Wilhelm Marschall

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Wilhelm Marschall
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2008-0812-500, Wilhelm Marschall.jpg
Born(1886-09-30)30 September 1886
Augsburg, Bavaria, German Empire.
Died20 March 1976(1976-03-20) (aged 89)
Mölln, West Germany.
AllegianceFlag of the German Empire.svg  German Empire
Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio).svg  Weimar Republic
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Nazi Germany
Service/branchWar Ensign of Germany 1903-1918.svg  Imperial German Navy
Flag of Weimar Republic (jack).svg  Reichsmarine
War ensign of Germany (1938-1945).svg  Kriegsmarine
Years of service1906–45
Rank Kriegsmarine epaulette Generaladmiral.svg Generaladmiral
Commands held SM UC-74
SM UB-105
Cruiser Admiral Scheer
Battles/wars World War I
Spanish Civil War
World War II
Awards Pour 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.

Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navies, and in many navies is the highest rank. It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM". The rank is generally thought to have originated in Sicily from a conflation of Arabic: أمير البحر‎, amīr al-baḥr, "commander of the sea", with Latin admirabilis ("admirable") or admiratus ("admired"), although alternative etymologies derive the word directly from Latin, or from the Turkish military and naval rank miralay. The French version – amiral without the additional d – tends to add evidence for the Arab origin.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

<i>Pour le Mérite</i> Kingdom of Prussias highest order of merit

The Pour le Mérite is an order of merit established in 1740 by King Frederick II of Prussia. The Pour le Mérite was awarded as both a military and civil honour and ranked, along with the Order of the Black Eagle, the Order of the Red Eagle and the House Order of Hohenzollern, among the highest orders of merit in the Kingdom of Prussia. After 1871, when the various German kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies, principalities and Hanseatic city states had come together under Prussian leadership to form the federally structured German Empire, the Prussian honours gradually assumed, at least in public perception, the status of honours of Imperial Germany, even though many honours of the various German states continued to be awarded.



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.

Augsburg Place in Bavaria, Germany

Augsburg is a city in Swabia, Bavaria, Germany. It is a university town and regional seat of the Regierungsbezirk Schwaben. Augsburg is an urban district and home to the institutions of the Landkreis Augsburg. It is the third-largest city in Bavaria with a population of 300,000 inhabitants, with 885,000 in its metropolitan area.

Kingdom of Bavaria kingdom in Central Europe between 1806–1918, from January 1871 part of the German Empire

The Kingdom of Bavaria was a German state that succeeded the former Electorate of Bavaria in 1805 and continued to exist until 1918. The Bavarian Elector Maximilian IV Joseph of the House of Wittelsbach became the first King of Bavaria in 1805 as Maximilian I Joseph. The crown would go on being held by the Wittelsbachs until the kingdom came to an end in 1918. Most of Bavaria's present-day borders were established after 1814 with the Treaty of Paris, in which Bavaria ceded Tyrol and Vorarlberg to the Austrian Empire while receiving Aschaffenburg and Würzburg. With the unification of Germany into the German Empire in 1871, the kingdom became a federal state of the new Empire and was second in size, power, and wealth only to the leading state, the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1918, Bavaria became a republic, and the kingdom was thus succeeded by the current Free State of Bavaria.

Seekadett is a military rank of the Bundeswehr and of former German speaking naval forces.

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.


The Reichsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Weimar Republic and first two years of Nazi Germany. It was the naval branch of the Reichswehr, existing from 1919 to 1935. In 1935, it became known as the Kriegsmarine, a branch of the Wehrmacht; a change implemented by Adolf Hitler. Many of the administrative and organizational tenets of the Reichsmarine were then carried over into the organization of the Kriegsmarine.

Konteradmiral, abbreviated KAdm or KADM, is the second lowest naval flag officer rank in the German Navy. It is equivalent to Generalmajor in the Heer and Luftwaffe or to Admiralstabsarzt and Generalstabsarzt in the Zentraler Sanitätsdienst der Bundeswehr.

<i>Oberkommando der Marine</i>

The Oberkommando der Marine (OKM), translated as High Command of the Navy or Upper Command of the Navy, was the high command and the highest administrative and command authority of the Kriegsmarine. It was officially formed from the Marineleitung of the Reichswehr on 11 January 1936. In 1937 it was combined with the newly formed Seekriegsleitung (SKL). There were two major re-organisations, in November 1939 and May 1944.

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. [1] 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). Although the battle was 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.

Battleship large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns

A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of large caliber guns. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the battleship was the most powerful type of warship, and a fleet of battleships was considered vital for any nation that desired to maintain command of the sea.

German battleship <i>Gneisenau</i> Scharnhorst-class battleship

Gneisenau was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine. She was the second vessel of her class, which included one other ship, Scharnhorst. The ship was built at the Deutsche Werke dockyard in Kiel; she was laid down on 6 May 1935 and launched on 8 December 1936. Completed in May 1938, the ship was armed with a main battery of nine 28 cm (11 in) C/34 guns in three triple turrets, though there were plans to replace these weapons with six 38 cm (15 in) SK C/34 guns in twin turrets.

HMS <i>Rawalpindi</i> 1925 armed merchant cruiser of the Royal Navy

HMS Rawalpindi was a British armed merchant cruiser, that was sunk in a surface action against the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau during the first months of the Second World War. Her captain was Edward Coverley Kennedy.

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.

Alfred Saalwächter German Admiral

Alfred Saalwächter was a high-ranking German U-boat commander during World War I and General Admiral during World War II.

Theodor Krancke German admiral

Theodor Krancke was a naval commander (admiral) of Nazi Germany during World War II and a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.

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 war's end. From 1945–47 he was held as a prisoner of war.

Danube River in Central Europe

The Danube is Europe's second longest river, after the Volga. It is located in Central and Eastern Europe.

Marschall died in Mölln, West Germany, in 1976.


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  1. 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


Military offices
Preceded by
Admiral Otto Schultze
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
Admiral Theodor Krancke
Preceded by
Admiral Hermann Boehm
Chief of Fleet of the Kriegsmarine
21 October 1939 – 7 July 1940
Succeeded by
Admiral Günther Lütjens