The U-boat Crew

These pages show the composition of a typical U-boat crew and the duties of all its members, together with the specialist instruction they received.


Kommandant (Commander, captain)
The captain has the highest responsibility as he routinely made life or death decisions affecting the fate of the entire crew. It was not surprising therefore that the crew identified closely with their captain, and were especially proud if he had been awarded a medal.

Wachoffizier (1WO) (Watch officer, exec officer, first watch)
The second in command. He shadowed the CO closely so that he could take command if the CO fell ill or was killed in battle. His other responsibilities included the boat's weapons systems and conducting torpedo aiming during surface attacks.

Wachoffizier (2WO) (Watch officer, second watch)
He was responsible for the watchcrew on deck, the Flak gun and the deck gun. He also oversaw the radio room crew.

Leitender Ingenieur (LI) (Chief engineer)
A highly experienced officer, he was responsible for the maintenance of the U-boat's mechanics, which included the engines, motors, batteries, and other mechanical systems. The LI also set the demolition charges in the event the boat had to be scuttled. This also meant that many LIs went down with the boat, some of them deliberately.

Chief Petty Officers

Navigator (Chief boatswain)
Navigation and provisioning of supplies.

Bootsmann Navigator
Crew discipline.

Diesel Obermaschinist (Diesel officer)
Subordinate to the LI, he was responsible for the diesels.

Electro Obermaschinist (Electric motor officer)
Subordinate to the LI, he was responsible for the Electric motors and batteries.

Petty Officers (Unteroffiziere)

Steuermann (Helmsman)

Torpedo-Personal (Torpedo personnel)
Mecanikaermaat (Torpedoman's mate)
Mechaniker (Torpedo Mechanic)
Care and maintenance of torpedoes

Maschinisten (Machinist, motormen)
Obermaschinist (Warrant machinist)
Running of the engines

Funk-Personal (Radio personnel)
Oberfunkmeister (Senior Radio Petty Officer)
Funkmaat (Radio Petty Officer)
Funkgast (Radio operator)
Communications and sound equipment

Obersteuermann (Chief Quartermaster)
Crew supervision, discipline

Seaman (Matrosen)

Seemännisches Personal (Nautical personnel)
Technisches Personal (Technical personnel)
Zentrale-Personal (Control room personnel)
Artilleriemechaniker-Personal (Gunnery mechanical personnel)
Koch, 'Smutje' (Cook)

Additional personnel

Bordarzt, Sanitätsmaat (doctor)
Flak Personal (anti aircraft personnel)
PK-Leute (war correspondent)
Meteorologe (meteorologist)
B-Dienst (intelligence personnel)

'Guests' on board

Evacuated personnel
Fished pilots (friendly and not)
Rescued U-boat crews
Rescued ship crews
Subhas Chandra Bose (an Indian political activist)