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