29 January 1908|
27 July 1997 89) (aged|
|Years of service||1927–45|
6th U-boat Flotilla
|Battles/wars||Battle of the Atlantic|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Heinrich Liebe (29 January 1908 – 27 July 1997) was a German U-boat commander who served in the Kriegsmarine during World War II until transferred to Oberkommando der Marine (Naval High Command). He was credited in Nazi propaganda with sinking of 34 ships for a total of 187,267 gross register tons (GRT). He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves of Nazi Germany. It was the country's highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Liebe.
Born in Gotha, Liebe began his Reichsmarine career in 1927. Promoted to Oberfähnrich zur See on 1 June 1931, Liebe served on the World War I battleship Schleswig-Holstein for four years. In September 1935, Liebe transferred to the U-boat arm.
On 1 October 1936, Liebe was promoted to Kapitänleutnant (lieutenant) and assigned commander of U-2, a Type II U-boat attached to the U-Bootschulflottille. On 24 October 1938, Liebe commissioned U-38, a Type IX U-boat assigned to 6th U-boat Flotilla.
World War II
U-38 embarked on her first war time patrol on 19 August 1939 from Wilhelmshaven. Operating off Lisbon, Portugal on the outbreak of war, Liebe managed to sink two British freighters before returning to port on 18 September. On 2 November, Liebe set sail for Norwegian water on his second patrol.
Liebes fourth patrol, on 8 April 1940 was also set in Norwegian waters, to support Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway. During this patrol, Liebe shared the same negative experience of failed torpedoes as many other u-boat captains operating in the area. In mid April 1940, Liebe fired on the British heavy cruiser Effingham, but all the torpedoes fired failed to detonate.
U-38 left on her fifth patrol on 6 June 1940, tasked with patrolling the Western Approaches off southern Ireland. Liebe managed to sink six ships during this patrol, and also succeeded in landing a German agent in Ireland on 12 June. During his sixth patrol, Liebe sank three ships, and were ordered to the new 6th U-boat Flotilla base in Lorient, France. During this patrol, on 14 August, Liebe received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
On 9 April 1941, Liebe set sail for operations off Freetown, Africa. This was Liebe's ninth and last patrol with U-38, during which he sank eight ships for a total of 47,279 GRT. For these successes, Liebe was awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross on 10 June 1941. On 29 June, U-38 returned to Lorient. The presentation was made on 30 June 1941 by Hitler at the Führer Headquarter Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) in Rastenburg (now Kętrzyn in Poland). On 22 July, Liebe transferred off the U-38, which was put under the command of Heinrich Schuch.
Following his departure from U-38, Liebe was assigned to the staff of Oberkommando der Marine. In August 1944, he was transferred to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of Submarines (Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote or BdU), Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, during which tenure he was promoted to Fregattenkapitän (frigate captain) on 1 October 1944.
After the war
After the war Liebe returned to his hometown in the Soviet sector to live with his parents. Since he refused to train Soviet submariners, he felt that was to blame for his being held to menial occupations. He died in July 1997 and is buried in Eisenach, Germany.
Summary of career
- Wehrmacht Long Service Award 4th Class (2 October 1936)
- Olympic Games Decoration (20 April 1937)
- Iron Cross (1939) 2nd Class (8 October 1939) & 1st Class (6 April 1940)
- U-boat War Badge (1939) (16 December 1939)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Knight's Cross on 14 August 1940 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-38
- 13th Oak Leaves on 10 June 1941 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-38
- Italian War Cross with Swords (2 December 1941)
- War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords (3 September 1944)
- Mentioned three times in the Wehrmachtbericht (5 July 1940, 31 May 1941 and 9 June 1941)
- Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (2003). 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] (in German). Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn Germany: Verlag E.S. Mittler & Sohn. ISBN 978-3-8132-0515-2.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). 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] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 1, 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.