Günther Prien

Korvettenkapitän (Crew 31)


Successes
30 ships sunk, total tonnage 162,769 GRT
1 warship sunk, total tonnage 29,150 tons
8 ships damaged, total tonnage 62,751 GRT

Born  16 Jan 1908 Osterfeld, Thüringen
Died  7 Mar 1941(33)North Atlantic


Kapitänleutnant Günther Prien

Ranks

16 Jan 1933 Offiziersanwärter
1 Mar 1933 Fähnrich zur See
1 Jan 1935 Oberfähnrich zur See
1 Apr 1935 Leutnant zur See
1 Jan 1937 Oberleutnant zur See
1 Feb 1939 Kapitänleutnant
1 Mar 1941 Korvettenkapitän

Decorations

25 Sep 1939 Iron Cross 2nd Class
17 Oct 1939 Iron Cross 1st Class
18 Oct 1939 Knights Cross
20 Oct 1940 Knights Cross with Oak Leaves

U-boat Commands

U-boatFromTo
U-47 17 Dec 1938 7 Mar 1941  (+)  10 patrols (238 days) 

Günther Prien joined the Reichsmarine in January 1931 after sailing some years on trade ships. After a year on the light cruiser Königsberg, he transferred in October 1935 to the U-boat force. In 1938 he was on U-26 under Kptlt. Hartmann patrolling in Spanish waters during the Civil War.

With his own boat U-47 he became famous for his 14 October, 1939 sinking of the British battleship HMS Royal Oak in the heavily defended British North Fleet main harbor at Scapa Flow. Churchill himself wrote about this outstanding feat of arms of a German U-boat commander. Prien was the first U-boat commander to win the Knights Cross.

Günther Prien was described after Scapa Flow by a US journalist:

Berlin, October 18

The place where the German U-boat sank the British battleship Royal Oak was none other than the middle of Scapa Flow, Britain's greatest naval base! It sounds incredible. A World War submarine commander told me tonight that the Germans tried twice to get a U-boat into Scapa Flow during the last war, but both attempts failed and the submarines were lost.


Günther Prien during the press conference on 18 October.

Captain Prien, commander of the submarine, came tripping into our afternoon press conference at the Propaganda Ministry this afternoon, followed by his crew - boys of eighteen, nineteen, twenty. Prien is thirty, clean-cut, cocky, a fanatical Nazi, and obviously capable. Introduced by Hitler's press chief, Dr. Dietrich, who kept cursing the English and calling Churchill a liar, Prien told us little of how he did it. He said he had no trouble getting past the boom protecting the bay. I got the impression, though he said nothing to justify it, that he must have followed a British craft, perhaps a minesweeper, into the base. British negligence must have been something terrific. *

Prien welcomes another U-boat to base. Behind him is Otto Kretschmer.

During the next 18 months Prien proved that he was one of the best German commanders. On his sixth patrol in June 1940 he sank eight ships with a total of 51,483 tons. In convoy battles Prien often was the first who found the convoys and vectored in other boats.

For example, he took part in the convoy battle against HX-79, which he discovered and shadowed. U-47 brought in the other boats and sank four ships.

Admiral Dönitz suggested to Prien at that time that Prien should transfer to a training unit, but Prien decided to remain on his boat.

The death of Günther Prien

U-47 left Lorient (France) for her tenth patrol on 20 February, 1941. Just four days later they attacked convoy OB-290 and sank four ships with a total of 16,310 tons. The last radio message from U-47 was received in the morning of 7 March.

Günther Prien was killed when U-47 was lost with all hands (45 men) on 7 or 8 March, 1941.

Günther Prien went aboard for his last patrol on 20 February, 1941.

This incident is now being questioned, as the traditional credit for U-47's sinking has always been attributed to the British destroyer HMS Wolverine, but new data suggests that the destroyer was actually attacking Eckermann's UA which had to withdraw from the battle with heavy damage.

It is now speculated that U-47 was hit by one of her own circling torpedoes. (Two US submarines in the Pacific are also believed to have been lost to the same sort of equipment failure.)

* Shirer, William L. : Berlin Diary 1934 - 1941.

