20 June 1914|
6 January 1966
|Years of service||1935–45|
SSS Gorch Fock
light cruiser Karlsruhe
5th U-boat Flotilla
7th U-boat Flotilla
29th U-boat Flotilla
|Commands held||U-967, Apr 1944 – Jul 1944|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds|
Albrecht Brandi (June 20, 1914 – January 6, 1966) was a German U-boat commander in World War II. Together with Wolfgang Lüth he was the only Kriegsmarine sailor who was awarded with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. Brandi was well known as a daring and aggressive U-boat commander.
During his naval career Brandi destroyed twelve ships, including one minelayer and two destroyers. With these victories Brandi became the U-boat commander who destroyed the most warships. However, he is not the U-boat commander with the most ships sunk; that record is held by Otto Kretschmer with 47 victories. Brandi is ranked number 24 on the top scoring list of Germany's U-boat commanders.
Brandi joined the Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine in 1935 and studied to become a naval officer on board on the German cruiser Karlsruhe (26 September 1935 – 19 June 1936). After graduating he became commander of the minesweeper M-1. During the first year of World War II, Brandi cleared various minefields in the North Sea.
In April 1941 Brandi started his U-boat training at the U-boat training camp in Neustadt in Holstein. From May 1941 to April 1942, Brandi was a Kommandantenschüler (Commander-in-training) aboard U-552, which was commanded by the famous commander Erich Topp, for three patrols. On 9 April 1942 Brandi was given the command of his own U-boat, U-617 and completed the usual training with the new boat in the 5th U-boat Flotilla.
War in the Mediterranean Sea
For his first patrol, Brandi left Kiel in August 1942, operating in the Western Approaches before arriving at St. Nazaire in October. During this time Brandi destroyed four merchant ships. On his second patrol, in November 1942, Brandi was ordered to the Mediterranean Sea. To get to his destination Brandi had to traverse the heavily guarded Strait of Gibraltar. He decided to proceed through the Strait on the surface by night with engines stopped, relying on the current in the Straits (which on the surface move from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean) to propel his boat through. During this extremely dangerous trip, Brandi was discovered by a Short Sunderland bomber which dropped two depth charges. The bombs missed the U-boat and Brandi succeeded in making the breakthrough. During this patrol Brandi claimed to have sunk one destroyer and damaged a tanker, though neither were confirmed by Allied records.
In the Mediterranean, U-617 was assigned to 29th U-boat Flotilla, located in La Spezia and Toulon and commanded by Fritz Frauenheim. Through 1943 Brandi made various patrols in the Mediterranean Sea. During these patrols Brandi targeted British warships that were attacking the German and Italian supply ships that were so vital for the Afrikakorps in North Africa.
The Mediterranean Sea offered particular challenges for a U-boat captain. The often shallow waters offered little chance to dive deep and the British had air cover over the entire southern half of the Mediterranean. This, coupled with the fact that his opponents were warships or heavily guarded convoys, makes Brandi's achievements remarkable.
On his third patrol, in December 1942, Brandi sank the ocean tug St Issey, and two more merchant ships.
In February 1943 Brandi sank the British minelayer HMS Welshman a few miles from the Maltese coast. The destruction of this ship was important, as the minelayer had been an integral part of the defense of Malta. Brandi was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for this victory. He also sank two ships from a well-protected convoy. In April 1943, Brandi claimed the sinking of a light cruiser, 40 miles off Gibraltar. Brandi was awarded Oak Leaves with his Knight's Cross, though this sinking was also not confirmed.
Two more patrols followed in June and July, though these had no success.
In September 1943, in his last patrol in U-617, Brandi sank HMS Puckeridge, a Hunt class destroyer, off Gibraltar. A few days later, on 12 September, she was attacked near the Moroccan coast by British Wellington aircraft. One aircraft was claimed by the German Flak crew, though this is unconfirmed, while depth charges exploded close to the U-617. The resultant damage was so severe that Brandi decided to abandon ship off Melilla, Spanish Morocco. After evacuating into rubber boats, the crew managed to reach the shore without loss and were interned by Spanish troops. Brandi was loosely confined in the officers' camp near Cadiz, and from there he succeeded in returning to Germany. The wrecked U-617, aground offshore, was finally destroyed and sunk by air attack and naval gunfire.
