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U-68 - Kapitän zur See - Karl-Friedrich Merten

Karl-Friedrich Merten

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

Merton in conning tower of U-68.

Merten, conning tower of U-68

Courtesy Roland Berr

Kapitäin zur See Karl-Friedrich Merten - Decorations
Date Award
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
Date Award
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.

Ships sunk (4) - (23,697 Tons)- Second Patrol (11 September 1941 - 25 September 1941)
Name Nationality Tonnage Date Remarks
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:

Other sources suggest that both were sunk by U-103 (Winter)

sinking of SS Baluchistan

U-68 attacks, with torpedoes and gunfire, sinking ss BALUCHISTAN on 8th March 1942

Photo courtesy of Roland Berr

sinking of arriaga

The sinking of the Panamanian tanker ARRIGA by U-68 on 23rd June 1942. Photo courtesy of Roland Berr

Ships sunk (7) - (39,350 Tons) - Third Patrol (11 February 1942 - 13 April 1942)
Name Nationality Tonnage Date
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
Ships sunk (7) - (50,774 Tons) - Fourth Patrol (14 May 1942 - 10 July 1942)
Name Nationality Tonnage Date
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
Ships sunk (9) - (56,330 Tons) - Fifth Patrol (20 August 1942 - 6 December 1942)
Name Nationality Tonnage Date
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".