The leading U-boat ace of all time was Lothar Von Arnauld De La Periere. His family was French until 1757, when his great-grandfather, a 26-year-old artillery lieutenant, cut down a prince of the House of Bourbon in a duel and fled the country one step ahead of the police. Jean-Gabriel Arnauld de la Periere then joined Frederick the Great’s army and rose to the rank of full general. The Arnaulds served Prussia and Germany from then on.
Lothar was born in Posen, Prussia (now Poznan, Poland), on March 18, 1886. He attended the cadet schools at Wahlstatt and Gross-Lichterfelde, and joined the Imperial Navy in 1903. After eight years service on three different battleships, Arnault became a torpedo officer aboard the light cruiser Emden in 1911. After that, he was adjutant to Admiral Hugo von Pohl, the chief of the Admiralty Staff and an early advocate of U-boat development and unrestricted submarine warfare. Arnauld transferred to the U-boat branch in 1915, and assumed command of U-35 in November. He sank a record 194 ships (453,716 Gross Registered Tons) during World War I, and received the Pour le Merite in 1916.
Most of Arnauld’s “kills” were undramatic. He would stop a merchant vessel, inspect its papers, allow the crew to board lifeboats, and then sink it with his 88mm deck gun. Sometimes this procedure was not practical. Arnauld fired a total of 74 torpedoes during the war and scored 39 hits.
Arnauld remained in the navy during the Weimar era, where he served as a navigation officer on old pre-dreadnoughts and as commander of the Emden (1928–1930). Promoted to captain, he retired in 1931, and then taught at the Turkish Naval Academy from 1932 to 1938. He also briefly joined an anti-Nazi political party in the early 1930s.
Captain von Arnauld was recalled to active duty when World War II began. Promoted to rear admiral on June 1, 1940, he was naval plenipotentiary for Danzig and the Polish Corridor (September 1939–March 1940). He became Naval Commander, Belgium-Netherlands (May–June 1940); Naval Commander, Brittany (June–December 1940); and Naval Commander, Western France (December 1940–February 1941). He was promoted to vice admiral on February 1, 1941.
Admiral von Arnauld was named naval commander south on February 19, 1941. He was en route to his new command when he was killed in an airplane accident at the Paris-Le Bourget Airport on February 24. He is buried at the Invalidenfriedhof