|Born||13 May 1909|
|Died||15 June 1944(aged 35)|
|Place of birth||Rudak, Thorn|
|Place of death||Fort Hunt, Virginia|
|Buried at||Fort George G. Meade|
|Years of service||1934 – 1944|
4th U-boat Flotilla|
10th U-boat Flotilla
|Commands held||U-515, Feb 21, 1942 – Apr 9, 1944|
|Battles/wars||Battle of the Atlantic|
Iron Cross 1st Class
U-boat War Badge
Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves
Lieutenant Commander Werner Henke (May 13, 1909 - June 15, 1944) born in Thorn (Toruń) in Germany (now Poland) was the commander of U-515 during the Battle of the Atlantic of World War II. U-515 was sunk by the American task group 22.3, commanded by Daniel V. Gallery on April 9, 1944 and Kapitänleutnant Henke was captured along with about 40 of his crew.
Henke was raised in Rudak, a small village just outside Thorn. When Thorn reverted to Polish rule in 1920 after the end of World War I, the Henke family moved to Celle in the state of Hanover. Henke joined the Reichsmarine in April 1934 after several years in the merchant marine.
Henke attended the Naval Academy at Mürwik and served on the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. In five years of training he only spent one week studying U-boat warfare. He spent nearly two years stationed at the Pillau (now Baltiysk) naval base starting in 1937. In May 1939 he was assigned to the battleship SMS Schleswig-Holstein, where he participated in the first shots of World War II at Westerplatte.
In April 1940 he commenced six weeks of training at the U-boat school at Neustadt in Holstein. Before completing this training however, he was convicted of desertion and sent to a punishment unit. In November he was assigned to U-124.
In November 1941 he was sent to submarine commander's school, and on 21 February 1942 U-515 was commissioned with Henke in command.
Henke was captured when U-515 was sunk at 1510hrs on 9 April 1944 in the mid-Atlantic north of Madeira at 34.35N, 19.18W by bombs from the US escort carrier USS Guadalcanal and depth charges from the destroyer escorts USS Pope, Pillsbury, Chatelain and Flaherty. 16 of the crew were killed and about 40 survived.
Henke had been accused in a US propaganda broadcast of shooting British survivors of SS Ceramic, a passenger ship, that U-515 had sunk on December 7, 1942. Henke falsely believed the British wanted to try him as a war criminal. Knowing this, Captain Gallery, hoping to extort intelligence from him or his crew, idly threatened to turn him over to the British if he did not cooperate. Captain Gallery was successful in getting Henke to sign a paper agreeing to cooperate with interrogators. Henke reneged on the agreement but upon seeing that their captain had agreed to talk, many of his crew signed similar agreements and lived up to them.
Henke was interned in the interrogation center known as P. O. Box 1142 in Fort Hunt, Virginia. While there his interrogators threatened to hold him to his agreement to cooperate or be extradited to England to face war crime charges. On 15 June 1944, he dashed to the fence of the interrogation center and began to climb over. He continued to climb after a guard ordered him to stop and he was fatally shot.
A ceremony is held at the gravesite every year on Volkstrauertag in November, the German equivalent of Memorial Day, at which the Naval attaché of the German embassy in Washington, DC, lays a wreath with a ribbon in the colors of the German flag in commemoration of all those buried at this gravesite. Flowers are not uncommon to see in front of the grave.
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award 4th Class (1 October 1936)
- Spanish Cross in Bronze (6 June 1939)
- Sudetenland Medal (23 October 1940)
- Iron Cross (1939)
- U-boat War Badge (1939) (4 May 1941)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Mulligan 1993
- Busch and Röll 2003, p. 292.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 222.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 70.
- Busch, Rainer & Röll, Hans-Joachim (2003). Der U-Boot-Krieg 1939-1945 - Die Ritterkreuzträger der U-Boot-Waffe von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 (in German). Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn Germany: Verlag E.S. Mittler & Sohn. ISBN 3-8132-0515-0.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 (in German). Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
- Mulligan, Timothy P. (1993). Lone Wolf. The Life and Death of U-Boat Ace Werner Henke. Westport, Connecticut; London, UK: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-93677-5.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). 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 (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Category:Werner Henke.|
- Werner Henke in the German National Library catalogue
- Werner Henke @ uboat.net
- List of graves at Fort Meade
- German dignitaries honor prisoners of war buried at Fort Meade
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