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Friedrich Guggenberger
Born (1915-03-06)6 March 1915
Died 13 May 1988(1988-05-13) (aged 73)
Place of birth Munich
Place of death Erlenbach am Main
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
 West Germany
Service/branch  Kriegsmarine
 German Navy
Years of service 1934 – 1943 (Kriegsmarine)
1956 – 1972 (Bundesmarine)
Rank Konteradmiral
Unit 24th U-boat Flotilla
1st U-boat Flotilla
29th U-boat Flotilla
4th U-boat Flotilla
10th U-boat Flotilla
Commands held U-28, 16 November 1940 – 11 February 1941
U-81, 26 April 1941 – 24 December 1942
U-847, 23 January 1943 – 1 February 1943
U-513, 15 May 1943 – 19 July 1943

World War II

Awards Iron Cross 1st Class
U-boat War Badge 1939
Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves

Friedrich Guggenberger (6 March 1915 – 13 May 1988) was a German U-boat commander of the Second World War, and was highly successful during this period. From November 1940 until his capture in July 1943, he sank 17 ships for a total of 66,848 gross register tons (GRT) and damaged another for 6,003 GRT. He was also responsible for sinking the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal in November 1941. For these achievements he received the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, among other commendations. After the war he became the Deputy Chief of Staff in the NATO command AFNORTH.

Early life

Guggenberger was born in Munich on 6 March 1915. He had entered the navy by 1934, transferring to the U-boat arm in October 1939, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War. After the usual training pattern he was assigned to U-28, where he served under the command of Knight's Cross holder Günther Kuhnke. Guggenberger then briefly took over from Kuhnke and commanded U-28 for a few months whilst she was part of a school flotilla. He was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 23 March 1940.[1]


HMS Legion moves alongside the damaged and listing HMS Ark Royal in order to take off survivors

Guggenberger then received command of U-81, commissioning her on 26 April 1941. He carried out three patrols in the Atlantic, encountering moderate success and sinking two ships. He was awarded the U-boat War Badge 1939 on 8 July and promoted to Kapitänleutnant on 1 September. He was then ordered to take U-81 into the Mediterranean to join 29th U-boat Flotilla. His first attempt failed when, attempting to force the Straits of Gibraltar, U-81 was spotted by RAF planes and attacked, causing heavy damage. U-81 retreated to Brest where she was repaired, and Guggenberger was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on 9 September. U-81 sailed again to attempt to enter the Mediterranean in November 1941. Whilst transiting the Straits on 13 November, he met the ships of Force H, returning to Gibraltar. He was able to attack the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, hitting her amidships with a single torpedo.[2] He then escaped the depth charge attacks of the escorting destroyers. Despite attempts to salvage Ark Royal she had to be abandoned, and sank the next day. Guggenberger was awarded the Knight's Cross on 10 December.[1]

U-513 and capture

File:Merten, Lüth, Guggenberger & Töniges.JPG

Karl-Friedrich Merten, Wolfgang Lüth, Friedrich Guggenberger, Werner Töniges receiving the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross from Adolf Hitler; Karl-Jesco von Puttkamer and Karl Dönitz look on

Guggenberger went on to have a number of successful patrols in the Mediterranean, and left U-81 on 24 December 1942, being replaced by Johann-Otto Krieg. Guggenberger was awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross on 8 January and oversaw the commissioning of U-847, but did not take her on any war patrols.[1] He then joined Admiral Karl Dönitz's staff for three months.[1] He returned to sea in May 1943 in command of U-513. He only undertook one patrol aboard her though. After sinking four ships and damaging a fifth she was sunk on 19 July 1943 by depth charges from an American PBM Mariner whilst off the coast of Brazil. Guggenberger was one of only seven survivors.[1] Badly wounded he and the others spent a day aboard a life raft before being picked up by an American ship, USS Barnegat. Guggenberger was operated on and then hospitalised for a period, before being transferred to Fort Hunt on 25 September 1943, followed by the Prisoner of war camp at Crossville later that month. By late January 1944 Guggenberger had been moved to the Papago Park camp near Phoenix, Arizona.[1]


