Wilhelm Marschall

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Wilhelm Marschall
Born(1886-09-30)30 September 1886
Augsburg, Bavaria, German Empire.
Died20 March 1976(1976-03-20) (aged 89)
Mölln, West Germany.
Allegiance German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Imperial German Navy
Years of service1906–45
Rank Generaladmiral
Commands heldSM UC-74
SM UB-105
Admiral Scheer
Operations Division, OKM
Marinegruppenkommando West
Battles/warsWorld War I
Spanish Civil War
World War II
AwardsPour le Mérite

Wilhelm Marschall (30 September 1886 – 20 March 1976) was a German admiral during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Pour le Mérite which he received as commander of the German U-boat UB-105 during World War I. The Pour le Mérite was the Kingdom of Prussia's highest military order for German officers until the end of World War I.


Marschall was born in Augsburg, Kingdom of Bavaria, in 1886.

In 1906, he entered the Kaiserliche Marine as a Seekadett. During World War I he served as a watch officer on Kronprinz Wilhelm. In 1916, he was trained as a U-boat commander and captained both UC-74 and UB-105 by war's end. He sank 41 merchant ships and two troopships, for a total of 119,170 GRT,[1] and was awarded the Pour la Mérite, Germany's highest military honour.[2]

While in the Reichsmarine, Marschall served primarily as a Vermessungsoffizier (surveying officer) and in different staff positions. At the end of 1934 he became commander of the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. As a Konteradmiral in 1936, he joined the Naval High Command and headed the operations division. During the Spanish Civil War Marschall commanded the German naval forces off of the Spanish coast. He was promoted to Admiral and Flottenchef (fleet commander) in 1939.

Admiral Marschall, flying his flag in battleship Gneisenau, led the German naval force which intercepted and sank the British auxiliary cruiser Rawalpindi on 23 November 1939, while on patrol off Faroe Islands.[3]

On 8 June 1940, during the latter part of the Norwegian Campaign, Marschall and part of his force (flagship Gneisenau, and her sister-ship Scharnhorst) fell in with British aircraft carrier Glorious and two destroyers (Acasta and Ardent) about 280 miles west of Harstad, Norway. In a two-hour action, Glorious and her accompanying destroyers were all sunk, in exchange for damage to Scharnhorst (struck by one of Acasta's torpedoes, and one shell from each of the destroyers). To this day it is still not known why Marschall abandoned over 1600 Royal Navy sailors from the sinking of the 3 RN ships to their deaths, despite there being no other RN assets in the area.

Although the battle resulted in a German victory, Marschall had engaged Glorious despite orders to avoid action. Marschall's differences with the High Command on this subject, and the severe damage to Scharnhorst during the engagement, ensured that Marschall was replaced as Flottenchef by Admiral Günther Lütjens. Marschall led the inspection of naval education for two years beginning in the summer 1940.

In 1942, Marschall was named commanding admiral of occupied France and replaced Alfred Saalwächter as commander of Marinegruppenkommando West. On 1 February 1943 he was promoted to Generaladmiral, but was replaced as western commander by Theodor Krancke and deactivated later that spring. During the remainder of the war, Marschall was reactivated twice, once as Sonderbevollmächtigter (special agent) for the Danube, and once as commander of the Marineoberkommando West shortly before the end of the war. From 1945–47 he was held as a prisoner of war.[clarification needed]

Marschall died in Mölln, West Germany, in 1976.




  1. ^ "Wilhelm Marschall". uboat.net.
  2. ^ "Imperial German Navy - Awards of Pour le Mérite, "The Blue Max"". naval-history.net.
  3. ^ Garzke, William H.; Dulin, Robert O. (1985). Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II. Naval Institute Press, p. 135. ISBN 978-0-87021-101-0


  • Ueberschär, Gerd R. (2011). "Generaladmiral Wilhelm Marschall". In Dieter, Hartwig (ed.). Hitlers militärische Elite (in German). Primus Verlag. pp. 162–170. ISBN 978-3-89678-727-9.
Military offices
Preceded by Commanding Admiral France
9 August 1942 – November 1942
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Generaladmiral Alfred Saalwächter
Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine Group Command West
21 September 1942 – 19 April 1943
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief of Fleet of the Kriegsmarine
21 October 1939 – 7 July 1940
Succeeded by