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German submarine U-38 (1938)
U-37 at Lorient in 1940
U-37, (an identical U-boat to U-38) at Lorient in 1940. Note the twin rudders
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-38
Ordered: 29 July 1936[1]
Builder: AG Weser, Bremen[1]
Yard number: 943[1]
Laid down: 15 April 1937[1]
Launched: 9 August 1938[1]
Commissioned: 24 October 1938[1]
Fate: Scuttled on 5 May 1945 west of Wesermünde and later broken up in 1948[2]
General characteristics [3][4]
Type: Type IXA submarine
Displacement: 1,032 t (1,016 long tons) surfaced
1,152 t (1,134 long tons) submerged
Length: 76.6 m (251 ft 4 in) o/a
58.7 m (192 ft 7 in) pressure hull
Beam: 6.5 m (21 ft 4 in) o/a
4.4 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height: 9.4 m (30 ft 10 in)
Draft: 4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)
Propulsion: 2 × MAN M9V40/46 supercharged 9-cylinder diesel engines, 4,400 hp (3,281 kW)
2 × SSW GU345/34 double-acting electric motors, 1,000 hp (746 kW)
Speed: 18.2 knots (33.7 km/h) surfaced
7.7 knots (14.3 km/h) submerged
Range: 19,425 nmi (35,975 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
144 nmi (267 km) at 4 kn (7.4 km/h) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 48 to 56
Armament: • 6 × torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 stern)
• 22 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedoes
• 1 × 10.5 cm SK C/32 naval gun[5] (110 rounds)
• AA guns (2 cm FlaK 30)
Service record
Part of: Kriegsmarine:[2]
6th U-boat Flotilla
(24 October 1938 – 31 December 1939)
2nd U-boat Flotilla
(1 January 1940 – 30 November 1941)
24th U-boat Flotilla<br(1 December 1941 – 31 March 1942)
21st U-boat Flotilla
(1 April 1942 – 30 November 1943)
4th U-boat Flotilla
(1 December 1943 – 28 February 1945)
5th U-boat Flotilla
(1 March 1945 – 5 May 1945)
Identification codes: M 20 675[1]
Commanders: Kptlt. Heinrich Liebe
Heinrich Schuch
Oblt. Ludo Kregelin
Oblt. Helmut Laubert
Oblt. Paul Sander
Oblt. Goske von Möllendorff
Oblt. Herbert Kühn
Krvkpt. Georg Peters[2]
Operations: 11[1][2]
Victories: 35 ships sunk for a total of 188,967 gross register tons (GRT)
One ship damaged for a total of 3,670 GRT[6]

German submarine U-38 was a Type IXA U-boat of the Nazi German Kriegsmarine that operated during World War II.[2]

Her keel was laid down on 15 April 1937, by AG Weser of Bremen as 'werk' 943. She was launched on 9 August 1938 and commissioned on 24 October with Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Liebe in command.[2]

U-38 conducted eleven patrols, as part of several flotillas. During her career, she sank over 30 enemy vessels and damaged a further one. U-38 ranks as one of the most successful U-boats in World War II.[7] She was scuttled west of Wesermünde (modern Bremerhaven) on 5 May 1945. Throughout the war, the U-Boat suffered no losses among her crew.[2]

Service record

1st Patrol

U-38 left the port of Wilhelmshaven on 19 August 1939. The boat operated off the coast of Lisbon, returning to port on 18 September. During this four-week period, she sank two ships.

On 5 September 1939 U-38 stopped the French ship Pluvoise, examined her papers and released her. Pluvoise broadcast the event, which would warn others of the U-boat. Liebe was reprimanded.

The British steam freighter SS Manaar was sunk on 6 September 1939. U-38 opened fire on the freighter; fire was returned. This was the first time that a merchantman fired at a U-boat. U-38 sank the Manaar with torpedoes. As Manaar had fired at him, Liebe did not assist the survivors.[8] Radio Officer James Turner remained at his post until the last moment. As he was leaving he found two Lascars, one badly injured. Turner rescued both men while under continuous fire from U-38, for this he was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal.[9]

On 11 September 1939, while flying the Irish tricolour, the Inverliffey was shelled and sunk.[10] In spite of Captain William Trowsdale's protestation that they were Irish, Liebe said that they "were sorry" but they would sink Inverliffey as she was carrying petrol, which was contraband, to England. The crew took to the lifeboats. Inverliffey burned fiercely, endangering the lifeboats. At risk to herself, the German submarine approached, threw lines to the lifeboats and towed them to safety.[11] As Captain Trowsdale's lifeboat was damaged, the occupants were allowed to board the U-boat. The captain did not have a lifebelt, so he was given one. U-38 stopped the American tanker R.G. Stewart and put Inverliffey's crew on board. Just two days earlier, Inver tankers transferred its ships from the Irish to the British registry.[12][13]

