Otto Kretschmer

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Otto Kretschmer, also known as "Silent Otto"

Otto Kretschmer (May 1, 1912 - August 5, 1998) was a famous U-Boat commander of the Second World War, and was the most successful Ace of the Deep. From September 1939 until being captured in March 1941, he sank 47 ships for a total of 274,333 tons. For this he received the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, among other commendations. He earned the nickname "Silent Otto" for his successful use of the "silent running" capability of the U-Boats. Indeed, Kretschmer was truly a force to be reckoned with, and did as much as one commander could against the Allied merchant effort.

Otto Kretschmer was born in Heidau, Liegnitz, joining the Kriegsmarine in April 1930, and attained the rank of Seekadett. In December 1934 he served on the light cruiser Köln until he was transferred to the U-Boat Force in January 1936, where he received extensive officer training and was promoted to Oberleutnant zur See.

Kretschmer's first command was the U-35, which was ordered to patrol the Spanish coast during the Spanish Civil War. No ships were sunk. After the Civil War was over, Kretschmer left the U-35, and took command of U-23 during the German invasion of Poland. His first patrols with the U-23 were ones of success, sinking several ships and cruisers. He sunk the Danish tanker Danmark on January 12th, 1940, which was estimated to be 10,000 tons sunk. A month later, Kretschmer sunk a British destroyer named the HMS Darling, weighing in at 1,000 tons. U-Boat crews almost always avoided destroyers, so this was seen as a fairly talented stunt by Kretschmer and the U-23.

After eight patrols, Kretschmer left the U-23 and was transferred to the U-99, and in a sense started his legacy. In the first four patrols of the U-99, Kretschmer started striking convoys at night on the surface, taking down merchant ships with highly accurate shots, using only one torpedo a ship to save ammunition. His tactics were widely imitated throughout the U-Boat force, with mixed results.

His most successful patrol was executed on November 1940, where he sunk three British Merchant ships, resulting in 46,000 tons. He gained the #1 spot on the Aces list, and was never surpassed. On his last patrol in March 1941, he sunk 10 more ships, but U-99 was disabled by depth charges. Kretschmer surfaced and scuttled his boat, and was captured along with the rest of his crew by British forces. All but 3 of the crew members survived.

Upon his capture, he spent almost seven years in the hands of the British, until December 1947 where he returned to Germany. He joined the post-WWII German Navy in 1955, and retired in 1970 as an Admiral. During a vacation in Bavaria, he died in an accident.

Kretschmer only served three years out of seven in WWII, and still would never be surpassed in terms of tonnage sunk. He was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, the U-boat War Badge, the Iron Cross 1st Class, the Knight's Cross, the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, and the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords



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