Korvettenkapitän (Crew 33)
21 ships sunk, total tonnage 112,447 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|
|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 during navigation
Reinhard Hardegen began his naval career in April 1933. After two and a half years he transferred, like some other naval officers, to the Marineflieger (naval air force), a part of the Kriegsmarine. Here he received training as an aircraft observer and later as a pilot. After a crash and an ensuing six months in hospital, in November 1939 he transferred to the U-boat force.
He received his first experience on U-124 under Kptlt. Schulz. In December 1940 he became commander of U-147. On his first patrol as commander 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 with this boat 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 harbor by two destroyers.
At this time, Hardegen's medical history finally caught up with him. Due to injuries received in the 1936 plane crash, Hardegen had actually been classed 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 had learned of Hardegen's lingering injuries (including a shortened leg and chronic bleeding of the stomach which required a special diet of easily-digested foods), 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. The operation was called Paukenschlag (Drumbeat).
On 12 January, 1942, before reaching the operational area, Hardegen sank the British freighter Cyclops in Canadian waters. This was two days before Operation Paukenschlag officially was to start in US waters. But 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, which sank 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 by radio the announcement that he had been decorated with the Knights Cross.
Kptlt. Reinhard Hardegen after patrol
In March 1942 Hardegen was once more on patrol with 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 received the Oak Leaves to his Knights Cross while still at sea. In May 1942 Hardegen brought U-123 back to Kiel for some necessary repairs.
On 31 July, 1942 he left the boat and became an instructor in the 27th Flotilla in Gotenhafen. In March 1943 Kptlt. Hardegen became chief of U-boat training in the torpedo school at Mürwik. Then he served for a few months in the Torpedowaffenamt (torpedo weapon department), before becoming a battalion commander in the 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. Then he built up a successful oil trading company and was a member of Parliament in his hometown of Bremen for 32 years.
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
|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
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.