2nd Patrol

After nearly two months in port, U-38 left Wilhelmshaven, again with Heinrich Liebe in command, on 12 November 1939. This second patrol was to see the boat operate in the waters northwest of Norway.[14]

On 17 November 1939, Naval High Command (SKL) issued orders for U-38 and U-36 to scout the location for Basis Nord, a secret German naval base to be used for raids on allied shipping which was located off the Kola Peninsula and provided by the Soviet Union.[15] The mission required coded messages to be flashed to Soviet naval vessels patrolling the area preceding a Soviet escort to the prospective base location.[16]

U-36 never left the Norwegian Sea and was sunk by the British submarine HMS Salmon.[16] U-38 rounded the North Cape uneventfully and arrived in Teriberka Bay by mid-afternoon on 26 November.[17] Running silently into the bay, U-38 had to avoid being spotted by merchant vessels in order to help maintain the Soviet Union's attempted appearance of neutrality at that time.[17] U-38's captain commented that, while in the area of the North Cape and the Kola Peninsula, he had observed thirty to forty targets and regrettably had been "harmless to [all] of them."[17]

After completing the clandestine reconnaissance mission, U-38 returned to raiding duties and sank three ships, two British and one Greek. The British steam freighter SS Thomas Walton was sunk on 7 December. The Greek steam freighter SS Garoufalia was destroyed on 11 December, as was the British steam freighter Deptford on 13 December. After an operational period of four and a half weeks, U-38 returned to Wilhelmshaven on 16 December.[14]

Third Patrol

ST Leukos, a neutral fishing trawler that was sunk with all hands. Painting by Kenneth King from the National Maritime Museum

Once again, U-38 would spend considerable time in port, prior to sailing on 26 February 1940, for operations in the Western Approaches.[18]

U-38 sank six ships. First sent to the bottom was the neutral Irish steam trawler ST Leukos on 9 March, with a single shell at point-blank range off Tory Island, all 11 crew were lost.[19] The Leukos was fishing in the company of British trawlers; it has been speculated that she positioned herself between the surfacing U-boat and the fleeing British in the belief that her neutral markings would protect her.[20] This event was followed by the sinking of the Danish motor freighters SS Argentina on 17 March and the SS Algier and SS Christiansborg on 21 March. The Norwegian motor freighter MV Cometa was sunk on 26 March. The sixth and final ship sunk during this third patrol was the Finnish steam freighter SS Signe on 2 April. After nearly six weeks on the high seas, U-38 returned to Wilhelmshaven on 5 April 1940.[18]

4th Patrol

U-38 left her home port of Wilhelmshaven with Heinrich Liebe in command on 8 April 1940. She would sweep the waters off Norway, supporting the occupation of that country by Nazi troops. During this patrol, U-38 reported problems with her torpedoes, after HMS Effingham was fired upon with no result. U-38 would return to port on 27 April.[21]

There were two naval battles of Narvik on 10 and 13 April 1940. U-38 and U-65 were positioned at the entrance to the fjord. When the Royal Navy arrived, U-38 fired at HMS Valiant and at HMS Southampton missing both.[22] In the second battle, U-38 fired at Effingham, but the torpedoes malfunctioned,[23] (exploding prematurely).

5th Patrol

For her fifth patrol, U-38 would again depart from Wilhelmshaven with Heinrich Liebe in command on 6 June 1940. She was to patrol the waters off southern Ireland. During this operation, Liebe would hit six ships, two of which were sailing in convoy at the time. On 14 June, U-38 sank the Greek steam freighter SS Mount Myrto. The next day, U-38 sank two ships, both sailing as part of the HX-47 convoy, sailing from Halifax to England. First sunk was the Canadian steam freighter SS Erik Boye, followed by the Norwegian motor tanker MV Italia. Five days later, on 20 June, the Swedish steam freighter SS Tilia Gorthon was torpedoed and sunk. The Belgian steam freighter SS Luxembourg was destroyed on 21 June, followed by the Greek steam freighter SS Neion the following day. After three weeks at sea, U-38 returned to Wilhelmshaven on 2 July.[24]

