Otto Kretschmer

Fregattenkapitän (Crew 30)

40 ships sunk, total tonnage 208,954 GRT
3 auxiliary warships sunk, total tonnage 46,440 GRT
1 warship sunk, total tonnage 1,375 tons
1 ship sunk, total tonnage 2,136 GRT
5 ships damaged, total tonnage 37,965 GRT
2 ships a total loss, total tonnage 15,513 GRT

Born  1 May 1912 Heidau, Liegnitz
Died  5 Aug 1998(86)Straubing

Otto Kretschmer


1 Apr 1930 Offiziersanwärter
9 Oct 1930 Seekadett
1 Jan 1932 Fähnrich zur See
1 Apr 1934 Oberfähnrich zur See
1 Oct 1934 Leutnant zur See
1 Jun 1936 Oberleutnant zur See
1 Jun 1939 Kapitänleutnant
1 Mar 1941 Korvettenkapitän
1 Sep 1944 Fregattenkapitän


17 Oct 1939 Iron Cross 2nd Class
9 Nov 1939 U-boat War Badge 1939
17 Dec 1939 Iron Cross 1st Class
4 Aug 1940 Knights Cross
4 Nov 1940 Knights Cross with Oak Leaves
26 Dec 1941 Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Crossed Swords

U-boat Commands

U-35 31 Jul 1937 15 Aug 1937   No war patrols 
U-23 1 Oct 1937 1 Apr 1940   8 patrols (97 days) 
U-99 18 Apr 1940 17 Mar 1941   8 patrols (127 days) 

Kptlt. Kretschmer (right) on U-99
after docking at Lorient on 21 July 1940

Otto Kretschmer was born in Heidau über Niesse in Prussian Silesia (now Hajduki Nyskie, Poland), and was the son of a schoolmaster. Prior to joining the Reichsmarine as an officer candidate at the age of 18 he studied English and literature at Exeter University in England for eight months. After officer training he spent three months on the sailing school ship Niobe and more than a year on the light cruiser Emden.

After serving on the pocket battleship Deutschland and the light cruiser Köln 1934-35, he transferred to the U-bootwaffe (U-boat force) in January 1936. He thus received a solid pre-war training as a U-boat officer. He joined U-35 as 1st Watch Officer (IWO) on U-35 in Nov 1936, and commanded her as Kommandant in Vertretung (Commandant substitute) on one patrol in Spanish waters during the Spanish Civil War.

In September 1937 he took over command the small Type II U-23. Following the outbreak of the war he won his first successes on patrols in the North Sea off the English and Scottish east coasts.

In November 1939 he laid nine mines in Moray Firth, Scotland. The first great success for Otto Kretschmer was the sinking of the Danish tanker Danmark (10,517 tons) on 12 January 1940.

Just over a month later he sank the British destroyer HMS Daring (1,375 tons).

He left U-23 in April 1940 and in the same month commissioned U-99. While commanding U-99 Otto Kretschmer became famous for night-time surface attacks against convoys, and it was at this time his motto
"One torpedo ... one ship" was coined.

Kptlt. Kretschmer with the crew of U-99 enjoying the first bottle of beer after returning from patrol.

With the sinking of three British Armed Merchant Cruisers, Laurentic (18,724 tons), Patroclus (11,314 tons) and Forfar (16,402 tons) in November 1940, with a total of more than 46,000 tons, Silent Otto became the "Tonnage King" of U-boat commanders, never to be dethroned.

His last patrol also began successfully, but after attacking ten ships, his luck ran out. He was captured after scuttling U-99 at 0343hrs on 17 March 1941 (Schepke was lost in the same action) SE of Iceland following depth charge damage inflicted by the British destroyer HMS Walker (Niestlé, 1998). Kretschmer managed to surface the badly damaged boat and save 40 of his crew before U-99 sank. The LI (Chief Engineer) was one of three men who went down with her.