Sources

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 Günther Prien


 U-boat Departure Arrival  
1. U-47 19 Aug 1939  Kiel  15 Sep 1939  Kiel  Patrol 1,28 days
2. U-47 8 Oct 1939  Kiel  17 Oct 1939  Wilhelmshaven  Patrol 2,10 days
3. U-47 20 Oct 1939  Wilhelmshaven  21 Oct 1939  Kiel   2 days
4. U-47 16 Nov 1939  Kiel  18 Dec 1939  Kiel  Patrol 3,33 days
5. U-47 29 Feb 1940  Kiel  5 Mar 1940  Wilhelmshaven   6 days
6. U-47 11 Mar 1940  Wilhelmshaven  29 Mar 1940  Wilhelmshaven  Patrol 4,19 days
7. U-47 3 Apr 1940  Wilhelmshaven  26 Apr 1940  Kiel  Patrol 5,24 days
8. U-47 3 Jun 1940  Kiel  6 Jul 1940  Kiel  Patrol 6,34 days
9. U-47 27 Aug 1940  Kiel  25 Sep 1940  Lorient  Patrol 7,30 days
10. U-47 14 Oct 1940  Lorient  23 Oct 1940  Lorient  Patrol 8,10 days
11. U-47 3 Nov 1940  Lorient  6 Dec 1940  Lorient  Patrol 9,34 days
12. U-47 20 Feb 1941  Lorient  7 Mar 1941  Sunk  Patrol 10,16 days
10 patrols, 238 days at sea

Ships hit by Günther Prien

Date U-boat Commander Name of ship Tons Nat. Convoy
5 Sep 1939U-47Günther Prien Bosnia2,407br
6 Sep 1939U-47Günther Prien Rio Claro4,086br
7 Sep 1939U-47Günther Prien Gartavon1,777br
14 Oct 1939U-47Günther Prien HMS Royal Oak (08)29,150br
5 Dec 1939U-47Günther Prien Navasota8,795brOB-46
6 Dec 1939U-47Günther Prien Britta6,214nw
7 Dec 1939U-47Günther Prien Tajandoen8,159nl
 
25 Mar 1940U-47Günther Prien Britta1,146da
14 Jun 1940U-47Günther Prien Balmoralwood5,834brHX-47
21 Jun 1940U-47Günther Prien San Fernando13,056brHX-49
24 Jun 1940U-47Günther Prien Cathrine1,885pa
27 Jun 1940U-47Günther Prien Lenda4,005nw
27 Jun 1940U-47Günther Prien Leticia2,580nl
29 Jun 1940U-47Günther Prien Empire Toucan4,127br
30 Jun 1940U-47Günther Prien Georgios Kyriakides4,201gr
2 Jul 1940U-47Günther Prien Arandora Star15,501br
2 Sep 1940U-47Günther Prien Ville de Mons7,463be
4 Sep 1940U-47Günther Prien Titan9,035brOA-207
7 Sep 1940U-47Günther Prien Neptunian5,155brSC-2
7 Sep 1940U-47Günther Prien José de Larrinaga5,303brSC-2
7 Sep 1940U-47Günther Prien Gro4,211nwSC-2
9 Sep 1940U-47Günther Prien Possidon3,840grSC-2
21 Sep 1940U-47Günther Prien Elmbank (d.)5,156brHX-72
19 Oct 1940U-47Günther Prien Uganda4,966brHX-79
19 Oct 1940U-47Günther Prien Shirak (d.)6,023brHX-79
19 Oct 1940U-47Günther Prien Wandby4,947brHX-79
20 Oct 1940U-47Günther Prien La Estancia5,185brHX-79
20 Oct 1940U-47Günther Prien Whitford Point5,026brHX-79
20 Oct 1940U-47Günther Prien Athelmonarch (d.)8,995brHX-79
8 Nov 1940U-47Günther Prien Gonçalo Velho (d.)1,595pt
2 Dec 1940U-47Günther Prien Ville d’Arlon7,555beHX-90
2 Dec 1940U-47Günther Prien Conch (d.)8,376brHX-90
2 Dec 1940U-47Günther Prien Dunsley (d.)3,862brHX-90
 
26 Feb 1941U-47Günther Prien Kasongo5,254beOB-290
26 Feb 1941U-47Günther Prien Diala (d.)8,106brOB-290
26 Feb 1941U-47Günther Prien Borgland3,636nwOB-290
26 Feb 1941U-47Günther Prien Rydboholm3,197swOB-290
28 Feb 1941U-47Günther Prien Holmelea4,223brHX-109
7 Mar 1941U-47Günther Prien Terje Viken (d.)20,638brOB-293
 254,670

31 ships sunk (191,919 tons) and 8 ships damaged (62,751 tons).

Legend
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


U-Boat Attack Logs

Daniel Morgan and Bruce Taylor


U-Boat Commander

Prien, Günther


German U-boat Commanders of World War II

Busch, Rainer and Röll, Hans-Joachim


Wolf

Vause, Jordan

Listing of all U-boat commanders