Military Wiki
Alfred Saalwächter
File:File:Alfred Saalwächter.jpg
Born (1883-01-10)10 January 1883
Died 6 December 1945(1945-12-06) (aged 62)
Place of birth Neusalz an der Oder
Place of death Moscow
Allegiance  German Empire (to 1918)
 Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Kaiserliche Marine
Years of service 1901–1945
Rank General Admiral
Unit SMS Moltke
SMS Hertha
SMS Hessen
SMS Friedrich der Große
SMS Braunschweig
SMS Gneisenau
Commands held U-25, U-46, U-94
SMS Schlesien

World War I
World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Alfred Saalwächter (10 January 1883 – 6 December 1945) was a German U-boat commander during World War I and General Admiral during World War II.

Early life

Saalwächter was born in Neusalz an der Oder, Prussian Silesia, as the son of a factory manager. He entered the Kaiserliche Marine as a Seekadett on 10 April 1901, and was trained on the SMS Moltke and the SMS Hertha. On 29 September 1904 he was promoted to Leutnant zur See.

Saalwächter then served with Bordkommando units, first with the 2. Matrosen-Division, then on the SMS Hessen with the 2. Werft-Division. He was promoted to Oberleutnant zur See on 10 March 1906; until 1908, he served with the 2. Torpedo-Division as adjutant to the I. Abteilung. Saalwächter also served on the SMS Gneisenau.

Saalwächter served on the SMS Hannover in 1910 and later on the SMS Westfalen as Flaggleutnant to Vice Admiral Hugo von Pohl, commander of the I. Marine-Geschwader. Saalwächter was promoted to Kapitänleutnant on 10 April 1911 and joined the admiralty in Berlin. He remained in the admiralty until 1915, with his last position there being head of the operations department. In 1912 he received the Order of the Red Eagle.

World War I

On 31 March 1915 during World War I, Saalwächter became Flaggleutnant on the SMS Friedrich der Grosse, the flagship of the High Seas Fleet. In February 1916 he entered the U-boat service. After graduating from submarine school, he commanded U-25, U-46, and U-94 from September 1916 to March 1918. He was awarded for his success with the Iron Cross 1st Class and the Knight's Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern.

Interwar era

In 1920 Saalwächter was named a Korvettenkapitän of the Reichsmarine. He also served on the Braunschweig as an admiralty officer. On 1 October 1926 he became commander of the light cruiser SMS Amazone, and, a year later, Fregattenkapitän in command of the battleship Schlesien. Promoted to Kapitän zur See on 15 October 1928, Saalwächter was chief of staff for Vice Admiral Iwan Oldekop for two years. On 1 October 1932 he became a Konteradmiral and head of the Marinewehrabteilung.

On 2 October 1933 Saalwächter was named inspector for naval instruction. During the following five years he had a strong influence on the development of the young officer corps. He was promoted to Vizeadmiral on 1 April 1935 and Admiral on 1 June 1937. Saalwächter was named commanding admiral of the North Sea naval station at Wilhelmshaven, one of the highest positions in the Kriegsmarine at the time, on 28 October 1938.

On 2 March 1939, Saalwächter sent a report to the Naval High Command in which he openly discussed the acquisition of bases in Norway. The report stressed both the dangers of to Germany of British dominance in Norwegian waters and the favourable change in the geo-strategic position that a German occupation of Norway would bring about.[1]

World War II

With the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Saalwächter received command of Marine-Gruppenkommando West and was responsible for operations in the North Sea, which lead to disputes between himself and the fleet commanders, Vice Admirals Hermann Boehm, Wilhelm Marschall, and Günther Lütjens.

On 1 January 1940 Saalwächter was promoted to Generaladmiral. Along with Admiral Rolf Carls, Saalwächter had tactical command of Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway. He was recognized with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 9 May 1940. Beginning in summer 1940, Saalwächter led German surface operations in the North Atlantic and the English Channel, such as Operation Cerberus in February 1942. On 20 September of that year, he was replaced as head of Navy Group West by Marschall, who was himself replaced by Theodor Krancke in April 1943. Saalwächter resigned from active service on 30 November 1942.

Saalwächter was imprisoned by the Soviet Union on June 21, 1945. He was convicted by a Soviet military tribunal of war crimes on 17 October and executed by firing squad in Moscow on 6 December. In 1994, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Saalwächter was formally exonerated by a Russian court.


References in the Wehrmachtbericht

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Thursday, 10 April 1940 Die militärischen Maßnahmen zum Schutz der Neutralität von Dänemark und Norwegen wurden am 9. April von starken Einheiten des Heeres, der Kriegsmarine und die Luftwaffe unter dem Oberbefehl des Generals der Infanterie von Falkenhorst, von Seestreitkräften unter dem Befehl des Generaladmirals Saalwächter und des Admirals Carls und von zahlreichen Verbänden der Luftwaffe unter Führung des Generalleutnants Geißler in engster Zusammenarbeit durchgeführt.[4] The military measures for the protection of the neutrality of Denmark were carried out on 9 April from strong units in close cooperation of the Heer, the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe under the high command of General of the Infantry von Falkenhorst, of naval forces under the command of Generaladmiral Saalwächter and Admiral Rolf Carls and from numerous Luftwaffe units under the leadership of Generalleutnant Geißler (sic).


  1. Lunde, Henrik O (2010). Hitler's Pre-Emptive War: The Battle for Norway, 1940. Casemate Publishers. pp. 47. ISBN 978-1-935149-33-0. 
  2. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 369.
  3. Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 393.
  4. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 101-102
  • Dörr, Manfred (1996). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Überwasserstreitkräfte der Kriegsmarine—Band 2:L–Z (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio Verlag. ISBN 3-7648-2497-2.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) (in German). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches]. Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001) (in German). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2]. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • Range, Clemens (1974). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Kriegsmarine [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Navy]. Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-87943-355-1. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007) (in German). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 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 [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives]. Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • 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.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine Group Command West
August 1939 – November 1942
Succeeded by
Admiral Wilhelm Marschall

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