Nazi Saboteurs Landed In America by German U-boats

German uboats touched american soil three times during world war two


In reality, the leader of the group, George Dasch, turned all of them into the FBI. laimed all the credit but only when Dasch called the FBI did they have any idea German saboteurs were in the country.

In spite of many tall tales, German U-boats only touched American soil three times and they didn’t stay very long. Approaching an enemy coast to land agents was extremely dangerous since the boat had to go into shallow water and close an enemy coast with no intelligence.

Since the only real protection a U-Boat had was going deep underwater, being in shallow water made this impossible. Officers and crewmen intensely disliked missions such as this because it put them in such danger.

Over the years, dozens of people have told me how they had heard about German U-Boat coming ashore in the US to shop, go to the movies, have a beer, you name it. Absolutely none of these stories are true. A work colleague many years ago told me UBoat men used to come ashore for an evening of dinner, drinks, and dancing in Palm Beach. His grandfather met many of them. This is impossible but stories like this abound.

I have asked the two top U-Boat historians in the world Jak P Mallman-Showell and Dr. Timothy Mulligan if any of these stories are true and they both said, “no.” And gave me permission to quote them.


NEW YORK TIMES 10 December 1945

Aircraft and many other key armaments, relied on aluminum. As rugged as they seem, you could punch a sharpened pencil through the side of a B-17. Aluminum production in the US skyrocketed during the war.  Because it is difficult to make and requires huge amounts of electricity, there are many points in the production cycle which a saboteur could disrupt.

Coastal Command Attacking U-Boats

RAF Coastal Command Attacking German UBoats
Half of German U-Boats destroyed in World War Two were sunk by Allied aircraft.
ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (HU 91244) Photograph taken by the rear-facing camera of a No 77 Squadron Whitley during its attack on U-705 in the Bay of Biscay, 3 September 1942. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


Bay of Biscay relatively shallow and U-boats based in French Channel ports had to transit Bay of Biscay to reach Atlantic. Beginning in 1943, RAF Coastal Command began a major campaign to attack U-Boats on surface in Bay of Biscay. A tough fight because planes had to come in low to drop their depth charges and by that time U-Boats had far better anti-aircraft armament.

ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (HU 91259) Photograph taken by the rear-facing camera of a No 77 Squadron Whitley during its attack on U-705 in the Bay of Biscay, 3 September 1942. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


Most of the anti-submarine aircraft under command or seconded to
15 Group RAF Coastal Command HQ co-located with HQ C-in-C Western Approaches Command in secret bunker in Liverpool. Coastal Command under tactical command of Royal Navy in WW Two.

ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (HU 91260) Photograph taken by the rear-facing camera of a No 77 Squadron Whitley during its attack on U-705 in the Bay of Biscay, 3 September 1942. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


It took several years and much analysis of attack reports to formulate both a correct attack doctrine and design and manufacture special depth charge bombs for Coastal Command aircraft. But it was done.

ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (HU 91261) Photograph taken by the rear-facing camera of a No 77 Squadron Whitley during its attack on U-705 in the Bay of Biscay, 3 September 1942. Here the U-boat is sinking, leaving a patch of oil and air bubbles. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


U-705 meets its end during Coastal Command offensive in Bay of Biscay. In spite of after war memoirs and recollections, morale of UBoat crews very low by this point according to interrogation reports of Uboat crew rescued by Royal Navy and US Navy. The men knew their chances of survival by this point in the war very low.

Further, the statement by UBoat men and many historians that UBoat crews were all volunteers has been completely disproven by memoirs from several UBoat men as well as interrogation reports.

Below, U751 sinking after coordinated Coastal Command attack by several aircraft.

ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (HU 91243) Photograph looking back over the starboard wing of a Lancaster of No 61 Squadron, Bomber Command, after an attack on U-751 in the Bay of Biscay, 17 July 1942. The U-boat had been attacked and crippled by a Whitley of No 502 Squadron earlier, before being finally sunk by depth charges dropped by the Lancaster. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Whore’s Underwear Worn on U-Boats


Untrimmed beards were the mark of U-Boatmen who had been long at sea. 

