Born: 2 July 1914 in Hanover, Germany.
Died: 26 December 2005 in Suessen, Germany.
Fregattenkapitän 1 December 1944
Korvettenkapitän 7 August 1942
Kapitänleutnant 1 September 1941
Oberleutnant zur See 1 April 1939
Leutnant zur See 1 April 1937
Fähnrich zur See 1 July 1935
U-boat War Badge 7 November 1939
Knights Cross 20 June 1941
Knights Cross with Oak Leaves 11 April 1942
U-boat War Badge with Diamonds 11 April 1942
Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Crossed Swords 17 August 1942
Takes command on 5 June 1940
Ends command on 15 September 1940
Takes command on 4 December 1940
Ends command on 8 September 1942
Takes command on 23 March 1945
Ends command on 26 April 1945
Takes command on 27 April 1945
Ends command on 8 May 1945
Erich Topp was born on 2 July 1914 in Hanover, Germany and was the third most successful of German U-boat commanders of World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He sank 35 ships for a total of 197,460 gross register tons (GRT).
Erich Topp joined the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) in 1934, serving his first stint after being commissioned as Leutnant zur See (Ensign) on the light cruiser Karlsruhe in 1937, before transferring to the U-Bootwaffe (submarine fleet) in October 1937. He served as Watch Officer on U-46 and took part in four combat patrols before he was given his first command on U-57 on 5 June 1940. He led U-57 on two missions during which the boat managed to sink six ships. She was sunk after a collision with a Norwegian vessel on 3 September 1940.
Topp survived to take command of U-552, a Type VIIC boat on 4 December 1940. With U-552, Der Rote Teufel, he operated mainly against convoys in the North Atlantic, sinking 30 ships and crippling several others on ten patrols. One of his victims during this period was the destroyer USS Reuben James, the first US warship to be sunk in World War II on 31 October 1941. While leading to diplomatic consequences with the United States, it was his sinking of the SS David H. Atwater the following year that remains particularly controversial.
In October 1942, he was given command of the 27th U-boat Flotilla, based in Gotenhafen (now Gdynia, Poland), which put him in charge of introducing the new Type XXI Elektro boats to active service. He wrote the battle manual for the Type XXI, and shortly before the end of the war, he took command of U-2513, on which he surrendered on 8 May 1945, in Horten, Norway.
After the war, he worked as a fisherman and then as architect, until he eventually rejoined the Bundesmarine (Federal German Navy), reaching the rank of Konteradmiral (Two star Rear Admiral) before retiring in 1969. After his retirement he worked as an industrial consultant for various naval yards. His memoirs The Odyssey of a U-boat Commander: The Recollections of Erich Topp was published in 1992. Topp was the technical advisor for the 2001 submarine simulation computer game Silent Hunter II. He was also interviewed for the game.
He died on 26 December 2005, in Süßen at the age of 91.
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