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Manhattan Project History

The Odyssey of the German U-Boat #234

 

Webmaster's Note:  This little-known event doesn't have a direct relationship to Manhattan Project history, but it is of enough interest to include here.
 
On May 9, 1945, several days after Germany surrendered to the Allies, a German U-Boat, number U-234, pulled into the Portsmouth Naval Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The German crew, aware that the war was over, promptly surrendered themselves and their boat.  What makes this event even more extraordinary was the cargo they were carrying: 10 cases of uranium oxide.

According to later testimony, the U-boat left Germany several weeks before en-route to Japan.  In addition to the precious cargo, there were several Japanese envoys onboard assigned to accompany the shipment.  

When it became obvious to the German High Command that defeat was inevitable, it was decided that this last desperate act might greatly assist the Japanese in the defense of their homeland.  Japan had been working on a nuclear weapon, although technically far behind the American effort, and it was thought that they could use the scare uranium oxide.

During the voyage, it was learned via radio that Germany had surrendered and that U-boats should surrender at the nearest port.  There was much dissention amongst the crew as to whether they should surrender.  Eventually, the decision was made.  They would proceed to the Naval Base at Portsmouth, NH.  The Japanese envoys onboard, unwilling to surrender themselves to the Americans, committed suicide.

 

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Last modified: August 03, 2005

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