During this patrol, U-38 was able to land Walter Simon, a Nazi agent, at Dingle Bay in Ireland on 12 June. Not realising that the passenger services of the Tralee and Dingle Light Railway had been closed fourteen months earlier, he asked when the next train to Dublin was. He was arrested and interned in the Curragh Camp for the duration of the war.[25]

6th Patrol

U-38 would depart Wilhelmshaven for the last time on 1 August 1940, again with Heinrich Liebe in command. On this month long patrol off the western coast of Ireland, U-38 would hit and sink three ships, all of which were in convoy at the time of attack. On 7 August the Egyptian liner SS Mohamed Ali El-Kebir was sunk while traveling with HX-61, from Halifax to Gibraltar, 320 died.[26] The British steam freighter SS Llanfair was hit and sunk, travelling as part of SL-41 from Sierra Leone to England. The third and final ship hit on the sixth patrol of U-38 was the British steam freighter SS Har Zion, while travelling with the Convoy OB-225, from Liverpool to the United States. After four weeks at sea Liebe returned U-38 to her new home port of Lorient in France on 3 September 1940.[27]

7th Patrol

For her first patrol from Lorient and her seventh overall, U-38 would again be under the command of Heinrich Liebe. She departed on 25 September, for the Northwest Approaches. She would attack five ships on this patrol, sinking four of them. On 1 October, the British motor freighter MV Highland Patriot was torpedoed. After two weeks of no victories, U-38 was successful against the Greek steam freighter SS Aenos on 17 October, sailing as part of Convoy SC 7, from Sydney, Nova Scotia to England. The following day, the British steam freighter SS Carsbreck was damaged, but not sunk, while traveling with the SC-7 convoy from Sydney to Grimsby, England. On 19 October, two ships were hit, both sailing as part of the HX 79 convoy: the Dutch SS Bilderdijk and the British steam freighter SS Matheran. Following these victories, U-38 returned to Lorient on 24 October 1940.[28]

8th Patrol

U-38 would depart Lorient with Liebe in command once again on 18 December 1940. The eighth war patrol of her career would involve operations again in the Northwest Approaches. During this patrol, the submarine would hit and sink two ships. On 27 December, U-38 destroyed the British ship SS Waiotira, and on 31 December, she sank the Swedish motor freighter SS Valparaiso, sailing as part of the HX-97 convoy from Halifax to Glasgow. U-38 returned to port on 22 January 1941.[29]

9th Patrol

U-38 would spend two and a half months in port, before leaving for operations off the west coast of Africa on 9 April 1941. This would prove to be her most successful patrol, with the sinking of eight ships. On 4 May, the Swedish steam freighter SS Japan was torpedoed while traveling with Convoy OB-310 from England to the United States. The following day, the British motor freighter MV Queen Maud was hit and sunk. On 23 May, the Dutch motor freighter SS Berhala was sunk while traveling with the Convoy OB 318, from England to America. The British steam freighter SS Vulcain was torpedoed and sunk on 24 May. Six days later, on 29 May, the British steam freighter SS Tabaristan was another victim. The following day the destruction continued, the British steam freighter SS Empire Protector was sent to the bottom, as was the Norwegian steam freighter SS Rinda on the 31st. The eighth and final ship sunk during U-38's eighth patrol was the British cargo steamship SS Kingston Hill on 8 June. The boat then returned to Lorient on 29 June 1941, after spending eleven and a half weeks at sea.[30]

10th Patrol

For the first time in her career, U-38 would head to sea with a new commander, Kapitän zur See Heinrich Schuch. She left on 6 August, for a five-week patrol in the North Atlantic. During this time one ship was hit, the Panamanian steam freighter SS Longtanker on 18 August. U-38 returned to Lorient on 14 September 1941.[31]

11th and 12th Patrols

U-38 would depart from Lorient for the last time on 15 October, again with Heinrich Schuch in command. Her eleventh patrol was to take place in the North Atlantic. However, during a period of five weeks, not a single ship was hit. U-38 traveled to the U-boat base in Bergen, Norway on 21 November. She would later depart Bergen on the 23rd and arrive in Stettin on 29 November.[32]

Life after active duty

From December 1941 until November 1943, U-38 was used as a training boat in the 24th and 21st U-boat Flotillas. She was then used as a testing boat, until she was scuttled by her crew on 5 May 1945.[2]

Summary of raiding history

During her service in the Kriegsmarine, U-38 sank 35 commercial ships for 188,967 GRT, and damaged another of 3,670 GRT.[6]

