The Iron Cross…

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…on the conning tower of U 9

U 9 was one of the early U-boats built for the Kriegsmarine. Its commissioning occurred on 21st of August 1935 at the Germania Shipyard at Kiel, Germany. The first Commanding Officer was Kapitänleutant Hans-Günther Looff. U 9 belonged to the group of U-boats of the Type IIB called “Dugouts”. Its displacement was a mere 279 to at surface and 328 to submerged, length was 42,7 m, width 3,9 m, the speed at surface was 13 kn and 7 kn submerged, its range was about 3.100 nmi at 8 kn. It had three bow torpedo tubes und it could take along five torpedoes. The complement was 25 men.

p225_1_00Apart from the light cruiser Emden U-boat U 9 was the only U-boat of the Kriegsmarine allowed to bear the Iron Cross from WW I as coat of arms. The right to do so was granted to him to carry on the tradition of the legendary U-boat SM U 9 from WW I under the famous Commanding Officer Otto Weddigen. During its 3rd combat patrol SM U 9 encountered on 22 September 1914 at the Hoofden (eastern approach to the Dover Straits) several British armoured cruisers, which were engaged in securing British troop transports into Flandres, Belgium. Within 75 minutes, SM U 9 managed to sink by torpedoes three of the cruisers, i.e. HMS Aboukir, HMS Cressy and HMS Hogue.

Such a success by an U-boat has never been expected by the German Naval leadership until that time. This event gave some fresh impetus to the German U-boat production and the rating of U-boats and their contribution to the war at sea in WW I. On 25 October 1914 Otto Weddigen was awarded the “Pour le Merite”, the highest possible award for bravery at that time. In addition to that, Emperor William II. honored SM U 9 by a special gesture: Per Imperial Order the U-boat was given the right to bear the Iron Cross at its conning tower as coat of arms. SM U 9 survived the First World War and it was handed over to Britain on 26 November 1918 in compliance with the truce at the end of the war. Eventually, the U-boat was scrapped at Morecambe after May 1919.

p225_1_01Following a directive by the Commander-in-Chief Kriegsmarine, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, also the second U 9 was to bear the Iron Cross as coat of arms on both sides of its conning tower, including the insignia of World War I. U 9 served as training and frontal U-boat from its commissioning to the end of 1939, being part of the U-Flottilla “Weddigen”, which was renamed “1st U-Flottilla” on 01 January 1940.

Kapitän z.S. Wolfgang Lüth
Kapitän z.S. (Captain) Wolfgang Lüth

Until the outbreak of World War II further Commanding Officers of U 9 after Hans-Günther Looff were Werner von Schmidt and Ludwig Mathes. Shortly prior the beginning of the war Max Schulte took over command, but in December 1939 Wolfgang Lüth became Commanding Officer. As a CO he executed 6 combat patrols until June 1940, sinking with his crew 7 merchant vessels with a total tonnage of 15,699 GRT, but also one French submarine.

Until April 1942 three more Commanding Officers of U 9 followed Wolfgang Lüth: Wolfgang Kaufmann, Joachim Deecke and Hans-Joachim Schmidt-Weichert. Under Wolfgang Kaufmann U 9 became again training U-boat, initially as unit of the 24th U-Flottilla at Memel, Eastern Baltic Sea, as of November 1940 as unit of the 21st U-Flottilla at Pillau, sou Memel. In Winter 1941/42 the Kriegsmarine High Command agreed to a deployment of 6 U-boats of Type II B plus some fast patrol boats and mine sweeping units to the Black Sea, to better counter the almost unrestricted sea control by the Soviet Union. In Spring of 1942 the initial measures to redeploy U 9, U 19 and U 24 started and the three U-boats were temporarily de-commissioned on 18 April 1942 at Kiel, allowing final preparations for the difficult transport via rivers and roads. U 18, U 20 and U 23 were to follow the first group on 26 August 1942. These six U-boats were to form the 30th U-Flottilla at Konstanza, Rumania.

p225_1_03Also, the U-boat with the Iron Crosses was de-commissioned, to prepare for the adventurous route to Konstanza at the Black Sea. U 9 sailed from Pillau initially to Kiel, where the boat was disassembled almost entirely. Thereafter, it was fixed into a special transport trestle on a barge, to be towed from Kiel via the Kiel-Canal and along the river Elbe to Hamburg and further to Dresden-Übigau. At the crossing of the Elbe and a Autobahn (= motorway) the pressure hull of the U-boat was taken ashore via a slip device and loaded on a special heavy weight “Kuhlemeyer”-truck for the overland transport. This special transport vehicle with 32 very flat and wide tires made from solid rubber allowed easily weights up to 60 to. The towing trucks were “Kaelbe” and “Faun” vehicles. At a speed of mere 8 km/h the transport of U 9 moved via the Autobahn to Ingolstadt, Bavaria. Here, at the river Donau, the shore leg ended for the U-boat, which then was put again on a special barge. A river cruise followed along the Donau to Linz, Austria.

