Their was much written of a postwar 'foreign trade offensive'
and of a 'European Economic Community' in which Germany
would act merely as the 'flag bearer' and predominate by
'elastic political methods...not with brutal force.[dclxxxvi]
Peter Hayes, author
Industry and Ideology: I.G. Farben in the Nazi Era
For a secret concern, the ramifications of the surrender of U-234 had far-reaching effects. Shortly before U-234 landed at Portsmouth Naval Yard, a leading Japanese scientist reported to the Japanese House of Peers that he was about to introduce a weapon "so powerful that it would require very little potential energy to destroy an enemy fleet within a few moments."[dclxxxvii] According to Robert Wilcox, author of Japan's Secret War, "the reference was clearly to an atomic bomb."
By extension, the reference actually appears to have been toward the cargo on board U-234, and possibly from other U-boats, as well. The evidence is strong that the Japanese program had neither the technical capacity nor the needed uranium stocks to make such a bomb on its own. On the other hand, information exists that suggests at least one U-boat carrying nuclear components besides U-234,[dclxxxviii] and possibly more,[dclxxxix] left German soil destined for Japan. It is unlikely, however, that these vessels carried all of the workings necessary to make a bomb; and it is especially unlikely that they carried enriched uranium.
With the surrender to the United States of U-234 and the nuclear components that were no longer going to Japan, Japanese possession of an atomic bomb to use against its enemies was unlikely. And yet immediately after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a Japanese broadcast claimed that they had "similar weapons and will retaliate."[dcxc] Perhaps this was a bluff, or perhaps it was true, but more likely, they had not yet realized that the weapons they were prematurely claiming to possess had already been turned over to their enemies. While there are reports the Japanese tested an atomic bomb, [dcxci] certainly they never used one in battle.
The leaders of Japan were not the only ones left wondering what had happened to their bomb. A few months after the United States dropped the bombs on Japan, leaders in certain Latin American countries began complaining that the bombs had been stolen from Germany.[dcxcii] How these leaders may have discovered that fact is fascinating, considering that Martin Bormann probably continued his escape from U-234 through Spain and on to Latin America, with those leaders' collusion, and probably told them what had happened. The Latin American leaders' revelation is therefore not only another piece of evidence suggesting Bormann's escape, but indirectly, possibly of the uranium being enriched, as well.
Whatever the case, the surrender of U-234 certainly caused a commotion. According to former naval intelligence officer Bruce Scott Old, General Groves "almost had apoplexy when the Germans launched a submarine called U-235." [dcxciii] Old asserted that Groves thought the U-235 designation referred in some way to a cargo of enriched uranium the U-boat was carrying. Then Old explained that he thought Groves had confused U-235 with U-234.
Intelligence Officer Old must have been right, there must have been some confusion, because it is highly improbable Groves' excitement was caused solely by the surrender of a U-boat designated U-235; for two reasons. First, because U-235 was not surrendered, it had been a training boat throughout most of the war and then was sunk in the Baltic Sea on its maiden combat mission.[dcxciv]
And second, because it was widely known, even by the American public, that U-boats were designated with consecutive "U" numbers. Certainly there was a U-235, and there was absolutely no reason to believe its "U" designation was in any way related to any cargo it may have carried or mission it was intended to perform. Therefore, there is no reason whatever to believe that a U-boat designated U-235 would cause any anxiety in General Groves; he would have thought nothing of it. Old went on to say that Groves was concerned that the report on the mysterious U-boat indicated it had been heading for Argentina.
Certainly, despite the confusion, the details of this story match exceedingly well with those of U-234. If Groves was concerned about a U-boat carrying U235, it would almost certainly have been U-234, and Groves most probably would have known the entire story behind U-234. Apparently, the story Old recited was a skewed account of the surrender of U-234. The story also adds weight to the argument that the uranium on board U-234 was, indeed, uranium enriched in U235.
All of these rumblings pale in importance, however, compared to the larger picture of the impact upon our world of U-234 and its strange cargo. Looking back comfortably from the vantage point of over half a century since the end of World War Two, it is easy to presume that throughout the last half of the war its outcome and the race for the atomic bomb would reach a predetermined conclusion. The evidence now available about U-234's cargo and passengers paints a frighteningly different picture, however.