Freshwater was rationed and while possible to shave in salt-water few men wanted to take the time to do that. U-Boats such as the Type VII depicted in Das Boot, were not designed for the long range operations they were compelled to undertake so there were few comforts for the men.

crew watching fellow sailor dancing in scene from director’s cut 1997 of Das Boot

Water for drinking was rationed. While the men were given one cup of fresh water every day for personal use such as brushing teeth or washing, most drank the water instead of using it for anything else since they barely received enough water as it was.

Men Wore Black Underwear: Whore’s Undies

Because storage space on a U-Boat was extremely limited, U-Boat crewmen could only bring aboard one change of clothes and two pairs of underwear for an entire war patrol which could last as long as two and occasionally three months. In order to make the dirt less obvious, the men wore black underwear which they referred to as “whore’s undies.”

US Navy fleet submarine USS Gato 1944. Fleet submarines were designed for the long range patrols required in the Pacific and had far more comforts for the men and necessities such as bathing facilities. Not washing for a long period of time is unhealthy for the skin. These boats could make 21 knots on the surface vs the German surface speed of 15/16 knots.

Unlike US Navy fleet submarines, German U-boats were not air conditioned nor did they have heat except for a handful of electric heaters. The boat took on the temperature of the water so if you were in very cold water the interior was very cold and if you were in the warm even the hot water of the tropics, the inside of the boat was hot and steamy.

It would have been like working in a steam room. Crewman often wore nothing but their underwear in conditions like this when the temperature in the boat could go above 100 degrees. (The warmth of the water combined with the heat generated by the diesel engines and other equipment in the boat).

The equipment and torpedoes were the priorities. Crewmen had to squeeze in wherever room could be found for a bunk. Except for the officers and senior petty officers, the crew “hot bunked” that is once a man woke up and went on duty an off-duty man climbed into that bunk and slept. 

No washing facilities

U-boats did not have facilities for the men to wash themselves or their clothing. The best that could be done was to wash yourself and/or your clothing in a bucket of seawater using special salt water soap issued by the UBoatwaffe.

In memoirs, veterans of the UBoatwaffe often mention that one thing they could never get used to was how badly the boat smelled. In fact, when boats came in from war patrols and docked, flotilla engineers who went aboard often threw up. That’s how bad the smell was.

These U-Boat crewmen are probably rendering honors to another ship as they come into port. Beginning in 1942, however, the crew were mustered on deck coming into port because more and more U-Boats were being sunk by striking magnetic mines.  Therefore, most of the crewmen would be saved if the boat sank. These magnetic mines were constantly being dropped into the approaches to German U-Boat ports on the French Channel coast such as Lorient by RAF Coastal Command. 

Armourers “bombing up” an RAF Coastal Command Liberator with 250-lb Mark VIII depth charges. 50% of German U-boats were actually sunk by aircraft, not by Allied escort ships.

U-boat kommandant (identified by his white cap cover) looking down through the main hatchway from the bridge into the conning tower where the helmsman sat, controlling the rudder with push buttons. In the conning tower, there was another watertight hatch.

Ventilating the Boat

Ventilating the boat to replace the foul air was difficult. On occasion, the kommandant would allow the two hatches in the conning tower to be opened and all the interior hatches–which were watertight as well— to be opened and the outboard air intakes in the diesel compartment closed. This would cause the diesel engines to start drawing air from through the open hatches and ventilate the boat. This wasn’t highly effective but it did change the air within the boat.

When proceeding on the surface in an area where they could be attacked, most of the interior hatchways would be closed or a sailor stationed close by would have the duty of immediately closing the hatch. Normally, the hatch to the engine room and beyond that the hatch E-motor compartment would be closed and dogged shut, that is they would be sealed and waterproof.

