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Günther Hessler

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Günther Hessler

Günther Hessler
File:Günther Hessler.jpg
Günther Hessler
after the Knight's Cross presentation
Born (1909-06-14)14 June 1909
Beerfelde, Märkisch-Oderland
Died 4 April 1968(1968-04-04) (aged 58)
Allegiance  Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Reichsmarine
Years of service 1927–1945
Rank Fregattenkapitän
Unit SSS Niobe
tender Frauenlob
torpedo boat Greif
aviso Grille
Commands held torpedo boat Falke

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Relations Karl Dönitz (father in law)

Günther Hessler (14 June 1909 – 4 April 1968) was a Kriegsmarine Fregattenkapitän during World War II. He commanded the Type IXB U-boat U-107, sinking twenty-one ships on three patrols, totalling 118,822 gross register tons (GRT) of Allied shipping, of which 86,699 GRT was sunk on one patrol alone.[1] He stands 21st on the list of highest scoring U-Boat aces of World War II. Hessler was also a 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 bravery in combat or successful military leadership.


Günther Hessler joined the Reichsmarine of the Weimar Republic on 5 April 1927 as a member of "Crew 1927" (the incoming class of 1927). He underwent basic military training in the 8th company, 2nd department of the standing ship division of the Baltic Sea in Stralsund (5 April 1927 – 3 July 1927).[Tr 1][Tr 2] Hessler was then transferred to the training ship SSS Niobe (4 July 1927 – 31 October 1927), attaining the rank of Seekadett (midshipman) on 1 October 1927. After more than 16 months aboard the light cruiser Berlin (1 November 1927 – 17 March 1929) he underwent officer cadet training at the Naval Academy at Mürwik, which included navigational training cruises on the tender Frauenlob and the survey vessel Meteor. Hessler then advanced in rank to Fähnrich zur See (officer cadet) on 1 April 1929.[2]

On 2 October 1936 he was appointed watch officer on the Aviso Grille, Adolf Hitler's state yacht, and on 30 March 1938 transferred to the battleship Gneisenau. In 1937 he married Karl Dönitz's daughter, Ursula. The marriage produced two sons, Peter and Klaus, and a daughter, Ute. Hessler took command of torpedo-boat Falke on 27 March 1938. He remained in this position until 8 January 1940, earning the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 18 November 1939. Falke was assigned to the 5th Torpedobootflottille on 4 April 1939. On the outbreak of World War II Falke was tasked with laying defensive naval mines and escort and security duties in the North Sea.[3] In April 1940 Hessler transferred to the U-boat arm, and six months later commissioned the U-107, without, unusually, having served as either a 1. Wachoffizier (1. WO—1st watch officer) or a Kommandantenschüler ("Commander-in-Training").[1]

On his first patrol (24 January 1941 – 1 March 1941) Hessler sank four ships with a total of 18,514 GRT,[4] but he became famous on his second patrol (29 March 1941 – 2 July 1941) — the most successful patrol of the entire war — sinking 14 ships with a total of 86,699 GRT.[5] Oberleutnant zur See Helmut Witte was his first watch officer on these two patrols.

His third patrol (6 September 1941 – 11 November 1941) accounted for another three ships, totalling 13,641 tons, giving Hessler a career tally of 21 ships totalling 118,822 GRT, including two Royal Navy ocean boarding vessels HMS Crispin and Manistee. Hessler then handed over command of U-107 to Harald Gelhaus and transferred to the Befehlshaber der U-Boote (BdU). He served on the naval staff as 1. Admiralstabsoffizier (Asto—officer of the admiralty staff) from 24 November 1941 until the end of the war in Europe on 8 May 1945.[1]


After the war Hessler spent over a year in Allied captivity, and testified at the Nuremberg Trials on behalf of the Ubootwaffe and his father-in-law, Großadmiral Karl Dönitz. In 1947 Hessler was commissioned to write The U-Boat War in the Atlantic, a definitive account of the German U-boat offensive, by the British Royal Navy. Assisted by Alfred Hoschatt, the former commander of U-378 and also a staff officer of the BdU, he completed the three volume work in 1951. Hessler died in 1968 aged 58.[1]

Summary of career

Ships attacked

As a U-boat commander of U-107 Günther Hessler is credited with the sinking of 19 merchant ships with a total of 108,411 gross register tons (GRT) and two auxiliary warships of 10,411 GRT.