The evidence, taken in whole, shows that the United States was not necessarily leading in the race for the atomic bomb, as has been claimed. The evidence shows that Germany was very near having all of the components for a bomb; and that the Nazis were dealing their bomb to the Japanese to use in the Pacific. The evidence, in fact, shows that atomic bombs may have been ready for use by both sides at a frighteningly close point in time. The consequences could have been abysmal.
A key question is, if the German program had the components for a bomb, why did it not use one? The answer is simple: by the time enough enriched uranium was available to complete a weapon, the Germans had lost control of the skies over Europe. Since the Luftwaffe had lost control of the skies, there was little that could be done to transport the bomb to a strategic target. Any bomber approaching Allied territory would be attacked mercilessly, and therefore had little chance of reaching a viable target objective.
Other transport systems were impossible as delivery options, or highly problematic at best. Trains traveling in and out of the Reich were carefully searched - when they were allowed to cross the frontier at all - as were all other forms of ground transportation. Surface ships, likewise, were tightly controlled. A submarine delivery was possible, but was very problematic and too risky. To deploy the bomb by U-boat meant the vessel would have to sneak undetected into the harbor of an enemy major city or military installation and either sacrifice itself and crew or leave the bomb in the harbor with a mechanism to detonate it hours after the U-boat had departed.
Detection of the U-boat approaching or trying to enter the harbor - a high probability - meant failure and loss of the weapon, a risk too high to accept given the great expense and potential of the bomb. In addition to the great risk involved in a non-air delivery, up to 75 percent or more of the destructive capacity of the weapon would have been lost in a surface or sub-sea explosion. The ultimate in damage efficiency for the bomb was detonation about 1,500 feet directly above the center of its target. Without the capacity to deliver the bomb to a target of commensurate value, preferably by air, use of the weapon would have been a waste. But on board U-234 were not only enriched uranium, but plans, parts and personnel to build V-2 rockets and Messerschmidt 262 jets.
Although the ME262 was designed as a jet fighter, Hitler had ordered that it be redesigned and deployed as a small bomber.[dcxcv] That idea was taken one step further when a plan was baked by General Kreipe to have a small bomber, armed with an atomic bomb, piggybacked across the Atlantic to New York.[dcxcvi] At the distance limit of the mother plane the small craft would be launched in-flight to finish the bomb run. Once the payload had been dropped, the pilot would ditch the jet, parachute into the ocean, and then be retrieved by a U-boat.
The plans and components for a first high-altitude cockpit were reportedly also on board U-234.[dcxcvii] There is no direct indication whether this cockpit was or was not a component of the ME262 plan. As bizarre as it may seem, the cockpit may, in fact, have been designed for the V-2 rocket.
Interrogations of some of the prisoners of U-234 may shed interesting light on what possibly was planned for these components. Both General Kessler and Party Judge Nieschling, who were passengers on board U-234, answered questions during their interrogations about cockpits that had been installed in V-1 flying bombs and Japanese rocket planes.[dcxcviii]
Indeed, Hanna Reitsch, the brave German aviatrix already mentioned within these pages for flying Bormann out of Berlin, was awarded the Iron Cross by Hitler himself for test flying the V-1 bomb, which had been modified for a pilot. Nieschling indicated that in the hands of the Japanese, the intent of such a weapon was to have it piloted by kamikazes.[dcxcix] The Japanese were already using kamikazes to pilot their small, wooden, one-man, rocket-propelled bomb-planes that the Americans disparagingly called Baka bombs.[dcc] Baka means "foolish" in Japanese. The very short-range Baka bomb was piggybacked to its destination by a four-engine plane, and carried a charge of high explosive. The Baka bomb was relatively ineffective, however, compared to its cost to produce, to deliver to a target, and especially in its steep cost of human kamikaze pilots.
The specially designed V-2 rocket U-234 was carrying, on the other hand, was a powerful weapon that could carry a substantial payload across great distances, if Colonel Schlicke's comment to radioman Hirschfeld regarding it being the rocket that could cross the Atlantic is true.[dcci] Armed with an atomic warhead, which the Germans were already working on,[dccii] it would become the ultimate weapon of war. The V-2 also had the advantage of traveling at great speeds. The rocket's only shortcoming was lack of a guidance system.
