Kapitänleutnant (Crew 33)
21 ships sunk, total tonnage 66,032 GRT
2 ships damaged, total tonnage 9,903 GRT
1 auxiliary warship damaged, total tonnage 10,552 GRT
|Born||5 Jun 1915||Kanazawa, Japan|
|Died||13 Aug 1982||(67)||Villingen, Germany|
|U-14||19 Oct 1939||1 Jun 1940||4 patrols (60 days)|
|U-137||15 Jun 1940||14 Dec 1940||3 patrols (38 days)|
|U-556||6 Feb 1941||27 Jun 1941||2 patrols (39 days)|
Fähnrich Herbert Wohlfarth
Herbert Wohlfarth began his naval career in April 1933. After the usual training he spent more than a year on the cruiser Admiral Graf Spee. In May 1937 he joined the U-boat force, and like many of the later successful commanders received a solid pre-war training under Dönitz. After some months as aide-de-camp in the 3rd Flotilla 'Lohs', in September 1938 he became watch officer on U-16.
On 19 October 1939 he became the commander of U-14. On his first three patrols he sank nine mostly smaller ships in Scottish and Norwegian waters. The fourth patrol with U-14 was for him, as for most other commanders during Operation 'Hartmut' against Norway, without success.
Kptlt. Herbert Wohlfarth during patrol
On 15 June, 1940 Herbert Wohlfarth commissioned U-137, also a Type IIB boat, referred to as 'Einbaum' (dugout canoe). But these small boats were also very successful and other well-known commanders including Hardegen, Kretschmer and Lüth won their first successes in them.
Herbert Wohlfarth led U-137 on three patrols during the autumn of 1940. He sank seven ships with a total of 25,465 tons, mostly in the area south of the Hebrides. Especially notable was his torpedo hit on the armed merchant cruiser Cheshire (10,552 tons), damaging the ship so badly that she had to spend six months in the shipyard for repairs.
In the U-boat force Herbert Wohlfarth was well known by his nickname, Parzival. After a radio message to the BdU, reporting his successes with his 'dugout', he received the following praise from Dönitz:
An Wohlfarth: Gut gemacht!
(To Wohlfarth: Well done!)
And Wohlfarth answered, also by radio:
An Löwe von Parzival: Ja, ja, die kleinen Boote !
(To Lion from Parzival: Well, well, these small boats!)
This typical example of communication between Dönitz and his commanders became famous throughout the Kriegsmarine.
Herbert Wohlfarth after patrol
On 15 December, 1940 Wohlfarth left the boat and two months later commissioned the Type VIIC boat U-556. On his first patrol in the Atlantic with this new boat he sank four ships with a total of 18,583 tons and damaged two more.
During his return he witnessed one of the most tragic moments in the history of the Kriegsmarine, when the German battleship Bismarck was sunk in the Atlantic. Wohlfarth was unable to help because he had fired all his torpedoes during his patrol. He saw a battleship and a carrier pass in front of his boat on their way to sink the pride of Germany, and could do nothing to hinder them.
On 15 May, 1941 he received the Knights Cross for this patrol.
(See also: Dönitz and his aces)
On 19 June 1941 Wohlfarth started his second patrol on U-556, but just eight days later the boat was sunk in the North Atlantic southwest of Iceland by the British corvettes HMS Nasturtium, Celandine and Gladiolus. The commander and most of the crew were captured (Niestlé, 1998).
Herbert Wohlfarth then spent more than six years in English and Canadian POW camps, before returning to Germany on 14 July, 1947.
Busch, R. and Röll, H-J. (1999). 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 Herbert Wohlfarth
|1.||U-14||17 Jan 1940||Kiel||18 Jan 1940||Helgoland||Patrol 1,||2 days|
|2.||U-14||20 Jan 1940||Helgoland||26 Jan 1940||Wilhelmshaven||Patrol 1,||7 days|
|3.||U-14||11 Feb 1940||Wilhelmshaven||20 Feb 1940||Wilhelmshaven||Patrol 2,||10 days|
|4.||U-14||3 Mar 1940||Wilhelmshaven||11 Mar 1940||Wilhelmshaven||Patrol 3,||9 days|
|5.||U-14||4 Apr 1940||Wilhelmshaven||5 May 1940||Kiel||Patrol 4,||32 days|
|6.||U-137||14 Sep 1940||Kiel||17 Sep 1940||Stavanger||4 days|
|7.||U-137||21 Sep 1940||Stavanger||29 Sep 1940||Lorient||Patrol 5,||9 days|
|8.||U-137||9 Oct 1940||Lorient||17 Oct 1940||Lorient||Patrol 6,||9 days|
|9.||U-137||3 Nov 1940||Lorient||22 Nov 1940||Bergen||Patrol 7,||20 days|
|10.||U-137||24 Nov 1940||Bergen||27 Nov 1940||Kiel||4 days|
|11.||U-556||1 May 1941||Kiel||30 May 1941||Lorient||Patrol 8,||30 days|
|12.||U-556||19 Jun 1941||Lorient||27 Jun 1941||Sunk||Patrol 9,||9 days|
|9 patrols, 137 days at sea|
Ships hit by Herbert Wohlfarth
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.