in three convoy battles; his conduct was marked by diligent efficient shadowing and determined attack, particularly against the last, Convoy SL 140/MKS 31. For this, and despite a lack of success, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (see citation).
In January 1944 Franke was attached to the BdU staff. After serving in several staff positions and in a midget U-boat unit, he took command of U-3509 in March 1945. When the U-boat was damaged on 4 April 1945 he transferred to U-2502, which he commanded up until the end of the war on 8 May. After the war he spent six months in captivity, then served in the German Mine Sweeping Administration.
In 1957 he joined the newly formed Bundesmarine, retiring in March 1972 as a Fregattenkapitän.
Heinz Franke died on 5 April 2003.
Iron Cross 2nd Class - 23 February 1940
U-boat War Badge 1939 - 21 November 1941
Iron Cross 1st Class - 12 December 1941
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 30 November 1943 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-262
U-boat Front Clasp - 24 January 1945
Franke's citation on being awarded the Knights Cross read:
"Francke has repeatedly been the only one of those participating in operations who has forced his way into the convoy against the strongest air and sea defences. In the present situation the possibilities of sinkings are slight. In awarding distinctions I shall evaluate toughness and tenacity so much the more, even when it is not crowned with success."
Franke was the only U-boat commander awarded the Knights Cross in 1943.