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Werner Henke

Werner Henke

German World War II U-boat commander
Werner Henke
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German World War II U-boat commander
Was Sailor Submariner Lieutenant
From Germany
Type Military
Gender male
Birth 13 May 1909, Toruń
Death 15 June 1944, Fort Hunt (aged 35 years)
The details


Werner Henke (13 May 1909 – 15 June 1944) was the commander of U-515 in the Battle of the Atlantic of World War II. U-515 was sunk by the US task group 22.3, commanded by Daniel V. Gallery on 9 April 1944 and Henke was captured along with about 40 of his crew. He was shot and killed while attempting to escape from the POW interrogation center in Fort Hunt, Virginia in the United States.

Early life and naval career

Henke was raised in Rudak, a small village just outside Thorn. When Thorn became part of Poland in 1920, the Henke family moved to Celle in the Province 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 German cruiser Admiral Scheer. In five years' training he spent only 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 Schleswig-Holstein, where he participated in the first shots of World War II in the Battle of 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 15:10 on 9 April 1944 in the mid-Atlantic north of Madeira at 34°35′N 19°18′W / 34.583°N 19.300°W / 34.583; -19.300 by bombs from the US escort carrier USS Guadalcanal and depth charges from the destroyer escorts USS Pope, USS Pillsbury, USS Chatelain and USS Flaherty. 40 survivor were taken on by the warships.


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

A British propaganda broadcast had falsely accused Henke of shooting British survivors of Ceramic, a passenger ship that U-515 had sunk on 7 December 1942. Henke therefore believed the British wanted to try him as a war criminal. Knowing this, Captain Gallery, hoping to extort intelligence from him or his crew, 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 did cooperate.

Henke was interned in the interrogation center known as P. O. Box 1142 in Fort Hunt, Virginia, where 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 being ordered to stop and a guard shot him dead with a sub-machine gun.


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. It is not uncommon to see flowers in front of the grave.

Summary of career

Ships attacked

Date Name Nationality Tonnage
Fate Casualties
12 September 1942 Stanvac Melbourne  Panama 10,013 Sunk 1 killed
12 September 1942 Woensdrecht  Netherlands 4,668 Total loss 1 killed
13 September 1942 Nimba  Panama 1,854 Sunk 20 killed
13 September 1942 Ocean Vanguard  United Kingdom 7,174 Sunk 11 killed
14 September 1942 Harborough  United Kingdom 5,415 Sunk 5 killed
15 September 1942 Sørholt  Norway 4,801 Sunk 7 killed
17 September 1942 Mae  United States 5,607 Sunk 1 killed
20 September 1942 Reedpool  United Kingdom 4,838 Sunk 5 killed
23 September 1942 Antonius  United States 6,034 Damaged
23 September 1942 Lindvangen  Norway 2,412 Sunk 15 killed
12 November 1942 HMS Hecla  Royal Navy 10,850 Sunk 283 killed
12 November 1942 HMS Marne  Royal Navy 1,920 Damaged
7 December 1942 Ceramic  United Kingdom 18,713 Sunk 656 killed
4 March 1943 California Star  United Kingdom 8,300 Sunk 50 killed
9 April 1943 Bamako  Free France 2,397 Sunk 6 killed
30 April 1943 Bandar Shahpour  United Kingdom 5,236 Sunk 1 killed
30 April 1943 Corabella  United Kingdom 5,682 Sunk 9 killed
30 April 1943 Kota Tajandi  Netherlands 7,295 Sunk 6 killed
30 April 1943 Nagina  United Kingdom 6,551 Sunk 2 killed
1 May 1943 City of Singapore  United Kingdom 6,555 Sunk
1 May 1943 Clan Macpherson  United Kingdom 6,940 Sunk 4 killed
1 May 1943 Mokambo  Belgium 4,966 Sunk
9 May 1943 Corneville  Norway 4,554 Sunk
18 May 1943 HMS Chanticleer  Royal Navy 1,350 Total loss
17 December 1943 Kingswood  United Kingdom 5,080 Sunk
20 December 1943 Phemius  United Kingdom 7,406 Sunk 23 killed
24 December 1943 Dumana  United Kingdom 8,427 Sunk 39 killed


  • Wehrmacht Long Service Award 4th Class (1 October 1936)
  • Spanish Cross in Bronze (6 June 1939)
  • Sudetenland Medal (23 October 1940)
  • Iron Cross (1939) 2nd Class (17 September 1939) & 1st Class (4 October 1941)
  • U-boat War Badge (1939) (4 May 1941)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
    • Knight's Cross on 17 December 1942 as Oberleutnant zur See zur Verwendung and commander of U-515
    • 257th Oak Leaves on 4 July 1943 as Kapitänleutnant zur Verwendung and commander of U-515
  • ^ Busch & Röll 2003, p. 292.
  • Fellgiebel 2000, p. 222.
  • Fellgiebel 2000, p. 70.

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