Henke, Werner, born 13-05-1909 in Thorn, had his first naval experience on board the warships Admiral Reinard Scheer
and Schleswig-Holstein. His first U-boat was U-124 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Schulz.
Schulz died old age 80, on 05-07-1986.
Wilhelm Schulz. Jochen Mohr.
The last of his four patrols with the “Edelweissboot” he completed under the later famous Kapitänleutnant Jochen Mohr. Mohr died, age 26 on 02-04-1943 in the Middle Atlantic. In February 1942 Henke took command of his own boat, U-515. Other commanders were U-99, Otto “Silent Otto” Kretschmer
U-521, Klaus Bargsten,
U-37, Victor Oehrn
, U-504, Hans Poske
. Henke put in an outstanding performance during his third patrol on the night of 30 April to 1 May, 1943, when he attacked convoy TS 37 90 miles south of Freetown, sinking 8 ships in 8 hours for a total of 49,456 tons. After this patrol Henke
was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knights Cross
. Henke was captured when U-515 was sunk at 1510 hrs on 09-04-1944 in the mid-Atlantic north of Madeira at 34.35N, 19.18W by bombs from the US escort carrier USS Guadalcanal and depth charges from the destroyer escorts USS Pope
, Pillsbury, Chatelain and Flaherty. 16 of the crew were killed and about 40 survived.
A British propaganda broadcast had falsely accused Henke of shooting British survivors of Ceramic
, a passenger ship, with 378 passengers women and children among them, that U-515 had sunk on 07-12-1942. Henke therefore believed the British wanted to try him as a war criminal. Knowing this, Captain Daniel Vincent Gallery
hoping to extort intelligence from him or his crew, threatened to turn him over to the British if he did not cooperate. Captain Gallery was successful in getting Henke to sign a paper agreeing to cooperate with interrogators. Henke reneged on the agreement but upon seeing that their captain had agreed to talk, many of his crew signed similar agreements and did cooperate. Henke was interned in the interrogation center known as P.O Box 1142 in Fort Hunt, Virginia, where his interrogators threatened to hold him to his agreement to cooperate or be extradited to England to face war crime charges.
he BDU, the supreme commander of the Kriegsmarine U-boat Arm ordered U-515 to return to the position of the sinking to find out the ship’s destination. About noon the U-boat commander, Kapitänleutnant Werner Henke, decided to rescue the Ceramic’s skipper. In heavy seas, he sighted one of the lifeboats and its occupants waved to him. The storm was now almost Force 10 and almost swamping U-515‘
s conning tower
, so Henke ordered his crew to make do with the first survivor they could find. This turned out to be Sapper Eric Munday
of the Royal Engineers
, whom they rescued from the water and took prisoner aboard the submarine. No other occupants of the lifeboats survived. The storm was too severe for neutral rescue ships from Sao Miquel Islands in the Azores to put to sea.
On 9 December the Porteguese Doura-class destroyer NRP Dao was sent to search for survivors, but found none.
Death and burial ground of Henke, Werner.
Henke was shot and killed while attempting to escape from the interrogation center at Fort. Hunt, Virginia on 15-06-1944. It is reported that he simply walked towards the fence in broad daylight and slowly began to climbing it. When he continued to climb after the guards shouted for him to stop, he was fatally shot. It is thought that he chose this form of suicide because he believed he faced extradition and a “showcase” trial as a war criminal. On 18-07-1944 Admiral, Karl Dönitz
awarded him the following day-with the Ritterkreuz of the Iron cross with Oak Leaves,
for his bravery successful and career and said, we strike the colors for a man of iron and a brave fighter, who was an inspiring example to his crew and for a good comrade.
The struggle against the enemy, in which he was killed, will continue. Werner Henke, prisoner of war No 56.450, age 35, is buried on the cemetery of Ford George G Meade in the USA, along with 32 other German POW’s and 3 Italian POW’s. A ceremony is held at the graveside every year on Volkstrauertag in November, the German equivalent of Memorial Day, at which the Naval attache of the German embassy in Washington, DC, lays a wreath with a ribbon in the colors of the German flag in commemoration of all those buried at this graveside. Flowers are not uncommon to see in front of the grave.