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German submarine U-852
Name: U-852
Ordered: 20 January 1941
Builder: AG Weser, Bremen
Yard number: 1058
Laid down: 15 April 1942
Launched: 28 January 1943
Commissioned: 15 June 1943
Fate: Scuttled, 3 May 1944
General characteristics
Type: Type IXD2 submarine
Displacement: 1,610 t (1,580 long tons) surfaced
1,799 t (1,771 long tons) submerged
Length: 87.6 m (287 ft 5 in) o/a
68.5 m (224 ft 9 in) pressure hull
Beam: 7.5 m (24 ft 7 in) o/a
4.4 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height: 10.2 m (33 ft 6 in)
Draft: 5.4 m (17 ft 9 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: 20.8 knots (38.5 km/h) surfaced
6.9 knots (12.8 km/h) submerged
Range: 12,750 nmi (23,610 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
213 nmi (394 km) at 4 kn (7.4 km/h) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 55 to 63
Armament: • 6 × torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 stern)
• 22 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedoes
• 1 × Utof 105 mm/45 deck gun (110 rounds)
• AA guns
Aircraft carried: Fa 330 Bachstelze rotor kite
Service record[1][2]
Part of: 4th U-boat Flotilla
(15 June 1943–31 January 1944)
12th U-boat Flotilla
(1 February–3 May 1944)
Commanders: Kptlt. Heinz-Wilhelm Eck
(15 June 1943–3 May 1944)
Operations: 1st patrol: 18 January–3 May 1944
Victories: 2 commercial ships sunk (9,972 GRT)

German submarine U-852 was a German Type IXD2 U-boat built during World War II. Laid down in Bremen and completed in June 1943, the boat was a long-range Type IX, with four bow and two stern torpedo tubes and a Focke-Achgelis Fa 330 Bachstelze cable-towed lookout gyroglider. She was commanded throughout her brief service life by Captain Lieutenant (Kapitänleutnant) Heinz-Wilhelm Eck, who led her through her sea trials and onto her first war patrol on 18 January 1944.

For their actions against the survivors of a Greek steamer it sunk U-852's officers were the only Kriegsmarine submariners to be accused, prosecuted and convicted of war crimes during the Nuremberg Trials.

SS Peleus

U-852's mission was to disrupt Allied communications in the Indian Ocean by attacking sea lanes there; this involved a high level of secrecy and so she had to avoid conflict on her passage. This plan was jeopardized when, on 13 March on the latitude of Freetown, she spotted the lone Greek steamer SS Peleus. Despite his mission, Eck decided to attack her, and, after stalking her until nightfall, sank her with two torpedoes. What followed has been the subject of much dispute.

The sinking Peleus left a large debris field, amongst which were an unknown number of survivors clinging to rafts and wreckage. As this field would have betrayed the presence of U-852 to aircraft and shipping patrolling the area, Eck controversially decided to destroy the wreckage with hand grenades and automatic weapons.

Eck ordered his junior officers to fire into the wreckage. These junior officers were:

  • The ship's engineering officer, Hans Lenz (sentenced to life imprisonment)
  • The ship's doctor, Walter Weisspfennig (executed 1945)
  • The second in command August Hoffmann (executed 1945)
  • An enlisted engineer, Wolfgang Schwender (sentenced to 7 years imprisonment)

Eck was present during the incident, while the remaining crew were below decks. Eck was also executed in 1945. As a result of this action, all but three of Peleus's 35-man crew perished.

SS Dahomian

The submarine was able to evade pursuit, and two weeks later encountered and sank the British cargo ship SS Dahomian, off Cape Town on 1 April. This time U-852 hastily left the scene, rather than pausing.


U-852 was in the Indian Ocean on 30 April 1944[3] when she was spotted and attacked by a Vickers Wellington bomber flying from Aden. Damaged by aerial depth charges and unable to dive, she made for the Somali coast. Under attack there by six bombers of RAF 621 Squadron, Captain Eck was forced to beach his ship on a coral reef (9°32′N 50°59′E / 9.533°N 50.983°E / 9.533; 50.983Coordinates: 9°32′N 50°59′E / 9.533°N 50.983°E / 9.533; 50.983). Seven men were lost in the engagement; the remainder fled ashore. Fifty-eight were captured by Somaliland Camel Corps and local militia.

A British boarding party examined the wrecked U-boat and retrieved Eck's Kriegstagebuch ("War Diary"), which proved crucial in framing the Allied case against him and his men.[4] Also of great interest was the Fa 330 Bachstelze rotor kite, a towed one-man aerial observation platform.[1]

Raiding career

Date Ship Nationality Tonnage Fate
13 March 1944 SS Peleus Greek 4,695 Sunk
1 April 1944 SS Dahomian British 5,277 Sunk

See also




External links

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