Daily Event for May 14, 2012

May 13, 1944 ten S-boats from the 5th and 9th S-boot flotillas sortied from Cherbourg, France into the English Channel for a reconnaissance mission along the English coast. Shortly after midnight on May 14, 1944 the three of the boats were discovered by British warships, including a number of MTBs and the Free French destroyer LaCombattante. The British squadron, hidden by the fog, attacked the German boats, S-141 was hit by two shells from the French destroyer and sunk, two others, S-100 and S-142 were damaged, but retired to France. Just another engagement in the Channel, but this one would be felt in the highest ranks of the Kriegsmarine.

In S-141 was Oberleutnant zur See Klaus Dönitz, the oldest son son of Grossadmiral Karl Dönitz, head of the Kriegsmarine. He was a friend of the commander and just went along for the ride. The British picked up the commanding officer and five of his crew from the water, but Dönitz was not in the group. Later statements made by the survivors indicated that Dönitz suffered an epileptic seizure and drowned, this has never been confirmed. Eighteen crewmen, including Dönitz, perished.

It has been said that Karl Dönitz showed little outward emotion when informed of the loss of his son and continued his daily duties, it was noted that he was not as organized as usual. After the morning conference he went home and for the second time in less than a year had to inform his wife Ingeborg that a son had killed in action. Their youngest son, Peter, was lost on May 19, 1943 in U-954. A meeting at the Dönitz home with the Japanese Ambassador and a number of Japanese officers continued as planned, hosted by Ingeborg. She did let her pain show in any way and the meeting was a success, but as soon as the delegation left she collapsed under the terrible emotional stress of a mother who had lost her two boys. To compound her pain, May 14 was Klaus' 24th birthday.

It is difficult to understand how the loss effected the Admiral, he apparently kept his emotions guarded when in the presence of his comrades, but it must have been devastating. While I have not read his memoir, I did check the index, his sons are not mentioned. Perhaps the subject was too raw to write about, or maybe after having spent ten years in Spandau for war crimes he had time to think about the tens of thousands of other sons he sent out in his submarines who never came back, or even the sons of his enemies who had perished, torpedoed by his submarines. Perhaps he thought it unwise to write of his feelings about the loss of his sons when so many thousands of others had lost theirs at his hand.
© 2012 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Remembrance
Im Gedenken an die gefallenen Besatzungsmitglieder von Schnellboat S-141
"In memory of the fallen crewmen of Schnellboat S-141"

Bussler, Hans
Deiner, Eduard
Dönitz, Klaus
Oberleutnant zur See
Dornkahl, Willi
Dudeck, Alois
Ebert, Horst
Oberfähnrich zur See
Gerhard, Alfred
Helle, Erwin
Hennings, Karl
Klein, Erich
Komrumpf, Adolf
Kühner, Wilhelm
Rost, Günther
Matrose II
Schisser, Otto
Seifert, Günther
Thon, Horst
Thoss, Konrad
Weikt, Helmut

To submit a photo, biographical information or correction please email the webmaster.

2005 Daily Event
2006 Daily Event
2009 Daily Event