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Karl-Heinz Moehle

Karl-Heinz Moehle
File:Karl-Heinz Moehle.jpg
Born (1910-07-31)31 July 1910
Norden, East Frisia
Died 17 November 1996(1996-11-17) (aged 86)
Allegiance  Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Reichsmarine
Years of service April 1930 –
Rank Korvettenkapitän
Unit 3rd U-boat Flotilla
1st U-boat Flotilla
2nd U-boat Flotilla
5th U-boat Flotilla
Commands held U-20, 1 October 1937 – 17 January 1940
U-123, 30 May 1940 – 19 May 1941
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Iron Cross 1st Class
U-boat War Badge 1939
Knight's Cross
German Cross in Silver

Karl-Heinz Moehle (31 July 1910 – 17 November 1996) was a German U-boat commander of the Second World War. From September 1939 until retiring from front line service in June 1941, he sank 21 ships for a total of 93,197 gross register tons (GRT). For this he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), among other commendations. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Early life

Moehle was born on 31 July 1910 in Norden, East Frisia. He entered the navy in April 1930 at the age of 19 and spent his initial training aboard the school ship Schleswig-Holstein.[1] He transferred to the U-boat force in March 1936 and by 1 June was promoted to Oberleutnant zur See. He took command of his first boat, U-20 on 1 October 1937 and commissioned her for sea. On 1 April 1939 he was promoted to Kapitänleutnant and on the outbreak of the Second World War, took U-20 on his first war cruise.[1]

Wartime career

He eventually made six patrols in U-20, operating in the North Sea. He was moderately successful, sinking eight allied ships. He left U-20 on 17 January 1940 and took command of U-123, which was to become one of the most famous U-boats of the war. He took command on 30 May 1940 and took her on her first patrol on 21 September, where he went on to achieve a high rate of kills. His first patrol sank six merchants, including four on 19 October from the ill-fated convoy SC-7.[1] His second patrol was also highly successful, when on the morning of 23 November he attacked convoy OB-244 in the North Atlantic. He sank five ships over a period of five hours, for a combined total of 23,084 tons. During these operations, U-123 collided with a sunken ship, sustaining damage that forced her to return to base after just 15 days at sea.[1]

Moehle carried out another four patrols, sinking another five ships. On 24 October 1940 he received the Iron Cross 1st Class and on 26 February 1941 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. He stepped down as commander of U-123 on 19 May 1941, handing over command to Kptlt. Reinhard Hardegen, who would also go on to have notable success aboard her. Moehle became the commander of 5th U-boat Flotilla and was also appointed to command the U-boat base at Kiel from June 1941, a post he held until the end of the war. On 1 March 1943 he was promoted to Korvettenkapitän.[1]

Post war

After the surrender of Germany, Moehle was arrested. He was tried in late 1946 for passing on the Laconia Order to the U-boat commanders under his command. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years imprisonment, but was released in November 1949. Little is known about his activities after this. Moehle died on 17 November 1996 at the age of 86.[1]


Wehrmachtbericht references

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Saturday, 19 October 1940 ... An diesen Erfolgen ist das unter Führung des Kapitänleutnants Frauenheim stehende Unterseeboot mit zehn Dampfern von 51 000 BRT, das Unterseeboot des Kapitänleutnants Kretschmer mit sieben Dampfern von 45 000 BRT, das Unterseeboot des Kapitänleutnants Moehle mit sieben Dampfern von 44 050 BRT beteiligt.[5] The submarines led by Lieutenant Frauenheim contributed with ten steamers of 51 000 tons, the submarine of Lieutenant Kretschmer with seven steamers of 45 000 tons, the submarine of Lieutenant Moehle with seven steamers of 44 050 tons, to these successes.
Monday, 24 February 1942 Ein Unterseeboot unter Führung von Kapitänleutnant Moehle versenkte vier feindliche bewaffnete Handelsschiffe mit zusammen 33 100 BRT. Damit hat Kapitänleutnant Moehle 19 feindliche Handelsschiffe mit insgesamt 111 943 BRT versenkt.[6] A submarine under the command of Lieutenant Captain Moehle sank four enemy armed merchant ships with a total of 33 100 GRT. Thus Lieutenant Captain Moehle has sunk 19 enemy merchant ships totaling 111 943 GRT.


  • Busch, Rainer & Röll, Hans-Joachim (2003). Der U-Boot-Krieg 1939–1945 – Die Ritterkreuzträger der U-Boot-Waffe von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 (in German). Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn Germany: Verlag E.S. Mittler & Sohn. ISBN 3-8132-0515-0.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 (in German). Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 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 (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 (in German). München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, 1985. ISBN 3-423-05944-3.

External links

  • Karl-Heinz Moehle's career at
  • U-123, including time under Moehle
  • Moehle testifies at Nuremberg about the Laconia order
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