|Ordered||20 January 1941|
|Laid down||6 June 1942|
|Launched||27 August 1943|
|Commissioned||16 October 1943|
|Status||Missing since mid or late April 1945|
|Class and type||Type VIIC submarine|
|Height||9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)|
|Draught||4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)|
|Complement||4 officers, 40–56 enlisted|
She carried out five patrols. She did not sink or damage any ships.
She was posted missing in mid or late April 1945.
German Type VIIC submarines were preceded by the shorter Type VIIB submarines. U-396 had a displacement of 769 tonnes (757 long tons) when at the surface and 871 tonnes (857 long tons) while submerged. She had a total length of 67.10 m (220 ft 2 in), a pressure hull length of 50.50 m (165 ft 8 in), a beam of 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in), a height of 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in), and a draught of 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in). The submarine was powered by two Germaniawerft F46 four-stroke, six-cylinder supercharged diesel engines producing a total of 2,800 to 3,200 metric horsepower (2,060 to 2,350 kW; 2,760 to 3,160 shp) for use while surfaced, two Garbe, Lahmeyer & Co. RP 137/c double-acting electric motors producing a total of 750 metric horsepower (550 kW; 740 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.23 m (4 ft) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 230 metres (750 ft).
The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 17.7 knots (32.8 km/h; 20.4 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph). When submerged, the boat could operate for 80 nautical miles (150 km; 92 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-396 was fitted with five 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and one at the stern), fourteen torpedoes, one 8.8 cm (3.46 in) SK C/35 naval gun, (220 rounds), one 3.7 cm (1.5 in) Flak M42 and two twin 2 cm (0.79 in) C/30 anti-aircraft guns. The boat had a complement of between forty-four and sixty.
The submarine was laid down on 6 June 1942 at the Howaldtswerke (yard) at Flensburg as yard number 28, launched on 27 August 1943 and commissioned on 16 October under the command of Kapitänleutnant Ernst-Günther Unterhorst.
The boat departed Kiel on 20 June 1944. On 28 June she was attacked by a British Catalina flying boat of No. 210 Squadron RAF. The only damage was a carbon monoxide leak which was serious enough to cause the submarine to abort her patrol. She arrived at Bergen on 3 July.
These two sorties were relatively uneventful.
U-396 departed Trondheim on 1 October 1944. She entered the north Atlantic Ocean via the gap between Iceland and the Faroe Islands and sailed southeast of Cape Farewell (Greenland). She returned to Trondheim on 19 December. At 60 days, it was her longest patrol.
The boat departed Trondheim for Atlantic weather reporting duties on 13 March 1945. It is known that she sailed between the Faroe and Shetland Islands. She was posted missing in mid or late April. No conclusive explanation for her loss exists.
45 men were aboard the U-boat; there were no survivors.
U-396 was thought to have been sunk on 23 April 1945 southwest of the Shetland Islands by depth charges dropped by a British B-24 Liberator of No. 86 Squadron RAF. This attack was probably against a 'nonsub' target.