U-68 Kapitän zur See - Karl-Friedrich Merten
Karl-Friedrich Merten was born in Posen on 15th August 1905.
He joined the German Navy in 1926. After training he spent many years on surface ships. He joined the U-Boat service on 1st May 1940. From October 1940 until January 1941 he served on U-38 as a trainee Captain with the experienced Heinrich Liebe.
On 11th February 1941, Merten commissioned U-68 and lead 5 successful patrols. He operated all over the world, patrolling in the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Indian Oceans. U-68 was in the U-boat wolfpack "Gruppe Eisbär" (Polar Bear Group), consisting of four submarines, U-68 (Merten), U-156 (Hartenstein), U-172 (Emmermann), U-504 (Poske) a fifth U-boat, U-159 (Witte) joined the group later, which in the course of a few weeks during September/October 1942, sank more than 100,000 tons of shipping off South Africa.
On 22nd September 1941 Merten torpedoed his first ship the 5,302 ton British steamer ss SILVERBELLE sailing in convoy SL87 and on the 6th November 1942 he sunk his last ship the 8,034 ton British steamer ss CITY OF CAIRO. His total was 27 ships sunk at a tonnage of 170,151.
After this patrol he was appointed to the U-boat Flotilla in Pillau, and this and other training appointments curtailed his operational career. Nevertheless, when the war ended he stood seventh in the table of U-Boat commanders in terms of tonnage sunk. After the war he made a new career in shipbuilding, retiring in 1974.
Long after the sinking of ss CITY OF CAIRO he was invited to a post-war reunion of survivors where one observed: "We couldn't have been sunk by a nicer man".
Herr Merten wrote this letter to the Sunday Express in September 1984.
Kapitän zur See Karl-Friedrich Merten died on 2nd May 1993.
U-68 Entering Harbour
Merten, conning tower of U-68, photo courtesy Roland Berr
|2 Oct, 1939||Iron Cross 2nd Class|
|2 Aug, 1941||U-boat War Badge|
|31 Dec, 1941||Iron Cross 1st Class|
|13 Jun, 1942||Knights Cross|
|16 Nov, 1942||Knights Cross with Oak Leaves|
|30 Jan, 1943||U-boat War Badge with Diamonds|
|1 Apr, 1928||Fähnrich zur See|
|1 Jun, 1930||Oberfähnrich zur See|
|1 Oct, 1930||Leutnant zur See|
|1 Apr, 1933||Kapitänleutnant|
|1 Apr, 1941||Korvettenkapitän|
|1 Jan, 1944||Fregattenkapitän|
|15 Apr, 1945||Kapitän zur See|
Allied Tonnage Sunk
First patrol 30 June 1941 - 1 August 1941
U-68 left Kiel under the command of Karl-Friedrich Merten on 30th June 1941 and arrived at Lorient four and a half weeks later on 1st August 1941. No ships were sunk during this patrol. See below for ships sunk during the remaining patrols.
|ss SILVERBELLE||British||5,302||22 September 1941||Convoy SL87|
|ss DARKDALE||British||8,145||22 October 1941|
|ss HAZELSIDE||British||5,297||28 October 1941|
|ss BRADFORD CITY||British||4,953||1 November 1941|
During this patrol, on 22nd September 1941, Merten also claimed the following two ships from Convoy SL87:
- The British ss NICETO DE LARRINGA 5,597 tons
- The British ss EDWARD BLYDEN 5,003 tons
Other sources suggest that both were sunk by U-103 (Winter)
U-68 attacks, with torpedoes and gunfire, sinking ss BALUCHISTAN on 8th March 1942
Photo courtesy of Roland Berr.
The sinking of the Panamanian tanker ARRIGA by U-68 on 23rd June 1942
Photo courtesy of Roland Berr
|ss HELENUS||British||7,366||3 March 1942|
|ss BALUCHISTAN||British||6,992||8 March 1942|
|ss BARON NEWLANDS||British||3,386||16 March 1942|
|ss SCOTTISH PRIDE||British||4,917||17 March 1942|
|ss ALLENDE||British||5,081||17 March 1942|
|ss ILE DE BATZ||British||5,755||17 March 1942|
|ss MUNCASTER CASTLE||British||5,853||30 March 1942|
|ss LJ DRAKE||American||6,693||5 June 1942|
|ss CO STILLMAN||Panamanian||13,006||6 June 1942|
|ss ARDENVOHR||British||5,025||10 June 1942|
|ss PORT MONTREAL||British||5,882||10 June 1942|
|ss SURREY||British||8,581||10 June 1942|
|ss FRIMAIRE||French||9,242||15 June 1942|
|ss ARRIGA||Panamanian||2,345||23 June 1942|
|ss TREVELLEY||British||5,296||12 September 1942|
|ss BREEDIJK||Dutch||6,861||15 September 1942|
|ss KOUMOUNDOUROS||Greek||3,598||8 October 1942|
|ss SARTHE||British||5,271||8 October 1942|
|ss GAASTERKERK||Dutch||8,679||8 October 1942|
|ss SWIFTSURE||American||8,207||8 October 1942|
|ss EXAMELIA||American||4,981||9 October 1942|
|ss BELGIAN FIGHTER||Belgian||5,403||9 October 1942|
|ss CITY OF CAIRO||British||8,034||6 November 1942|
Metens's five patrols in U-68 sunk a total of 27 (confirmed) allied merchant ships at a total tonnage of 170,151 tons.
U-68, under the command of Albert Lauzemis, was sunk north west of Madeira, Portugal on 10th April 1944 by aircraft from the USS GUADALCANAL. Lauzemis and 55 crew members died. There was only one survivor.
Courtesy of Louis M. Bonicelli
This is a piece of one of the ballast tanks that floated up when the U-68 was sunk. The tanks were pulled aboard the ship, cut up, and made into "paperweights".