U-873 under Friedrich Steinhoff surrendered in Portsmouth NH 16/17 May 1945, he committed suicide in jail

Patrol 72, U-873 Friedrich
Steinhoff, 4 days, May 13-17 1945, surrendered Portsmouth, NH.
Friedrich Steinhoff, who
brought U-873 to New England in order to surrender in Portsmouth, NH on May 17th
1945. Photo courtesy of http://uboat.net/men/steinhoff.htm
Kapitänleutnant Friedrich
“Fritz” Steinhoff brought U-873 to New England on or about the 14th
of May 1945 in order to surrender his boat to the US Navy at Portsmouth, New
Hampshire, which he did on the 17th of May, two days after U-805
under Bernadelli. After Donitz’s order to surrender on the 4th of
May Steinhoff contacted the Allies via radio and was instructed to proceed to
Portsmouth (Wynn, Vol. 1, p.180).
Unusually Wikipedia is more
detailed than either Wynn or Uboat.net regarding U-873’s surrender. According
to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_submarine_U-873,
 sailed from
Kristiansand on 30 March 1945
was proceeding to an assigned operations area in the
 Caribbean Sea when Germany surrendered on 8 May. At 04:30 GMT on 11 May, U-873 surrendered to USS Vance of Escort Division 45
(CortDiv 45) while it was escorting
convoy UGS 90 at 35°45′N 42°31′W. Vance placed a prize crew aboard U-873 and escorted
the U-boat to
 Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on 16 May.”

Some sources have the sub
arriving on the 17th of May, others at 2:30 pm on the 16th (Gray).
The distance from the position of surrender (SW of the Azores and roughly
midway between there and Bermuda), and Portsmouth is roughly roughly 1,500 miles and took 5.5 days to cover in
rough conditions
. On arrival journalist Charlie Gray reported an unusual promise from a
POW, that “
Fritz Steinhoff, captain of
the 305-foot U-boat 873, now already in harbor, announced that he would give a
press conference soon.
” (Gray, see citation below, seahistorynh.com).

The original
caption, from desausa.com reads “German Submarine U-873 Crewmembers Surrender U-873
Commander, KPTLT Friedrich Steinhoff, standing front row, lst on right

(wearing turtleneck, hands behind back) U-873 was captured by USS Vance DE 387,
11 May 1945. I am only guessing, but this photo appears to have been taken
aboard U-873
after she arrived at Portsmouth, NH, 16 May 1945, as the crew was being taken
into custody. Photo courtesy of Joe Haberkern, son of Joseph W. Haberkern, Jr.,
MoMM2/C, Plankowner, Photo source: http://www.desausa.org/images2/uss_vance_capture/uss_vance_de_387_uboat_10.htm

Steinhoff was born in July 1909 and a member of the Class of 1935. At the time
of surrender he was 35. Before the war he was an officer in the German merchant
navy (Rust). From December 1939 he was a commander of the 4th
Minesweeping Flotilla and then of a coastal defense group in Bergen, Norway to
March 1941. From July 1941 he served as Watch Officer of U-96 to October 1941,
then in the 26th Flotilla’s commander’s course. He began workup for
U-511 in November 1941 and took over the boat in December 1941 until December

From February 1943
to January of 1944 he was on the staff of the 7th U-Flotilla, then
began workup for U-873 in January 1944 (Busch & Roll, Uboat.net). Steinhoff
sank two ships for 21,999 tons and damaged another for 8,773 tons. He was
decorated with the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class, and the
U-Boat War Badge of 1939 (UBoat.net).

Since it is still somewhat
controversial, I will let Wynn describe what happened when Steinhoff, an
officer, was sent to the common jail in Boston:

“KL Steinhoff was
interrogated at the Navy Yard on missile-launching equipment on U-boats. He had
taken part in the submerged rocket-launching trials at Peenemunde in June 1942.”
This was in U-511. Note his brother was a scientist in rocket development with
the Luftwaffe. Ernst August Wilhelm Steinhoff immigrated to the US in November
1945 to assist American scientists with rocketry, was awarded by the US
government in 1958 and is in the International Space Hall of Fame – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Steinhoff.

Wynn continues: “A few days
after surrendering, Steinhoff committed suicide in Charles Street Prison,
Boston. It seems likely that he received the same sort of rough treatment as
that meted out to the men from U-546 on the same subject and probably by the
same American interrogation team.” Steinhoff is buried with a dozen or so other
Axis soldiers at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.

Charles Street Jail, built
c.1851 and in use in 1945 when Fritz Steinhoff of U-873 killed himself there,
has been converted to a luxury hotel on the Charles River, Boston (Liberty
Hotel, 2007, 300 rooms). Photo source: http://www.nerconstruction.com/charlesstreetjail.html

Uboat.net treats this
episode thus: “After suffering harsh interrogation, Friedrich Steinhoff
committed suicide on the morning of 19 May 1945, opening his arteries using
broken glass from his sunglasses. 
U-873‘s doctor, Dr. Karl Steinke, attempted to give
first aid, but was too late. Documents concerning the surrender of 
U-873 and
the interrogation of her crew can be found 
at uboatarchive.net.”
For Steinhoff’s death certificate, etc. see http://www.uboatarchive.net/U-873.htm.


Busch, Rainer and Röll, Hans-Joachim, “German U-Boat
Commanders of World War II, A Biographical Dictionary,” Greenhill Books, London
and Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1999
Gray, Charlie, “Nazi U-Boats Surrender at Portsmouth,”
SEacoastNH.com, http://www.seacoastnh.com/Maritime-History/The-Shipyard/nazi-u-boats-surrender-at-portsmouth/?start=1,
from Gray’s booklet “Surrender at Sea, A compilation of the stories of the
surrender of the Nazi submarines as presented over WHEB, Portsmouth, NH for
Colonial Laundry.”
Helgason, Guðmundur and Kolbicz, Rainer, www.uboat.net, 2015
Högel, Georg, “U-Boat Emblems of World War II 1939 – 1945,”
Schiffer Military History, Atglen, PA, US, 1999
Kurowski, Franz, Knights of the Wehrmacht, Knight’s Cross
Holders of the U-Boat Service,” Schiffer Military/Aviation History, Atglen, PA,
US, 1995
Mason, Jerry, www.uboatarchive.net
– for the KTB or war diary of this patrol, 2015
Niestlé, Axel, “German U-Boat Losses During World War II –
Details of Destruction,” Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1998

Rust, Eric C., Naval Officers under Hitler, The Story of
Crew 34, Praeger, 1991 (2009)