Date[6] Ship[6] Nationality[6] Tonnage[6] Fate and location[6]
6 September 1939 Manaar  UK 7,242 sunk at 38°28′N 10°50′W / 38.467°N 10.833°W / 38.467; -10.833 (Manaar (ship))
11 September 1939 Inverliffey Republic of Ireland[notes 1][10]  UK 9,456 sunk at 48°14′N 11°48′W / 48.233°N 11.8°W / 48.233; -11.8 (Inverliffey (ship))
7 December 1939 Thomas Walton  UK 4,460 sunk at 67°52′N 14°28′E / 67.867°N 14.467°E / 67.867; 14.467 (Thomas Walton (ship))
11 December 1939 Garoufalia  Greece 4,708 sunk at 64°36′N 10°42′E / 64.6°N 10.7°E / 64.6; 10.7 (Garoufalia (ship))
13 December 1939 Deptford  UK 4,101 sunk at 62°15′N 05°08′E / 62.25°N 5.133°E / 62.25; 5.133 (Deptford (ship))
9 March 1940 Leukos  Ireland 216 sunk at 55°20′N 08°45′W / 55.333°N 8.75°W / 55.333; -8.75 (Leukos (ship))
17 March 1940 Argentina  Denmark 5,375 sunk at 60°47′N 00°30′W / 60.783°N 0.5°W / 60.783; -0.5 (Argentina (ship))
21 March 1940 Algier  Denmark 1,654 sunk at 60°17′N 02°49′W / 60.283°N 2.817°W / 60.283; -2.817 (Algier (ship))
21 March 1940 Christiansborg  Denmark 3,270 sunk at 60°17′N 02°49′W / 60.283°N 2.817°W / 60.283; -2.817 (Christiansborg (ship))
26 March 1940 Cometa  Norway 3,794 sunk at 60°06′N 04°36′W / 60.1°N 4.6°W / 60.1; -4.6 (Cometa (ship))
2 April 1940 Signe  Finland 1,540 sunk at 58°52′N 01°31′W / 58.867°N 1.517°W / 58.867; -1.517 (Signe (ship))
14 June 1940 Mount Myrto  Greece 5,403 sunk at 50°03′N 10°05′W / 50.05°N 10.083°W / 50.05; -10.083 (Mount Myrto (ship))
15 June 1940 Erik Boye  Canada 2,238 sunk at 50°37′N 08°44′W / 50.617°N 8.733°W / 50.617; -8.733 (Erik Boye (ship))
15 June 1940 Italia  Norway 9,973 sunk at 50°37′N 08°44′W / 50.617°N 8.733°W / 50.617; -8.733 (Italia (ship))
20 June 1940 Tilia Gorthon  Sweden 1,776 sunk at 48°32′N 06°20′W / 48.533°N 6.333°W / 48.533; -6.333 (Tilia Gorthon (ship))
21 June 1940 Luxembourg  Belgium 5,809 sunk at 47°25′N 04°55′W / 47.417°N 4.917°W / 47.417; -4.917 (Luxembourg (ship))
22 June 1940 Neion  Greece 5,154 sunk at 47°09′N 04°17′W / 47.15°N 4.283°W / 47.15; -4.283 (Neion (ship))
7 August 1940 Mohamed Ali El-Kebir  UK 7,529 sunk at 55°22′N 13°18′W / 55.367°N 13.3°W / 55.367; -13.3 (Mohamed Ali El-Kebir (ship))
11 August 1940 Llanfair  UK 4,966 sunk at 54°48′N 13°46′W / 54.8°N 13.767°W / 54.8; -13.767 (Llanfair (ship))
31 August 1940 Har Zion  UK 2,508 sunk at 56°20′N 10°00′W / 56.333°N 10°W / 56.333; -10 (Har Zion (ship))
1 October 1940 Highland Patriot  UK 14,172 sunk at 52°20′N 19°04′W / 52.333°N 19.067°W / 52.333; -19.067 (Highland Patriot (ship))
17 October 1940 Aenos  Greece 3,554 sunk at 59°00′N 13°00′W / 59°N 13°W / 59; -13 (Aenos (ship))
18 October 1940 Carsbreck  UK 3,670 damaged at 36°20′N 10°50′W / 36.333°N 10.833°W / 36.333; -10.833 (Carsbreck (ship))
19 October 1940 Bilderdijk  Netherlands 6,856 sunk at 56°35′N 17°15′W / 56.583°N 17.25°W / 56.583; -17.25 (Bilderdijk (ship))
19 October 1940 Matheran  UK 7,653 sunk at 57°00′N 17°00′W / 57°N 17°W / 57; -17 (Matheran (ship))
27 December 1940 Waiotira  UK 12,823 sunk at 58°10′N 16°56′W / 58.167°N 16.933°W / 58.167; -16.933 (Waiotira (ship))
31 December 1940 Valparaiso  Sweden 3,760 sunk at 60°01′N 23°00′W / 60.017°N 23°W / 60.017; -23 (Valparaiso (ship))
4 May 1941 Japan  Sweden 5,230 sunk at 09°50′N 17°50′W / 9.833°N 17.833°W / 9.833; -17.833 (Japan (ship))
5 May 1940 Queen Maud  UK 4,976 sunk at 07°54′N 16°41′W / 7.9°N 16.683°W / 7.9; -16.683 (Queen Maud (ship))
23 May 1940 Berhala  Netherlands 6,622 sunk at 09°50′N 17°50′W / 9.833°N 17.833°W / 9.833; -17.833 (Berhala (ship))
24 May 1941 Vulcain  UK 4,362 sunk at 09°20′N 15°35′W / 9.333°N 15.583°W / 9.333; -15.583 (Vulcain (ship))
29 May 1941 Tabaristan  UK 6,251 sunk at 06°32′N 15°23′W / 6.533°N 15.383°W / 6.533; -15.383 (Tabaristan (ship))
30 May 1941 Empire Protector  UK 6,181 sunk at 06°00′N 14°25′W / 6°N 14.417°W / 6; -14.417 (Empire Protector (ship))
31 May 1941 Rinda  Norway 6,029 sunk at 06°52′N 15°14′W / 6.867°N 15.233°W / 6.867; -15.233 (Rinda (ship))
8 June 1941 Kingston Hill  UK 7,628 sunk at 09°35′N 29°40′W / 9.583°N 29.667°W / 9.583; -29.667 (Kingston Hill (ship))
18 August 1941 Longtaker  Panama 1,700 sunk at 61°25′N 30°50′W / 61.417°N 30.833°W / 61.417; -30.833 (Longtaker (ship))


