Horst Willner

Oberleutnant zur See (Crew 38)

No ships sunk or damaged.

Born  13 Oct 1919 Klotzsche
Died  19 Jul 1999(79)Bremen, Germany

Oblt. Horst Willner with his daughter Barbara after the rescue (photo from Hamburger Abendblatt)


1 Oct 1938 Offiziersanwärter
1 Jul 1939 Seekadett
1 Dec 1939 Fähnrich zur See
1 Aug 1940 Oberfähnrich zur See
1 Apr 1941 Leutnant zur See
1 Jan 1943 Oberleutnant zur See


  Iron Cross 1st Class
  Iron Cross 2nd Class

U-boat Commands

U-58 15 Dec 1942 Feb, 1944   No war patrols 
U-96 Feb, 1944 Jun, 1944   No war patrols 
U-3505 7 Oct 1944 3 Apr 1945   No war patrols 
U-3034 15 Apr 1945 4 May 1945   No war patrols 

Horst Willner joined the Kriegsmarine in 1938. He served as the First Watch Officer (1WO) on the U-405 from July to Oct 1942, going out on two patrols spending 58 days at sea. From Oct to Nov 1942 Willner went through his U-boat Commander training with the 24th (Training) Flotilla at Memel (Klaipeda).

On 15 Dec 1942 Lnt. Horst Willner was given command of the school boat U-58 but in Feb 1944 he took command of the famous U-96 (Das Boot boat) until June 1944. In July he was sent to U-boat familiarization (Baubelehrung) of the new type XXI Elektro boats. He took command of the type XXI boat U-3505 on 7 Oct 1944 at Danzig (Gdansk). The boat was destined to serve as a torpedo testing platform and was assigned to the 8th (Training) Flotilla at Danzig. In mid Feb 1945 the boat was assigned the the 5th (Training) Flotilla at Kiel.

U 3505 and the Children from Hela
On 28 March 1945 the 25-year old Oblt. Horst Willner took his new type XXI Elektro boat U-3505 from Gotenhafen (Gdynia, Poland) and rescued many women and children, including his own wife and child. His wife Ursula had planned to escape with their 3 month-old daughter Barbara on the liner Wilhelm Gustloff and had even boarded the ship when Willner came aboard and took them to his base. To get his wife on board at the base at Danzig (Gdansk, Poland) Willner had her disguised as a sailor and their daughter hidden in a duffel bag. Such an action was strictly forbidden and punishable by death.

The approximate route taken by U-3505 during the rescue.

Then the boat sailed to Gotenhafen (Gdynia, Poland) and picked up additional 110 women and children before heading for the Baltic and the safety in the west. The boat stopped at Bornholm island for supplies before heading further west, finally arriving safely with its unusual cargo to Travemünde (Lübeck) on 2 April. The Soviet Army captured Danzig only 2 days after U-3505 left the city.

A type XXI boat, same Type as U-3505 used in the rescue operation.

Then U-3505 sailed to Kiel but was destroyed during an air raid the following day, 3 April. Willner then took command of the sister boat U-3034 which he scuttled on 4 May 1945.

Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by Soviet submarine on 30 Jan 1945 with about 9,400 people lost in the worst tragedy at sea in recorded history.


ZDF-History - Das U-Boot und die Kinder
Wikipedia. U 3505.

Patrol info for Horst Willner

This commander did not go out on patrols with his boats.

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

German U-boat Commanders of World War II

Busch, Rainer and Röll, Hans-Joachim

Listing of all U-boat commanders

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