Guggenberger met with four other U-boat commanders and on 12 February 1944 they escaped from the camp. Guggenberger travelled with August Maus, but they were recaptured in Tucson, Arizona.[1] Guggenberger was part of a larger breakout of 25 POWs on the night of 23–24 December 1944. This time he travelled with Jürgen Quaet-Faslem and managed to make it to within 10 miles of the Mexican border before they were recaptured on 6 January 1945. After these escapades, Guggenberger was transferred to Camp Shanks, New York in February, 1946, and was then repatriated to Germany. He was held in a compound in the British zone, near Münster, before being released in August 1946.[1]

Postwar and personal life

On 16 November 1940 Guggenberger married Lieselotte Fischer. The marriage produced four children, the twin daughters Anna and Eva born 1948, the daughter Elke born 1952 and a son Dieter born 1960.[3]

Guggenberger became an architect, before rejoining the Navy, by now the Bundesmarine in 1956. He studied at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and rose to the rank of Konteradmiral. He became the Deputy Chief of Staff in the NATO command AFNORTH, and served there for four years. He retired in October 1972. He left his home on 13 May 1988 for a stroll in the forest, but never returned. His body was found two years later.[1]


Wehrmachtbericht reference

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Saturday, 15 November 1941 Wie durch Sondermeldung bekanntgegeben, hat die deutsche Kriegsmarine einen neuen großen Erfolg errungen. Unterseeboote griffen im westlichen Mittelmeer einen Verband britischer Kriegsschiffe an. Dabei versenkten zwei Boote unter Führung der Kapitänleutnante Reschke und Guggenberger den Flugzeugträger "Ark Royal" und beschädigten das Schlachtschiff "Malaya" so schwer, daß es in den Hafen von Gibraltar eingeschleppt werden mußte. Weitere britische Einheiten erhielten Torpedotreffer. Der Flugzeugträger "Ark Royal" war bereits am 26. September 1939 durch Luftangriff schwer beschädigt, nach Wiederherstellung jedoch erneut in Dienst gestellt worden. Die britische Admiralität hat den Verlust zugegeben.[6] As announced by special bulletin, the German Navy has achieved a new major success. Submarines attacked a task force of British warships in the western Mediterranean Sea. In this event, two boats under the leadership of the Captain Lieutenants Reschke and Guggenberger sank the aircraft carrier "Ark Royal" and damaged the battleship "Malaya" so heavily that it had to be towed into the port of Gibraltar. Other British units were torpedoed. The aircraft carrier "Ark Royal" had already been severely damaged by an air attack on 26 September 1939, but again restored into service. The British Admiralty has admitted the loss.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Guggenberger's career at
  2. Rossiter. Ark Royal. pp. 329. 
  3. "Friedrich "Fritz" Guggenberger" (in German). Kriegsmarine Crew 34. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Busch and Röll 2003, p. 165.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 355.
  6. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, pp. 724–725.
  • Busch, Hans-Joachim; Röll (2003) (in German). Der U-Boot-Krieg 1939–1945 — Die Ritterkreuzträger der U-Boot-Waffe von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 [The U-Boat War 1939–1945 — The Knight's Cross Bearers of the U-Boat Force from September 1939 to May 1945]. Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn Germany: Verlag E.S. Mittler & Sohn. ISBN 978-3-8132-0515-2. 
  • 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]. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Jameson, William (2004). Ark Royal: The Life of an Aircraft Carrier at War 1939-41. Periscope Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-904381-27-8.
  • Moore, John Hammond (2006). The Faustball Tunnel: German POWs in America and Their Great Escape. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-526-4.
  • Rossiter, Mike (2007). Ark Royal: the life, death and rediscovery of the legendary Second World War aircraft carrier. London: Corgi Books. ISBN 978-0-552-15369-0.
  • 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. 
  • Williamson, Gordon & Bujeiro, Ramiro (2005). Knight's Cross and Oak Leaves Recipients 1941-45. Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84176-642-9.
  • (in German) Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 1, 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941]. München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 

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