Otto Kretschmer
(c) 1997 Stephen Ames

After his capture he spent more than six and a half years in Allied captivity.
His initial RN interrogation report stated that
"He gave the impression of being a quiet, deliberate man, and looked more like a student than a U-Boat Captain".

For more than four years he was a POW in Canada in Camp 30 (often referred to as Camp Bowmanville), during which time he managed to remain in contact with BdU (U-boat High Command). He returned to Germany in December 1947.

In 1955 Otto Kretschmer joined the Bundesmarine (Federal German Navy), and in 1957 became commander of the 1. Geleitgeschwader (1st Escort Squadron). In November 1958 he became commander of the Amphibische Streitkräfte (Amphibious Forces).

From 1962 he served in several staff positions before becoming Chief of Staff at NATO COMNAVBALTAP (Commander, Allied Naval Forces, Baltic Approaches) in May 1965, a position he held for four years. He retired in September 1970 with the rank of Flotillenadmiral (Admiral of the Fleet).

Otto Kretschmer died in hospital in Bavaria during the summer of 1998 following an accident while on vacation.

You can listen to Silent Otto speaking of his experiences here.


Busch, R. and Röll, H-J. (1998). German U-boat commanders of World War II.
Busch, R. and Röll, H-J. (1997). Der U-Bootkrieg 1939-1945 (Band 2).
Niestlé, A. (1998). German U-boat losses during World War II.
Rohwer, J. (1998). Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two.

Patrol info for Otto Kretschmer

 U-boat Departure Arrival  
1. U-23 25 Aug 1939  Wilhelmshaven  4 Sep 1939  Wilhelmshaven  Patrol 1,11 days
2. U-23 9 Sep 1939  Wilhelmshaven  21 Sep 1939  Kiel  Patrol 2,13 days
3. U-23 29 Sep 1939  Kiel  30 Sep 1939  Wilhelmshaven   2 days
4. U-23 1 Oct 1939  Wilhelmshaven  16 Oct 1939  Kiel  Patrol 3,16 days
5. U-23 1 Nov 1939  Kiel  9 Nov 1939  Kiel  Patrol 4,9 days
6. U-23 5 Dec 1939  Kiel  15 Dec 1939  Kiel  Patrol 5,11 days
7. U-23 8 Jan 1940  Kiel  15 Jan 1940  Wilhelmshaven  Patrol 6,8 days
8. U-23 18 Jan 1940  Wilhelmshaven  29 Jan 1940  Wilhelmshaven  Patrol 7,12 days
9. U-23 9 Feb 1940  Wilhelmshaven  25 Feb 1940  Wilhelmshaven  Patrol 8,17 days
10. U-23 26 Feb 1940  Wilhelmshaven  28 Feb 1940  Kiel   3 days
11. U-99 18 Jun 1940  Kiel  25 Jun 1940  Wilhelmshaven  Patrol 9,8 days
12. U-99 27 Jun 1940  Wilhelmshaven  21 Jul 1940  Lorient  Patrol 10,25 days
13. U-99 25 Jul 1940  Lorient  5 Aug 1940  Lorient  Patrol 11,12 days
14. U-99 4 Sep 1940  Lorient  25 Sep 1940  Lorient  Patrol 12,22 days
15. U-99 13 Oct 1940  Lorient  22 Oct 1940  Lorient  Patrol 13,10 days
16. U-99 30 Oct 1940  Lorient  8 Nov 1940  Lorient  Patrol 14,10 days
17. U-99 27 Nov 1940  Lorient  12 Dec 1940  Lorient  Patrol 15,16 days
18. U-99 22 Feb 1941  Lorient  17 Mar 1941  Sunk  Patrol 16,24 days
16 patrols, 224 days at sea

