Prien, Günther

    Date of birth:
    January 16th, 1908 (Osterfeld/Thuringia, Germany)
    Date of death:
    March 7th, 1941 (North Atlantic Ocean)
    Nationality:
    German (1933-1945, German Reich)

    Biography

    Günther Prien joined the Reichsmarine in January 1931 after sailing some years on trade ships. After a year on the light cruiser Königsberg, he transferred in October 1935 to the U-boat force. In 1938 he was on U-26 under Kptlt. Hartmann patrolling in Spanish waters during the Civil War. With his own boat U-47 he became famous for his 14 October, 1939 sinking of the British battleship HMS Royal Oak in the heavily defended British North Fleet main harbor at Scapa Flow.
    Following later patrols, Prien was awarded the Oakleaves in 1940; he was killed when the U-47 was sunk on 7 or 8 March 1941, not long after being promoted to the rank of Korvettenkapitän and making his tenth patrol. This incident is now being questioned, as the traditional credit for U-47's sinking has always been attributed to the British destroyer HMS Wolverine, but new data suggests that the destroyer was actually attacking Eckermann's UA (a foreign U-boat captured by the Germans and commissioned into the Kriegsmarine) which had to withdraw from the battle with heavy damage. It is now speculated that U-47 was hit by one of her own circling torpedoes. (Two US submarines in the Pacific are also believed to have been lost to the same sort of equipment failure.)
    Although Prien was at sea for under two years, Prien's record stands high among the U-boat aces during the Second World War. He spent 228 days at sea, sinking 30 ships for a total of 162.768 tons, 1 warship for a total of 29.150 tons and damaged 8 ships for a total of 62.751 tons.

    Promotions:
    1st March 1933: Fähnrich zur See;
    1st January 1935: Oberfähnrich zur See;
    1st April 1935: Leutnant zur See;
    1st January 1937: Oberleutnant zur See;
    1st February 1939: Kapitänleutnant;
    18th March 1941: Korvettenkapitän (RDA 1 maart 1941).

    Career:
    1923: Handelsmarine;
    1923: Grundausbildung Seemannsschule, Hamburg;
    1923: Schiffsjunge Segelschiff Hamburg;
    1929: Steuermannsexamen;
    1932: Kapitänspatent;
    16th January 1933: Eintritt in die Reichsmarine-Crew 33;
    16thJanuary 1933 - 31st March 1933: Infanterieausbildung II.Abteilung / Schiffsstammdivision der Ostsee, Stralsund;
    1st April 1933 - 30th September 1934: Fähnrichslehrgänge (Haupt- und Waffenlehrgänge), Marineschulen Flensburg-Mürwik / Kiel.
    1st October 1934 - 30th September 1935: Wach- und Divisionsleutnant Leichten Kreuzer Königsberg;
    1st October 1935 - 30th April 1936: U-Ausbildung, U-Bootschule Kiel / Torpedo-B-Lehrgang "U 3";
    1st May 1935 - 10th May 1935: Zur Verfügung des Führers der U-Boote;
    11th May 1936 - 30th September 1938: I. Wachoffizier "U 26" / U-Flottille Saltzwedel, Wilhelmshaven;
    6th May 1937 - 15th June 1937: Spanieneinsatz;
    15th July 1937 - 30th August 1937: Spanieneinsatz;
    1st October 1938 - 16th December 1938: Baubelehrung "U 47", Germaniawerft Kiel;
    17th December 1938 - 7th March 1941: Kommandant "U 47" / 7. U-Flottille, Kiel / St. Nazaire;
    7th March 1941: Missing in the North Atlantic.

