Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Germany's Final U-boot Mission to Japan - Submarines always silent and strange

An interesting, well-documented book by historian and former navy diver Joseph Scalia tells of the U-234. The minelaying submarine was converted for secret transport to Japan. On 16 April, 1945 she departed Norway's Kristiansand harbor enroute to Japan with extremely important cargo (drawings, an Me-262 jet fighter in crates, 560kg of uranium oxide, several high ranking German experts on various technologies and 2 Japanese officers). While en route on May 4, 1945, Kapitänleutnant Johann-Heinrich Fehler received cease-fire orders and notice of Germany's surrender. Fehler changed course to Portsmouth, NH to surrender, but the Japanese officer's respected their own honor code committing suicide. Through research of U.S. Navy interrogation records, European and Japanese archives, and interviews with former U-234 crewmembers (Fehler lived until 1993) and other principals, Scalia recounts an amazing story from U-234's launch to her May 15th surrender to an American destroyer.

Among German's on board, the Messerschmitt designer would become project manager for the F-105 Thunderchief, and the Luftwaffe general who directed the 1939 aerial blitz of Poland and would be implicated in Hitler's 1944 assassination plot. Of course, there is interesting speculation over the uranium oxide's intended use and it's ironic, ultimate use. The book was published by the Naval Institute Press (April 10, 2000).

Yesterday, came interesting news from BBC NEWS. Drawing uncovered of 'Nazi nuke': Historians working in Germany and the US claim to have found a 60-year-old diagram showing a Nazi nuclear bomb. Researchers who brought it to light say the drawing is a rough schematic and does not imply the Nazis built, or were close to building, an atomic bomb. But a detail in the report suggests Nazi scientists were closer to that goal than previously believed. They hoped to combine a "mini-nuke" with a rocket," Dr Karlsch told the BBC News website. The German report contains an estimate of slightly more than 5kg for the critical mass of a plutonium bomb. This is close to a figure suggesting Nazi scientists had a grasp of nuclear fission.


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