Ships hit by Otto Kretschmer

Date U-boat Commander Name of ship Tons Nat. Convoy
4 Oct 1939U-23Otto Kretschmer Glen Farg876br
8 Dec 1939U-23Otto Kretschmer Scotia2,400da
11 Jan 1940U-23Otto Kretschmer Fredville1,150nw
12 Jan 1940U-23Otto Kretschmer Danmark (t.)10,517da
24 Jan 1940U-23Otto Kretschmer Varild1,085nw
18 Feb 1940U-23Otto Kretschmer HMS Daring (H 16)1,375brHN-12
19 Feb 1940U-23Otto Kretschmer Tiberton5,225br
22 Feb 1940U-23Otto Kretschmer Loch Maddy (t.)4,996brHX-19
5 Jul 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Magog2,053caHX-52
7 Jul 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Sea Glory1,964br
7 Jul 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Bissen1,514sw
8 Jul 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Humber Arm5,758brHX-53
12 Jul 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Ia4,860gr
12 Jul 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Merisaar (c.)2,136es
18 Jul 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Woodbury4,434br
28 Jul 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Auckland Star13,212br
29 Jul 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Clan Menzies7,336br
31 Jul 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Jamaica Progress5,475br
31 Jul 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Jersey City6,322brOB-191
2 Aug 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Strinda (d.)10,973nwOB-191
2 Aug 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Lucerna (d.)6,556brOB-191
2 Aug 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Alexia (d.)8,016brOB-191
11 Sep 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Albionic2,468br
15 Sep 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Kenordoc1,780caSC-3
16 Sep 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Lotos1,327nwSC-3
17 Sep 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Crown Arun2,372brHX-71
21 Sep 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Invershannon9,154brHX-72
21 Sep 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Baron Blythswood3,668brHX-72
21 Sep 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Elmbank5,156brHX-72
18 Oct 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Empire Miniver6,055brSC-7
18 Oct 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Niritos3,854grSC-7
18 Oct 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Fiscus4,815brSC-7
19 Oct 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Empire Brigade5,154brSC-7
19 Oct 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Thalia5,875grSC-7
19 Oct 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Snefjeld1,643nwSC-7
19 Oct 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Clintonia (d.)3,106brSC-7
3 Nov 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Casanare5,376br
3 Nov 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer HMS Laurentic (F 51)18,724br
4 Nov 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer HMS Patroclus11,314br
5 Nov 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Scottish Maiden6,993brHX-83
2 Dec 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer HMS Forfar (F 30)16,402brHX-90
2 Dec 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Samnanger4,276nwOB-251
3 Dec 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Conch8,376brHX-90
7 Dec 1940U-99Otto Kretschmer Farmsum5,237nlOB-252
7 Mar 1941U-99Otto Kretschmer Terje Viken20,638brOB-293
7 Mar 1941U-99Otto Kretschmer Athelbeach6,568brOB-293
16 Mar 1941U-99Otto Kretschmer Beduin8,136nwHX-112
16 Mar 1941U-99Otto Kretschmer Franche Comte (d.)9,314brHX-112
16 Mar 1941U-99Otto Kretschmer J.B. White7,375caHX-112
16 Mar 1941U-99Otto Kretschmer Korshamn6,673swHX-112
16 Mar 1941U-99Otto Kretschmer Venetia5,728brHX-112
16 Mar 1941U-99Otto Kretschmer Ferm6,593nwHX-112

47 ships sunk (274,418 tons) and 5 ships damaged (37,965 tons).

We have a picture of this vessel.
(d.) means the ship was damaged.
(c.) means the ship was captured (included in ships & tonnage lost).
(t.) means the ship was a total loss (included in ships & tonnage lost).

About ranks and decorations
Ranks shown in italics are our database inserts based on the rank dates of his crew comrades. The officers of each crew would normally have progressed through the lower ranks at the same rate.

Media links

U-Boat Attack Logs

Daniel Morgan and Bruce Taylor

The Golden Horseshoe

Robertson, Terence

German U-boat Commanders of World War II

Busch, Rainer and Röll, Hans-Joachim


Vause, Jordan

Listing of all U-boat commanders