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    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Oberleutnant zur See
    Unit:
    1. Wachoffizier "U 26" / 2. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    January 22nd, 1937
    Dienstauszeichnung der Wehrmacht 4.Klasse, 4 Jahre
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
    Unit:
    Kommandant "U 47" / 7. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    September 25th, 1939
    Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
    Unit:
    Kommandant "U 47" / 7. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    October 17th, 1939
    Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
    Unit:
    Kommandant, U 47, 7. Unterseebootsflottille, Kriegsmarine
    Awarded on:
    October 18th, 1939
    Action:
    On October 14, 1939, Prien risked shallow water, unknown shoals and detection by defenders to penetrate the Royal Navy's primary base, Scapa Flow. Although most of the Home Fleet was at sea, Prien sunk the battleship Royal Oak and returned home to instant fame. On his return to Germany following the Scapa raid, Prien personally awarded by Hitler with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, and was the first member of the Kriegsmarine to receive this award. Following the successful mission, Prien was given the nickname Der Stier von Scapa Flow, or "The Bull of Scapa Flow". This emblem was painted on the conning tower of U-47, and was to soon become the emblem of the 7th U-boat Flotilla.
    Details:
    1st U-boat Award.
    2nd Kriegsmarine Award.
    Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
    Unit:
    U 47 / 7. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    November 29th, 1939
    Wehrmachtbericht
    Action:
    Mentioning:
    "As already announced, Kapitänleutnant Prien torpedoed and destroyed a heavy British cruiser of the "London" class east of the Shetland islands."
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
    Unit:
    U 47 / 7. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    June 28th, 1940
    Wehrmachtbericht
    Action:
    Mentioning:
    "Kapitänleutnant Prien reports the sinking of 40,100 GRT enemy merchant shipping."
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
    Unit:
    U 47 / 7. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    July 1st, 1940
    Action:
    Mentioning:
    "Kapitänleutnant Prien destroyed further enemy ships in the last few days; the reported tonnage sunk of the OKW report from 28 June thus increased to 51 086 GRT."
    Wehrmachtbericht
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
    Unit:
    U 47 / 7. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    July 6th, 1940
    Wehrmachtbericht
    Action:
    Mentioning:
    "Kapitänleutnant Prien with his submarine sank 66 587 GRT of enemy merchant shipping on the patrol against the enemy that just finished. This is the highest achievement of a single patrol so far."
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
    Unit:
    U 47 / 7. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    September 10th, 1940
    Wehrmachtbericht
    Action:
    Mentioning:
    "A submarine under the leadership of Kapitänleutnant Prien, of which a partial result of 33 400 GRT was reported on 8 September, on a mission sank six armed merchant ships of 40 250 GRT. A further steamer was damaged."
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
    Unit:
    Kommandant "U 47" / 7. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    September 25th, 1940
    Wehrmachtbericht
    Action:
    Mentioning:
    "The accumulated result of Kapitänleutnant Prien last war patrol increased to 45 130 GRT. The total tonnage of enemy merchant shipping sunk by Kapitänleutnant Prien, excluding the destruction of the British battleship "Royal Oak", thus stands at 151 400 GRT. With these successes he leads the list of all U-boat commanders."
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
    Unit:
    U 47 / 7. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    October 20th, 1940
    Wehrmachtbericht
    Action:
    Mentioning:
    "This tonnage sunk includes eight ships of 50 500 GRT sunk by the U-boat of Kapitänleutnant Prien. Kapitänleutnant Prien is the first U-boat commander who exceeded the 200 000 tons. He still leads the list of U-boat commanders with a combined tonnage of 202 000 GRT enemy merchant shipping."
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
    Unit:
    Kommandant "U 47" / 7. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    October 20th, 1940
    Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub
    Details:
    5th Award.
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Korvettenkapitän (Lieutenant Commander)
    Unit:
    U 47 / 7. Unterseebootsflottille
    Awarded on:
    May 23rd, 1941
    Action:
    Mentioning:
    "The U-boat under the command of Korvettenkapitän Günter Prien did not return from his last patrol against the enemy. The loss of the boat has to be assumed. Korvettenkapitän Günter Prien, the hero from Scapa Flow, who had received the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross from the Führer for his exceptional achievements, and his brave crew, will continue to live in every German heart."
    Wehrmachtbericht

    Sources