Herbert Brünning

Kapitänleutnant (Crew 35)

1 ship sunk, total tonnage 2,125 GRT

Born  13 Sep 1915 Hamburg
Died  23 Jan 2005(89)Hagen / Westphalia, Germany

Kptlt. Herbert Brünning


5 Apr 1935 Offiziersanwärter
25 Sep 1935 Seekadett
1 Jul 1936 Fähnrich zur See
1 Jan 1938 Oberfähnrich zur See
1 Apr 1938 Leutnant zur See
1 Oct 1939 Oberleutnant zur See
1 Sep 1942 Kapitänleutnant


1940 Iron Cross 2nd Class
28 Oct 1941 Fleet War Badge
9 Apr 1943 U-boat War Badge 1939
1943 Iron Cross 1st Class

U-boat Commands

U-137 8 Dec 1941 1 Sep 1942   No war patrols 
U-642 1 Oct 1942 5 Jul 1944   4 patrols (185 days) 
U-3518 29 Dec 1944 3 May 1945   No war patrols 

Herbert Brünning joined the Kriegsmarine in 1935. From June 1939 to Jan 1941 he served as a torpedo officer on the light cruiser Emden, then until March 1941 in the same role with the training ship Schlesien. Brünning briefly returned to the Emden in March 1941 before joining the U-boat force that month (Busch & Röll, 1999).

He went through U-boat training from March to Aug 1941, then completed U-boat Commander training with the 24th Flotilla and then his sea training with the U-98, under Kptlt. Robert Gysae, (Busch & Röll, 1999). Brünning spent 32 days at sea with the boat learning the ropes of commanding a U-boat in action under the leadership of one of the best commanders.

On 8 Dec 1941 Oblt. Herbert Brünning was given command of the small school boat U-137. He would command the boat until Sept 1942 when he was sent to U-boat familiarization (Baubelehrung) to prepare him for his next command, this time a larger type VIIC boat being built at Hamburg (Busch & Röll, 1999).

Left: Hebert Brünning on the tower.

On 1 Oct 1942 Brünning, recently promoted to Kapitänleutnant, commissioned the brand new U-642 at Blohm & Voss yard in Hamburg. Brünning and his crew spent the next 4 months preparing and training in the Baltic (Busch & Röll, 1999).

On 20 Feb 1943 Kptlt. Herbert Brünning left Kiel with his U-642 for his first war patrol. After operations in the North Atlantic where he joined 4 Wolfpacks he returned to base at St. Nazaire France 48 days later on 8 April (Busch & Röll, 1997). During this patrol he sank his first, and ultimately only, ship - the British steam merchant Leadgate (2,125 tons) (Rohwer, 1998).

Brünning next sailed on 4 May 1943 - and entered the fray at the most dangerous time for the U-boats with 40 U-boats being sunk in May. Brünning managed to survive and brought his boat back to France on 17 July 1943 after 75 days at sea (Busch & Röll, 1997). On 9 July the boat was attacked by a British Catalina aircraft but managed to shoot it down.

Kptlt. Herbert Brünning would take the boat on two more patrols. On 3 Nov 1943, during his third patrol, he entered the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar (Busch & Röll, 1997).

On 23 Jan 1944 Brünning returned to Toulon, France from his 4th patrol with U-642 (Busch & Röll, 1997). He then served with the 29th Flotilla also at Toulon for the next two months (Busch & Röll, 1999).

In Aug 1944 he was sent to another U-boat familiarization (Baubelehrung), this time to prepare him for his own Elektro boat of type XXI - the first real submarine. On 29 Dec 1944 Kptlt. Herbert Brünning commissioned the new U-3518 at Danzig (Busch & Röll, 1999). The boat was still undergoing training and work-up when the German surrender loomed over and on 3 May Brünning scuttled his boat during Operation Regenbogen near Kiel (Niestlé, 1998).

Kptlt. Herbert Brünning was detained by the Allies but was released on 15 Aug 1945 (Busch & Röll, 1999).

Herbert Brünning in 1989.

Photos courtesey of Mr. Günter Labude, former radio operator on U-642 and U-3518.


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 Brünning

 U-boat Departure Arrival  
1. U-642 20 Feb 1943  Kiel  8 Apr 1943  St. Nazaire  Patrol 1,48 days
2. U-642 4 May 1943  St. Nazaire  17 Jul 1943  St. Nazaire  Patrol 2,75 days
3. U-642 11 Sep 1943  St. Nazaire  12 Sep 1943  St. Nazaire  Patrol 3,2 days
4. U-642 18 Oct 1943  St. Nazaire  13 Nov 1943  Toulon  Patrol 3,27 days
5. U-642 22 Dec 1943  Toulon  23 Jan 1944  Toulon  Patrol 4,33 days
4 patrols, 185 days at sea

Ships hit by Herbert Brünning

Date U-boat Name of ship Tons Nat. Convoy
8 Mar 1943U-642 Leadgate2,125brSC-121

1 ship sunk (2,125 tons).

About ranks and decorations
Special thanks to Fernando Almeida for data on ranks and decorations.

Media links

German U-boat Commanders of World War II

Busch, Rainer and Röll, Hans-Joachim

Listing of all U-boat commanders

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