German submarine U-852

German submarine U-852 was a Type IXD2 U-boat built for Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II. The submarine, which was a special long-range version of the Type IX, had four bow and two stern torpedo tubes and a Focke-Achgelis Fa 330 Bachstelze cable-towed lookout gyroglider. It was laid down in Bremen and completed in June 1943. She was commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinz-Wilhelm Eck, who led her through her sea trials and onto her first war patrol on 18 January 1944.

Nazi Germany
Name: U-852
Ordered: 20 January 1941
Builder: DeSchiMAG AG Weser, Bremen
Yard number: 1058
Laid down: 15 April 1942
Launched: 28 January 1943
Commissioned: 15 June 1943
Fate: Scuttled, 3 May 1944
General characteristics
Class and type: Type IXD2 submarine
  • 1,610 t (1,580 long tons) surfaced
  • 1,799 t (1,771 long tons) submerged
  • 7.50 m (24 ft 7 in) o/a
  • 4.40 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height: 10.20 m (33 ft 6 in)
Draught: 5.40 m (17 ft 9 in)
Installed power:
  • 9,000 PS (6,620 kW; 8,880 bhp) (diesels)
  • 1,000 PS (740 kW; 990 shp) (electric)
  • 20.8 knots (38.5 km/h; 23.9 mph) surfaced
  • 6.9 knots (12.8 km/h; 7.9 mph) submerged
  • 12,750 nmi (23,610 km; 14,670 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 57 nmi (106 km; 66 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 55 to 63
Service record[1][2]
Part of:
Operations: 1st patrol: 18 January – 3 May 1944
Victories: 2 commercial ships sunk (9,972 GRT)

Eck and his officers were the only Kriegsmarine submariners to be tried for war crimes at the end of World War II in Europe. They were convicted at a British military tribunal in Hamburg, (held concurrently during the Nuremberg Trials) for killing the survivors of the torpedoed Greek steamer SS Peleus in 1944.


German Type IXD2 submarines were considerably larger than the original Type IXs. U-852 had a displacement of 1,610 tonnes (1,580 long tons) when at the surface and 1,799 tonnes (1,771 long tons) while submerged.[3] The U-boat had a total length of 87.58 m (287 ft 4 in), a pressure hull length of 68.50 m (224 ft 9 in), a beam of 7.50 m (24 ft 7 in), a height of 10.20 m (33 ft 6 in), and a draught of 5.35 m (17 ft 7 in). The submarine was powered by two MAN M 9 V 40/46 supercharged four-stroke, nine-cylinder diesel engines plus two MWM RS34.5S six-cylinder four-stroke diesel engines for cruising, producing a total of 9,000 metric horsepower (6,620 kW; 8,880 shp) for use while surfaced, and two Siemens-Schuckert 2 GU 345/34 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 1,000 shaft horsepower (1,010 PS; 750 kW) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.85 m (6 ft) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 200 metres (660 ft).[3]

The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 20.8 knots (38.5 km/h; 23.9 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 6.9 knots (12.8 km/h; 7.9 mph).[3] When submerged, the boat could operate for 121 nautical miles (224 km; 139 mi) at 2 knots (3.7 km/h; 2.3 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 12,750 nautical miles (23,610 km; 14,670 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-852 was fitted with six 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and two at the stern), 24 torpedoes, one 10.5 cm (4.13 in) SK C/32 naval gun, 150 rounds, and a 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 with 2575 rounds as well as two 2 cm (0.79 in) C/30 anti-aircraft guns with 8100 rounds. The boat had a complement of fifty-five.[3]

Asian missionEdit

SS PeleusEdit

In early 1944, the Kriegsmarine dispatched U-852 on a top-secret mission to disrupt the Allies' Far East war effort by attacking sea lanes in the Indian Ocean. However, to do this successfully the submarine would have to maintain a high-level of secrecy throughout her journey from Europe. On 13 March while crossing the latitude of Freetown in the Atlantic Ocean, the U-boat spotted the lone Greek steamer SS Peleus. Eck, despite his mission, decided to attack the ship. After stalking her until nightfall, the steamer was sunk with two torpedoes.

