U-boat Operations

The most successful U-boat patrols

U-46 under Kptlt. Endrass returning from patrol. He did not quite make these lists though.

The most important thing for the U-boat force was the success of its boats. Since the war was a "tonnage war" designed to sink more ships than the Allies could replace the size and number of ships sunk is the most important factor in determining success.

Below are two tables; the most successful patrols in terms of tonnage sunk or damaged and also listed by most succesful patrols in tons hit per day. A great number of ships sunk during a long war patrol is less valuable than the same number of ships sunk in much shorter patrol.

These numbers only count ships sunk. They do include warships. Please click on "View" for each patrol for full information.

Most successful patrols

Patrols with over 45,000 tons sunk

U-boat Type Commander Departure End of patrol Days Ships hit Tons Tons a day
1.U-107IXBKptlt. Günter Hessler29 Mar 19412 Jul 1941951486,699913View
2.U-105IXBKptlt. Georg Schewe22 Feb 194113 Jun 19411111271,450644View
3.U-103IXBKrvKpt. Viktor Schütze1 Apr 194112 Jul 19411021365,172639View
4.U-159IXCKptlt. Helmut Friedrich Witte24 Aug 19425 Jan 19431341163,730476View
5.U-158IXCKptlt. Erwin Rostin *4 May 194230 Jun 1942571262,5361,097View
6.U-99VIIBKptlt. Otto Kretschmer *22 Feb 194117 Mar 194123761,7112,683View
7.U-172IXCKptlt. Carl Emmermann19 Aug 194227 Dec 1942130860,048462View
8.U-515IXCKptlt. Werner Henke21 Feb 194324 Jun 19431231058,456475View
9.U-181IXD2Kptlt. Wolfgang Lüth12 Sep 194218 Jan 19431281258,381456View
10.U-68IXCKrvKpt. Karl-Friedrich Merten20 Aug 19426 Dec 1942108956,330522View
11.U-502IXCKptlt. Jürgen von Rosenstiel *22 Apr 19426 Jul 194275954,045721View
12.U-124IXBKptlt. Georg-Wilhelm Schulz23 Feb 19411 May 1941671153,297795View
13.U-130IXCKrvKpt. Ernst Kals4 Jul 194212 Sep 194270751,528736View
14.U-47VIIBKptlt. Günther Prien3 Jun 19406 Jul 194033851,1891,551View
15.U-68IXCKrvKpt. Karl-Friedrich Merten14 May 194210 Jul 194257750,774891View
16.U-123IXBKptlt. Reinhard Hardegen23 Dec 19419 Feb 194248950,7661,058View
17.U-159IXCKptlt. Helmut Friedrich Witte14 May 194213 Jul 1942601150,505842View
18.U-100VIIBKptlt. Joachim Schepke11 Sep 194025 Sep 194014750,3403,596View
19.U-508IXCKptlt. Georg Staats17 Oct 19426 Jan 194381950,265621View
20.U-177IXD2Kptlt. Robert Gysae17 Sep 194222 Jan 1943127849,371389View
21.U-66IXCKptlt. Friedrich Markworth23 Jun 194229 Sep 194298949,274503View
22.U-65IXBKptlt. Hans-Gerrit von Stockhausen15 Oct 194010 Jan 194187847,794549View
23.U-38IXKptlt. Heinrich Liebe9 Apr 194124 Jun 194176847,279622View
24.U-162IXCFrgKpt. Jürgen Wattenberg7 Apr 19428 Jun 194262947,181761View
25.U-178IXD2Kpt. Hans Ibbeken8 Sep 194210 Jan 1943124647,097380View
26.U-125IXCKptlt. Ulrich Folkers4 Apr 194213 Jun 194270947,055672View
27.U-106IXBOblt. Jürgen Oesten26 Feb 194117 Jun 1941111846,488419View
28.U-552VIICKptlt. Erich Topp7 Mar 194227 Apr 194251745,731897View
29.U-96VIICKptlt. Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock30 Jan 194128 Feb 194129745,3911,565View
30.U-181IXD2Kptlt. Wolfgang Lüth23 Mar 194314 Oct 19432051045,331221View
31.U-160IXCKptlt. Georg Lassen6 Jan 194310 May 1943124745,205365View

* The U-boat was lost during this patrol.

Kptlt. Joachim Schepke's patrol with his U-100 from 11 - 25 Sep 1940 was truly outstanding as he needed only 3 hours to sink these seven ships - he also only spent 14 days at sea, the shortest patrol on this list.

This list is dominated by the larger ocean-going type IX boats as they tended to patrol more distant areas and were loaded with more torpedoes than the smaller type VII boats we see more on the table below. Many of the patrols were to South African or American waters, taking long time to reach their areas but often offered plentiful hunting opportunities.

Most successful patrols, by tons per day

U-boat Type Commander Departure End of patrol Days Ships hit Tons Tons a day
1.U-32VIIAOblt. Hans Jenisch *24 Oct 194030 Oct 19406142,3487,058View
2.U-99VIIBKptlt. Otto Kretschmer30 Oct 19408 Nov 19409442,4074,712View
3.U-45VIIBKptlt. Alexander Gelhaar *9 Oct 193914 Oct 19395219,3133,863View
4.U-100VIIBKptlt. Joachim Schepke11 Sep 194025 Sep 194014750,3403,596View
5.U-47VIIBKptlt. Günther Prien8 Oct 193917 Oct 19399129,1503,239View
6.U-99VIIBKptlt. Otto Kretschmer13 Oct 194022 Oct 19409627,3963,044View
7.U-99VIIBKptlt. Otto Kretschmer25 Jul 19405 Aug 194011432,3452,940View
8.U-34VIIAKptlt. Wilhelm Rollmann23 Jul 19403 Aug 194011529,9902,726View
9.U-99VIIBKptlt. Otto Kretschmer *22 Feb 194117 Mar 194123761,7112,683View
10.U-99VIIBKptlt. Otto Kretschmer27 Nov 194012 Dec 194015434,2912,286View
11.U-47VIIBKptlt. Günther Prien14 Oct 194023 Oct 19409420,1242,236View
12.U-96VIICKptlt. Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock9 Jan 194122 Jan 194113229,0542,235View
13.U-138IIDOblt. Wolfgang Lüth10 Sep 194026 Sep 194016434,6442,165View
14.U-57IICOblt. Erich Topp15 Jul 194020 Jul 19405210,6122,122View
15.U-48VIIBKptlt. Heinrich Bleichrodt8 Sep 194025 Sep 194017734,4182,025View
16.U-32VIIAOblt. Hans Jenisch18 Sep 19406 Oct 194018735,7821,988View
17.U-48VIIBKptlt. Heinrich Bleichrodt5 Oct 194027 Oct 194022743,1061,959View
18.U-558VIICKptlt. Günther Krech11 Oct 194125 Oct 194114426,9881,928View
19.U-37IXKptlt. Victor Oehrn17 Aug 194030 Aug 194013724,4091,878View
20.U-123IXBKptlt. Karl-Heinz Moehle14 Nov 194028 Nov 194014525,6761,834View

* The U-boat was lost during this patrol.

Otto Kretschmer's achievements can clearly be seen on this list. He took his U-99 out on 8 patrols and 5 of those are on the top 10 best patrols by tons sunk per day! Jenish's score of a single 42,348 ton ship during a 6-day patrol is also impossible to beat.

This list is dominated by the smaller type VII boats as they tended to have shorter patrols and carried much fewer torpedoes than the larger type IX boats.

U-boat Operations