Wenneker file photo [6271]

Paul Wenneker

Given NamePaul
Born27 Feb 1890
Died17 Oct 1979


ww2dbasePaul Werner Wenneker was born in Kiel, Germany into a naval family in 1890 He joined the German Navy in 1909 as a cadet (Seekadett), completing his training aboard the heavy cruiser Victoria Louise as a petty officer. Between 1911 and 1912 and then again between 1913 and 1914, he served aboard the light cruiser Mainz, broken by a short assignment to the light cruiser Königsberg. In 1912, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. During his second tour aboard Mainz, the ship was sunk by the British during the Battle of Heligoland Bight in WW1, and Wenneker became a prisoner of war, and would remain so for the bulk of the war. He was released by the Netherlands on 18 Jan 1918, but remained interned until 10 Dec 1918. In May 1919, he was promoted to the rank of upper lieutenant while serving in the Baltic Sea aboard minesweepers. In 1920, he was promoted lieutenant captain. Between 1919 and 1922, he served aboard the destroyer S-18, torpedo boat T-109, minesweeper M-2, and other various minesweepers. Between 1924 and 1926, he served as a gunnery officer aboard cruiser Nymphe. Between 1929 and 1931, he served in the same roles aboard merchant liners Elsaff and Schleswig-Holstein. He was promoted corvette captain in 1928 and frigate captain in 1933.

ww2dbaseBetween 28 Dec 1933 and 23 Aug 1937, Wenneker was assigned to the Germany Embassy Tokyo, Japan as the naval attaché. In Jan 1935, he was promoted to the rank of captain in 1935. Several days later, on 10 Jan, he was invited by Admiral Suetsugu Nobumasa, the commander of the Yokosuka Naval District to tour the light cruiser Tama, battleship Kongo, and submarine I-2; he was reputedly unimpressed with Japanese naval gunnery technology. Between 1938 and 1940, he served as the captain of the pocket battleship Deutschland (later renamed Lützow); during that time, in 1939, he was promoted to the rank of counter admiral. On 21 Mar 1940, Wenneker returned to Japan as the naval attaché. In 1941, he was promoted to the rank of vice admiral, followed by the promotion to full admiral on 1 Aug 1944.

ww2dbaseIn his two tours of duty in Japan, Wenneker attempted to facilitate knowledge sharing between the two navies. He shared the successful German U-Boat tactics with the Japanese Navy, suggesting the disruption of American merchant shipping routes between the United States' west coast and the Hawaiian Islands to tie up valuable warships in convoy duties, but it was largely ignored due to the apparent dishonor of submarine warfare to the Japanese. Those who were perceptive to it differed in opinion as well, insisting that submarine warfare would be better conducted against carriers and other warships rather than supply ships, for that the Americans' great production capacity could easily replace any lost merchant ships and crew.

ww2dbaseWenneker persuaded the German Navy to present the Japanese with a German Type D-9 U-Boat, which was methodically taken apart and studied at the shipyards in Kure. The Japanese, whose submarine technology was not much beyond that of the WW1-era, concluded that the D-9 design was too complicated for construction in Japan at that time. He additionally arranged for Japanese submarine crew to train in Germany. The trained crew was intercepted by Allied forces in the North Atlantic in early 1944; all were lost at sea.

ww2dbaseDuring the war, Wenneker was also in charge of blockade-running submarines between Germany and Japan which ran between the west coast of France and Penang, Malaya or Singapore. These submarines allowed Germany and Japan to exchange information, raw materials, optical equipment, machine tool equipment, and personnel.

ww2dbaseToward the end of the war, Wenneker watched in despair as Japan was being crippled by American submarines in the exact same manner he had been preaching his colleagues in Tokyo. After the war, he was interrogated by Rear Admiral R.A. Ofstie of the United States Navy in Karuizawa on 11 Nov 1945. He noted the observation that early in the war, the Japanese military failed to fully build up the defenses at the Mariana Islands due to the misconception that the American forces were unworthy jungle fighters. Corruption in the Japanese military struck him as a systematic problem that placed incapable personnel at key positions. It was also his impression that "[t]he Japanese were just not fitted for as large scale operations as other countries", noting the failed Guadalcanal defense that frittered away Japanese naval strength little by little. Finally, Wenneker revealed that there was a group in Japan who desired Germany to sign a ceasefire with Russia so that Japan could redeploy some of her forces in Manchuria to the South Pacific. He was released on 5 Nov 1947.

ww2dbaseWenneker retired from military service after returning to Germany, living a relatively quiet life. He passed away in 1979 in Bergstedt, Hamburg, Germany.

ww2dbaseSources: Interrogations of Japanese Officials, Midway Dauntless victory, the Pacific Campaign.

Last Major Revision: Jan 2007

Paul Wenneker Timeline

27 Feb 1890 Paul Wenneker was born in Kiel, Germany.
18 Jan 1918 Paul Wenneker was officially released from captivity by the Netherlands, but he would actually remain interned until Dec 1918.
10 Dec 1918 Paul Wenneker was released from Dutch internment even though he had officially been released in Jan 1918.
28 Dec 1933 Paul Wenneker began serving as a naval attaché at the German embassy in Tokyo, Japan.
10 Jan 1935 Paul Wenneker toured light cruiser Tama, battleship Kongo, and submarine I-2 at Yokosuka, Japan.
23 Aug 1937 Paul Wenneker stepped down as a naval attaché at the German embassy in Tokyo, Japan.
21 Mar 1940 Paul Wenneker began serving as a naval attaché at the German embassy in Tokyo, Japan.
1 Aug 1944 Paul Wenneker was promoted to the rank of admiral.
11 Nov 1945 Paul Wenneker was interrogated by US Navy Rear Admiral R. A. Ofstie at Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan.
5 Nov 1947 Paul Wenneker was released from American internment in Japan.
17 Oct 1979 Paul Wenneker passed away in Hamburg, Germany.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
2 Nov 2010 08:24:51 AM

Japanese submarines in service from the 1920s included boats built to German specifications and assisted by the location of former U-boat specialists in Japan. These were ocean-going vessels which were modelled on the U-boats designed for operations against the eastern seaboard of the USA at the end of WWI. They included boats which house floatplanes for reconnaissance of enemy harbours, but were seen by Japanese strategists as most useful for locating enemy warships rather than merchant vessels. German and Japanese priorities in the deployment of submarines were just different.
Admiral Wenneker was the key German liaison with the radical nationalist officers within the Japanese Navy. What he did not reveal in 1945 was that he was closely linked with the Soviet agent, Richard Sorge,but that he had revealed this to his superiors in July 1942. They had advised him to pass this on to Ambassador Ott, but Ott appears not to have said anything about it to his superiors or the Gestapo as he did not wish to incriminate himself any more than had already been determined in April 1942. Both the German and Japanese navies had been strongly opposed to any involvement of their countries in war with the USSR.
2. cliff says:
13 Oct 2011 07:34:39 AM

I have a mauser rifle that came from the german embassy in japan i want to find records of the guns that were at the embassy any ideas

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