  1. While the Inverliffey was a British vessel, she was flying the flag of Ireland the day that she was sunk.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 "U-38 Type IXA". Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Helgason, Guðmundur. "U-38". German U-boats of WWII. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  3. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Type IXA". U-Boat War in World War II. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  4. "Type IX U-Boat". German U-boat. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  5. Campbell, John Naval Weapons of World War Two ISBN 0-87021-459-4 pp.248&249
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-38". WWII U-boat successes. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  7. Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Most Successful U-boats". U-boat Operations. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  8. Blair, page 82.
  9. NAVAL-HISTORY.NET. "The George Cross at Sea". Retrieved 18 April 2010. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Dáil Éireann – Volume 77". Sinking of Ships. Parliamentary Debates. 27 September 1939. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  11. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-38 (First patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  12. "Inverliffey". Allied Ships hit by U-boats. Retrieved 23 August 2009. 
  13. Visser, Auke. "International Esso Tankers". Early War Incident. Retrieved 24 August 2009. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-38 (Second patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  15. Philbin III (1994) p. 95
  16. 16.0 16.1 Philbin III (1994) p. 96
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Philbin III (1994) p. 97
  18. 18.0 18.1 Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-38 (Third patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  19. Boyle, Sean, Leukos blown out of the water Journal of the Maritime Institute of Ireland Spring 1987
  20. "Steam Trawler Leukos". Remember. Maritime Institute of Ireland. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  21. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-38 (Fourth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  22. Blair, page 150
  23. Blair, page 155
  24. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-38 (Fifth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  25. Hull, Mark (2003). Irish Secrets. Irish Academic Press. pp. 110. ISBN 0-7165-2756-1. 
  26. Blair, p. 180
  27. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-38 (Sixth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  28. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-38 (Seventh patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  29. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-38 (Eighth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  30. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-38 (Ninth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  31. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-38 (Tenth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  32. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-38 (Eleventh patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  • Philbin III, Tobias R., The Lure of Neptune: German-Soviet Naval Collaboration and Ambitions, 1919 – 1941, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87249-992-8
  • Blair, Clay (1996). Hitler's U-Boat War. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-84076-2. 

External links

See also

Coordinates: 53°34′N 8°32′E / 53.567°N 8.533°E / 53.567; 8.533

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