In January 1944 Brandi returned to Toulon and took command of U-380. Brandi completed one patrol with U-380, but the boat was destroyed on 13 March 1944 in Toulon by a bombing raid of the 9th USAAF. In April 1944 Brandi became commander of U-967. During his first patrol with her in May 1944 Brandi sank the destroyer USS Fechteler. Following this he received the Swords to his Knights Cross with Oak Leaves.
Brandi as a leader
During the next patrol with U-967 in June 1944, Brandi became seriously ill and had to return to base. Brandi then was appointed commander of all U-boats in the Eastern Baltic Sea. Under his command many ships were destroyed in the Baltic Sea, and Brandi was awarded with Diamonds to his Knight's Cross for his leadership of the U-boat fleet. In the last year of the war, Brandi became chief commander of the mini submarine fleet.
After the war Brandi started a career as an architect.
During his U-boat service Brandi claimed, and was credited with, sinking 26 ships, of 100,000 gross register tons (GRT). This claim included ten warships; two cruisers and eight destroyers. Although ships sunk in the Mediterranean were doubled for award purposes, and extra credit was given for sinking warships, Brandi's actual sinkings were "startlingly less" according to Blair. The confirmed total was:
- 8 ships sunk for a total of 25,879 GRT
- 1 auxiliary warship sunk for a total of 810 GRT
- 3 warships sunk for a total of 5,000 tons
|Date||U-boat||Name of Ship||Nationality||Tonnage||Fate|
|7 September 1942||U-617||Tor II||Faroe Islands||292||sunk|
|23 September 1942||U-617||Athelsultan||United Kingdom||8,882||sunk|
|23 September 1942||U-617||Tennessee||United Kingdom||2,342||sunk|
|24 September 1942||U-617||Roumanie||Belgium||3,563||sunk|
|28 December 1942||U-617||HMS St. Issey (W25)||Royal Navy||810||sunk|
|15 January 1943||U-617||Annitsa||Greece||4,324||sunk|
|15 January 1943||U-617||Harboe Jensen||Norway||1,862||sunk|
|1 February 1943||U-617||HMS Welshman (M84)||Royal Navy||2,650||sunk|
|5 February 1943||U-617||Corona||Norway||3,264||sunk|
|5 February 1943||U-617||Henrik||Norway||1,350||sunk|
|6 September 1943||U-617||HMS Puckeridge (L108)||Royal Navy||1,050||sunk|
|5 May 1944||U-967||USS Fechteler (DE-157)||United States Navy||1,300||sunk|
- U-boat Front Clasp
- U-boat War Badge in Gold with Diamonds (April 1943)
- Silver Medal of Military Valor (Italian)
- Iron Cross (1939) 2nd and 1st Class
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
- Knight's Cross on 21 January 1943 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-617
- 224th Oak Leaves on 11 April 1943 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-617
- 66th Swords on 9 May 1944 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-380
- 22nd Diamonds on 24 November 1944 as Korvettenkapitän and commander of U-967
- His actions were mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht on 12 April 1942
- Blair p414
- "U-617". uboat.net. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- Blair p524
- Williamson and Pavlovic 1995, p. 48.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 239.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 142.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 68.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 43.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 38.
- Berger, Florian (1999). ]With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War [Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger.
- Blair, Clay : Hitler's U-Boat War [Volume 2]: The Hunted 1942-1945 (1998) ISBN 0-304-35261-6 (2000 UK paperback ed.)
- 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.
- Fraschka, Günther (1994). Knights of the Reich. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military/Aviation History.
- Kurowski, Franz (1995). Knight's Cross Holders of the U-Boat Service. Atglen, PA:
- Range, Clemens (1974). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Kriegsmarine [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Navy]. Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch Verlag.
- Schaulen, Fritjof (2003). Eichenlaubträger 1940 – 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe I Abraham – Huppertz [Oak Leaves Bearers 1940 – 1945 Contemporary History in Color I Abraham – Huppertz] (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite.
- 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 Miltaer-Verlag.
- Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag.
- Williamson, Gordon; Pavlovic, Darko (1995). U-Boat Crews 1914–45. Oxford, UK:
- Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross with Diamonds Recipients 1941–45. Oxford, UK:
- uboat.net webpage about Albrecht Brandi