On May 14, 1945, the U-234 surrendered to the USS Sutton. Subsequently, members of the Sutton sailed the Nazi submarine to Portsmouth Naval Yard near Portsmouth, NH. Upon opening its holds, awe-struck officials quickly covered up and classified details of the U-234’s incredible cargo. But why? What was it carrying?
The Strange Voyage of the U-234
The Nazi’s built the U-234 as a minelaying submarine. Later, it was repurposed into a cargo carrier for long-range missions. As the European theater of World War II came to a close, the Nazi’s decided to send the U-234 to Japan with twelve passengers and two hundred and forty tons of cargo.
On April 15, 1945, the submarine launched from Kristiansand, Norway. On May 4, the U-234 received a partial transmission indicating that Adolf Hitler had died and that Admiral Karl Dönitz had assumed control of Germany. Six days later, the submarine received its last order from Admiral Dönitz. All submarines were to surface, hoist black flags, and surrender to Allied forces.
Believing that he and his crew would receive better treatment from the Americans, Captain Johann-Heinrich Fehler headed west. After learning about his decision, two Japanese passengers committed hari-kiri and were buried at sea.
The U-234’s Shocking Cargo
The surrender of the U-234 became a major news event. This was primarily due to the capture of high-level passengers including General Ulrich Kessler of the Luftwaffe, Kai Nieschling, Dr. Heinz Schlicke, and August Bringewalde. The reporters who fought to catch glimpses of the submarine had no idea that the U-234’s most valuable assets were stored in her cargo holds. So, what was this mysterious cargo?
- Technical drawings
- The Nazi’s newest electric torpedoes
- One crated Me 262 (the world’s first jet-powered fighter)
- One Henschel Hs 293 glide bomb
- And last, but not least…five hundred and sixty kilograms of “uranium oxide.”
The exact nature of this “uranium oxide” is one of the greatest mysteries of history. A recently-discovered secret cable message stated that the “uranium oxide” was stored in gold-lined cylinders. Gold, thanks to its radioactive shielding properties, is often used for shipping highly-enriched, pure uranium. Also, one Nazi radio operator who watched these cylinders being loaded onto the U-234 noticed the two Japanese passengers labeling them as “U-235.” U-235 may refer to Uranium-235, the same material used to fuel Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Was Nazi Uranium used to build America’s First Atomic Bomb?
Intriguingly, in December 1944, the chief metallurgist at the Los Alamos laboratory indicated that the Manhattan Project would only generate fifteen kilograms of U-235 by May 1945, far short of the 64 kilograms eventually used in the construction of Little Boy. Then, in March 1945, Senator James Byrnes sent a memo to President Roosevelt, indicating his worry that the Manhattan Project would fail. Finally, shortly after the surrender of the U-234, the output of U-235 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory abruptly doubled.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
Is it possible that America lucked on a large cache of Nazi uranium, which enabled it to complete its own atomic bomb? It certainly seems possible. And if that’s the case, was the U-234 the only Nazi sub that fled Europe with enriched uranium in its holds? Or were there others…others that might’ve hidden their cargos or sank to the bottom of the ocean…others still waiting to be found?