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Adolf Piening

Adolf Piening

German World War II U-boat commander
The basics
Quick Facts
Occupations Korvettenkapitän Submariner
Countries Germany
Gender male
Birth September 16, 1910 (Süderende, Nordfriesland, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany)
Death May 15, 1984 (Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany)
The details

Adolf Cornelius Piening (16 September 1910 in Süderende on Föhr – 15 May 1984 in Kiel) was a Kapitänleutnant with the Kriegsmarine during World War II. He commanded the Type IXC U-boat U-155, sinking twenty-six ships on nine patrols, for a total of 140,449 gross register tons (GRT) of Allied shipping, to become the nineteenth highest scoring U-Boat ace of World War II, and receiving the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.


Piening joined the Reichsmarine in 1930. His first assignment was to the armoured cruiser Deutschland, after which he served on torpedo boats and minesweepers, reaching the rank of Kapitänleutnant by April 1939. In October 1940 he moved from the surface fleet to the submarine arm or U-Bootwaffe.

In May–June 1941 he carried out a single patrol out of Saint-Nazaire aboard U-48 (commanded by Herbert Schultze) as Kommandantenschüler or "Commander-in-Training". Following this, he was appointed commander of the newly built Type IX submarine U-155 on 23 August 1941. After training the boat's crew for several month, Piening set out from Kiel on his first patrol in command of U-155 in February 1942, with the intention of attacking shipping in American waters. On the journey across the Atlantic, U-155 encountered the westbound convoy ON 67, and after sending out a contact report that allowed several more U-boats to be directed against the convoy, carried out an attack that sank an 8,000 ton tanker and a 1,800 ton freighter. U-155 sank another ship off the coast of the United States re-crossing the Atlantic to the submarine's new base at Lorient, as part of the 10th U-boat Flotilla.

The "Piening Route" in red.

Piening carried out a further seven patrols in command of U-155, sinking 26 ships for a total of 140,449 gross register tons (GRT), including the escort carrier HMS Avenger, and also badly damaged the attack cargo ship USS Almaack. He also became well known for developing the "Piening Route" in 1943, hugging the coast of France and northern Spain, to evade Allied patrol aircraft in the Bay of Biscay. U-155 attacked and sank MS Siranger sailing from New York to Vest-Afrika 24 October 1943. Nobody died and everybody reached the life boats. The "U-155" later surfaced and the German captain Adolf Pienning apologized to the survivors for the act, claiming he was only carrying out orders. Dokumentary by NRK

In March 1944 Piening left U-155 and was appointed commander of the 7th U-boat Flotilla at Saint-Nazaire. In April 1945 Piening made one last patrol, laying mines off Saint-Nazaire in U-255. Piening spent more than two years as a Prisoner of war following the end of the war.

In 1956, West Germany established its navy, the Bundesmarine, and Piening joined the new navy. In 1959 he was appointed commanding officer of the 1. Geleitgeschwader (1st Escort Squadron). He then held the position of Planning officer on the staff of COMNAVNORCENT (Commander Allied Naval Forces North Norway) and Chief of the Operations Division on the staff of COMNAVBALTAP (Commander of Allied Forces Baltic Approaches). On 1 October 1965 he became team leader at the Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr, serving until 1969, retiring with the rank of Kapitän zur See. He died in 1984.

Summary of career

Ships attacked

As commander of U-155 Adolf Piening is credited with the sinking of 25 ships for a total of 126,664 gross register tons (GRT), one warship, the HMS Avenger, of 13,785 long tons (14,006 tonnes) and damaging one auxiliary warship, the USS Almaack, of 6,736 long tons (6,844 tonnes).

Date Ship Name Flag Tonnage Fate
22 February 1942 Adellen  United Kingdom 7,984 Sunk
22 February 1942 Sama  Norway 1,799 Sunk
7 March 1942 Arabutan  Brazil 7,874 Sunk
14 May 1942 Brabant  Belgium 2,483 Sunk
17 May 1942 USS Challenger  United States Navy 7,667 Sunk
17 May 1942 San Victorio  United Kingdom 8,136 Sunk
20 May 1942 Sylvan Arrow  Panama 7,797 Sunk
23 May 1942 Watsonville  Panama 2,220 Sunk
28 May 1942 Poseidon  Netherlands 1,928 Sunk
30 May 1942 Baghdad  Norway 2,161 Sunk
28 July 1942 Barbacena  Brazil 4,772 Sunk
28 July 1942 Piave  Brazil 2,347 Sunk
28 July 1942 Bill  Norway 2,445 Sunk
30 July 1942 Cranford  United States 6,096 Sunk
1 August 1942 Clan Macnaughton  United Kingdom 8,088 Sunk
1 August 1942 Kentaur  Netherlands 5,878 Sunk
4 August 1942 Empire Arnold  United Kingdom 7,045 Sunk
5 August 1942 Draco  Netherlands 389 Sunk
9 August 1942 San Emiliano  United Kingdom 8,071 Sunk
10 August 1942 Strabo  Netherlands 383 Sunk
15 August 1942 Ettrick  United Kingdom 11,279 Sunk
15 August 1942 HMS Avenger  Royal Navy 13,785 Sunk
15 August 1942 USS Almaack  United States Navy 6,736 Damaged
6 December 1942 Serooskerk  Netherlands 8,456 Sunk
2 April 1943 Lysefjord  Norway 1,091 Sunk
3 April 1943 Gulfstate  United States 6,882 Sunk
24 October 1943 Siranger  Norway 5,393 Sunk


  • Wehrmacht Long Service Award 4th Class (2 October 1936)
  • Spanish Cross in Bronze with Swords (6 June 1939)
  • Iron Cross (1939)
    • 2nd Class (22 November 1939)
    • 1st Class (27 June 1940)
  • U-boat War Badge (1939) (28 March 1942)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 13 August 1942 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-155
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