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Werner Henke
Born (1909-05-13)13 May 1909
Died 15 June 1944(1944-06-15) (aged 35)
Place of birth Rudak, Thorn
Place of death Fort Hunt, Virginia
Buried at Fort George G. Meade
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Kriegsmarine
Years of service 1934 – 1944
Rank Korvettenkapitän
Unit 4th U-boat Flotilla
10th U-boat Flotilla
Commands held U-515, Feb 21, 1942 – Apr 9, 1944
Battles/wars Battle of the Atlantic
Awards Spanish Cross
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.

Early life

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.[1]

Early naval career

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.[1]

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.[1]

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.

Werner Henke's grave at Fort Meade, MD, decorated for Volkstrauertag 2008

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.[1] 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.

Henke was posthumously promoted to Korvettenkapitän and is interred at The Post Cemetery in Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, along with 32 other German POWs and 3 Italian POWs.

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.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Mulligan 1993
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Busch and Röll 2003, p. 292.
  3. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 222.
  4. 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.

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