U-96 or Unterseeboot 96 was a German Type VIIC submarine of the Kriegsmarine during World War II. Her keel was laid down September 16, 1939 by Germaniawerft, of Kiel. She was commissioned September 14, 1940 with Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock in command. Lehmann-Willenbrock was relieved in March 1942 by Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Jürgen Hellriegel. He was relieved in turn in March 1943 by Oblt. Wilhelm Peters. In February 1944 Oblt. Horst Willner took command, turning the boat over to Oblt. Robert Rix in June of that year. Rix commanded the boat until February 1945.
As part of the 7th Flotilla, stationed in Saint Nazaire/France, U-96 conducted 11 patrols, sinking 28 ships totalling 190,094 tons and damaging four others totalling 33,043 tons. On March 30, 1945, U-96 was sunk by US bombs while in the submarine pens in Wilhelmshaven. In her entire career, U-96 suffered no casualties to her crew. The boat was also known for its emblem, a green laughing sawfish. The laughing sawfish became the symbol of the 9th Flotilla after Lehmann-Willenbrock took command in March 1942.
During 1941, a war correspondent named Lothar-Günther Buchheim joined U-96 for a single patrol. His orders were to photograph and describe the U-boat in action for propaganda purposes. From his experiences, he wrote a short story, "Die Eichenlaubfahrt" ("The Oak-Leaves Patrol") and a 1975 novel which was to become an international best-seller, Das Boot, followed in 1976 by U-Boot-krieg ("U-Boat War"), a nonfiction chronicle of the voyage. In 1981 Wolfgang Petersen brought the novel to the big screen with the most expensive German film to that date, Das Boot, critically acclaimed by many as one of the best submarine films of all time.