The U 234

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red devil
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The U 234

Post by red devil » 26 Feb 2005 12:56

Apparently there is already a topic on this in the Kreigsmarine section, my apologies. Please do as is necessary.

Just finished watching the Discovery tv 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 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 Me 262 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!

When at sea, the U 234 learnt of the surrender of Germany from her Führer, Admiral Karl Dönitz. 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. He had been ordered to Halifax, but thought the Canadians might be "a bit rough" so he altered course towards Virginia. 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 particuolar prize desperately and persuaded the U Boat commander to broadcast false location reports to the Canadians, who fell for it and steamed away in another direction.

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 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 soldiers 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.

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Michael Emrys
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Post by Michael Emrys » 27 Feb 2005 03:26

I'm afraid I can't rattle off the details, but I recall reading in the last year or so that the Japanese nuclear projects (both the Army and the Navy each had their own) had stalled at a fairly early stage. Even with sufficient U 235, it would probably have taken them more time to produce a functioning A-bomb than was left in the war at that stage. Plus, I doubt that the Germans had sent them more than lab samples of the pure stuff.

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Post by Darkfire » 27 Feb 2005 04:22

Very interesting information. I've always been fascinated by the interaction of the Axis partners during the war, and feel generally that this subject has been unduly neglected by historians. I agree with Grease_Spot that the Japanese had made efforts in the direction of creating atomic weapons, but had not made any significant progress. From what I know they had not even learned of the importance of critical mass, let alone discovering the means to achieve it. The Germans for their part were certainly on the wrong track and I cannot imagine their research would have benefitted the Empire to any appreciable degree. The acquisition of fissile materials could have been dangerous for Allied troops setting foot on Japan, but not catastrophic in a Manhattan Project sense.

The delivery of an Me 262 could have had more ominous implications if Japan had at this late stage possessed the resources and time to bring such aircraft into combat. In fact the Japanese started design of a 262 copy in September 1944, but a prototype was not flown until 7 August 1945, which was however not promising and the war abruptly ended further development.

Your postulation that the Japanese would have employed a functional atomic device on their own soil is interesting, considering that some important members of the High Command advocated the free use of gas to neutralize enemy invasion forces. Certainly the hard-core miliary caste thought nothing of sacrificing innumerable civilians, territory, and friendly troops to stop an invasion. Since the war thankfully did not progress along this trajectory, we'll never really know what could have occurred.

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red devil
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Post by red devil » 27 Feb 2005 13:31

Grease_Spot wrote:I'm afraid I can't rattle off the details, but I recall reading in the last year or so that the Japanese nuclear projects (both the Army and the Navy each had their own) had stalled at a fairly early stage. Even with sufficient U 235, it would probably have taken them more time to produce a functioning A-bomb than was left in the war at that stage. Plus, I doubt that the Germans had sent them more than lab samples of the pure stuff.


According to more than one source, and in the tv program, the amount was worth "2 bombs" and that the Americans used it to fuel theirs? I am unclear as to amounts, not being a physicist, and "critical mass" to me means almost nothing. The U 235 was shipped off to Los alamos very quickly indeed after Oppenheimer had been on board.

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Michael Emrys
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Post by Michael Emrys » 28 Feb 2005 04:35

red devil wrote:According to more than one source, and in the tv program, the amount was worth "2 bombs" and that the Americans used it to fuel theirs? I am unclear as to amounts, not being a physicist, and "critical mass" to me means almost nothing. The U-235 was shipped off to Los alamos very quickly indeed after Oppenheimer had been on board.


Well, I wish we could get more definite information on this subject. I am convinced that the Germans would not have been shipping bomb grade U-235, since they did not appear to have the means to refine it to that level. It is, however, quite possible that they would have sent a cargo of natural uranium containing all the isotopes, since they had large amounts of that. In fact, such a cache was discovered by the US Army at the end of the European war and was shipped immediately to Oak Ridge.

So would any uranium found on the sub. It would have first been sent to Oak Ridge for processing into bomb grade material before that would have been sent to Los Alamos to be constructed into a bomb.

