August von Heeringen

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August von Heeringen
Admiral August von Heeringen.png
Birth name Carl August Amon von Heeringen[1]
Birth date 26 November 1855(1855-11-26)
Place of birth Kassel, Electorate of Hesse, German Confederation
Death date 29 September 1927 (aged 71)
Place of death Berlin-Grunewald, German Reich
Allegiance  German Empire
Service/branch  Kaiserliche Marine
Years of service 1872–1914
Rank Admiral z. D.
Awards Red Eagle Order
Prussian Order of the Crown
Relations ∞ 1889 Helene Gräfin von Unruh

Carl August Amon von Heeringen (26 November 1855 – 29 September 1927) was a German naval officer of the Kaiserliche Marine, finally a highly decorated Admiral and Chief of the Imperial Admiralty Staff. He retired on 15 July 1914, but remained, as a special honour by Kaiser Wilhelm II, zur Disposition (at disposal; z. D.) and à la suite of the Seeoffizerkorps until the end of WWI,[2] but was never activated for service again.

Together with the admirals Alfred von Tirpitz, Georg Alexander von Müller, Gustav von Senden-Bibran, and Friedrich von Hollmann, von Heeringen recognized the need to build a strong German navy. He saw it as a means to secure Germany's position on the world stage. Also, he saw a great national navy as a unifying force for an empire still divided into various kingdoms. In March 1896, at the request of Admiral Otto von Diederichs, Chief of Staff of the Naval High Command, he produced the first naval plans for a preemptive war against Britain, which emphasized rapid mobilization.


Helene Gräfin von Unruh
Letter from Rear Admiral August von Heeringen to his wife on 13 August 1906
Rangliste 1916

On 18 April 1872, von Heeringen joined the Imperial Navy and was extensively trained on variuos ships at home and abroad as well as with the I. Matrosen-Division in Kiel, experiencing the duties of naval service on land. From 1878 to 1880, he served on the SMS Prinz Adalbert. The Prinz Adalbert sailed from Kiel on 14 October 1878 for a two-year voyage around the world under the command of Captain at sea Archibald MacLean. In addition to Prince Heinrich of Prussia, who served as a midshipman and was also supposed to perform representative duties on the trip, there were also Lieutenant von Seckendorff, Lieutenant Commander [Hans von Koester Hans Koester] and the marine painter Carl Saltzmann on board. During the journey along the German coast, Prince Heinrich was accompanied on board by his brother Wilhelm, the future emperor. The journey led via South America, the Strait of Magellan and Hawaii to Japan in May 1879, where the Prinz Adalbert joined the other naval ships Luise, Wolf and Cyclop to form a squadron, over which MacLean also took command as the senior captain on site. In East Asia, the surrounding capitals and their governments were visited in order to strengthen German interests. Prince Heinrich took on the representative tasks as representative of the German Emperor. In the spring of 1880, the squadron was relocated to Shanghai, where there was unrest among the population due to the conflict between China and Japan over the Ryukyu Islands.

Von Heeringen also attended the Marine-Akademie (Coetus I in 1885 and Coetus II in 1886). He then served again on the SMS Blücher and was transferred to the Imperial Admiralty in 1888. In the next year he was transferred to the Imperial Naval Office (Reichsmarineamt). In 1892, he was appointed First Officer (I.O.) of the screw corvette SMS Nixe. In 1893, he was transferred to the Oberkommando der Marine (lit. 'Upper Command of the Navy'; abbreviated OKM). From 14 November 1896 to September 1897, he was commandant of the coastal defense ship SMS Frithjof. Together with Alfred von Tirpitz, he developed the guidelines for “effective” promotion in creating favorable conditions for the implementation of German naval armament in politics, the state and the public. From 1896 onwards, he was responsible for the “public relations work” of the fleet construction program. The institution created specifically for this purpose in the Reichsmarineamt was the News Department (Nachrichtenabteilung; N), which reported directly to State Secretary Alfred von Tirpitz. From October 1897, von Heeringen was the executive, co-initiator and main actor in setting up this promotion and news center for the Imperial Navy. In order not to find himself in constant competition with the multitude of other existing news agencies from the outset, he was ordered to concentrate primarily on naval-relevant information. However, this did not always work as required. The most difficult thing was to enforce the desired position with the Foreign Office, because at that time only this institution had the right to submit press releases directly to Kaiser Wilhelm II.

In 1898, the Nachrichtenabteilung was absorbed into the Central-Abteilung of the Reichsmarineamt with von Heeringen as executive.[3] At the beginning of October 1900, he was appointed commandant of the SMS Baden. At the end of March 1901, he gave up command and left for Shanghai to take command of the liner SMS Wörth (20 May to August 1901). After his return to Germany, he was commandant of the SMS Sachsen from November 1901 and from 4 February bis September 1902 commandant of the new pre-dreadnought battleship SMS Kaiser Karl der Große. From 1 October 1902 to 21 September 1903, he served as Chief of Staff on the staff of the 1st Ship Squadron.

