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Joachim Schepke

Joachim Schepke

German World War II U-boat commander
The basics
Occupations Submariner
Countries Germany
Gender male
Birth March 8, 1912 (Flensburg)
Death March 17, 1941 (Atlantic Ocean)
Authority ISNI id Library of congress id VIAF id
The details

Joachim Schepke (8 March 1912 – 17 March 1941) was a German U-boat commander during World War II. He was the seventh recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves of Nazi Germany.


Schepke was the son of a naval officer, and he joined the Reichsmarine in 1930. In 1934 he was assigned to the newly created U-boat arm, and in 1938 he commanded U-3. At the outbreak of World War II he took U3 to war against Allied shipping. After a short stint commanding U-19 and serving in a staff position Schepke received the command of U-100, a Type VIIb boat. After 5 patrols in U-100 she was heavily damaged on 17 March 1941 by depth charges from HMS Walker and Vanoc while executing an attack on Convoy HX-112. U-100 was forced to surface and was detected on radar and consequently rammed by Vanoc. Schepke and 37 crew members perished in the ocean; six crew members were rescued. Schepke was last reported on the bridge of U-100. When Vanoc rammed his boat, he was crushed against his own periscope standards, and he went down with his boat.

Schepke claimed to have sunk 37 ships, for a total of 213,310 gross register tons (GRT), and damaged 4 more. If true, this would have made him the third skipper to have sunk over 200,000 tons. While he did positively sink 34 ships, he was known to Admiral Dönitz and throughout the fleet to exaggerate his tonnage claims; fellow U-boat men used the expression "Schepke tonnage" in reference to them. Nonetheless, with 34 ships Schepke ranked first in number of ships sunk, and was recommended by Dönitz for Knight's cross with Oak Leaves for this achievement.

Schepke, Günther Prien and Otto Kretschmer were friendly rivals in the U-boat service, and were the most famous U-boat commanders in the early years of the war, where all except Kretschmer eventually met their ends. Schepke was the favourite of these three, because in contrast to Kretschmer he was a convinced Nazi. He wrote and illustrated the book "U-Boot Fahrer von Heute" (U-Boat Men of today) in 1940 (Berlin, Deutscher Verlag 1940). In February 1941 he made a speech in the Berlin Sportpalast for thousands of Berlin schoolchildren about the U-boat war. Before and after his death the German propaganda ministry held him as an example for German youth to follow.

Summary of career


  • Iron Cross (1939) 2nd Class & 1st Class (27 February 1940)
  • U-Boat War Badge (1939) (3 January 1940 – 30 April 1940)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
    • Knight's Cross on 24 September 1940 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-100
    • 7th Oak Leaves on 1 December 1940 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-100
  • Mentioned six times in the Wehrmachtbericht


9 October 1930: Seekadett (Midshipman)
1 January 1932: Fähnrich zur See (Officer Cadet)
1 April 1934: Oberfähnrich zur See (Senior Ensign)
1 October 1934: Leutnant zur See (Second Lieutenant)
1 June 1936: Oberleutnant zur See (First Lieutenant)
1 June 1939: Kapitänleutnant (Captain Lieutenant)

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