Captain Otto Hersing (1885–1960) commanded one of the most successful submarines of the Great War. His boat, U-21, served in continuous action through the entire war, sinking 40 vessels, and earning him the Pour le Mérite.
Three notable events marked his fighting career with U-21.
- U-21 sank the first ship of the war, the British Cruiser HMS Pathfinder, becoming history's first submarine to sink another ship and itself survive .
- U-21 had a remarkable voyage to the Dardanelles area in 1915. Within three days, the German submarine, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Hersing, sank two British battleships, HMS Triumph (25 May) and HMS Majestic (27 May). He earned the nickname in the U-boat service of Zerstörer der Schlachtschiffe (Battleship Destroyer).
- Ordered to turn his boat over to the Royal Navy at war's end, he chose instead to scuttle the boat while under British escort.
He and his crew survived, and Hersing remained in the navy after the war. He became involved in an attempted putsch against the Weimar Republic and was eventually dismissed from the service in 1924. He subsequently became a potato farmer and died in 1960.