Ottokar Arnold Paulssen

Korvettenkapitän (Crew 34)

6 ships sunk, total tonnage 31,729 GRT
1 warship sunk, total tonnage 5,220 tons

Born  11 Oct 1915 Berlin-Charlottenburg
Died  16 Dec 1941(26)Mediterranean


8 Apr 1934 Offiziersanwärter
1 Jul 1935 Fähnrich zur See
1 Jan 1937 Oberfähnrich zur See
1 Apr 1937 Leutnant zur See
1 Apr 1939 Oberleutnant zur See
1 Oct 1941 Kapitänleutnant
1 Dec 1941 Korvettenkapitän


U-boat Commands

U-20 8 Jun 1940 5 Jan 1941   No war patrols 
U-557 13 Feb 1941 16 Dec 1941  (+)  4 patrols (120 days) 

Ottokar Arnold Paulssen joined the German Navy (Reichsmarine) in 1934. He served as 1st Watch Officer (I WO) on U-26 (Klaus Ewerth) April 1939 - Jan 1940. During this time he went on two patrols, during which four ships were sunk.

From Jan - June 1940 he served as Watch Officer and did his commander sea training on the small 'duck' boat U-18 (Ernst Mengersen). The boat sank one small ship on the first of two patrols Paulssen went on.

On 8 June 1940 Paulssen was given command of the 'duck' U-20, then serving as a school boat. He would command this boat until 5 Jan 1941, when he began U-boat construction familiarization (Baubelehrung) for a larger attack boat at Hamburg.

On 13 Feb 1941 Oblt. Ottokar Paulssen commissioned the type VIIC U-boat U-557. He then took the boat on two patrols in the Atlantic, sinking five ships during 93 days at sea.

Herbert Werner, author of the famous book Iron Coffins, served as a Watch Officer under Paulssen on U-557 for the first two patrols, but then left to serve as I WO on U-230.

The Mediterranean

For his third patrol in U-557 Paulssen was sent to the Mediterranean. He successfully passed through the heavily guarded Straits of Gibraltar on 26 Nov 1941, having left Lorient, France seven days earlier (Busch and Röll, 1997). U-557's new base was Messina with the 29th Flotilla.

Paulssen enjoyed some success with U-557, having sunk six merchant ships totalling almost 32,000 GRT, and the British light cruiser HMS Galatea on 15 Dec 1941. He would be lost the day after his last victim.

Kptlt. Paulssen was lost with his entire crew (43) when the boat was sunk at 21.44hrs on 16 Dec 1941 in the Mediterranean west of Crete in position 35.31N, 23.19E, after being accidentally rammed by the Italian torpedo boat Orione (Niestle, 1998). The Germans sent out patrols to search for survivors the next day after correctly guessing that the Orione, which barely survived the accident, had rammed U-557, but no survivors were found (Blair, 1996).


Blair, C. (1996). Hitler’s U-boat War. The Hunters, 1939-1942.
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).
Niestle, A. (1998). German U-boat losses during World War II.

Patrol info for Ottokar Arnold Paulssen

 U-boat Departure Arrival  
1. U-557 13 May 1941  Kiel  10 Jul 1941  Lorient  Patrol 1,59 days
2. U-557 13 Aug 1941  Lorient  15 Aug 1941  Lorient  Patrol 2,3 days
3. U-557 20 Aug 1941  Lorient  19 Sep 1941  Lorient  Patrol 2,31 days
4. U-557 19 Nov 1941  Lorient  7 Dec 1941  Messina  Patrol 3,19 days
5. U-557 9 Dec 1941  Messina  16 Dec 1941  Sunk  Patrol 4,8 days
4 patrols, 120 days at sea

Ships hit by Ottokar Arnold Paulssen

Date U-boat Name of ship Tons Nat. Convoy
29 May 1941U-557 Empire Storm7,290brHX-128
27 Aug 1941U-557 Segundo4,414nwOS-4
27 Aug 1941U-557 Saugor6,303brOS-4
27 Aug 1941U-557 Tremoda4,736brOS-4
27 Aug 1941U-557 Embassage4,954brOS-4
2 Dec 1941U-557 Fjord4,032nw
15 Dec 1941U-557 HMS Galatea (71)5,220br

7 ships sunk (36,949 tons).

We have a picture of this vessel.

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
(£ 38.25)

German U-boat Commanders of World War II

Busch, Rainer and Röll, Hans-Joachim

Naval Officers Under Hitler

Rust, Eric C.

Listing of all U-boat commanders

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