Theoretically, everyone who served in the UBootwaffe was a volunteer but we know from memoirs, post-war interviews, and wartime interrogation reports that this was not the case.


U-Boat Bunker St. Nazaire



Vizeadmiral Dönitz during the opening (photo courtesy


U-Boat Bases and Bunkers: Saint Nazaire: The U-Boat Bunker suffered thirty major raids through the war with three being extremely heavy. The 28 February 1943 raid consisted of 430 bombers, the 22 March 1943 raid consisted of 350 bombers, and the 28 March raid consisted of 320 bombers. The town was almost completely destroyed in these raids while the bunker saw minimal damage.


“The construction work started in February 1941. The bunker, built on the western side of the basin at Saint-Nazaire, was 295m wide, 130m long and 18m high and contained 14 U-boat pens.

After only 4 months the first pens were ready and so Vizeadmiral Dönitz opened on the 30th June 1941 the bunker. U-203 under Kptlt. Rolf Mützelburg was the first boat to use one section of the newly completed shelter.

Later a sluice bunker was also built, which the U-boats used to reach the sea.”

U-Boat Commander Complains of His Treatment by USA as POW


Jürgen Wattenberg, Kapitan zur See

During my research for my first novel, An Honorable German, I corresponded in 1980 with Jürgen Wattenberg because he had served as the Senior Navigation Officer of the German “pocket battleship” Admiral Graf Spee. He was not an easy man to correspond with and he held to the view that Germans were more victims of World War Two than instigators. (A common view among many German war veterans and the older generation in the decades after the war).


Panzerschiff (translated means ‘armored ship’) Admiral Graf Spee (photo courtesy German Federal Archives) in 1936

There is no evidence that Wattenberg was an an active supporter of the Nazi Party and as a member of the military he could not have been a member of the Nazi Party since neither officers nor men in the German armed forces–known as the Wehrmacht (defense forces)— were allowed to join political parties.  This seems odd, I know.

However, exceptions were made and many high ranking officers were given party membership as an “honor.” The Nazi leadership had a contentious relationship with the German Army which was by far the largest of the armed services and commanded a very high prestige in German life. Had several stronger and more honorable men been Chief of the German Army General Staff in the first year when the Nazis came to power they could easily have executed a coup d’tat and simply shot Hitler and his gang.

Unfortunately, they did not. However, deep opposition to Hitler remained in the General Staff and to their credit conspirators in the German Army (as well as the Abwehr—sort of the German CIA), made numerous attempts on Hitler’s life, the most famous being the bomb set off at Hitler’s field headquarters in Prussia on 20 July 1944.


Caption and photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum:  17 May 1937 WARSHIPS AT THE SPITHEAD FLEET REVIEW OF 1937. (Held in honor of the coronation King George VI). The German heavy cruiser ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE anchored off Spithead for the 1937 Fleet Review. In the background are the battleship HMS RESOLUTION and the battlecruiser HMS HOOD.

As recounted in my novel, An Honorable German, the “pocket battleship” Admiral Graf Spee was badly damaged in December of 1939 in the Battle of the Rio Plata. The Captain later blew up the ship.

As to Wattenberg, like many of Graf Spee’s officers, he had effected his escape from internment in Argentina and returned to Germany whence he was given command of U-162. About 45 years old at that time, he was a little old to hold command of a U-Boat but there was a shortage of trained and experienced sea officers in the German Navy and Wattenberg was certainly an experience sea officer (offizer zur see).  Jürgen Wattenberg,

Wattenberg was in the Caribbean, a dangerous assignment because the water is shallow and even when the u-boats were underwater they were visible. But there was “good hunting” in the Caribbean, particularly tankers proceeding to the United States and other countries from oil refineries in Trinidad. (Oil was discovered in Trinidad in 1857 with commercial production beginning in 1913 according to the report “100 Years of Petroleum in Trinidad and Tobago” issued by the government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago).

(the steel drum music originated from people playing on the empty 55 gallon barrels left after the war was over).

