Reinhard Hardegen

Korvettenkapitän (Crew 33)

22 ships sunk, total tonnage 113,792 GRT
1 auxiliary warship sunk, total tonnage 3,209 GRT
4 ships damaged, total tonnage 32,516 GRT
1 auxiliary warship damaged, total tonnage 13,984 GRT

Born  18 Mar 1913 Bremen
Died  9 Jun 2018(105)Bremen

Kapitänleutnant Reinhard Hardegen


1 Apr 1933 Offiziersanwärter
1 Jul 1934 Fähnrich zur See
1 Apr 1936 Oberfähnrich zur See
1 Oct 1936 Leutnant zur See
1 Jun 1938 Oberleutnant zur See
1 Dec 1940 Kapitänleutnant
1 Mar 1944 Korvettenkapitän


18 Sep 1940 Iron Cross 2nd Class
18 Nov 1940 U-boat War Badge 1939
23 Aug 1941 Iron Cross 1st Class
23 Jan 1942 Knights Cross
23 Apr 1942 Knights Cross with Oak Leaves
7 May 1942 U-boat War Badge with Diamonds

U-boat Commands

U-147 11 Dec 1940 4 Apr 1941   1 patrol (19 days) 
U-123 19 May 1941 31 Jul 1942   4 patrols (221 days) 

Kptlt. Hardegen at the chart table

Reinhard Hardegen began his naval career in April 1933. After two and a half years he was transferred, together with other officers, to the Marineflieger (Naval Air Force) branch of the Kriegsmarine. He was trained as an aircraft observer and later as a pilot. Following a crash and an ensuing six months in hospital, he transferred to the U-boat force in November 1939.

He received his first operational experience on U-124, under Kptlt. Schulz. In December 1940 he was made commander of U-147. On his first patrol in her in March 1941 he sank the Norwegian steamer Augvald (4,811 tons).

On 16 May 1941 he took over U-123, a very successful boat, from Kptlt. Karl-Heinz Moehle. On his first patrol, in summer 1941 in West African waters, Hardegen sank five ships with a total of 21,507 tons. In October 1941 he torpedoed the British auxiliary cruiser HMS Aurania (13,984 tons), but the badly damaged ship was towed to harbour by two destroyers.

Hardegen's medical history then finally caught up with him. Due to injuries received in the 1936 plane crash, Hardegen had actually been classed as unfit for U-boat service. However, his papers had repeatedly arrived at each training location after he had already departed for the next. Now Dönitz learned of Hardegen's lingering injuries (including a shortened leg and chronic bleeding of the stomach which required a special diet), but rewarded Hardegen's dedication by permitting him to carry out two further patrols.

On 23 December 1941 U-123 left Lorient on a special mission. She was one of five U-boats ordered to launch an attack against the eastern coast of the United States, part of operation Paukenschlag (Drumbeat).

On 12 January 1942, before reaching the operational area, Hardegen sank the British freighter Cyclops in Canadian waters. Although this was two days before the official start of Operation Paukenschlag, the commanders had permission to sink ships on the crossing to the US coast if they were larger than 10,000 tons. The next two weeks were very successful for U-123, sinking nine ships with a total of 53,173 tons. On 20 January Dönitz sent the following radiogram:

    An den Paukenschläger Hardegen. Bravo! Gut gepaukt. Dönitz.
    (For the drum-beater Hardegen. Well done! Good beating. Dönitz. )

Three days later Hardegen received a radio message that he had been awarded the Knights Cross.

Kptlt. Reinhard Hardegen after patrol

In March 1942 Hardegen was once more in U-123 off the US east coast. During this second Drumbeat patrol he sank ten ships with a total of 57,170 tons. For this additional outstanding patrol he was awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knights Cross while still at sea. In May 1942 Hardegen brought U-123 back to Kiel for repair.

On 31 July 1942 he left U-123 to become an instructor with the 27th (Training) Flotilla in Gotenhafen. In March 1943 Kptlt. Hardegen became chief of U-boat training at the Torpedo School at Mürwik. After then serving in the Torpedowaffenamt (torpedo technical department) for a few months, he was made a battalion commander in Marine Infanterie Regiment 6 in February 1945.

