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Günther Lütjens

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Günther Lütjens (1899-1941) was an admiral in the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) of the Second World War, a specialist in battleships and anti-surface warfare who was killed in action when DKM Bismarck was sunk.

In the First World War, he was a successful commander of gunboats and fast attack craft. [1]

He worked in commercial shipping between the wars, but returned to the navy in 1923 as a torpedo specialist. On 2st October, 1937, he became Rear Admiral Commanding Destroyer Flotillas

Second World War

Invasion of Norway

In October 1939, commanding scouting forces: the battlecruisers DKM Scharnhorst and DKM Gneisenau, in the invasion of Norway, he received the Iron Cross, with the citation from Adolf Hitler,
I express my appreciation and thanks to Admiral Carls and to Vice-Admiral Lütjens for preparing and leading the Navy into action[2]

On 1 September 1940, he was promoted to full Admiral and made commander of all scouting forces.

His most successful operation was a commerce raid with the same two battlecruisers, in 1941. It sank 116,000 tons of shipping, including the armed merchant cruiser HMS Jervis Bay.

Final operation

The followup was to have involved both battlecruisers, as well as the new battleships DKM Bismarck and DKM Tirpitz, but only Bismarck was available.

She sortied, accompanied only by the cruiser DKM Prinz Eugen. His unit met a British scout force, sinking HMS Hood and damaging battleship HMS Prince of Wales, but also suffering some damage to a fuel tank of Bismarck, his flagship. Reducing the scope of the operation, he sent the cruiser back to Germany.

With much of the Royal Navy in pursuit, Bismarck was eventually rendered unmaneuverable, and sunk, along with her captain and admiral. His last message was:
Ship unmaneuverable. We shall fight to the last shell.
There are conflicting reports if "Long live the Fuhrer!" was the last part of the message; the Naval Intelligence Division report does not include it. It does say
The exaltation implied in this message was not shared by many of the officers and those of the ship's company who had knowledge of it. One surviving officer stated that, what he called, "a stupid signal" was severely critiscised, there still being a general feeling in the ship that if Admiral Lütjens played for safety and avoided further action the ship might escape, if not to a home port, at any rate to a position where protection by aircraft and submarines operating from the shore, could be obtained. This officer added: "I am thankful the engine room ratings did not get to hear of this message." which remark confirmed a deterioration of morale.[3]

Legacy

The first guided missile destroyer of the postwar German Navy was named for him.

References

  1. Admiral Günther Lütjens, Battleship Bismarck: The Legend Lives!
  2. German Battleship Bismarck: Interrogation of Survivors, Naval Intelligence Division, Royal Navy, August, 1941, C.B. 4051 (24), pp. 7-8
  3. POW Interviews, p. 19