ON INTERROGATION OF THE CREW OF
U-234 WHICH SURRENDERED TO THE USS SUTTON
ON 14 MAY, 1945, IN POSITION 470-07’ N –
G-2 (Col. Sweet)
Comdt., Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H.
OinC, NAVAL UNIT, Tracy, Calif.
27 June 1945
ON INTERROGATION OF THE CREW OF
U-234 WHICH SURRENDERED TO THE USS SUTTON
ON 14 MAY, 1945, IN POSITION 470-07’ N –
D E T A I L S
1650 Tons (actual tonnage with cargo aboard was stated to be between
2100 and 2200 Tons).
September 1942. (In May, 1943, U-234 was hit by an aerial bomb while
on the building ways. A forward section of about 9 meters in length was
severely damaged and had to be completely replaced.)
23 December, 1943.
3 March, 1944.
Klt. Johann Heinrich FEHLER, (P/W).
2 Torpedo tubes aft.
2 Double-mount 20-mm guns on Platform I.
1 Double-mount 37-mm gun on Platform II.
(1 10.5-cm gun was removed from the forward deck after the U.A.K.
7 Torpedoes carried, consisting of 2 T-1 (FAT), 3 T-3 A (FAT), 2 T-5s.
Torpedoes were stored as follows:
2 in the tubes
3 under the floor plates
2 on the floor plates.
12 1/2 Kilogram scuttling charges carried in ammunition locker.
6 3-mine shafts forward amidships.
12 2-mine shafts located port and starboard.
2 G.W. Diesels of 2100 HP each without supercharger.
Kapsel type with Vulkan clutch for Schnorcheling.
Fitted, Deschimag Type 2.
A.E.G. of 560 HP each.
22 mm thick amidships, tapering to 18 mm forward and aft.
1 “Hela” type for Runddipol antenna.
1 “Naxos” type for Tunis antenna.
1 “Borkum” for Runddipol antenna.
1 “Hela” carried in reserve.
2 Tunis type antenna.
1 Southern Cross type antenna carried in reserve.
1 Runddipol mounted on the bridge and one atop the Schnorchel mast.
2 Runddipol carried in reserve.
Hohentwiel type. 2 Sets carried in reserve.
Fitted; type designation T-3PL LÄ 38, from 15-33 kilocycles and from 70
– 12,000 kilocycles, by Telefunken.
1 “Rhein” type designated as T-200 FKW 39. Wave lengths from 3,000
kilocycles to 24,000 kilocycles, by Telefunken.
1 40-Watt reserve transmitter, 20 – 80 meters, by Lorenz.
1 150-Watt transmitter, 600 – 800 meters, by Telefunken.
1 Emergency transmitter for rubber life rafts, 600 meters with automatic
Fitted and 1 carried in reserve.
1 “Grosschiff” type 18 – 100 meters, by Telefunken.
1 “Köln” type short-wave receiver from 1.5 to 25 megacycles, (GAF
1 All-wave receiver, 20 – 20,000 kilocycles, by Telefunken.
1 Echolot type Flachlot, 80 kilocycles, by Elac.
1 60-kilocycle Flachot by Elac.
G.H.G. fitted, (Balkongeraet).
Elac U.T. fitted, 84.5 – 87 cycles.
Fitted, Type Fu.G. 17, 6 – 7 meters, by Lorenz.
5 6-man rubber boats.
72 1-man rubber boats.
Best diving time 37 seconds to 20 meters.
Average diving time to 20 meters 40 – 45 seconds.
Belonged to the 4th U-boat Flotilla at Stettin until June, 1944, and from
then on assigned to the 5th Flotilla in Kiel.
E A R L Y H I S T O R Y
U.A.K. trials took place in Kiel and lasted about 14 days. U-234 then went back to Germania Werft to rebuild the pressure oil system which required about 35 days. From this point on, her trials were frequently delayed because of mining operations throughout the Baltic area. From Kiel she went to Warnemünde for three days and then proceeded to Rönne for underwater sound testing which lasted 7 days. Flak trials followed in Swinemünde. She then proceeded to Danzig, arriving there on 7 May, 1944, for additional U.A.K. trials and repairs to the electric air compressor and bilge pumps. She then proceeded to Hela and carried out surface mine laying trials.
