First and foremost, without a doubt, the boat was carrying 560 kilograms of uranium oxide.
Historians agree on this based on documents declassified after the Cold War. Additional confirmation comes from one of the senior enlisted men aboard, Wolfgang Hirschfeld, in his memoirs, Hirschfeld, the Story of A U-boat NCO. He witnessed the uranium oxide being loaded onto the U-Boat. One of the most intriguing things Hirschfeld mentions in his book, is that Germany’s pre-eminent post war naval historian, Jurgen Rohwer, informed Hirschfeld that the uranium oxide had been requested by the Japanese through their embassy in Berlin in late 1944 or early 1945.
For me, this raises another question. Japan’s Ambassador to the Third Reich was a highly capable and very observant army general, Oshima Hiroshi, who was much liked and trusted by Hitler and the Nazi Government. Hiroshi sent hundreds of insightful reports to Japan – each one sent by radio after being enciphered using the Japanese diplomatic code we called “Magic.” Since the United States had cracked “Magic” in 1940, all of these reports were recorded by U.S. Army Signals Intelligence, deciphered and translated within 48 hours. In fact, while little known today, one of our best sources of information about the internal debates and decisions of the Nazi government come from the decrypts of Oshima’s very thorough reports. See Hitler’s Japanese Confidant by Carl Boyd.
These facts alone are enough to make a mystery. Even more intriguing is this speculation: the uranium oxide seized from U-234 was used by the United States to make the second atom bomb dropped on Japan. This has been suggested by several people, the most authoritative being Sharkhunter’s International President Harry Cooper, who knew Hirschfeld. Sharkhunters publishes the official journal of the U-Boat Veterans Association. I discussed this with Harry last year and I suggested that somewhere in the depths of the Federal government the records about this must exist. Harry asked me why I thought anyone involved would have left records on such a sensitive subject.
Everything about U-234 is a mystery. What else did she carry? Why did she even go on this mission, leaving Germany only fifteen days before Hitler committed suicide? We know there were twelve passengers on the U-Boat, and we know who they were. But why in the world were they taking such a risk as to hitch a ride to Japan on a U-Boat when almost every U-Boat which moved was sunk by Allied patrols. I will address each of these in future posts.
For now, here is the beginning of a video series produced by the Discovery Channel on U-234.