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Karl Thurmann

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Karl Thurmann

Karl Thurmann
Born (1909-09-04)4 September 1909
Mühlheim, Ruhr
Died 20 January 1943(1943-01-20) (aged 33)
North Atlantic
Allegiance  Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Reichsmarine
Years of service 1928–1943
Rank Korvettenkapitän
Unit 7th U-boat Flotilla
3rd U-boat Flotilla
Commands held U-553
(23 December 1940–20 January 1943)

World War II

Awards Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class
U-boat War Badge
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Karl Thurmann (4 September 1909—20 January 1943) was a German U-boat commander in World War II and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.[1]

Life and career

Thurmann was born in Mühlheim, Ruhr. He joined the Reichsmarine in April 1928, serving aboard the light cruisers Emden and Köln.[1]

After training, and sailing on a patrol as Kommandantenschüler (Commander-in-Training") aboard U-29 under Otto Schuhart, Thurmann commissioned the Type VIIC U-boat U-553 on 23 December 1940. Thurmann took U-553 out on nine patrols in 1941 and 1942, and sank 12 merchant ships totalling one warship, and damaged two more.[1]

On 16 January 1943, Thurmann left La Pallice, France, on his tenth patrol. On 20 January, he sent the radio message: Seerohr unklar ("Periscope not clear"). U-553 was never heard from again and her fate remains a mystery.[1]

Summary of career

Ships attacked

As a U-boat commander of U-553 Karl Thurmann is credited with the sinking of 12 ships for a total of 61,390 gross register tons (GRT), further damaging two ships of 15,273 GRT and sinking one warship, the HMS Gladiolus, of 925 metric tons (910 long tons; 1,020 short tons).

Date Ship Nationality Tonnage Fate[2]
12 June 1941 Ranella  Norway 5,590 Sunk
12 June 1941 Susan Maersk  United Kingdom 2,355 Sunk
15 October 1941 Ila  Norway 1,583 Sunk
15 October 1941 Silvercedar  United Kingdom 4,354 Sunk
17 October 1941 HMS Gladiolus  United Kingdom 925 Sunk
15 January 1942 Diala  United Kingdom 8,106 Damaged
22 January 1942 Innerøy  Norway 8,260 Sunk
12 May 1942 Leto  Netherlands 4,712 Sunk
12 May 1942 Nicoya  United Kingdom 5,364 Sunk
2 June 1942 Matawin  United Kingdom 6,919 Sunk
3 August 1942 Belgian Soldier  Belgium 7,167 Damaged
18 August 1942 Blankaholm  Sweden 2,845 Sunk
18 August 1942 Empire Bede  United Kingdom 6,959 Sunk
18 August 1942 John Hancock  United States 7,176 Sunk
9 December 1942 Charles L D  United Kingdom 5,273 Sunk


Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Friday, 22 May 1942 Bei den Erfolgen in amerikanischen Gewässern haben sich Boote unter Führung der Kapitänleutnante Thurmann, Würdemann und Folkers besonders ausgezeichnet.[6] Boats under the commands of the Kapitänleutnants Thurmann, Würdemann und Folkers distinguished themselves in the success in the American Waters.


  • Busch, Rainer & Röll, Hans-Joachim (2003). Der U-Boot-Krieg 1939-1945 - Die Ritterkreuzträger der U-Boot-Waffe von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 (in German). Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn Germany: Verlag E.S. Mittler & Sohn. ISBN 3-8132-0515-0.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945. Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 (in German). München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, 1985. ISBN 3-423-05944-3.

External links

  • Karl Thurmann

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