Sixty-six mines were laid and while these mines were being recovered, she did part of her Agru-Front trials. This was followed by underwater mine laying trials and upon the completion of these trials, she finished her Agru-Front training period. She then proceeded to Danzig and entered the Holm Werft to have additional repairs made, particularly to the electric propulsion equipment and to the main transmitter. After a short run to Hela, she again was forced to return to Danzig for additional repairs to her radio equipment.
From Danzig, she went to Pillau for tactical exercises which lasted about eight days and then proceeded to Libau for the commanding officer’s torpedo trials. This was followed by another period in dry dock, this time in Königsberg, necessitated again because of difficulty with her radio equipment.
On 5 September, 1944, U-234 returned to Germania Werft for the usual overhaul and redesigning of the vessel as a transport, rather than a mine laying craft. During this time, the following changes and repairs were made.
Schnorchel was built in.
(2) Pressure oil system was again changed and a temperature regulating device built in.
(3) G.H.G. was changed to Balkon type.
(4) The starboard propeller was replaced. (The original one had proven noisy at 100 r.p.m.).
(5) Mine shafts 31 35 39 43 47 51 on the starboard side were removed and cargo
33 37 41 45 49 53
compartments made. The aft compartment was fuel oil flooded and the forward compartment was water flooded. On the port side corresponding mine shafts were removed. The outer keel plates were removed and the keel duct loaded with cargo, said to consist mainly of mercury and optical glass.
The final overhaul, loading and conversion of U-234 as a transport vessel, lasted until 25 March, 1945.
The actual loading of U-234 and the type of cargo she was to carry was determined by a special commission formed in December, 1944. At this time, it was made known to the officers of U-234 that they were to go to Japan. The special commission known as the “Marine Sonder Dienst Auslands”, headed by K.K. Becker, was in charge of all details and determined what cargo was to be carried.
Klt. Longbein from this commission was the actual loading officer. Loading containers were designed of the same diameter as the vertical mine shafts and were loaded in the shafts and held in place by the original mine releasing mechanism. The four compartments, two on either side, were loaded with horizontal tubes, (these tubes were originally above deck torpedo containers and were merely shortened somewhat and used as cargo containers). U-234 then carried six cargo containers in the mine shafts forward and amidships; six vertical containers in the mine shafts on either side, and in each of the four cargo spaces were eight horizontally placed cargo tubes. Four cargo containers, two on either side, were carried topside. The ship’s officers estimated that 240 tons of cargo were aboard in addition to fuel and provisions for a six to nine month’s trip.
After the loading was completed, some additional trials were carried out in the vicinity of Kiel. One was a silent run test near Apenrade at which time grounding rings were fitted to the propeller shafts. She returned to Kiel at which time most of her passengers came aboard. These were primarily technicians and GAF officers, in addition to Lt. Cdr. Hideo Tomonaga and Lt. Cdr. Genzo Shoji from the Japanese Navy.
During the late evening hours of 25 March, 1945, U-234 left Kiel with U-516 and a VII-C boat. They arrived in Horten two days later and during the following eight days, carried out Schnorchel trials. During the trials and while proceeding at Schnorchel depth, U-234 rammed a VII-C boat also carrying out Schnorchel trials. Neither boat was badly damaged, diving tank No. 1 and fuel oil tank No.1 of U-234 were holed but she was able to continue her trials. The other boat suffered very minor damages. U-234 arrived in Kristiansand on about 5 April where repairs were made and she topped up with provisions and oil.
F I R S T A N D L A S T P A T R O L
U-234 left Kristiansand on 15 April, 1945, with a conviction among all hands that Japan would never be reached. In fact, the commanding officer was stated to have told his crew that although they were officially destined for Japan, he was firmly convinced in his own mind that their destination would never be reached. U-234 proceeded submerged and at Schnorchel depth for the first 16 days and surfaced for the first time shortly before the Rosengarten, because of a severe storm. From then on she usually ran two hours on the surface at night and spent the balance of the time submerged to depths between 40 – 100 meters. She had orders not to make any attacks, so about the only incident before news of German’s surrender came was when she almost rammed a large steamer, but U-234 herself was not observed. The first ominous sign was when the Goliath station fell out and shortly after passing the Rosengarten no further signals were received from Nauen. From then on, all signals received were short wave. They had no radio contact for several days after the last message was received from Nauen. The U-boat series had been changed over to “Distel” series of which U-234 was ignorant. Then on the 4th of May, she got a fragmentary repeat from English and American stations about Dönitz’s elevation to supreme command in Germany. She was finally forced to surface in order to receive complete signals.