There, the pressure hull was put in an upright position, and those internal parts were reinstalled, which had been disassembled at Kiel to reduce the weight. The remaining work was to be carried out by German shipyard specialists at the Donau-Shipyard at Galatz, Rumania. After the re-assembly, U 9 was re-commissioned on 28 October 1942 at Galatz, again with Hans-Joachim Schmidt-Weichert as Commanding Officer. Already the next day, the U-boat was towed along river Donau to Sulina at the estuary of the river into the Black Sea, guided by a river pilot.

Under its own steam U 9 then sailed its first miles through the Black Sea southbound, close to the Rumanian coast and accompanied by protecting German Naval and Air Force units throughout. Eventually, its final destination Konstanza was reached on 30 October 1942. Oberleutnant zur See (= Lieutenant) Hans-Joachim Schmidt-Weichert commanded the U-boat during 6 combat patrols through the Black Sea, although unsuccessful.

p225_1_05On 13 September 1943 Oberleutnant zur See Heinrich Klador took over command of U 9. He led the U-boat during 4 more combat patrols. On 31 March 1944 the crew of U 9 managed to hit one “IL-2” bomber during an air raid by Soviet aircraft against the port of Feodosia, the crash of the plane was observed. After CO Heinrich Klapdor was wounded by bomb splinters during that attack the First Watch Officer, Wolf-Dietrich Dehrmann, took over and brought the U-boat via Yalta to Sevastopol. There, Oberleutnant zur See Martin Landt-Hayen took over U 9 as substitute Commanding Officer and brought it back to Konstanza.

On 07 April 1944 Oberleutnant zur See Klaus Petersen took over command to act as substitute during the next combat patrol from 26 April to 28 May 1944. During this patrol an ex-change of fire occurred on 05 May 1944, U 9 set a Soviet fishing trawler at fire by means of its 2 cm AA gun and its MG. On 11 May 1944 U 9 launched a T-5 “Zaunkönig” (= wren) torpedo against a small convoy and could observe a heavy deto-nation on the 412 t coastal minesweeper Shtorm, which experienced severe damage.

Six days later, U 9 fired a salvo of two torpedoes against a Soviet tanker, observing two hits, but no real effect. On 25 May 1944 U 9 launched another T-5 torpedo against a small anti-submarine vessel, which was accompanied by two gun boats. After 11 minutes and 34 seconds a detonation could be heard on board the U-boat and another half hour later only the two gun boats could be spotted through the periscope. When U 9 returned from its combat patrol Heinrich Klapdor resumed his command over U 9, since he had recovered from his wound. He then led his U-boat between 15 July and 11 August 1944 during another combat patrol to the Caucasian coast, but did not achieve any success.

On 20 August 1944 more than 140 Soviet aircraft of all types launched a mas-sive attack against Konstanza. U 9 sank at its berth in the U-boat base following severe hits by bombs.
After the withdrawal of the German Forces from Rumania a first salvage operation was prepared on 22 October 1944 by the average service of the occupying Soviet Forces. Due to the overcrowding of the dry docks and essential equipment for salvage operations not available, such as salvage vessels and heavy load pontoons, it was decided to initially shift U 9 to a shallow water area off the harbor and to set the U-boat a ground.

p225_1_04At the end of 1944 U 9 was lifted a second time by the Soviets and dry docked. After necessary repairs and a thorough technical scrutiny the commission responsible for that decided to further refit U 9 at the Soviet Black Sea shipyard at Nikolaev in today´s Ukraine. By order of the People´s Commissioner´s Office of the Soviet Navy the U-boat was enrolled in the OOB of the “Red Fleet” with effect of 19 April 1945. U 9 was renamed TC-16.

When the repairs were completed, TC-16 (ex U 9) was redeployed to Sevastopol and assigned to the Submarine Training Division. However, as early as 25 November 1945 the Naval Staff of the Black Sea Fleet decided to delete TC-16 again from the list of serviceable submarines and to release it for scrapping, since it was not employable for combat duties, also essential spare parts were simply not available.

The scrapping apparently meant also the vanishing of both Iron Crosses from the conning tower of U 9. Nothing could be found as to the whereabouts of them during the first post-war years. By incident some 50 years later the author Gerd Enders learned during his research about German U-boats in the Black Sea that one Iron Cross of U 9 is kept at the Naval Museum at Sevastopol, together with other prize weapons and exhibits.

Gerd Enders, the author of books such as”Auch kleine Igel haben Stacheln” (= “Even little hedgehogs have spines”) and “Deutsche U-Boote zum Schwarzen Meer” (= “German U-boats to the Black Sea”) was able to prove by this discovery that at least one of the Iron Crosses of U 9 had survived. Unfortunately, the Iron Cross put on display at Sevastopol is missing the Imperial Crown at the upper wing of the cross as well as the “W” in the center of the cross. Most probably these insignia were removed due to political reasons. Nevertheless, the Iron Cross presented at the Naval Museum at Sevastopol is definitely one of the two which were fixed at the conning tower of U 9. The other Iron Cross might have, most likely, vanished for good.

Source: Picture: Deutsches U-Boot-Museum Text: H.J. Röll, unofficial translation by Peter Monte

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