Military Wiki
German submarine U-873
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-873
Ordered: 25 August 1941[1]
Builder: AG Weser, Bremen[1]
Laid down: 17 February 1943[1]
Launched: 11 November 1943[1]
Commissioned: 1 March 1944[1]
Captured: 11 May 1945
Fate: scrapped 1948
General characteristics
Class & type: Type IXD2 U-boat[2]
Displacement: Surfaced 1,616 tons tons
submerged 1,804 tons[2]
Length: Overall 87.6 m (287 ft)
pressure hull 68.5 m (225 ft)
Beam: Overall 7.5 m (25 ft)
pressure hull 4.4 m (14 ft)
Draught: 5.4 m (18 ft)
Propulsion: Surfaced: 5,400 hp (4,000 kW)
Submerged: 1,100 hp (820 kW)[2]
Speed: Surfaced 19.2 kn (35.6 km/h; 22.1 mph)
submerged 7 kn (13 km/h; 8.1 mph)[2]
Range: Surfaced: 23,700 mi at 12 knot
submerged: 57 mi at 4 knot[2]
Test depth: Calculated crush depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 7 officers & 52 ratings[3]
  • 4 × bow torpedo tubes, 2 × stern (20 torpedoes)[4]
  • 1 × 37 mm deck gun
    2 × twin 20 mm guns on fwd platform
    1 × twin 37 mm gun on aft platform[4]
Service record
Part of: Kriegsmarine
4th U-boat Flotilla (Training)
1 March 1944 – 31 January 1945
33rd U-boat Flotilla (front Boat)
1 February 1945 – 8 May 1945[1]
Commanders: Kapitänleutnant Friedrich Steinhoff
Operations: 1 patrol: 30 March 1945 – 17 May 1945

German submarine U-873 was a German long range Type IXD2 U-boat of World War II. Following the surrender of Germany, the United States Navy studied U-873 to improve United States submarine designs. U-873 is remembered for the controversial treatment of its crew as prisoners of war and the death of commanding officer Friedrich Steinhoff in a Boston jail cell. Six months after Steinhoff's death, his brother was one of the Operation Paperclip rocket scientists from Peenemünde arriving in the United States to work at White Sands Missile Range.[5]


U-873 was commissioned on 1 March 1944 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Friedrich Steinhoff and assigned to the 4th U-boat Flotilla for training in the Baltic Sea from the base in Stettin.[6] The crew of the new submarine was assembled around a nucleus of Engineering Officer Helmut Jürgens, Quartermaster Albert Finister, and ten other survivors from U-604, which had been sunk off the coast of Brazil on 11 August 1943.[7] On 29 July 1944 a small aerial bomb struck the control room of U-873 during a bombing raid on Bremen which injured four of the crew. Crewmen Fritz Grusa died of those injuries and U-873 did not complete repairs until November. A Deschimag Type I schnorchel was fitted in December.[1]

Upon completion of training on 31 January 1945 U-873 was assigned to the 33rd U-boat Flotilla at Flensburg for war patrols to the Atlantic Ocean. U-873 departed from Kiel on 17 February 1945 and arrived in Horten on 22 February. U-873 sailed from Horten on 21 March 1945 and reached Kristiansand the following day. U-873 sailed from Kristiansand on 30 March 1945[6] and was proceeding to an assigned operations area in the Caribbean Sea when Germany surrendered on 8 May.[8] At 04:30 GMT on 11 May, U-873 surrendered to USS Vance of Escort Division 45 (CortDiv 45) while it was escorting convoy UGS 90 at 35°45′N 42°31′W / 35.75°N 42.517°W / 35.75; -42.517.[3] Vance placed a prize crew aboard U-873 and escorted the U-boat to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on 16 May. U-873 was placed in drydock for a design study of the Type IXD2 class of U-boats by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard engineers; and was later transferred to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Following completion of trials, the U-boat was scrapped in 1948.[9]


Portsmouth Naval Prison.

German Type IX submarine U-805 had arrived at Portsmouth the day before U-873 arrived, and U-1228 arrived the following day. German Type X submarine U-234 arrived on 19 May. Possessions of the crews of these U-boats had been scattered by the prize crews in the process of searching for intelligence information and evidence of sabotage. Upon arrival at Portsmouth the U-boat crews were sent to Portsmouth Naval Prison for interrogation by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Subsequent investigation concluded personal possessions of the U-boat crewmen were looted contrary to provisions of the Geneva Convention.[10]

Following interrogation at Portsmouth Naval Prison, the handcuffed crew of U-873 was pelted with insults and garbage while marching through the streets of Boston to the Suffolk County Charles Street Jail to await transfer to a prisoner-of-war camp in Mississippi.[9]

Commanding Officer

Friedrich Steinhoff was born in Küllstedt on 14 July 1909 and was a merchant marine officer prior to joining Kriegsmarine crew 34. After serving with the 4th minesweeping flotilla from December 1939 to May 1940, he was a watch officer aboard U-96 from July through October 1941.[6] He then commanded U-511 during rocket launching experiments of 1942 in cooperation with his brother Ernst Steinhoff, who was Director for Flight Mechanics, Ballistics, Guidance Control, and Instrumentation at the Peenemünde Army Research Center.[11] Command of U-873 was preceded by a year of staff duty with the 7th U-boat Flotilla.[12]

U-873 crewman Georg Seitz reported Steinhoff's face was bleeding and swollen when he returned to his cell after being questioned by a civilian ONI interrogator who ordered a husky United States Marine Corps guard to slap the officer.[7] On 19 May 1945 Steinhoff bled to death in his Boston jail cell from wrist wounds possibly inflicted with the broken lens of his sunglasses.[9] He was buried in grave 934 at Fort Devens.[6]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "U-873". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Taylor p.104
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Messages reporting Surrender of U-873". U-boat Archive. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "U-873 Preliminary Report". U-boat Archive. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  5. "Steinhoff, Ernst". Astronautix. Retrieved December 14, 2010. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Type IXD2 "U-873". Type IXD2. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "U-873 surrendered to U.S. forces on May 11, 1945". U-boat Archive. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  8. "Messages Reporting Preliminary Interrogation of U-1228 Crewmembers". U-boat Archive. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Suicide: U-Boat 873 Commander Friedrich Steinhoff". Bill Milhomme. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  10. "Report of the Naval Inspector General Regarding Irregularities Connected with the Handling of Surrendered German Submarines". U-boat Archive. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 
  11. Paterson pp.55-57
  12. "Friedrich Steinhoff". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 2012-10-05. 


  • Paterson, Lawrence Black Flag: The Surrender of Germany's U-Boat Forces MBI Publishing (2009) ISBN 0760337543
  • Taylor, J.C. German Warships of World War II Doubleday & Company (1967)

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