Fregattenkapitän (Crew 30)
40 ships sunk, total tonnage 208,954 GRT
3 auxiliary warships sunk, total tonnage 46,440 GRT
1 warship sunk, total tonnage 1,375 tons
1 ship sunk, total tonnage 2,136 GRT
5 ships damaged, total tonnage 37,965 GRT
2 ships a total loss, total tonnage 15,513 GRT
|Born||1 May 1912||Heidau, Liegnitz|
|Died||5 Aug 1998||(86)||Bavaria|
|U-35||31 Jul 1937||15 Aug 1937||No war patrols|
|U-23||1 Oct 1937||1 Apr 1940||8 patrols (97 days)|
|U-99||18 Apr 1940||17 Mar 1941||8 patrols (127 days)|
Kptlt. Kretschmer (right) after patrol on U-99
on the 21st July 1940 in Lorient (France)
Before the 17-year-old Otto Kretschmer began his naval career he spent eight months in Exeter, England where he mastered the English language. Beginning in April 1930 he went through the usual officer training, spending three months on the sailing school ship Niobe and more than a year on the light cruiser Emden.
He served on the light cruiser Köln starting in December 1934, and in January 1936 transferred to the U-boat force. Here he received a solid pre-war training as a U-boat officer. His first command was on U-35 and there he participated in a patrol in Spanish waters in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.
In September 1937 he left U-35 and took over the Type II U-boat U-23. After the outbreak of the war he won his first successes with U-23 on some patrols in the North Sea in the area of the English and Scottish east coast.
In November 1939 he laid nine mines in Moray Firth, Scotland. The first great success for Otto Kretschmer was the sinking of the Danish tanker Danmark (10,517 tons) on 12 January 1940.
Just over a month later he sank the British destroyer HMS Daring (1,375 tons).
He left U-23 in April 1940 and in the same month commissioned U-99. After two months of training U-99 left Kiel for her first patrol in June 1940. In the course of the next patrols Otto Kretschmer became famous on his U-99 for his night-time surface attacks against convoys, and there his motto "One torpedo ... one ship" was created!
Especially notable was the sinking of three British Armed Merchant Cruisers, Laurentic (18,724 tons), Patroclus (11,314 tons) and Forfar (16,402 tons) in November 1940 with a total of more than 46,000 tons. At that time Silent Otto became the "tonnage king" among U-boat men, never to be dethroned.
On his last patrol he was also very successful and attacked 10 ships. He was captured after scuttling U-99 at 0343hrs on 17 March, 1941 (Schepke was lost in the same battle) south-east of Iceland in approximate position 61N, 12W after depth charge damage inflicted by the British destroyer HMS Walker (Niestlé, 1998). Kretschmer managed to surface his badly damaged boat and save 40 out of his 43-man crew (his chief engineer died) before the boat sank again for the last time.
(c) 1997 Stephen Ames
After his capture he spent more than six and a half years in British captivity. For more than four years he was held in Canada in Camp 30 (often referred to as Camp Bowmanville), from where he maintained contact with BdU. In December 1947 he returned to Germany.
In 1955 Otto Kretschmer joined the Bundesmarine (postwar German navy), in 1957 becoming commander of the 1. Geleitgeschwader (1st Escort Squadron). In November 1958 he became commander of the Amphibische Streitkräfte (Amphibian Forces). Starting in 1962 he served in several staff positions before becoming Chief of Staff of the NATO Command COMNAVBALTAP in May 1965, a position he held for four years. He retired in September 1970 with a rank of Flotillenadmiral.
During a vacation during the summer of 1998 Otto Kretschmer died in hospital in Bavaria after an accident.
You can listen to Silent Otto speaking of his experiences here.
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).
Niestlé, A. (1998). German U-boat losses during World War II.
Rohwer, J. (1998). Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two.
Patrol info for Otto Kretschmer
|1.||U-23||25 Aug 1939||Wilhelmshaven||4 Sep 1939||Wilhelmshaven||Patrol 1,||11 days|
|2.||U-23||9 Sep 1939||Wilhelmshaven||21 Sep 1939||Kiel||Patrol 2,||13 days|
|3.||U-23||29 Sep 1939||Kiel||30 Sep 1939||Wilhelmshaven||2 days|
|4.||U-23||1 Oct 1939||Wilhelmshaven||16 Oct 1939||Kiel||Patrol 3,||16 days|
|5.||U-23||1 Nov 1939||Kiel||9 Nov 1939||Kiel||Patrol 4,||9 days|
|6.||U-23||5 Dec 1939||Kiel||15 Dec 1939||Kiel||Patrol 5,||11 days|
|7.||U-23||8 Jan 1940||Kiel||15 Jan 1940||Wilhelmshaven||Patrol 6,||8 days|
|8.||U-23||18 Jan 1940||Wilhelmshaven||29 Jan 1940||Wilhelmshaven||Patrol 7,||12 days|
|9.||U-23||9 Feb 1940||Wilhelmshaven||25 Feb 1940||Wilhelmshaven||Patrol 8,||17 days|
|10.||U-23||26 Feb 1940||Wilhelmshaven||28 Feb 1940||Kiel||3 days|
|11.||U-99||18 Jun 1940||Kiel||25 Jun 1940||Wilhelmshaven||Patrol 9,||8 days|
|12.||U-99||27 Jun 1940||Wilhelmshaven||21 Jul 1940||Lorient||Patrol 10,||25 days|
|13.||U-99||25 Jul 1940||Lorient||5 Aug 1940||Lorient||Patrol 11,||12 days|
|14.||U-99||4 Sep 1940||Lorient||25 Sep 1940||Lorient||Patrol 12,||22 days|
|15.||U-99||13 Oct 1940||Lorient||22 Oct 1940||Lorient||Patrol 13,||10 days|
|16.||U-99||30 Oct 1940||Lorient||8 Nov 1940||Lorient||Patrol 14,||10 days|
|17.||U-99||27 Nov 1940||Lorient||12 Dec 1940||Lorient||Patrol 15,||16 days|
|18.||U-99||22 Feb 1941||Lorient||17 Mar 1941||Sunk||Patrol 16,||24 days|
|16 patrols, 224 days at sea|
Ships hit by Otto Kretschmer
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.