Dec 2010: I received an email from a Roger Helbig in which he states:
from Dr. Velma Hunt is highly suspect – some of what is said on your site is as
well – nicely done site – unfortunately, Velma Hunt seems to have permeated the
discussion of this submarine’s uranium cargo – I am beginning to get strong
feelings that she made a lot of it up, but since she supposedly was a PhD in
Environmental Health, she is accepted as an authority – I do not think
that the Japanese officers were put under guard – they did commit suicide and it
supposedly took them about 36 hours to die from overdose of a sleeping pill
medication – the newspaper article from Manchester, NH in 1995 seems to have
been result of interviews with surviving crew of U-234, some of who settled in
US. This article is reproduced here
mike - Unfortunately, I am restricted by the fact that 'facts' are not always as they seem, some - passing for historical information - are only opinion in the end. But then again, isn't all history? This page had been live for 5 years without comment, until now! Nevertheless, the above comments must be taken seriously.
U - 234 (Fact or Fiction?)
One of 8 large mine-laying submarines built by Germany, a type XB or type VIIC, the largest class of German U-boat ever constructed at 1,650 tons and 294 feet; only U-234 and U-219 survived. U-234 was damaged by bombing in construction, her forward end was rebuilt, and it was commissioned on 3 Mar 1944. She exercised as a mine-layer until refit as a transport in February/March 1945.
I have just finished watching the Discovery television documentary on the story of the final voyage on the German U boat U-234. I knew most of the story in small details but to say it was an eye opener is an understatement. After an extensive refit she was due to leave Germany in March 45 for the long voyage to Japan. She had 2 Japanese naval passengers, a German Lt General (Kessler) (Air Defence) on board as well as civil engineers. The crew joked about the incorrect markings on the packing cases being loaded into her spacious holds (an ex mine layer). The boxes were labelled U-235. Also on board was a complete fully functional Me262 and a Me 163 in cases as well as blueprints for the Bomb and plans and drawings of all of Germany's weapons projects, some still only in paper format.
Cargo containers were built to fit into the original mine shafts. Four cargo containers were carried on the topside. 240 tons of cargo were loaded for departure 25 March 1945. Cargo included three crated Messerschmidt aircraft (two Me-262 jet fighters, ME-163 rocket-propelled fighter), Henschel HS-293 glider-bomb, extra Junkers jet engines, 10 canisters of uranium oxide, a ton of diplomatic mail, and over 3 tons of technical drawings, plus other technology, torpedo, fuses, armour piercing shells, etc. Passengers were 9 high technical officers, one general, and civilian scientists. Destination: Japan. Two returning Japanese Navy Lt. Commanders, one air and one submarine, were returning, having observed Nazi technology and techniques.
When at sea, the U-234 learnt of the surrender of Germany from her Fuhrer, Admiral Karl Doenitz. He ordered all U boats to surface and make their locations known to the Allied Navies. U-234 ploughed on, being attacked on numerous occasions as the Allies knew all about her voyage, via Enigma, but not what her cargo was. All the Allies knew was that this voyage was of immense importance to Japan. The crew talked amongst themselves about surfacing and making their current location known, but their two Japanese officers might prove to be a problem, Japan was still at war, one of the Officers was an experienced submariner, he could sink them, they were placed under arrest.
After a few hours, the guard noted that nothing had been heard from the prisoners for quite a while, on entering their room, they were found to have committed suicide. On May 13th, the Captain ordered the submarine to the surface where they broadcast their location. The US Navy heard a faint signal and reported a U Boat on the surface - surrendering and made way towards the location. The Canadian Navy also were alerted and wanted the prize themselves, so a race was on. The Americans, alerted by the enigma messages from London, wanted this particular prize desperately. Thinking he may get harsh treatment from the Canadians, he sailed towards Virginia, having been ordered to Halifax. The U Boat commander broadcast false location reports to the Canadians, who fell for it and steamed away in another direction. U-234 was intercepted 14 May 1945 by USS Sutton, a short time later by Coast Guard cutter Forsyth, and arrived Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 17 May.
When the U Boat was escorted into Portsmouth, New Hampshire and her secret cargo was uncovered, Robert Oppenheimer himself came on board and removed the cases marked U-235, plus papers and drawings. The Uranium carried by U-234 was allegedly enough to make two atomic bombs, 1235 pounds of 77 percent pure uranium oxide, it was destined for the Japanese atomic bomb programme. The U-235 (Uranium-235) was taken away to Los Alamos, forming part of the payload of the bomb that fell on Hiroshima. So, the uranium intended for the production of a Japanese Bomb arrived in due course, but in a way no person in Japan could have imagined in his wildest nightmares! When the U Boat arrived in Portsmouth, it was placed under immediate armed guard and marines were ordered to shoot any reporter who tried to get near. They knew all right what they were dealing with.
If the Japanese had succeeded in building such a device, would they have used in in a massive final gesture by detonating it on home soil, eg: Tokyo when the final end became all too inevitable and US troops completely encircling Tokyo? The mentality of the Japanese nation at the time certainly suggests so. It makes the decision to drop the American bombs, containing German uranium, all that more clear as the Americans knew a damn sight more than they ever let on. They knew that, if they gave Japan time, it could produce her own Bomb as they would not have known how much Japan already had, or were getting - nor would they know how far advanced the Japanese Atomic Program had progressed.
Received an interesting email from a gent in New Zealand this month (March 2005) with a not surprising piece if information:
Were you aware that a female US environmental scientist who performed a site audit for the old shipyards at Portland Maine alleges U-234 briefly visited those docks between 14 and 17 May 1945? A discrepancy is also said to exist between the cargo tonnage when she sailed from Germany and the manifest issued by the US Navy. The suggestion being that there was far more uranium aboard than previously disclosed. U-234 was also said by her former crew to have already been ransacked by the time it reached Portsmouth on 17 May, with her crew being removed at sea. My thanks to Simon for that.