On 10 May, U-234 picked up the order for all U-boats to surrender and to proceed to an Allied port depending on their position at that time. Upon receipt of this message, considerable discussion arose among the officers and passengers as to what course they should follow. Eire was first mentioned and this proposal was enthusiastically received by the two Japanese officers aboard. The discussion was particularly heated because at the time the surrender signal was received U-234 was exactly on the dividing line which determined whether she should proceed to England or to an American port. During the following two or three days after the surrender order was received, she proceeded southerly, surfacing at night and submerging during the daytime. Messages from other U-boats obeying the surrender order were picked up by U-234 and led her to report her position. She first tried the international short wave band but her signals apparently were not received so she switched to the 600 meter wave band and it was several hours before an answer was received
to this signal. U-234’s first direct orders were from England on short wave, received on the 12 of May at about 0800. Then late that evening, she received orders from Halifax to report her position and speed hourly.
When it became apparent to the Japanese officers that FEHLER intended to obey surrender orders, they informed the commanding officer of their resolve to commit suicide. FEHLER made some attempt to dissuade them from this, particularly by citing the surrender of Gen. Oshima and his staff as an example. But the pair requested that they be allowed to remain undisturbed in their cabin, which was granted. Previously, numerous gifts had been distributed among the officers and passengers. FEHLER received a Samurai sword, which he later threw overboard, and a sizeable sum in Swiss francs. A guard was placed outside their compartment, and the two took a dose of Luminol. They were still alive some 36 hours later, much to the disgust of the crew, and efforts on the part of the ship’s doctor to revive them failed. They were buried at sea on 11 May. Letters of thanks and appreciation addressed to FEHLER were found afterwards, also a request that an enclosed signal be sent to Japan. FEHLER did not comply with this request.
The first report made by U-234 as to her position and speed was accurately given but from then on she gave her speed as eight miles when she actually was doing between 12 and 15 and she was proceeding more westerly than indicated. Observation of her position by an airplane apparently resulted in the order from Halifax that she was to report hourly. The commanding officer of U-234 assumed that none of his hourly reports reached Halifax. At 2300Z on 14 May, U-234 was contacted by the USS SUTTON and a prize crew was placed aboard her. She arrived in Portsmouth on 17 May.
O F F I C E R S O F U – 2 3 4
At the time of the commissioning, officers of the U-234 were:
Klt. Johann Heinrich FEHLER, (Class of 1935).
Olt. d. R. Alfred KLINGENBERG.
Lt. Karl Ernst PFAFF, (not in G.N.L.).
Klt. (Ing.) Horst ERNST, (Class of October 1937).
Olt. (Ing.) Günter PAGENSTECHER, (Class of December 1939).
Medical Officer: Stabsarzt Günther BESUCH.
In January, 1945, KLINGENBERG was replaced by Klt. Richard BULLA, (Class of 1935). Klt. BULLA had originally known the commanding officer of U-234 when they both served aboard the Raider “Atlantis” and when it became necessary to replace KLINGENBERG, FEHLER selected BULLA from the passenger list primarily in order to have one less person aboard.
In October, 1944, BESUCH was replaced by Stabsarzt Dr. Walter FRANZ.
O T H E R U - B O A T S
VII-C, commanded by PANITZ, left Kiel on 16 April, 1945.
IX-C, commanded by ALTMEIER was in Kiel on 25 March, 1945.
commanded by SCHNEE, Type XXI, left Bergen for Diesel tests during April, 1945.
IX-D-2, was supposedly equipped to carry cargo and passengers to Japan. She was still in Kiel on 25 March, 1945.
IX-D-2, is believed to have returned from a trip to Japan. She arrived in Bergen on 23 March, 1945. (O.N.I. Note: Believed to be U-861).
A type IX-D-2 U-boat, commanded by PREUSS, was in Kristiansand 15 April, 1945, supposedly awaiting some special orders.
VII-C, left Kiel on 16 March, 1945.