Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock

Fregattenkapitän (Crew 31)

24 ships sunk, total tonnage 170,237 GRT
2 ships damaged, total tonnage 15,864 GRT
1 ship a total loss, total tonnage 8,888 GRT

Born  11 Dec 1911 Bremen
Died  18 Apr 1986(74)Bremen, Germany

Kptlt. Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock


1 Apr 1931 Offiziersanwärter
14 Oct 1931 Seekadett
1 Jan 1933 Fähnrich zur See
1 Jan 1935 Oberfähnrich zur See
1 Apr 1935 Leutnant zur See
1 Jan 1937 Oberleutnant zur See
1 Oct 1939 Kapitänleutnant
1 Mar 1943 Korvettenkapitän
1 Dec 1944 Fregattenkapitän


20 Apr 1940 Iron Cross 2nd Class
31 Dec 1940 Iron Cross 1st Class
2 Jan 1941 U-boat War Badge 1939
26 Feb 1941 Knights Cross
31 Dec 1941 Knights Cross with Oak Leaves

U-boat Commands

U-8 14 Oct 1939 30 Nov 1939   No war patrols 
U-5 5 Dec 1939 11 Aug 1940   1 patrol (16 days) 
U-96 14 Sep 1940 1 Apr 1942   8 patrols (267 days) 
U-256 2 Sep 1944 23 Oct 1944   1 patrol (44 days) 

Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock began his naval career in April 1931, serving for more than a year on the light cruiser Karlsruhe (together with Karl-Friedrich Merten) and 18 months on the sailing school ship Horst Wessel.

In April 1939 he transferred to the U-boat force, and completed standard officer training. After a short time on board U-8 he took command of U-5 in December 1939. Lehmann-Willenbrock made his first patrol in Norwegian waters during Operation Hartmut (the occupation of Norway in spring 1940).

In August 1940 he left U-5 and a month later commissioned the type VIIC U-boat U-96.

After three months of training the U-boat was attached to the 7th Flotilla at St Nazaire, France. Lehmann-Willenbrock took U-96 on eight patrols. His third patrol in February 1942 resulted in seven ships sunk with a total of 49,490 tons. On 25 February 1942 the daily Wehrmachtsbericht announced:

An dem großen Erfolg der Unterseebootswaffe ist das Boot des Kapitänleutnants Lehmann-Willenbrock mit 55,600 BRT hervorragend beteiligt. Kapitänleutnant Lehmann-Willenbrock hat damit in kurzer Zeit 125,580 BRT feindlichen Handelsschiffsraumes vernichtet.

(Kapitänleutnant Lehmann-Willenbrock's boat has contributed to the great success of the U-boat force with 55,600 tons sunk. Kapitänleutnant Lehmann-Willenbrock within a short span of time has sunk a total of 125,580 tons of enemy shipping.)

A war corespondent, Sonderführer-Leutnant Lothar-Günther Buchheim, accompanied U-96 on her seventh patrol. Thirty years later he wrote about his experiences on board in a book entitled Das Boot. Lehmann-Willenbrock served as the model for the commander in that book.

Lehmann-Willenbrock left U-96 in March 1942 to command the 9th Flotilla at Brest. Korvettenkapitän Lehmann-Willenbrock left Brest for his last patrol in U-256 in September 1944, just a few days before American forces occupied the town.

He arrived at Bergen, Norway in U-256, where in December 1944 he became commander of the 11th Flotilla, a position he held until the end of the war.

After a year in captivity, Lehmann-Willenbrock returned to Germany in May 1946 and worked with Karl-Friedrich Merten on the salvage of sunken ships in the river Rhine. In 1948 together with three friends he built the sailing ship Magellan. They sailed together to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they initiated a regatta.

Later he was skipper of several merchant ships. In March 1959 he showed great courage as skipper of the freighter Inga Bastian when he and his crew saved 57 survivors from the burning Brazilian ship Commandante Lyra. In 1969 he became captain of the German nuclear research ship Otto Hahn, a post which he held for more than ten years.

For his outstanding service after the war he was decorated with the Bundes-Verdienstkreuz am Bande (Federal German Merit Cross 2nd class) in 1974. He was chairman of the U-Bootskameradschaft Bremen (U-boat comrades association Bremen) for many years, whose headquarters bear his name to this day.

35 years later.
Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock on the set with Jürgen Prochnow
who played the commander ("Der Alte") in Das Boot.


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).
Rohwer, J. (1998). Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two.

Patrol info for Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock

 U-boat Departure Arrival  
1. U-5 4 Apr 1940  Wilhelmshaven  19 Apr 1940  Wilhelmshaven  Patrol 1,16 days
2. U-96 4 Dec 1940  Kiel  29 Dec 1940  Lorient  Patrol 2,26 days
3. U-96 9 Jan 1941  Lorient  22 Jan 1941  Lorient  Patrol 3,14 days
4. U-96 30 Jan 1941  Lorient  28 Feb 1941  St. Nazaire  Patrol 4,30 days
5. U-96 12 Apr 1941  St. Nazaire  22 May 1941  St. Nazaire  Patrol 5,41 days
6. U-96 19 Jun 1941  St. Nazaire  9 Jul 1941  St. Nazaire  Patrol 6,21 days
7. U-96 2 Aug 1941  St. Nazaire  12 Sep 1941  St. Nazaire  Patrol 7,42 days
8. U-96 27 Oct 1941  St. Nazaire  6 Dec 1941  St. Nazaire  Patrol 8,41 days
9. U-96 31 Jan 1942  St. Nazaire  23 Mar 1942  St. Nazaire  Patrol 9,52 days
10. U-256 4 Sep 1944  Brest  17 Oct 1944  Bergen  Patrol 10,44 days
10 patrols, 327 days at sea

Ships hit by Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock

Date U-boat Commander Name of ship Tons Nat. Convoy
11 Dec 1940U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Rotorua10,890brHX-92
11 Dec 1940U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Towa5,419nlHX-92
12 Dec 1940U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Stureholm4,575swHX-92
12 Dec 1940U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Macedonier5,227beHX-92
14 Dec 1940U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Western Prince10,926br
14 Dec 1940U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Empire Razorbill (d.)5,118brOB-257
18 Dec 1940U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Pendrecht (d.)10,746nlOB-259
16 Jan 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Oropesa14,118br
17 Jan 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Almeda Star14,936br
13 Feb 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Clea7,987brHX-106
13 Feb 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Arthur F. Corwin10,516brHX-106
18 Feb 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Black Osprey5,589brHX-107
22 Feb 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Scottish Standard6,999brOB-287
23 Feb 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Anglo-Peruvian5,457brOB-288
24 Feb 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Linaria3,385brOB-288
24 Feb 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Sirikishna5,458brOB-288
28 Apr 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Caledonia9,892nwHX-121
28 Apr 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Oilfield8,516brHX-121
28 Apr 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Port Hardy8,897brHX-121
19 May 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Empire Ridge2,922brHG-61
5 Jul 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Anselm5,954br
31 Oct 1941U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Bennekom5,998nlOS-10
19 Feb 1942U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Empire Seal7,965br
20 Feb 1942U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Lake Osweya2,398am
22 Feb 1942U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Torungen1,948nw
22 Feb 1942U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Kars (t.)8,888br
9 Mar 1942U-96Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock Tyr4,265nw

25 ships sunk (179,125 tons) and 2 ships damaged (15,864 tons).

We have a picture of this vessel.
(d.) means the ship was damaged.
(t.) means the ship was a total loss (included in ships & tonnage lost).

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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