The kamikaze could solve that, too. All the rocket needed was a cockpit that would allow the pilot to survive in the rarefied atmosphere of near-space on its way to its target. Was this the purpose of the high-altitude cockpit? Were there plans to adapt the kamikaze strategy of the V-1 and Japanese Baka rocket-plane to the exponentially faster, more powerful, greater-distance capabilities of the V-2?
The German/Japanese strategy might have looked something like this: Upon Germany supplying V-2 components, technology and expertise to Japan, the Japanese would build V-2 rockets equipped with controls to be operated by a kamikaze pilot placed in the specially-equipped high-altitude cockpit. The rocket would be armed with a uranium warhead that would be detonated at the appropriate time by the ill-fated pilot, saving the program the considerable additional technological expense and development of designing altitude-triggered proximity fuses.
The speed and high-altitude characteristics of the V-2 were indefensible by the Allies. And the long range of the rocket - which would allow the pilot to fly the weapon from the Japanese mainland to the closest Allied-controlled islands - had the double benefit of providing the element of surprise to the attack. Once over the target island - perhaps the first would be the enemy-held land closest to the Japanese homeland, Iwo Jima - the kamikaze pilot would detonate the bomb, completely eliminating the enemy outpost and huge numbers of the enemy and his war-making materials.
With this sacrifice the kamikaze would achieve the highest possible honor among his people, and, should the war be won by his bravery, he was sure to be a national hero - posthumously of course. With Iwo Jima won, the following suicide rocket would be launched from that location to the next strategically held enemy island, and so on back across the Pacific, roughly in reverse order of how the Allies had won the islands from the Japanese.
Presumably 10 to 15 bombs would be required before the United States, Britain and Russia - the Soviets would be in the war by then, and would have been bombed by similar V-2 attacks in China and Manchuria - would surrender. Japan would win the war, and Nazi Germany, as Japan's ally, though once defeated, would rise like a phoenix from the battlefield ashes to control Europe, while Japan lorded over the Eastern Hemisphere. It is hard to imagine the consequences such an outcome would have meant to the United States and the rest of the Americas.
Certainly Japan and Germany could not allow American sovereignty to continue unchecked in the Western Hemisphere. The United States had the economy and resources to support a significant military defensive from its shores, or a substantial guerrilla resistance force. The Japanese and Germans would have had a difficult challenge controlling the vast enemy territories they already held, by virtue of the V-2offensive, on their own continents, much less maintaining over-stretched command and communications and supply chains across the Atlantic and Pacific. Probably a stalemate would have resulted between the Japanese and German juggernaut and the United States, constructed of dubious treaties enmeshed in ultimatums - a Cold War with an enemy other than the Soviets and with an entirely different complexion.
Or perhaps while the Japanese and their imported German technicians completed their bomb program, the Manhattan Project would have solved its challenges triggering the plutonium bomb, as it appeared to be on track to do between November and the end of 1945. The Japanese, had U-234 not dallied to escort Bormann and then surrender to the United States, easily could have received the German goods from U-234 as early as July, and concluded their atomic bomb and V-2 rocket preparations by November - roughly the same time-period the Manhattan Project's bombs would have been ready. Who would have used the first atomic bomb? And what would the response have been?
Perhaps already in late 1945 or early 1946, nuclear war would have seared our collective experience as a family of beings mutually inhabiting this planet. What would the outcome have been? What would each of our lives be like? On equal atomic terms, would the mission of one nation to assure self determination to all countries, confronted by the requirement of other nations to sustain their own people by annexing the land and resources of other sovereignties, have dictated an unimaginable ending to the conflict?
Or would the leaders of two social systems so diametrically opposed to one another, for the sake and at the cost of the marginalized existence of many billions of people, have overlooked each other's immoralities to find life, of its own virtue, a more justifiable objective. Could the two sides agree to disagree, treating the subjugation of millions or billions of people as inconsequential compared to the alternative? The world, in so many, often unfathomable, ways, would have been a markedly different place were it not for the historic outcome of the mission of U-234.
Beyond altering what our world would look and feel like had U-234 delivered its cargo and passengers to Japan, the surrender of U-234 also has had a weighty and long-lasting direct influence on the lives we each lead. The surrender of U-234 has helped define our present-day world. The quick and deep revival of the West German economy appears to be the fruits of Martin Bormann's Flight Capital Program - triggered by Bormann's apparent escape and post-war freedom - guaranteed by the United States, and all made possible by U-234's surrender.
