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Otto Westphalen
File:File:Otto Westphalen.jpg
Born (1920-03-12)12 March 1920
Died 9 January 2008(2008-01-09) (aged 87)
Place of birth Hamburg
Place of death Hamburg
Allegiance Flag of German Reich (1935–1945).svg Nazi Germany
Service/branch War Ensign of Germany (1938–1945).svg Kriegsmarine
Years of service 1938–1945
Rank Oberleutnant zur See
Unit 21st U-boat Flotilla
13th U-boat Flotilla
Commands held U-121
(16 May 1942 – 8 February 1943)
(18 March 1943 – 8 May 1945)

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Otto Westphalen (12 March 1920 in Hamburg – 9 January 2008) was a German U-boat commander in World War II and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German language:Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.


Westphalen joined the Kriegsmarine in October 1938, and took part in the invasion of Poland aboard the battleship Schlesien a year later. He then served on the torpedo boat Kondor for six months before joining the U-boat force in October 1940.[1]

He sailed on four patrols as watch officer of U-566 in 1941, and in May 1942 took command of the school boat U-121. In March 1943 he commissioned the Type VIIC U-boat U-968, and was attached to 13th U-boat Flotilla, based at Trondheim, Norway, for operations against convoys in the Arctic Sea.[1]

Westphalen sailed on seven combat patrols between March 1944 and May 1945, though all his victories were made in February and March 1945;[2] he sank three merchant ships, damaged another, and sank the British sloops HMS Lark and HMS Lapwing.[3] On 29 April 1945 he attacked but missed HMS Goodall which was sunk an hour later by U-286.

In January 1944 Westphalen served on the military court which sentenced Oscar Kusch, the commander of U-154, to death on charges of "defeatism".[4]

Westphalen surrendered in May 1945 in Narvik.[1]

Summary of careerEdit

Ships attackedEdit

Ships attacked[1]
Date Ship Tons Nationality Convoy Fate
14 February 1945Horace Gray 7,200United StatesBK-3 Total loss
Norfjell8,129Flag of Norway.svg NorwayBK-3 Damaged
17 February 1945HMS Lark1,350Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United KingdomRA-64 Total loss
Thomas Scott7,176United StatesRA-64 Sunk
20 March 1945HMS Lapwing1,350Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United KingdomJW-65 Sunk
Thomas Donaldson7,210United StatesJW-65 Sunk


Wehrmachtbericht referenceEdit

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
24 March 1945 (addendum) Bei dem im Wehrmachtbericht vom 23. März gemeldeten erfolgreichen Angriff auf einen nach Murmansk laufenden Nachschubgeleitzug zeichnete sich die Besatzung des unter Führung von Oberleutnant zur See Westphalen stehenden Unterseebootes besonders aus.[8] In the 23 March Wehrmacht communique reported successful attack on an replenishment convoy to Murmansk, the submarine crew under the command of First Lieutenant at Sea Westphalen particularly distinguished themselves.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Oberleutnant zur See Otto Westphalen". Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  2. "War Patrols by U-boat U-968". Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  3. "Ships hit by U-968". Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  4. "The Case of Oskar Kusch and the Limits of U-boat Camaraderie in World War II: Reflections on a German Tragedy". Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Busch and Röll 2003, p. 507.
  6. Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 509.
  7. Scherzer 2007, p. 782.
  8. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 576.
  • Busch, Hans-Joachim; Röll (2003) (in German). Der U-Boot-Krieg 1939–1945 — Die Ritterkreuzträger der U-Boot-Waffe von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 [The U-Boat War 1939–1945 — The Knight's Cross Bearers of the U-Boat Force from September 1939 to May 1945]. Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn Germany: Verlag E.S. Mittler & Sohn. ISBN 978-3-8132-0515-2. 
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) (in German). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches]. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Kurowski, Franz (1995). Knight's Cross Holders of the U-Boat Service. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-88740-748-2. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001) (in German). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2]. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • Range, Clemens (1974). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Kriegsmarine [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Navy]. Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-87943-355-1. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007) (in German). 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 [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives]. Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 

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