Although this would usually be something a U-Boat commander would have avoided unless he had no other choice, in September of 1942 off the Bahamas, Wattenberg fired torpedoes at a British destroyer which wasn’t the smartest thing to do.   U-162 was quickly sunk by three Royal Navy destroyers.  Most of the crew including Wattenberg survived.

Like all captured U-Boat officers he was first taken to an interrogation facility known as Ft. Hunt just outside of Washington DC. There, German speaking US navy officers interrogated the German officers over a series of days. I’ve read transcripts of many of the interviews and they are boring. The men were treated to the letter of the Geneva Convention of 1929 on Treatment of Prisoners of War.

From the minute he arrived at Ft. Hunt, in late September of 1942, he started to complain and complain. In 1980, when I first began to research my novel, I corresponded with him. He was a jerk. His main complaint: while being repatriated after the war ended, American GIs stole his scrapbook. Aw, too bad. The Nazis had just murdered millions including most of European Jewry and he was pissed because some American soldiers took his scrapbook? Yes, he was.

I was able to get his declassified information from the time in which he was a POW from the National Archives and one of the items in the stack was a letter of complaint in English he had sent to the Swiss. As something of a cottage industry, the Swiss government was appointed as the protecting power by the Germans, the Americans and the British and representatives of the Swiss Red Cross inspected all POW camps. Wattenberg, like many German naval officers of the time, was fluent in English. (I sent copies of all his POW records to him.)

Wattenberg wrote in a complaint to the Swiss:

…daily officers and men were subjected to the grossest acts of despotism on the part of their American guards. One sentry demanded of me on the first day that I clean up my own room and shoved at my feet a pail and mop for the purpose. When I refused, with reference to the Geneva Convention, and demanded an officer I received this reply, ‘Do you like this room?’ by which he obviously meant to imply that I would get a worse room at further complaints.

Wattenberg was within his rights under the Geneva Convention. Officers retained their authority and could not be compelled to do anything such as clean their rooms. This was for their orderly to do.

Nonetheless, this seems a harsh complaint to make that on his first day of being a POW or PW as they were known at the time. Many of the men who served as sentries in POW camps in the US were often men who were extremely young or much older and didn’t meet the physical or IQ requirements to be sent into the US Army fighting overseas.

All prisoners of war in the United States in World War Two were in the custody of the Provost Marshal of the US Army–that is the general commanding the military police and all prisons and stockades for the US Army in the US. (Military police in the US Army overseas came under the authority of the respective provost marshal in their higher echelon command. Hence they reported outside the chain of command so officers who were not in the military police could not countermand their orders).

Wattenberg was released at the end of the war and returned to Germany. He eventually became the manager of the St. Pauli Girl Brewery in Bremen.



18 December 1939:  Admiral Graf Spee in the Rio Plate off Montevideo after being blown up and scuttled by Captain Hans Langsdorff who shot himself two days later.

Terrifying Torpedo Boats and Torpedo Boat Destroyers

US PT boats in Pacific

The confusion begins. These are Patrol Torpedo boats or “PT Boats” used by the US Navy mainly in the Pacific. In this instance, the photograph above from the US National Archives shows PT boats returning to base after operations off Leyte in December 1944. Note twin mounted .50 cal. machine guns.

The boats were made of plywood and while they look sturdy, they really weren’t. If someone volunteered to serve on a PT boat, then he was a brave man. There was very little armor on the boat, just a bit around the bridge. So when people were shooting at you, if there was anything between you and the bullets, then it was plywood. Plywood has many useful qualities but stopping bullets isn’t one of them.

