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U-234 and the atomic bomb

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thomas

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Yesterday I watched a docu about Germany's and Japan's wartime efforts to produce the atomic bomb. German research programs were far more advanced than Japan's, at times even more advanced than American programs (Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassman and the Austrian Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fission in 1938).

When it became obvious to the Japanese army command that the war was lost, efforts to produce weapons of mass destruction increased. Since Japan did not dispose of sufficient amounts of uranium, they put pressure onto Hitler to provide them with resources. The difficulty was how to transfer uranium from Germany to Japan. Japan had sent several cargo submarines to Germany, but all of them were sunk by the Allies.

In January 1945 - Germany herself was already at the brink of total destruction - German GC decided to send one of their subs to Japan to provide the Japanese with uranium oxide and the latest German technology. U-234 departed from Kiel in the end of March 1945 loaded with uranium, components for jet fighters and V-2 missiles, blueprints and other sensitive material. Two Japanese naval officers, German experts and Nazi top brass were also on board. Since British intelligence had decoded German encryption techniques in 1943 the Allies knew of these plans and tried to stop U-234 by all means. They were unable to sink the boat, but managed to slow down the sub significantly. On May 8 1945 Germany agreed to an unconditional cease-fire, two days later all sub crews were ordered to abort their missions and to give up. U-234's position was off Nova Scotia, so the captain decided to head to the U.S. instead of handing the boat over to Canada. The two Japanese officers committed suicide (they took barbiturates, as they didn't intend to "soil the boat" with their seppuku).

U-234 surrendered to the destroyer USS Sutton on May 14 and was escorted to Portsmouth. The 560kg of uranium oxide were personally inspected by Oppenheimer, later enriched and transferred to Alamo. To the U.S. the German uranium was a gift from heaven, it was used for their own nuclear program. It is a bitter irony of history that the nuclear material intended for Japan finally reached Hiroshima on August 6 1945 on board the "Enola Gay".


More about U-234's final mission

=> http://www.ussvance.com/Vance/nazisub.htm

Below: U-234 after surrender
 

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Maciamo

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😲 Wow, I didn't know about that. It changes a lot my view on the turn of events in the WWII. What if the crew hadn't follow the order and continued to Japan ? Would the world be as we know it today ?
 
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thomas

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Actually, the sub didn't have a chance to reach Japan. Even without Allied intrusion it would have taken months to reach Asian shores. They were constantly pursued by Allied destroyers, and had to stay in depths of up to 280m for many days.

The sub crew was not very motivated from the beginning. They had left Germany in March 1945 when it was already more than obvious that the war would soon be over.

One more thing: the German nuclear material only contributed very insignificantly to the Alamo project, as 500kg of uranium oxide (U238?) can only be converted into 0,5kg of of fissionable plutonium.
 

lineartube

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I always been a ****** for military history and I also agree that the sub had very slim chances to reach Japan. Even if it did, it wouldn't make much difference and Japan's biowarfare programs was at the time, the most advanced in the world so this last one could have made a heavier impact on the ending of the war. "Luckly", someone had a touch of sanity and realized what weapons of mass destruction could do. If it was pre or post Hiroshima, I don't know.

On a side note, if you like planes or are just curious about WWII secrets, you could try looking Luftwaffe 1946's website (http://www.luft46.com/). Some of those planes were real.
Here's another link: http://www.ipmsstockholm.org/magazine/1999/02/stuff_eng_detail_hoix.htm

I've tried to locate a 6 engines long range bomber planned by the Japanese during WWII but I couldn't find anything related on the net. Oh well, another day then.
 

lineartube

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ah... the censured word was s-u-c-k-e-r... don't get the wrong impression... :D
 
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thomas

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Lol, reminds me of my teenage days when I used to build model kits...

Most of the planes listed on these sites never went beyond blueprint stage. Isn't is sad to see that technical progress is often related to warfare?

I'm trying to find out more about another sub story. In 1944/45 two subs, a Japanese and a German, met on the Atlantic to exchange documents and material. The J-sub, I think it was called I-15, had a lot of gold on board. American aircrafts later sunk I-15 in the Atlantic when the boat resurfaced for fresh air.
 

lineartube

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I used to take hours building replicas of the Bismarck and Tirpitz just to "blow" them out of the water in epic battles.

Some toys weren't so detailed as I wanted it. :D
 

Hachiko

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thomas said:
Yesterday I watched a docu about Germany's and Japan's wartime efforts to produce the atomic bomb. German research programs were far more advanced than Japan's, at times even more advanced than American programs (Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassman and the Austrian Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fission in 1938).

When it became obvious to the Japanese army command that the war was lost, efforts to produce weapons of mass destruction increased. Since Japan did not dispose of sufficient amounts of uranium, they put pressure onto Hitler to provide them with resources. The difficulty was how to transfer uranium from Germany to Japan. Japan had sent several cargo submarines to Germany, but all of them were sunk by the Allies.

In January 1945 - Germany herself was already at the brink of total destruction - German GC decided to send one of their subs to Japan to provide the Japanese with uranium oxide and the latest German technology. U-234 departed from Kiel in the end of March 1945 loaded with uranium, components for jet fighters and V-2 missiles, blueprints and other sensitive material. Two Japanese naval officers, German experts and Nazi top brass were also on board. Since British intelligence had decoded German encryption techniques in 1943 the Allies knew of these plans and tried to stop U-234 by all means. They were unable to sink the boat, but managed to slow down the sub significantly. On May 8 1945 Germany agreed to an unconditional cease-fire, two days later all sub crews were ordered to abort their missions and to give up. U-234's position was off Nova Scotia, so the captain decided to head to the U.S. instead of handing the boat over to Canada. The two Japanese officers committed suicide (they took barbiturates, as they didn't intend to "soil the boat" with their seppuku).

U-234 surrendered to the destroyer USS Sutton on May 14 and was escorted to Portsmouth. The 560kg of uranium oxide were personally inspected by Oppenheimer, later enriched and transferred to Alamo. To the U.S. the German uranium was a gift from heaven, it was used for their own nuclear program. It is a bitter irony of history that the nuclear material intended for Japan finally reached Hiroshima on August 6 1945 on board the "Enola Gay".


More about U-234's final mission

=> http://www.ussvance.com/Vance/nazisub.htm

Below: U-234 after surrender
Gracious! So, in a way we forced the Germans to eventually help us win World War II, hmmm? Interesting. That's pulling the puppet strings for ya. Excellent post, Thomas. :D
 

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