Lüth, Wolfgang, born, 15-10-1913 in Riga, was a Baltic German in the Russian Empire The son of the jersey manufacturer August Lüth (1872–1947) and his wife Elfriede, born Schindler (1876–1957). In 1939 Lüth married Ilse-Monika Lerch (* 1915), daughter of a merchant ship captain. The couple had four children. Here he went to the Naturwissenschaftliches Gymnasium and, after he had received his Abitre, he studied Law for three semesters at the Herder-Institut. With his parents approval he joined the Reichsmarine on 01-04-1933 as an Offiziersanwärter. He sailed on a patrol in Spanish waters during the on the U-boat tender Erwin Wassner. Wassner died age 50, on 24-08-1937. In October Lüth was appointed the 1st Watch Officer of U-38 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Liebe, Liebe died age 89, on 02-07-1997, who during the course of World War II would earn the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.
Lüth was on patrol with U-38 from 19-08-1939 until the 18 September when the war started on 01-09-1939. Wolfgang Lüth married his wife the 24 years old Ilse Lerch from Sassnitz on 25-09-1939, they had four children, the first daughter was Gesa and five years old as her father died.
On 30-12-1939 Lüth took command of U-9, a Type IIB U-boat.
With this boat he went on six war-patrols, achieving successes steadily, including sinking the surfaced French submarine Doris on 09-05-1940 and 7 merchant ships of 16.669 gross register tons (GRT). On 09-05-1942 Lüth was given command of a long-range Type IXD-2 U-boat, U-181. He left on his first patrol in September 1942, departing from Kiel. The target of this patrol was the Indian Ocean and South African waters. In October he reached the sea lanes outside Cape Town and spent a month patrolling, sinking 12 ships for 58,381 GRT before returning to Bordeaux, France, in January 1943. This patrol, under difficult conditions, was also very successful, with ten ships sunk totalling 45,331 tons. During this patrol Lüth became the first U-boat officer to receive the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. Korvetten kapittain Lüth after his 205 day patrol with the FdU West Kapitän zur See. Hans Rudolf. Rösing (left) and the commander of the 12th Flotilla Fregatten kapitain Klaus Scholtz (right).
After five years of operational U-boat service, including 15 war-patrols and over 600 days at sea, Fregatten kapitain Klaus Scholtz retired in 1966 with the rank of Kapitän zur See, and died on 01-5-1987, age 79. Hans Rudolf. Rösing survived the war and died on 16-12-2004, at the age of 99.
Lüth took command of 22. Unterseebootsflottille stationed at Gotenhafen in January 1944. This was a training unit for U-boat commanders. In July 1944 he took command of the 1st Department of the Naval Academy Mürwik
in Flensburg-Mürwik. He was promoted to Frigate Captain on 01-08-1944 and became the commander of the entire Marineschule in September, and advanced in rank to Captain at Sea on 01-09-1944. The British Forces had occupied Flensburg on 05-05-1945, though initially nothing changed in the daily routine at the Naval Academy Mürwik.
Lüth’s paternalistic attitude toward his crew was also well-known; not only did he believe it was his duty as a leader to be concerned with the well-being of his men even after they had left his boat, he also controlled their personal habits as much as possible. All reading materials brought on board had to gain Lüth’s personal approval, and pinup posters were forbidden, part of a campaign to stamp out “sexual problems on board”. He actively promoted his theories about the proper way to maintain physical health on patrol, going so far as to require certain items of clothing to be worn, and forbidding or closely regulating the consumption of cigarettes and certain foods and drinks. However, Lüth’s style of leadership seems to have evoked lifelong loyalty among the majority of his crewmen, who revere him to this day. He also continued to assist his men in their personal affairs and careers after he left U-181, taking time from his busy administrative schedule to respond to their requests for help.
Death and burial ground of Lüth, Wolfgang.
On the night of 13 to 14 May 1945, Korvettenkapitän Peter-Erich ” Ali” Cremer the chief of the “Wachbattalion Dönitz”/ Guard battalion ordered Gottlob for his night duty. Ali Cremer survived the war and died old age 81 on 05-07-1992 in Hamburg. Lüth was shot in the head by this 18 year-old seaman Mathias Gottlob , a German sentry at the Flensburg-Mürwik Naval Academy, when he failed to respond to the sentry’s challenge. The password of the day was “Tannenberg”. It was a very tumultuous and stormy night and Lüth wanted to check the guards and he approached Gottlob in the dark. Whether he deliberately failed to respond or if the guard simply did not hear his response, is unknown. He had just told his men (he ran the Naval academy in Flensburg up by the German-Danish border) that they should ignore the order from the British occupant and victor that they should no longer give the Hitler salute or ‘German greeting’. He seems therefore to have been on some sort of suicide trip. disoriented by the collapse of the Third Reich. He turned up drunk, ignored the sentry’s challenges. The officer in charge immediately informed Großadmiral, Karl Dönitz. Dönitz adjudant Fregattenkapitän Walter Lüdde-Neurath,
who accepted the call, initially thought that this was a bad joke. Lüdde-Neurath then informed Lüth’s brother, Joachim Lüth, as the two brothers were staying together. It was he who informed Lüth’s wife and their four children that Lüth had died. Dönitz ordered a board of inquiry and court martial to clarify the circumstances of the shooting. Four officers under the command of a Navy Judge conducted the court martial. Mathias Gottlob stated that, in accordance with his orders, he had asked for the password three times without response from the person, whom he could not visually identify in the darkness. Without aiming he had fired his rifle from the hip. The chain of events was confirmed by machine mate Karl Franz , who was leading the watch at the time. The court ruled that Gottlob was not guilty and he was cleared of any fault in the killing of Kapitän zur See Wolfgang. During the memorial service Matthias Gottberg even was a member of the guard of honor who gave three gun salutes into the air. (see photo under), with the same rifle as with he shot Lüth.
Wolfgang Lüth, age 31, is buried on the Neue Friedhof Adelby, Flensburg, Karl Dönitz gave the eulogy, next to Admiral, Hans Friedeburg. Closeby the grave of Kapitänleutnant zur See, Commander of the Dönitz train “Auerhahn” Asmus Jespen and U boat captain, Kommandeur 2nd Schnellboat, Rudolf Petersen.
Lüth received his last honor from the Third Reich. Hitler’s successor to the state, Reich President and Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, spoke the last words as a funeral oration. Lüth was the only German submarine captain to receive a state funeral.