RN  HM Torpedo boat 4   WW 1

British Royal Navy in World War One: HM Torpedo Boat 4

(photo courtesy Imperial War Museum)

HM Torpedo Boat No. 41 WW One

British Royal Navy in World War One: HM Torpedo Boat 41

(photo courtesy Imperial War Museum)

The two boats pictured above are Royal Navy torpedo boats in World War One. These small, coal-fired boats were of a type which terrified naval admirals. In the decades prior to the First World War, inventors were able to make turbine engines small enough and reliable enough to fit into small boats. This enabled these boats to obtain speeds of 30 plus knots. This was much faster than most warships of the era. These boats were armed with torpedoes. A number of these boats were built and deployed by the major navies of the era. Admirals had nightmares of swarms of these small craft attacking their battleships and sinking them.

Large numbers of swarming boats operated by remote control are on the US Navy’s radar screen as a significant threat and I will write about this later.

Once a technology is introduced and people discover it can be used to construct a superior class of weapon, then it spreads quickly. The very useful Global Positioning System (GPS) was originally built for the US military. Theoretically, they can turn it off or so I have read. And,of course, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) invented the internet itself. The original intent of the internet was to allow decision makers to communicate in the event a nuclear blast interrupted normal channels of communications.

Given the way military technology spreads, once torpedo boats were introduced, a new class of small, fast warships had to be designed and built to defend capital ships from torpedo boats. In addition to being relatively small and swift, these new warships had to be heavily armed so they could sink a lot of torpedo boats and big enough to screen the heavy battle fleet from this fearful swarm.



British torpedo boat destroyer HMS Zubian

(photo courtesy Imperial War Museum)

Hence, the general class of ship built to counter torpedo boats was known as the “torpedo boat destroyer.” As time went on the Royal Navy, the French Navy, and other western navies including the US Navy dropped “torpedo boat” and simply called these ships “destroyers.” (In World War Two even smaller ships of this type were built which the US Navy named “destroyer escorts” and the Royal Navy, bringing a term out of mothballs, called them “frigates.”)

To the everlasting confusion of naval historians as well as those who enjoy reading naval history, after World War One, the German Navy dropped the word “destroyer” and kept the words “torpedo boat.” Thus smaller German destroyers came to be referred to as “torpedo boats.”


german torpedo boat destroyer ww1

 German torpedo boat destroyer in the Heligoland Harbour during World War One. (Official German Navy photograph from the collection of the Imperial War Museum).

Germans fired first rocket from submerged submarine



Experimental Antisubmarine Rocket Launcher, firing all eight rockets during tests at Key West Naval Station, Florida, 14 August 1942. This appears to be a prototype for the later “Mousetrap” Anti-Submarine Warfare weapon.


In an experiment on 4 June 1942, U-511 went to a depth of fifteen meters, about fifty feet, and fired rockets. This was the first time this was done from a submerged submarine.

Below courtesy of Uboat net: 551 Rocket experiment

General notes on this boat

31 May 1942. During the summer of 1942, when under the command of Kptlt. Friedrich Steinhoff, U-511 took part in one of the most interesting experiments of the entire war. Steinhoff’s brother, Dr. Erich Steinhoff, was working at Peenemünde on the rocket program, and between them they arranged for U-511 to be used for rocket trials.

A rack for six 30 cm rockets was installed and extensive tests carried out. These concluded with the successful launch of rockets from a depth of 12m (40ft). These amazing tests failed to convince Dönitz’s staff of the merit of this innovatory weapon system, and it was not put into service. The rocket in question, the 30cm Wurfkörper 42 Spreng, was not advanced enough to target ships, but it might have been used to bombard shore installations such as oil refineries in the Caribbean. This idea was developed in late 1944 with a proposal for Type XXI electro boats to tow V-2 launchers which would attack shore bases. Neither the launchers nor the Type XXI boats became available before the war ended.”

Nonetheless, from the later summer of 1944 through the end of the war, Admiral King, Chief of Naval Operations and Commander-in-Chief US Fleet (the only man ever to hold both offices. Commander-in-Chief US Fleet was abolished after WW Two came to an end) and his staff were very concerned German Uboats might try and make rocket attacks on east coast cities in the US. We knew they had been experimenting with firing rockets from uboats. Certainly we and the British had been experimenting with this. But the Germans were far behind which was a relief.