GERMAN U-BOAT TELEPORTED
TO FIVE-ISLAND LAKE: Part I
|submitted by Harrison Campbell, Col. USA (Ret.)|
Palo Alto: December, 1944. The Third Reich is crumbling. On the Eastern Front, the Wehrmacht is being forced back by more and ever successful Red Army Offensives. In the Ardennes forest of Belgium, the Fuhrer has launched The Reich's last great Western offensive, the Battle of the Bulge, and it is thrown back by Patton's Third Army as it presses toward the Rhine. In Italy, SS General Kurt Wolfe and Luftwaffe Field Marshal Albert Kesslering are barely holding the British and American armies at bay in bloody defensive battles. In the skies above Germany, the Luftwaffe is fighting a losing battle daily against thousand-plane raids of US Army Air Force B-17s and B-24s during the day, and RAF Lancasters and Sterlings at night, pounding the Fatherland's cities and war production centers into rubble.
Only at sea does Germany still have the wherewithal to impose, if not victory, at least stalemate and a negotiated peace.
Adolf Hitler, who, at best , is guilty of bad judgment, refuses to see that his thousand-year Empire of Aryan Supremacy is doomed. He places most, if not all, of his faith in Victory won by the fruits of Germanic technological superiority, non-existent German Army units, V-Weapons, atomic super bombs, and..invisible U-Boats!
For two years, the Kriegsmarine had been experimenting with a rudimentary stealth technology, much like its adversary, the US Navy had been doing, to render its submarines' radar and sonar invisible to the Allied navies. In the US, this culminated in the so-called Philadelphia Experiment, held at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1943-44, using the Destroyer Escort USS Eldridge as a test bed. Unsubstantiated and unconfirmed reports still extant insist that the USS Eldridge became not only radar invisible, but actually invisible. When she reappeared, there are horrific tales of crewmen found imbedded between the steel decks and bulkheads of the ship; of survivors isolated in Naval Hospitals in special, sealed wings, men who would one minute be in front of you, then disappear or fade from plain sight the next, only to reappear moments later.
The Reich Naval Ministry, on the other hand, conducted a virtually identical experiment at the Kiel Naval Base in December 1944 which had a wholly different outcome. Recently released documents from the Bundesarchiv, Naval Section, in Berlin in 1996, and the testimony of the German Naval Officer in charge of project tannhauser or what has since become known as "The Kiel Experiment", Kapitain-Leutnant Otto the Baron von Hohenberg-Ristau, reveals a wonderful yet terrifying narrative. A tale with elements stretching from December of 1944 back to the American Civil War in 1864.
"Germany was losing the war," recounts the Baron, interviewed at his family estate at Ristau-am-Main, in Bavaria. "Everyone in the German Officer Corps, regardless of whether they were Army, Navy, or Air Force, knew this. The common soldier knew this. With the exception of some deaths head fanatics in the Waffen SS, even the thinking majority of that branch knew the door was closing shut on the Reich."
Baron von Hohenberg-Ristau, now 79 years old, was a wartime line Naval officer attached to the Experimental Projects Bureau of the German Naval Ministry.
"I was primarily a surface officer, " says the Baron. "After May of 1943, all of Germany's major warships were either at the bottom of the Atlantic, or firmly bottled up in port. The strategic naval emphasis had already switched on our side to submarines. I had very little undersea experience but, because of my naval engineering and electronical background at university, I was assigned to the Reich Naval Ministry".
It was about this same time that the U.S. Navy began its own experiments in radar invisibility at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Using the destroyer-escort, U.S.S. Eldridge as a test bed, the Navy succeeded beyond their expectations, but allegedly with the horrifying side-effects quoted above.
"Through our vast intelligence network operating in the United States, the Abwehr (German Military Intelligence) knew a great deal about the Philadelphia Experiment. As we had been doing fundamental electrical research along these same lines, it was not difficult for our Bureau to take the data from the Americans, combine it with our own, and begin our own crash program," the Baron recalled. "We began project tannhauser in either December of 1943, or January, 1944, I can't recall exactly."
project tannhauser was initially headed by Vize-Admiral Georg von Schonbrunn. However, the Admiral was one of those blown-up in the attempt to kill Adolf Hitler at Rastenburg, East Prussia, July 20, 1944
"Admiral von Schonbrunn went to the Wolfschantz to personally brief the Führer on our progress. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Hohenberg-Ristau added with a slight smirk. "The very next day, Grand-Admiral Dönitz himself personally ordered me to take command of tannhauser. Hitler desperatly wanted some means of concluding the war in Germany's favor. Although he (Hitler) felt tannhauser contained too much of what you would call 'science-fiction', when he was shown the Philadelphia data, he readily agreed that we should continue with our efforts."
At first, the Bureau wanted to use the battlecruiser Gneisenau, which was berthed at the naval base at Kiel, as its test-bed. Hitler, however, refused this. The Gneisenau, along with the battleship Tirpitz, and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen were among the very few German capital ships remaining in existence, and Hitler considered them too valuable. On the orders of Grand-Admiral Dönitz, a brand-new Type XXI U-Boat, the U-3036, was selected for the mission. |
Left to Right: Skipper of the U-3036, Korvetten-Kapitain Jurgen "Eisenaugen" Wassergott, Waffen-SS Standartenfurher (Colonel) Bruno von Kleist-Schulenhorst, Luftwaffe Oberleutnant (lieutenant-colonel) Werner Dorfmann, liaison from the Reich Air Ministry, Grand-Admiral Dönitz, and Kapitain-Leutnant Otto the Baron von Hohenberg-Ristau discuss details the day before "The Kiel Experiment".