Date Name of ship Flag Tonnage Fate
3  February 1941 Empire Citizen  United Kingdom 4,683 sunk at 58°12′N 23°22′W / 58.200°N 23.367°W / 58.200; -23.367 (Empire Citizen (ship))

3  February 1941 HMS Crispin  United Kingdom 5,051 sunk at 56°38′N 20°05′W / 56.633°N 20.083°W / 56.633; -20.083 (HMS Crispin (ship))

6 February 1941 Maplecourt  Canada 3,388 sunk at 57°33′N 17°24′W / 57.550°N 17.400°W / 57.550; -17.400 (Maplecourt (ship))

23 February 1941 HMS Manistee (F 104)  United Kingdom 5,360 sunk at 58°13′N 21°33′W / 58.217°N 21.550°W / 58.217; -21.550 (HMS Manistee (F 104) (ship))

8 April 1941 Eskdene  United Kingdom 3,829 sunk at 34°43′N 24°21′W / 34.717°N 24.350°W / 34.717; -24.350 (Eskdene (ship))

8 April 1941 Helena Margareta  United Kingdom 3,316 sunk at 33°00′N 23°52′W / 33.000°N 23.867°W / 33.000; -23.867 (Helena Margareta (ship))

9 April 1941 Harpathian  United Kingdom 4,671 sunk at 32°22′N 22°53′W / 32.367°N 22.883°W / 32.367; -22.883 (Harpathian (ship))

9 April 1941 Duffield  United Kingdom 8,516 sunk at 31°13′N 23°24′W / 31.217°N 23.400°W / 31.217; -23.400 (Duffield (ship))

21 April 1941 Calchas  United Kingdom 10,305 sunk at 23°50′N 27°00′W / 23.833°N 27.000°W / 23.833; -27.000 (Calchas (ship))

30 April 1941 Lassell  United Kingdom 7,417 sunk at 12°55′N 28°56′W / 12.917°N 28.933°W / 12.917; -28.933 (Lassell (ship))

17 May 1941 Marisa  Netherlands 8,029 sunk at 06°10′N 18°09′W / 6.167°N 18.150°W / 6.167; -18.150 (Marisa (ship))

18 May 1941 Piako  United Kingdom 8,286 sunk at 07°52′N 14°57′W / 7.867°N 14.950°W / 7.867; -14.950 (Piako (ship))

27 May 1941 Colonial  United Kingdom 5,108 sunk at 09°13′N 15°09′W / 9.217°N 15.150°W / 9.217; -15.150 (Colonial (ship))

28 May 1941 Papalemos  Greece 3,748 sunk at 08°06′N 16°18′W / 8.100°N 16.300°W / 8.100; -16.300 (Papalemos (ship))

31 May 1941 Sire  United Kingdom 5,664 sunk at 08°50′N 15°30′W / 8.833°N 15.500°W / 8.833; -15.500 (Sire (ship))

1 June 1941 Alfred Jones  United Kingdom 5,013 sunk at 08°N 15°W / 8°N 15°W / 8; -15 (Alfred Jones (ship))

8 June 1941 Adda  United Kingdom 7,816 sunk at 08°30′N 14°39′W / 8.500°N 14.650°W / 8.500; -14.650 (Adda (ship))

13 June 1941 Pandias  Greece 4,981 sunk at 07°49′N 23°28′W / 7.817°N 23.467°W / 7.817; -23.467 (Pandias (ship))

24 September 1941 John Holt  United Kingdom 4,975 sunk at 31°12′N 23°32′W / 31.200°N 23.533°W / 31.200; -23.533 (John Holt (ship))

24 September 1941 Dixcove  United Kingdom 3,790 sunk at 31°12′N 23°41′W / 31.200°N 23.683°W / 31.200; -23.683 (Dixcove (ship))

24 September 1941 Lafian  United Kingdom 4,876 sunk at 31°12′N 23°32′W / 31.200°N 23.533°W / 31.200; -23.533 (Lafian (ship))


Wehrmachtbericht references

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Thursday, 1 May 1941 Ein Unterseeboot unter Führung des Kapitänleutnants Heßler meldet die Versenkung eines Dampfers von 7000 BRT. Damit hat dieses Unterseeboot auf seiner jetzigen Unternehmung bereits 42 650 BRT feindlichen Handelsschiffraum versenkt.[9] A submarine under the leadership of Captain Lieutenant Heßler reported the sinking of 7000 GRT steamer. So far this submarine has sunk 42 650 GRT of enemy merchant shipping on this undertaking.
Sunday, 8 June 1941 Ein Unterseeboot unter Führung von Kapitänleutnant Heßler versenkte 21 250 BRT. Damit hat dieses Boot bei dieser Unternehmung insgesamt sieben Schiffe mit zusammen 42 641 BRT vernichtet.[10] A submarine under the leadership of Captain Lieutenant Heßler sunk 21 250 GRT. So that this boat has destroyed a total of seven ships in this undertaking, totalling 42 641 GRT.


  • Great Britain Ministry of Defence (Navy) and Hessler, Günther (1989). U Boat War in the Atlantic 1939–1945: German Naval History. Stationery Office. ISBN 978-0117726031.

Translation notes


  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 (in German). München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, 1985. ISBN 3-423-05944-3.

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