The Flight Capital Program that fueled the swift post-war resurrection of the West German economy - probably with the covert support of the United States, and to its benefit, off course - therefore, appears to have had a profound impact on the European and world economies in their turn. Bormann's plan for continued German dominance after the war apparently was so well structured, so deeply entrenched in the fabric of the many operations and national economies co-opted, and so rich in those assets, that its permutations easily can be seen up to today.
The plan can even be seen in the European Economic Community that was recently confederated around the "Euro," with Germany at the heart of the initiative. According to author Peter Hayes' book Industry and Technology: I.G. Farben in the Nazi Era, that confederation was planned for by Bormann in 1943.[dcciii] Hayes wrote: Their was much written of a postwar 'foreign trade offensive' and of a 'European Economic Community' in which Germany would act merely as the 'flag bearer' and predominate by 'elastic political methods...not with brutal force. [dcciv]
The survival of and economic power generated by such multi-billion-dollar titans as Bayer, Hoescht, Volkswagen, AGFA-ANSCO and a long list of others, can all be traced to Bormann's Flight Capital Program. And their cumulative influence can be felt throughout the world economy, effecting each of us intimately, though imperceptibly, as we live our lives day to day.
The world, of course, continues to turn in the present as it has in the past. Half a century after the last global conflict ended, the echoes of its orators and ordnance are reverberating in ever-softening tones as we dash away toward new destinies - which too often are being defined by ever more meddlesome technologies and increasingly intractable amorality. At times it behooves us to stop a moment and look back. To try to wave clear the obscuring smoke of the past and discern through that awful mist, what caused the pall; so that new methods may be found to resolve the critical questions upon which our mutual peace and security lie.
As we look back, we should not be shocked to find that great doors sometimes swing on small hinges. That an eclectic handful of men and women - some of them great, but as often people of middling mien - stand at the center of enormous events and knowingly or unknowingly pull the levers and turn the knobs that define our world. So it was with U-234.
dclxxxvi Peter Hayes, Industry and Ideology: I.G. Farben in the Nazi Era, p. 368
dclxxxvii Robert Wilcox, Japan's Secret War, p. 170
dclxxxviii Sharkhunters, KTB 104, p.4
dclxxxix Sharkhunters, KTB 103, p.7; Geoffrey Brooks and Wolfgang Hirschfeld, Hirschfeld: The Story of a U-boat NCO 1940-1946, pp.189, 241
dcxc Glenn T Seaborg, The Plutonium Story: The Journals of Professor Glenn T. Seaborg, p.745
dcxci Robert Wilcox, Japan's Secret War, pp. 15, 16
dcxcii David Irving, The German Atomic Bomb, p.294
dcxciii Robert Wilcox, Japan's Secret War, p. 160
dcxciv Telephone interview with Sharkhunters member Michael Koss, researcher and author of unpublished paper about the history of U-235; Geoffrey Brooks and Wolfgang Hirschfeld, Hirschfeld: The Story of a U-boat NCO 1940-1946, p. 199
dcxcv U.S. National Archives II, Interrogation Report of Luftwaffe General Ulrich Kessler #5399, 25 June 1945, RG165 Box 495
dcxcvi David Irving, The German Atomic Bomb, p. 236
dcxcvii Robert Wilcox, Japan's Secret War, p. 141
dcxcviii U.S. National Archives II, Report of Interrogation of Kay Nieschling, 24 May 1945; Report of Interrogation of Luftwaffe General Ulrich Kessler #5399, 25 June 1945, RG165 Box 495; cockpits in V-1s and Japanese rocket planes
dcxcix U.S. National Archives II, Report of Interrogation of Kay Nieschling, 24 May 1945
dcc Hans Dollinger, The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, p. 335; U.S. National Archives II, Report of Interrogation of Kay Nieschling, 24 May 1945
dcci Geoffrey Brooks and Wolfgang Hirschfeld, Hirschfeld: The Story of a U-boat NCO 1940-1946, pp. 212, 213
dccii David Irving, The German Atomic Bomb, p. 185
dcciii Peter Hayes, Industry and Technology: I.G. Farben in the Nazi Era. P. 368
dcciv Peter Hayes, Industry and Ideology: I.G. Farben in the Nazi Era, p. 368
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