  • Executive of the Military Department, Imperial Naval Office (22 September 1903–3 July 1905)
  • Director of the General Navy Department, Imperial Naval Office (4 July 1905–30 September 1907)
    • At the same time, Deputy Plenipotentiary to the Bundesrat 04 July 1905–7 September 1907)
  • Commander of the Reconnaissance Ships (1 October 1907–14 September 1910)
  • Placed at the Disposal of the Chief of the Naval Station of the Baltic Sea (15 September 1910–13 March 1911)
  • Chief of the Imperial Admiralty Staff (14 March 1911–1 April 1913)
    • At the request of Kaiser Wilhelm II in January 1913, August von Heeringen was involved in efforts to plan a coordinated wartime use of the Italian and Austrian fleets in the Mediterranean to prevent French troop movements from North Africa.
  • Chief of the Naval Station of the North Sea (13 April 1913–15 July 1914)
  • Retired and Placed à la suite of the Sea Officers Corps (15 July 1914)


August was the son of Electoral Hessian senior court marshal (Oberhofmarschall) and theater director (Theaterintendant) Josias von Heeringen (b. 2 December 1809; d. 27 September 1885) and his wife Caroline/Karoline, née von Starkloff (1817–1871). He had six siblings, among them the older brothers Oskar Otto Josias (1850–1926),[4] Generaloberst and Imperial War Minister, and Ernst Friedrich Heinrich Kurt (1854–1923), Police President of Dortmund.


On 29 August 1889, Lieutenant Captain von Heeringen married his fiancée Helene Aurelie Anna Wilhelmine Luise Gräfin von Unruh (b. 31 October 1864 in Berlin).[5] They would have four children:

  • Elisabeth "Liesel" (b. 12 June 1890); ∞ Dr. jur. Wilhelm Hilscher (1878-1938), Berlin public prosecutor
  • Moritz (b. 10 November 1891)
  • Anna (b. 11 March 1893)
  • Wilhelm Ludwig Josias August Kurt Otto (b. 28 June 1894)


  • 18 April 1872 Cadett (Officer Candidate)
  • 24 July 1873 See-Cadett (Officer Cadet)
  • 15 February 1876 Unter-Lieutenant zur See (2nd Lieutenant) without Patent (ernannt)[6]
  • 20 November 1879 Lieutenant zur See (1st Lieutenant)
  • 15 November 1887 Kapitain-Lieutenant (Lieutenant Captain)
  • 16 July 1894 Korvettenkapitän (Corvette Captain – Lieutenant Commander)
  • 16 November 1898 Fregattenkapitän (Frigate Captain – Commander)
  • 18 July 1900 Kapitän zur See (Captain at Sea – Captain)
  • 7 July 1906 Kontre-Admiral (Rear Admiral)
  • 5 September 1909 Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral)
  • 27 January 1913 Admiral

Awards and decorations

  • Royal Order of Kalākaua I (Hawaii), Knight's Cross (HK3; later changed to HKA3)
  • Knight's Cross of the Italian Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (JMuL5/JM5)
  • Prussian Order of the Crown (Kronenorden), 4th Class
  • Baden Order of the Zähringer Lion (Orden vom Zähringer Löwen), Knight's Cross I. Class (BZL3a/BZ3a)
  • Order of the Oak Crown (Grand Duchy of Luxembourg), Officer's Cross (LEK4)
  • Prussian Long Service Cross for 25 years (Königlich Preußisches Dienstauszeichnungskreuz)
  • Red Eagle Order (Roter Adlerorden), 4th Class
  • Prussian Centenary Medal 1897 (Zentenarmedaille)
  • Prussian Order of the Crown, 3rd Class
  • House Order of Hohenzollern, Knight's Cross (HOH3) on 21 March 1898
  • Red Eagle Order, 3rd Class with the Bow and the Crown (mit der Schleife und der Krone)
  • Friedrichs-Orden, Commander's Cross (Kommenturkreuz) 2nd Class (WF2b)
  • Hesse Order of Merit of Philip the Magnanimous (Verdienstorden Philipps des Großmütigen), Commander 2nd Class (GHVP2b/HP2b)
  • Princely Waldeck Cross of Merit (Fürstlich Waldeckisches Verdienstkreuz), 2nd Class (WVK2)
  • Russian Order of Saint Anna (St.-Annen-Orden), II. Class (RA2)
  • Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav, Commander II. Class (NO2b)
  • Prussian Order of the Crown, 2nd Class
  • Red Eagle Order, 2nd Class with Oak Leaves
  • Star to his Prussian Order of the Crown 2nd Class on 17 January 1909
  • Star to his Red Eagle Order 2nd Class with Oak Leaves on 22 January 1911
  • Prussian Order of the Crown, 1st Class on 19 September 1912
  • Red Eagle Order, 1st Class with Oak Leaves on 18 January 1914


  1. Carl August Amon von Heeringen
  2. Rangliste der Kaiserlich Deutschen Marine für das Jahr 1916, p. 5
  3. Rangliste der Kaiserlich Deutschen Marine für das Jahr 1899, p. 11
  4. Heeringen, Josias Oskar Otto von
  5. Gothaisches Genealogisches Taschenbuch der Gräflichen Häuser, 1908, p. 942
  6. Rang- und Quartier- sowie Anciennetäts-Liste der Kaiserlichen Marine für das Jahr 1876, p. 37