From 1941 German transporters were employed in the supply of North Africa and from the second half of 1941 German sea forces took part in the fighting itself. At this time, Paul Meixner, Kriegsmarine’s Korvettenkapitän, was the German harbor commander at Tripoli, Libya, leader of the Sea Transport Main Center and Naval Liaison Officer to the Commanding General of the Afrika Korps.

Konteradmiral z.V. Dr. jur. Paul Meixner [Via]

One morning in May 1941, "the Italian freighter “Birmania” had reached Tripoli safely. In the bowels of the 10,000-ton ship was ammunition for the DAK, including a number of 10-kilogram bombs, which were crated in bundles of 10. During the offloading, one of the crates was dropped and it went off. As a result of sympathetic explosions, all of the remaining ammunition went up, ripping off the deck of the ship."

"Korvettenkapitän Meixner and Hauptmann Otto, who would later become the senior logistics officer for Africa, raced to the pier. The Italian auxiliary cruiser Citti di Bari, which had been loaded with fuel, had also gone up. There were some 70 killed and 88 wounded in all." 

"Meixner then discovered that another two ships at sea that were in bound and due to arrive in the next 24 hours were carrying the same deadly cargo. He had them anchor in the roads. The anchors were not allowed to be dropped. Instead, they had to be lowered by hand into the water to avoid any shaking of the cargo. The Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe was asked what should be done. Goering replied that the ships should be taken out to sea and sunk. Of course, that was easy for him to say when the bombs were desperately needed at the front."

Unloading German military equipment from the Afrika Korps at the port of Tripoli, North Africa. In the foreground PzKpfw III Ausf G medium tank. Afrika Korps commander Erwin “Desert Fox” Rommel. Location: Tripoli, Libya, North Africa Time taken: 1941 [Via Liam Gordon (Pinterest)]

"Meixner did not have the ships blown up. Instead, he put out a call for volunteers, who carefully opened the ammo crates on board the ships and checked to make sure the safety switches were properly mounted. Those that were properly mounted could be offloaded into the lighters and taken ashore. The first three crates had no problems. The fourth crate, however, had dislodged its safety devices. Captain Reinen, a captain who had been stranded in Tripoli when his ship had been sunk, volunteered to go aboard the ship with an explosives expert to attempt to disarm the bombs. On the first day, they succeeded in defusing six of them, one of which would have been enough to blow up the entire ship because of all the other munitions on board." 

"In five days, 22 bombs were defused. Reinen and his assistant remained in the bowels of the ship by themselves. Eventually, both of the ships were saved Kapitän Reinen became the first merchant marine captain to receive the Iron Cross, First Class. Oberleutnant Krüger, who replaced the explosives expert when he was called away, also received the same decoration."

Rear Admiral Dr. Paul H. Meixner was one of the extraordinarily rare recipients of both the German Cross in Gold and Silver in World War II. In principle, only the Cross in Gold could then be worn. Nevertheless, a contemporary photo shows both awards being worn at the same time by the then.   

  • German Cross in Silver: 6 June 1942, Korvettenkapitän z.V., Chief of Naval Transport Command North Africa.
  • German Cross in Gold: 11 February 1943, Sonderführer Kapitän zur See z.V, Chief of Naval Transport Command.

German Cross in Gold (left) and Silver (right) [Via Wikipedia and]

He was also the only former Austro-Hungarian naval officer to see active service as an admiral in the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. He was born on 4 June 1891 in Vienne (Austria) and died on 8 June 1950 in Vienne (Austria). 

Promotions during his German Kriegsmarine service:

  • Charakter als Kapitänleutnant a.D.: 23 May 1940
  • z.V.-Offizier: 20 August 1940
  • Patent Kapitänleutnant z.V. (RDA May 1940)
  • Korvettenkapitän z.V. (from 1942 Sonderführer Kapitän zur See): 1 April 1941
  • Fregattenkapitän z.V. (later Sonderführer Kapitän zur See): 1 February 1943
  • Kapitän zur See z.V.: 1 April 1943
  • Konteradmiral z.V. (RDA 1 June 1944): 12 May 1944

Commands & Assignments during his World War II service:

  • 23 May 1940: Accepted for service in the German Kriegsmarine with the rank of Charakter als Kapitänleutnant a.D. (Honorary Retired Kapitänleutnant).
  • 23 May 1940-27 July 1940: Detached to the Kriegsmarine Service Center at Aalborg-Aarhus.
  • 28 July 1940-9 September 1940: Preparation for Operation “Seelöwe” (Sea Lion) in Emden, the proposed invasion of Great Britain.
  • 10 September 1940-17 January 1941: Detached to the Naval Harbor Detachment at Calais, France.
  • 18 January 1941-17 October 1941: Leader of the Sea Transport Center and then the Sea Transport Main Center at Tripoli, Libya.
  • 21 February 1941-31 August 1941: At the same time, Naval Liaison Officer to the Commanding General of the Africa Corps.
  • 1 September 1941-30 January 1942: At the same time, Naval Liaison Officer to the Commander-in-Chief of Panzer Army Africa.
  • 18 October 1941-October 1942: Chief of the German Sea Transport Center North Africa.
  • October 1942-7 December 1942: At the same time, delegated with the post of Chief of the German Naval Command North Africa.
  • 30 January 1942-22 September 1942: At the same time, Naval Liaison Officer to the Commander-in-Chief of Panzer Army Africa.
  • 21 February 1941-October 1942: At the same time, Naval Liaison Officer to the Italian Admiral of Libya.
  • 8 December 1942-28 February 1943: Chief of the German Naval Command North Africa.
  • 5 March 1943-11 May 1943: Chief of the German Naval Command Tunisia and, at the same time, Chief of Staff of the Italian Naval Command Tunisia.
  • 11 May 1943-February 1946: Prisoner of war in British captivity. 

Other decorations & awards during World War II:

  • Iron Cross, 1st Class (1939)
  • Iron Cross, 2nd Class (1939)
  • War Merit Cross, 1st Class with Swords
  • War Merit Cross, 2nd Class with Swords
  •  “AFRIKA” Campaign Cuff-Title 


Franz Kurowski, Das Afrika Korps, Erwin Rommel and the Germans in Africa, 1941–43 | | |

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