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As the title states, I am curious what was the second in command of a German U-boat during World War 2. This would be the rank that would take over as Captain if something were to happen to the actual Captain.

Please state source found, I haven't found a hierarchy of leadership aboard a U-boat.

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Timothy P. Mulligan's Neither Sharks Nor Wolves is an academic study of U-Boat crews of WWII, published by Naval Institute Press in 1999. He describes the rank structure of the officers as:

  • Commander: ranked as Kapitänleutnant, or Oberleutnant zur See.
  • 1st Watch Officer: Oberleutnant zur See or Leutnant zur See.
  • 2nd Watch Officer: Leutnant zur See.
  • Chief Engineer: Oberleutnant [Ing.]

The 1st Watch Officer was the second-in-command. Where Mulligan gives two possible ranks, the higher rank would be for more experienced officers, with a slight bias towards them commanding larger boats.

In addition, there could be a commanding officer in training, presumably an officer who hadn't served in submarines before who was converting to the work, or a medical officer. There would also be one or two apprentice officers, Fähnrich zur See, but Mulligan groups them with the seaman senior NCOs.

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1st watch officer. But He might be the cook. On a U boat at that time. You started with 1 skill on the boat. By the time you returned you had 2 more skills from on the job training. A first watch officer could probably fill in on any job on a U.boat. As each trip out he learned more. It could be senour sea man. I command. Of the boat. With first watch officer doing the navigation or math & reports.

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Following the link that NSNoob provided was the ranks of Captains. I did find the answer on another page of Uboat.net (a wonderful site).

The answer is Wachoffizier (1WO), or Watch Officer.

http://www.uboat.net/men/crew/

  • 2
    That's a position, not a rank. – John Dallman Aug 15 '17 at 15:37

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