Herbert Wohlfarth

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-Schwenningen, Germany

Kapitänleutnant Herbert Wohlfarth


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 Oct 1940 Kapitänleutnant


6 Oct 1939 Iron Cross 2nd Class
20 Dec 1939 U-boat War Badge 1939
1 Oct 1940 Iron Cross 1st Class
15 May 1941 Knights Cross

U-boat Commands

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 standard 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 Admiral 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 took over command of the type IIB U-boat U-14. On his first three patrols he sank nine mainly smaller ships in Scottish and Norwegian waters. The fourth patrol in U-14 was for him, as for most other commanders during Operation Hartmut against Norway, unsuccessful.

Kptlt. Herbert Wohlfarth on patrol

On 15 June 1940 Herbert Wohlfarth commissioned U-137, another a type IIB boat, referred to as an '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 HMS Cheshire (10,552 tons), damaged so badly that she had to spend six months in the shipyard for repairs.

In the U-boat force Herbert Wohlfarth was 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!)

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 U-137, and two months later commissioned the larger type VIIC U-boat U-556. On the first patrol in the Atlantic he sank four ships with a total of 18,583 tons and damaged two more.

During his return he witnessed one of the most disastrous events in the history of the Kriegsmarine, the sinking of the battleship Bismarck. Wohlfarth was unable to help because he had already fired all his torpedoes. He saw a battleship and an aircraft carrier pass in front of his boat on their way to sink the pride of the German fleet 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 in U-556, but only eight days later the boat was sunk by the British corvettes HMS Nasturtium, HMS Celandine and HMS Gladiolus southwest of Iceland. Kptlt Wohlfarth and most of his crew were captured (Niestlé, 1998).

Herbert Wohlfarth 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

 U-boat Departure Arrival  
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

Date U-boat Commander Name of ship Tons Nat. Convoy
25 Jan 1940U-14Herbert Wohlfarth Biarritz1,752nw
15 Feb 1940U-14Herbert Wohlfarth Sleipner1,066da
16 Feb 1940U-14Herbert Wohlfarth Rhone1,064da
16 Feb 1940U-14Herbert Wohlfarth Osmed1,526sw
16 Feb 1940U-14Herbert Wohlfarth Liana1,646sw
7 Mar 1940U-14Herbert Wohlfarth Vecht1,965nl
9 Mar 1940U-14Herbert Wohlfarth Borthwick1,097br
9 Mar 1940U-14Herbert Wohlfarth Abbotsford1,585br
9 Mar 1940U-14Herbert Wohlfarth Akeld643br
26 Sep 1940U-137Herbert Wohlfarth Manchester Brigade6,042brOB-218
26 Sep 1940U-137Herbert Wohlfarth Ashantian (d.)4,917brOB-218
26 Sep 1940U-137Herbert Wohlfarth Stratford4,753brOB-218
14 Oct 1940U-137Herbert Wohlfarth HMS Cheshire (F 18) (d.)10,552br
13 Nov 1940U-137Herbert Wohlfarth Cape St. Andrew5,094brOB-240
16 Nov 1940U-137Herbert Wohlfarth Planter5,887brSLS-53
17 Nov 1940U-137Herbert Wohlfarth Saint Germain1,044brHG-46
17 Nov 1940U-137Herbert Wohlfarth Veronica1,316swHG-46
6 May 1941U-556Herbert Wohlfarth Emanuel166fa
10 May 1941U-556Herbert Wohlfarth Aelybryn (d.)4,986brOB-318
10 May 1941U-556Herbert Wohlfarth Empire Caribou4,861brOB-318
10 May 1941U-556Herbert Wohlfarth Gand5,086beOB-318
20 May 1941U-556Herbert Wohlfarth Darlington Court4,974brHX-126
20 May 1941U-556Herbert Wohlfarth British Security8,470brHX-126
20 May 1941U-556Herbert Wohlfarth Cockaponset5,995brHX-126

21 ships sunk (66,032 tons) and 3 ships damaged (20,455 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.

Men who sank over 50,000 tons

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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