Who Were the Twelve Passengers Aboard?
As I mentioned in my post about U-234 last week, it was almost suicide to go aboard a German U-Boat in the last months of the war if it were going anywhere outside of German controlled waters and even then it wasn’t safe because of constant Allied anti-submarine patrols. And while the U-Boat men did not know it – and would not know till the story of the “Ultra Secret” broke in 1974 – the Allies were reading all top secret German radio messages and knew exactly where each U-boat was.
So what was the ostensible reason each passenger was aboard?
Two were Japanese. Germany and Japan were allies, although they repeatedly failed to bridge the cultural gap between the two societies. Italy was part of the alliance as well and these three countries were known as the Axis Powers. (Other smaller European countries joined over time as well).
The first Japanese passenger was Lieutenant Commander Tomonaga Hideo of the Imperial Japanese Navy, a naval aviator and submarine design specialist. He had been in Germany for two years and had been studying advanced German submarine design. He had made the hazardous trip to Germany via submarine in 1943 – the first part of the trip aboard Japanese submarine I-29, which took him to a rendezvous with German submarine U-180 off Mozambique which took him onward to its home port of Bordeaux in German occupied France.
I-29 was a Japanese type B-1 submarine. This model is of special interest because each B-1 submarine carried a seaplane in a hanger forward of the conning tower. The seaplane was launched by catapult.
The second Japanese passenger was Lieutenant Commander Shoji Genzo, an aircraft specialist who had been studying German swept wing jet fighters. One such fighter, an ME 262, had been disassembled in Germany, packed in special crates, and loaded aboard the submarine. When the U-Boat kommandant, Kptlt Fehler, announced he was obeying the last orders of U-Bootwaffe command and surrendering to the Allies, the the two Japanese officers committed suicide by taking an overdose of the barbiturate, Luminal.
This took thirty-six hours to kill the two Japanese officers, which much annoyed the Germans according to the interrogation report of the U.S. Navy. The Germans buried the two Japanese officers at sea before surrendering.
My next post will cover the German passengers.