BTW, only one uranium bomb was dropped on Japan, that was the Little Boy. Fat Man dropped on Nagasaki was a plutonium bomb made from materials produced in breeder reactors at Hanford, as was the Trinity device.

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The U 234

Post by Simon Gunson » 02 Apr 2005 01:19

When U 234 left Germany her cargo weighed 240 tons. When the US Navy issued it's own manifest the weight was reduced by 70 tons. What became of the missing cargo ?

An environmental scientist from Pennsylvania State University named Dr Velma Hunt uncovered information that U 234 secretly put into the dockyard at south Portland Maine, between 14 May 1945 and 17 May 1945. As her cargo was carried in cannisters place inside 18 vertical mineshafts, it is likely some of these were emptied at Portland, before her voyage to Portsmouth NH.

The cannisters contained Uranium oxide or Yellow Cake. It had been mined from Jach-y-mor (aka Joachimsthal) in Western Czechoslovakia. The metal was refined at Oranienburg north of Berlin. It was not apparently enriched however.

The Nazis had developed a reliable gaseous uranium centrifuge at Kiel in 1942. Hitler gave the firm Degaussa a contract to mass produce uranium centrifuges in 1944. Degaussa helped Saddam Hussein gain nuclear technology in the 1980s. Degaussa was a predecessor to IG Farben. The gaseous centrifuge process is nowadays referred to as the Harteck Process. South Africa used the Harteck process to develop an atomic bomb. Dr Paul Harteck was a Nazi nuclear scientist who was awarded huge resources late in the war to develop the Nazi A-bomb. He was captured after the war by the Americans as part of Operation Overcast and was incorporated into the US nuclear program.

Japan's general Kawashima signalled Berlin in July 1943 asking for Uranium shipments. Subsequently a number of U-boats and large Italian transport subs voyaged to the far east. Some Japanese I-boats also made trips to France returning with uranium, though none of the Japanese subs in 1944 actually made it safely back. U 219 and U 195 actually reached Djakarta in december 1944 carrying 12 dismantled V 2 rockets, but with no word as to their other cargoes. Both of these were likely to have had capacity for large amounts of Uranium. One way to test this is to locate their sister U 180 in the Gironde Estury in the Bay of Biscay. She set out with U 219 and U 195 but struck a mine. Her cargo would likely still be intact.

Had the Nazis provided Japan with a few centrifuges it is very likely Japan could have built Atomic weapons before August 1945.

It is interesting to note new suggestions that Nazi Germany tested an Atomic Bomb at Thuringia and on the island of Rugen, based upon soil contamination. I do know that three Heinkel He 177 aircraft were redied near Prague as Atomic bombers with extra large bomb bays. (I apologise for originally posting in error that these were Ju 290 aircraft). One was well known as the v38 aircraft.
Last edited by Simon Gunson on 17 Apr 2005 10:44, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Larry D. » 02 Apr 2005 14:48

Simon -

I just finished reading these a few days ago. You might want to take a look.

THE JAPANESE ATOMIC BOMB

Wilcox, Robert K. Japan’s Secret War: Japan’s Race Against Time to Build Its Own Atomic Bomb. 2d revised edition. New York: Marlowe & Company, 1995. ISBN: 1-56924-815-X. Pb. 268p. Bibliography. Index.

Henshall, Philip. The Nuclear Axis: Germany, Japan and the Atomic Bomb Race 1939-45. Stroud (Gloucestershire): Sutton Publishing, 2000. ISBN: 0-7509-2293-1. Hb. Dj. 230p. Illus. Maps. Dwgs. Appendices. Glossary. Bibliography. Index.

Also see my discussion of these at:

http://www.j-aircraft.org/bbs/jship_con ... read=39468

Cheers,

--Larry

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red devil
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Post by red devil » 02 Apr 2005 19:12

Nice post Simon, and thanks, very interesting, I believe the uranium arrived in Japan, payment in full, so to speak.

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Post by Simon Gunson » 17 Apr 2005 10:48

Speaking of payment the I-52 sailed for France in April 1944 but after meeting with U-530 in the Atlantic, she was sunk before reaching Lorient. In her cargo was 3 tons of gold in payment to the Nazis for something

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