After the war Reinhard Hardegen spent more than a year in British captivity before returning home in November 1946. He built up a successful oil trading company and was a representative in the parliament of his hometown of Bremen for 20 years.

You can hear Mr. Hardegen speak of his experiences here.


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).
Rohwer, J. (1998). Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two.

Patrol info for Reinhard Hardegen

 U-boat Departure Arrival  
1. U-147 9 Feb 1941  Kiel  16 Feb 1941  Bergen   8 days
2. U-147 22 Feb 1941  Bergen  12 Mar 1941  Kiel  Patrol 1,19 days
3. U-123 8 Jun 1941  Lorient  12 Jun 1941  Lorient   5 days
4. U-123 15 Jun 1941  Lorient  23 Aug 1941  Lorient  Patrol 2,70 days
5. U-123 14 Oct 1941  Lorient  22 Nov 1941  Lorient  Patrol 3,40 days
6. U-123 23 Dec 1941  Lorient  9 Feb 1942  Lorient  Patrol 4,49 days
7. U-123 2 Mar 1942  Lorient  2 May 1942  Lorient  Patrol 5,62 days
8. U-123 16 May 1942  Lorient  24 May 1942  Bergen   9 days
9. U-123 25 May 1942  Bergen  26 May 1942  Kristiansand   2 days
10. U-123 26 May 1942  Kristiansand  27 May 1942  Aarhus   2 days
11. U-123 28 May 1942  Aarhus  29 May 1942  Kiel   2 days
12. U-123 3 Jun 1942  Kiel  5 Jun 1942  Stettin   3 days
5 patrols, 240 days at sea

Ships hit by Reinhard Hardegen

Date U-boat Commander Name of ship Tons Nat. Convoy
2 Mar 1941U-147Reinhard Hardegen Augvald4,811nwHX-109
20 Jun 1941U-123Reinhard Hardegen Ganda4,333pt
27 Jun 1941U-123Reinhard Hardegen P.L.M. 225,646brSL-78
27 Jun 1941U-123Reinhard Hardegen Oberon1,996nlSL-78
29 Jun 1941U-123Reinhard Hardegen Rio Azul4,088brSL-78
4 Jul 1941U-123Reinhard Hardegen Auditor5,444brOB-337
21 Oct 1941U-123Reinhard Hardegen HMS Aurania (F 28) (d.)13,984brSL-89
12 Jan 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Cyclops9,076br
14 Jan 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Norness9,577pa
15 Jan 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Coimbra6,768br
17 Jan 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Octavian1,345nw
19 Jan 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Norvana2,677am
19 Jan 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen City of Atlanta5,269am
19 Jan 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Malay (d.)8,206am
19 Jan 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Ciltvaira3,779le
25 Jan 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Culebra3,044brON-53
27 Jan 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Pan Norway9,231nwON-56
22 Mar 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Muskogee7,034am
24 Mar 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Empire Steel8,138br
27 Mar 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen USS Atik (AK 101)3,209am
2 Apr 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Liebre (d.)7,057am
8 Apr 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Oklahoma (d.)9,264am
8 Apr 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Esso Baton Rouge (d.)7,989am
9 Apr 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Esparta3,365am
11 Apr 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Gulfamerica8,081am
13 Apr 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Leslie2,609am
13 Apr 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Korsholm2,647sw
17 Apr 1942U-123Reinhard Hardegen Alcoa Guide4,834am

23 ships sunk (117,001 tons) and 5 ships damaged (46,500 tons).

We have a picture of this vessel.
(d.) means the ship was damaged.

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

German U-boat Commanders of World War II

Busch, Rainer and Röll, Hans-Joachim

Q-ships versus U-boats

Beyer, Kenneth

Operation Drumbeat

Gannon, Michael

Aces of the Reich

Williamson, Gordon

Listing of all U-boat commanders

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