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Karl Thurmann

Karl Thurmann German World War II U-boat commander

German World War II U-boat commander
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German World War II U-boat commander
Was Sailor Submariner Lieutenant
From Germany
Type Military
Gender male
Birth 4 September 1909, Mülheim an der Ruhr
Death 20 January 1943, Atlantic Ocean (aged 33 years)
The details

Karl Thurmann (4 September 1909 – 20 January 1943) was a German U-boat commander in World War II and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, awarded by Nazi Germany to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.
Thurmann was born in Mülheim, Ruhr. He joined the Reichsmarine in April 1928, serving aboard the light cruisers Emden and Köln. After training, and sailing on a patrol as Kommandantenschüler (Commander-in-Training") aboard U-29 under Otto Schuhart, Thurmann commissioned the Type VIIC U-boat U-553 on 23 December 1940. Thurmann took U-553 out on nine patrols in 1941 and 1942, and sank 12 merchant ships totalling one warship, and damaged two more.
On 16 January 1943, Thurmann left La Pallice, France, on his tenth patrol. On 20 January, he sent the last radio message: Seerohr unklar ("Periscope not clear"). U-553 was never heard from again and her fate remains a mystery.

Summary of career

Ships attacked

As commander of U-553 Karl Thurmann is credited with the sinking of twelve ships for a total of 61,390 gross register tons (GRT), further damaging two ships of 15,273 GRT and sinking one warship, HMS Gladiolus, of 925 long tons (940 tonnes).

Date Ship Nationality Tonnage Fate
12 June 1941 Ranella  Norway 5,590 Sunk
12 June 1941 Susan Maersk  United Kingdom 2,355 Sunk
15 October 1941 Ila  Norway 1,583 Sunk
15 October 1941 Silvercedar  United Kingdom 4,354 Sunk
17 October 1941 HMS Gladiolus  Royal Navy 925 Sunk
15 January 1942 Diala  United Kingdom 8,106 Damaged
22 January 1942 Innerøy  Norway 8,260 Sunk
12 May 1942 Leto  Netherlands 4,712 Sunk
12 May 1942 Nicoya  United Kingdom 5,364 Sunk
2 June 1942 Matawin  United Kingdom 6,919 Sunk
3 August 1942 Belgian Soldier  Belgium 7,167 Damaged
18 August 1942 Blankaholm  Sweden 2,845 Sunk
18 August 1942 Empire Bede  United Kingdom 6,959 Sunk
18 August 1942 John Hancock  United States 7,176 Sunk
9 December 1942 Charles L D  United Kingdom 5,273 Sunk


  • Wehrmacht Long Service Award 4th Class (2 October 1936)
  • Iron Cross (1939)
    • 2nd Class (21 July 1941)
    • 1st Class (23 October 1941)
  • U-boat War Badge (1939) (23 October 1941)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 24 August 1942 as Korvettenkapitän and commander of U-553
  • Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht on 22 May 1942
  • Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-553". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. 
  • Busch & Röll 2003, p. 250.
  • ^ Busch & Röll 2003, p. 251.
  • Scherzer 2007, p. 744.

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