Military Wiki
German submarine U-39 (1938)
U-37 at Lorient in 1940
U-37, (an identical U-boat to U-39) at Lorient in 1940
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-39
Ordered: 29 July 1936[1]
Builder: AG Weser, Bremen[1]
Yard number: 944[1]
Laid down: 2 June 1937[1]
Launched: 22 September 1938[1]
Commissioned: 10 December 1938[1]
Fate: Sunk on 14 September 1939 north-west of Ireland. 0 dead and 44 or 43 survivors (sources vary)[2][3]
General characteristics [4][5]
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[6] (110 rounds)
• AA guns
Service record
Part of: Kriegsmarine:
6th U-boat Flotilla
(10 December 1938-14 September 1939)[2]
Identification codes: M 12 679[1]
Commanders: Kptlt. Gerhard Glattes[2]
Operations: One[2]
Victories: No ships sunk or damaged

German submarine U-39 was a Type IXA U-boat of the Kriegsmarine that operated from 1938 to the first few days of World War II.[2]

She was ordered by the Kriegsmarine on 29 July 1936 as part of the re-armament program (Aufrüstung) in Germany, which was illegal under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The keel for U-39 was laid down on 2 June 1937, by AG Weser of Bremen. She was commissioned on 10 December 1938 with Kapitänleutnant Gerhard Glattes in command.[2]

On 14 September 1939, just 27 days after she began her first patrol, U-39 attempted to sink the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal by firing two torpedoes at her. The torpedoes malfunctioned and exploded just short of the carrier; U-39 was immediately hunted down by three British destroyers, disabled with depth charges, and subsequently sunk. All of the crew members survived and were captured.[7][8] U-39 was the first German U-boat to be sunk in World War II.[9]

Service record

Patrol and sinking

U-39 conducted only one war patrol during her entire career, as part of the 6th U-boat Flotilla. She left Wilhelmshaven with U-31, U-32, U-35 and U-53 all of which were also a part of the 6th Flotilla, on 19 August 1939, in preparation for the beginning of World War II. She headed into the North Sea and eventually circumnavigated the British Isles.[10] Prior to her sinking, U-39 was attacked in the North Sea on 10 September while en route to the British Isles. She was depth charged by an unidentified British vessel and was forced to dive to 100 meters (328 feet) to escape the attack.[7]

On 14 September 1939, after only 27 days at sea, U-39 fired two torpedoes at the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal off Rockall Bank north-west of Scotland. However, both torpedoes exploded short of their target. Following the failed attack, three British destroyers in the vicinity of the Ark Royal, HMS Faulknor (H62), Firedrake (H79), and Foxhound (H69) detected U-39. All three destroyers depth charged the U-boat and seconds after Firedrake released her depth charges, U-39 surfaced. Foxhound, which was the closest to the U-boat, picked up 25 crew members while Faulknor rescued 11 and Firedrake saved the remaining eight. The crewmen were then taken ashore in Scotland and spent the rest of the war in various prisoner-of-war camps, including the Tower of London, before being shipped to Canada. U-39 was the first of many U-boats to be sunk in World War II.[7][9]


Four other U-boats joined U-39 on her ill-fated patrol, U-31, U-32, U-53 and U-55. According to a report by the Seekriegsleitung (German Supreme Naval Command) on 22 September 1939, U-32 and U-53 were heading back to their home port of Kiel while only U-31 and U-35 remained in the operational area north of the British Isles. According to plan, U-39 should also have made for Kiel. However, there had been no contact with the U-boat for several days. A lack of response from U-39, despite several requests to give her current location, began to fuel rumours that she was sunk. This belief was later confirmed by a British radio transmission detailing the arrival of the first German prisoners of war who were members of the Kriegsmarine, at a London railway station a few days later.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "U-39 Type IXA". Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Helgason, Guðmundur. "U-39". German U-boats of World War II. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  3. Kemp, Paul: U-Boats Destroyed, German Submarine Losses in the World Wars. 1997. p. 60. Arms and Armour. ISBN 1-85409-515-3
  4. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Type IXA". U-Boat War in World War II. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  5. "Type IX U-Boat". German U-boat. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  6. Campbell, John Naval Weapons of World War Two ISBN 0-87021-459-4 pp.248&249
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "U-39 The First U-boat to be Sunk in World War II". HMS Firedrake Page 20. HMS Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  8. Kemp, p. 60.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Helgason, Guðmundur. "U-boat losses-1939". U-boat fates. Retrieved 3 April 2010. [dead link]
  10. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-39 (First patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 

External links

See also

Coordinates: 58°32′N 11°49′W / 58.533°N 11.817°W / 58.533; -11.817

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