Kriegsmarine Ranks

These pages illustrate the officer-ranks in the Kriegsmarine. We show the ranks here in the same progression as U-boat officers usually were promoted.

Every rank has its own page where some examples are given as well as assistance in identifying ranks of U-boat-officers as seen in photos.

(The drawings to the left of each rank show on the top the shoulder-strap and below it the stripes on the sleeves.)

Legend for special markings:
(R) means that the officer was a reservist and re-entered full duty
(zV) (zur Verwendung) means that the officer was voluntarily serving beyond a normal retirement age.


Fähnrich zur See

(Midshipman, cadet)

After serving for a year in the Kriegsmarine future officers were promoted to the Fähnrichs-rank. Then they usually started the officer's course at Marineschule Mürwik.


Oberfähnrich zur See


During the last few months before promotion to the Leutnant rank the Fähnrichs became an Oberfähnrich. In the prewar era 6 months were the norm, later on only one to three months was more common.


Leutnant zur See


In the Reichsmarine (until Crew 1930) the cadets needed 4 and half years to reach the Leutnant rank. This time then became shorter. Starting in 1938 the officers needed on average 2 years and 6 months to reach this rank.


Oberleutnant zur See


In the prewar years the officer with the rank of Leutnant needed one year and six to nine months before his promotion to Oberleutnant. In 1938 roughly 2 years were not uncommon.




Usually this next promotion took 3 to 4 years, but it was possible to reach this rank in as little as 18 months, depending on circumstances and successes while in command.




Before the war the Kapitänleutnant had to serve on average more than 5 years (Dönitz needed almost 8 years in the twenties), but during the war this time also became somewhat shorter. 'Teddy' Suhren was promoted to this rank after only 8 months!



(Captain-Junior Grade)

There were no exact rules for promotion to this rank. Common were 18 months and longer during the war.


Kapitän zur See


Also no exact rules. Exceptional was the promotion of Korvkpt. Wolfgang Lüth, who within only 18 months had achieved both the rank of a Fregattenkapitän and a Kapitän zur See. (The promotion to the Fregattenkapitän was antedated by a month.)