Mysterious Cargo – U 234

Home / Mysterious Cargo – U 234

On 25 March 1945 U 234 left Kiel, Germany, for initial port calls at Horten, Larvik and Kristiansand, all in Norway, to eventually sail for Japan on 15 April 1945. On 19 May 1945 U 234 entered the US Naval Base at Portsmouth, NH in the USA, after it had surrendered at sea to the US destroyer USS Sutton (DE 771) on 14 May 1945 in observance of the general order to end hostilities and after an initial escort to Casco Bay, Maine, USA on 16 May 1945.

Indiensstellung von U 234
The commissioning of U 234

On board there was freight composed of strategic goods for the war ally Japan, among those a selection of rare raw material, blueprints of German aircraft and missile developments, plus supply for the German Embassy in Tokyo. All in all, a load surrounded by many secrets. In historic writing and literature this cargo gave permanent reason for speculations, some of them extremely wild. Based on motives of the voyage of U 234 even a well received TV movie with well-known actors (“The last U-boat/ Das letzte U-Boot”) was produced and screened first time on 21st of March 1997 at the Second German TV Channel (ZDF), also a TV documentary by SPIEGEL TV (“U 234 – Deadly Cargo”/ “U 234 – Tödliche Fracht”) was screened first time on 30 December 2002 and repeated many time since. The speculations about the cargo, its intended use in Japan and its further whereabouts in the USA, were nourished very much by the presence of strange passengers on board U-234, among those a German Air Force general, two Japanese officers and two engineers from the Messerschmidt aircraft producers.

Portsmouth New Hampshire USA - die Besatzung von U234 im Vordergrund auf DE 771 Sutton
Portsmouth New Hampshire USA – die crew of U234 in the foreground on DE 771 Sutton

The myths about U 234 hold until today, some of them persistently. Main subjects of these myths are the 560 kg of Uranium Oxyde on board and allegedly parts of a disassembled V-2 as well as from one Me-262 jet fighter (there are even allegations of up to three disassembled aircraft on board), plus parts from a Me-163 jet fighter, a Me 309 propeller fighter and the gigantic Me 323 transport aircraft. According to the myths, the Uranium Oxyde was to support the Japanese project of an own atomic bomb, and after its seizure by the US it shall have gone into the US atomic program (allegedly parts of the material ended in the US atomic bombs for the August 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). The missile and aircraft parts were used to substantially support the respective US developments. There are claims, that the Me-262 parts were off loaded at Casco Bay, then brought to the US Wright Airfield Test Air Base at Dayton, Ohio, re-assembled by assistance of the Messerschmidt engineers of U 234 and actually flown.

An US Naval historian has published the probably most compre-hensive and sound study about the last voyage of U 234 yet. However, he remains vague with regard to certain aspects, in particular the cargo on board, and he is sometimes even wrong.

(Joseph Mark Scalia: Germany´s Last Mission to Japan – The Failed Voyage of U-234, published in 2000 at Naval Institute Press in Annapolis, USA as an extended MA thesis completing his university studies between 1994 and 1997. The German edition: In geheimer Mission nach Japan – U 234, published in 2002 at Motorbuchverlag and 2005 at Ullstein as paperback)

Johann-Heinrich Fehler - Kommandant von U 234
Commander of U 234 Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant-commander) Johann-Heinrich Fehler

Also, an eye witness, the R/T Master Chief on board U 234, Wolfgang Hirschfeld, has published a book telling his memories of this last voyage. However, he as well remains very vague only as to the cargo on board or he simply follows the known speculative accounts

(Wolfgang Hirschfeld: Das letzte Boot, published in 1989 at Universitas at München)

What are the findings of today? By and large, the background of the embarkation of specialist passengers during this voyage is clarified, after the war many of these have explained their presence anyway. Therefore, there are no major secrets around those any longer, nevertheless, new interpretations come up occasionally.

The cargo list of the last voyage of U 234 known to us states the Uranium Oxyde and it also shows blueprints of aircraft and mis-siles. However, there are no documents available to the public (yet) that identifies the intended purpose of the raw material Uranium Oxyde in Japan, as well as the utilization of it in the USA, i.e. whatever is being said about it is mere speculation. Other than several boxes, inter alia those with blueprints of aircraft and missiles, there is no mentioning of boxes containing parts of disassembled air-craft or missiles in those lists. Moreover, the storing of such parts is hardly imaginable in those cramped conditions on board, similarly the size of the boxes simply would not fit, same as the measures of the mineshafts would not do.

Unless still existing restrictions to requirements of confidentiality around the transport of such aircraft and missile parts prevent so, any statements or stories concerning those should be rejected as mere speculation. Any research to find out about the true nature of the cargo is significantly hampered, as even renowned historians apparently plagiarize without prior checking. Therefore, the myths around the last voyage of U 234 seem to prove themselves simply through repeating allegations all over again. It rests with the U-boat Archive to make an appeal to every historian to share a healthy mistrust vis-á-vis such firm myths and to rather meet them with information which is a based on provable facts.