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Alexander Marinesko file photo [32782]

Alexander Marinesko

Given NameAlexander
Born15 Jan 1913
Died25 Nov 1963


ww2dbaseBorn in Odessa in the Russian Empire on the Black Sea coast to Romanian sailor Ivan Marinesko (born Ion Marinescu) and Ukrainian mother Tatiana Mihailovna Koval, Alexander Ivanovich Marinesko had had a rough upbringing; having left school at the age of 15 and belonging to street gangs, he lived dangerously on the edge of crime. Later it was whilst serving as cabin boy in a merchant vessel that, after a display of bravery and command when rescuing crew from a torpedo boat, he was sent to the Navy Institute. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in Mar 1936, senior lieutenant in Nov 1938, and captain lieutenant in 1940. Between summer 1939 and 1942, Marinesko was the commanding officer of submarine M-96.

ww2dbaseAt the end of 1944 Marinesko was given command of the S-13, a Stalinets-class boat jointly designed by Germans and Russians in 1933, having evaded the restrictive clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. S-13 was docked at the Smolny base at Turku, ready for sailing, but Captain 3rd Class Marinesko had disappeared without his superior officers' knowledge. Almost a month later he was found to have gone on enormous drinking session, having no idea where he had been or who with for three weeks. Very quickly the NKGB, People's Commissariat for State Security, was investigating him believing that he may have been recruited by the British or Americans and it looked as if a Court Martial would follow. At this time Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had been pushing the Naval authorities for action in the Baltic Sea area now that the Germans were in full retreat. With much wrangling and many blind eyes shown Marinesko was allowed to return to his boat. However, he was a marked man, the NKGB in Kronstadt in Leningrad having a file on him. On the war patrol, S-13 sank the German military transport ship Willhelm Gustloff and then the German passenger ship Steuben, killing about 9,000 and about 4,000 military and civilian passengers, respectively. The submarine returned with the crew hailed as heroes and it was expected that Marinesko would receive the Hero of the Soviet Union. This was not to be, and he was awarded the lesser Order of the Red Banner instead. In the following months he continued drinking and in Sep 1945 he was demoted to the rank of lieutenant and put in command of minesweeper T-14. After leaving the service in Oct 1945 he was found guilty of theft whilst at the Leningrad Blood Transfusion Institute and sentenced to three years in labor camps in the Kolyma Gulag, where he lost his health. In 1960, his rank of captain 3rd class was reinstated, allowing him a small pension. He passed away from cancer in Leningrad, Russia in 1963 and was buried at the Bogoslovskoe Cemetery in Leningrad.

ww2dbaseFor many years Marinesko was forgotten until Mikhail Gorbachev learned of the situation and money was raised to erect a monument to the submarine crew. Such was the public outcry that on 5 May 1990 Marinesko was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously.

Dobson, Miller & Payne. The Cruellest Night. Hodder & Stoughton, London.
Seaton, Albert. The Russo-German War 1941-45. Arthur Barker, London
Prit Buttar. Battleground Russia, The Assault on Germany's Eastern Front. Osprey publishing.

Last Major Revision: Sep 2023

Alexander Marinesko Interactive Map

Alexander Marinesko Timeline

15 Jan 1913 Alexander Marinesko was born in Odessa, Kherson Governorate, Russian Empire (now Ukraine). This birth date was also recorded as 2 Jan 1913 n the Old Style.
11 Jan 1945 S-13 departed Porkkala Naval Base in Porkkalanniemi, Finland.
13 Jan 1945 S-13 patrolled off the coast of Kolberg, Germany (now Kolobrzeg, Poland).
30 Jan 1945 While transporting civilians from Ostpreu├čen (East Prussia), Germany, German Navy passenger ship Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by Soviet submarine S-13, under the command of Captain 3rd Class Alexander Marinesko, taking somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 lives, possibly making it the greatest loss of life in a maritime disaster in history.
9 Feb 1945 Soviet submarine S-13 attacked German passenger ship Steuben just off the coast near Stolp, Germany (now Slupsk, Poland) just before the end of the day, fatally hitting her with two torpedoes on the starboard side.
10 Feb 1945 German passenger ship Steuben, previously fatally hit by two torpedoes from S-13, sank just off the coast near Stolp, Germany (now Slupsk, Poland). She listed rapidly and sank by the bow just past the start of the day, about 20 minutes from the time of the torpedo hits. About 4,250 military and civilian passengers were killed.
25 Nov 1963 Alexander Marinesko passed away from cancer in Leningrad, Russia.

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