However, the sinking of the Peleus had created a large debris field containing survivors in rafts and clinging to wreckage. Eck decided that this would indicate to any Allied shipping patrol aircraft there was a U-boat in the area, so he ordered his junior officers to destroy the wreckage by firing into it using hand grenades and automatic weapons. They did this while the rest of the crew remained below decks. There were only three survivors from the 35-man Peleus.

SS DahomianEdit

Two weeks later the U-852 sank the British cargo ship SS Dahomian off Cape Town on 1 April. This time the U-852 left rather than attack the survivors.


Date Ship Nationality Tonnage Fate
13 March 1944 Peleus   Greece 4,695 Sunk
1 April 1944 Dahomian   United Kingdom 5,277 Sunk


On 30 April 1944, U-852 was spotted in the Indian Ocean by a Vickers Wellington bomber flying from Aden.[4] After being left unable to dive due to damage from aerial depth charges, she headed for the coast of Somalia. However, before reaching land the U-Boat came under attack from six RAF bombers from 621 Squadron. Eck was forced to run aground on a coral reef (9°32′N 50°59′E / 9.533°N 50.983°E / 9.533; 50.983Coordinates: 9°32′N 50°59′E / 9.533°N 50.983°E / 9.533; 50.983) about 20 km (12 mi) from shore. Seven crewmen were lost in the engagement; the remainder fled ashore. Fifty-eight were captured by Somaliland Camel Corps and local militia.

A British boarding party examined the wrecked U-boat and retrieved Eck's Kriegstagebuch ("War Diary"), which proved crucial in constructing the Allied case against him and his men.[5] The British also discovered the Fa 330 Bachstelze rotor kite, a towed one-man aerial observation platform.[1]

War crimes trialEdit

In November 1945, Eck and the U-852's four junior officers were tried by the British at a special military tribunal in Hamburg for killing the crew from the SS Peleus. The German commander said he carried out the attack because there might have been communications equipment on the survivors’ rafts and the Laconia Order forbade him from helping the crews of sunk enemy ships. However, the British tribunal rejected his plea of “operational necessity” and sentenced him to death. Despite claiming they were "only following orders", the boat's second-in-command, August Hoffmann, and Walter Weisspfennig, the ship's doctor (who was condemned for using a weapon in contravention of the Geneva Convention) were also given the death penalty.

Hans Lenz, the engineering officer, who had opposed Eck’s order but eventually carried it out was given a life sentence (but was released 7 years later, in 1952). Wolfgang Schwender, an enlisted engineer, who said he only shot at debris not survivors - until being replaced by the reluctant Lenz - received 15 years (but was paroled 6 years later, in 1951). On 30 November 1945, Eck, Hoffmann and Weisspfennig were executed by naval firing squad.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type IXD2 boat U-852". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  2. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "War Patrols by German U-boat U-852". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d Gröner 1991, pp. 74-75.
  4. ^ Klemen, L (1999–2000). "The U-Boat War in the Indian Ocean". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942. Archived from the original on 21 March 2011.
  5. ^ Dwight R. Messimer. "Heinz-Wilhelm Eck: Siegerjustiz and the Peleus Affair". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  6. ^ Sharpe (1998), p.148


  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). German U-boat commanders of World War II : a biographical dictionary. Translated by Brooks, Geoffrey. London, Annapolis, Md: Greenhill Books, Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-186-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 [German U-boat losses from September 1939 to May 1945]. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German). IV. Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler. ISBN 3-8132-0514-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Gröner, Erich; Jung, Dieter; Maass, Martin (1991). U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945. 2. Translated by Thomas, Keith; Magowan, Rachel. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-593-4.
  • Sharpe, Peter (1998). U-Boat Fact File. Great Britain: Midland Publishing. ISBN 1-85780-072-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Bridgland, Tony, Waves of Hate, Leo Cooper, Great Britain: 2002. ISBN 0-85052-822-4.

External linksEdit