"She was fresh from Bremen Steelworks," said von Hohenberg-Ristau. "and docked at the Kiel Naval base being fitted out. Her crew were mostly veterans, with a sprinkling of green recruits. But her skipper, Korvetten-Kapitain Jurgen "Eisenaugen" Wassergott, was one of our U-Boat aces. He got the nickname 'Eisenaugen', Iron-Eyes, because he allowed fellow officers and the bar girls in Brest and Hamburg hit him in the eyes with empty Heineken bottles. Don't ask me why."
December 15, 1944, dawned clear and cold at the Kiel Navy Yard. Heavy security cordoned the city and harbor and although an American air-raid was not expected that day, every flak battery pointed skyward. The Gneisenau 's 12 inch guns were trained on the harbor entrance, and all non-essential military personnel and civilians had been evacuated from a one square mile radius of the Naval Yard.
These extraordinary precautions were not just to guard the secrecy of the Kiel Experiment. In addition to Hohenberg-Ristau and Grand-Admiral Dönitz, also in attendance were some very important persons. As Hohenberg-Ristau recalls:
"Besides myself and Dönitz, in the immediate party were Luftwaffe Oberstleutnant (lieutenant-colonel) Werner Dorfmann, liaison from the Reich Air Ministry; Dr. Immelmann Stahl, from the rheingold project at Peenemunde; and Waffen-SS Standartenführer (Colonel) Bruno von Kleist-Schulenhorst in charge of security. Even more nerve-wracking for those of us immediately involved, was the presence of practically the whole government. Hitler was there, as was Reichsmarschal Göring, Reichsführer Himmler, Propaganda Minister Göbels, Foreign Minister von Ribbentropp, and Martin Bormann. Their attendance was not calculated to make us relax."
At precisely ten AM, Kapitain Wassergott signaled from the bridge of the U-3036 that all connections had been tested and were fully operational. At a signal from Admiral Dönitz, Hohenberg-Ristau threw the lever which initiated the quantum-field effect.
For a few moments, nothing happened. This, according to Hohenberg-Ristau, produced some "unfriendly mutterings from Hitler and Co." Then, a humming noise arose, growing louder, and the air itself seemed to take on an electrical charge. The radar operator kept his eyes on his cathode-ray tube, watching the blip representing the U-3036.
"We were all keenly watching the 3036. In addition to the humming noise, the boat now began to shimmer," says Hohenberg-Ristau. "A faint nimbus had appeared around the submarine. We could see crew members scurrying about her deck; Kapitain Wassergott stood on the conning tower gesticulating wildly. Then suddenly, the radar-operator shouted, 'Sie ist eingang! Sie ist eingang!' (She is gone, she is gone). We crowded around the cathode-ray tube and stared, dumbfounded. The blip representing the U-3036 had indeed vanished. We had done it. We had made a ship radar invisible. The implications of this event were profound, and not wasted on those higher-ups present."
Elation and triumph set in. There was much cheering, heiling and back-slapping. Even Hitler grinned and stamped his booted foot up and down.
But the humming noise grew louder and louder until it became almost unbearable. The aura around the U-Boat shimmered, shifting through the color spectrum. A small black cloud, roughly the same size as the submarine, appeared above the U-3036. Suddenly, a muffled detonation erupted from the harbor, sending a considerable concussion wave rolling out to shore.
"The power relays between the boat and shore may have become unsynchronized and caused a mass acceleration in the quantum field," says Hohenberg-Ristau. "When we looked out again, there was a cloud of water vapor but the nimbus was gone, the atmospheric static had gone, as was the humming and the black cloud. So, too, was the U-3036."
The boat not only vanished from radar, but had also vanished from sight. All afternoon and into the night, troops searched the immediate vicinity for the missing submarine. Soundings of the harbor, sweeps by sonar and descents by divers revealed it had not sunk. What had happened?
"We did not know what had become of her. She vanished as completely as if she sailed to Mars," commented Bruno von Kleist-Schulenhorst, now a Lt. General in the Federal German Intelligence Service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). Contacted in Berlin, von Kleist-Schulenhorst was at first reluctant to speak to the press without assurances by the Bundesarchiv that the incident had indeed been declassified.
" The High Command was not at all pleased by the outcome. They curtailed all similar quantum field experiments until we could determine what had happened to the U-3036." Then he chuckled, "Unfortunately, this was not ascertained until after the war, and by then it was too late for our purposes."
The date is still 15 December, 1944. The war still rages in Europe, but not in Palo Alto county in Northwestern Iowa. Not In Emmetsburg. It is 3,375 statute miles from the Kiel Naval Base to Emmetsburg. There is also a seven-hour time difference. If it is eleven AM in Kiel, it is four AM in Emmetsburg, but since the Nation has been on year-long Daylight Savings Time since February 1942, it is actually five AM, Central Daylight Time.
Otis Fremont, a 98-year old veteran of the American Civil War, was taking his morning constitutional along the south shore of Five-Island Lake just as a weak, wintry dawn lit the eastern sky. According to his recollections (Published posthumously as Recollections of a Soldier in the 4th Iowa Mounted Rifles: The Life Tales of Otis Fremont, University of Emmetsburg Press, 1948, 1989), as he was out strolling with his Rottweiller, General Billy Sherman, a loud humming noise began. "The waters of the lake began to shimmer, the air itself felt charged with static electricity. General Billy, he began to act real odd; at first he whimpered, then he growled and barked at something in the lake. Then, this black cloud appeared above the lake, close to the north-east bank. This was followed by a bright flash, and then a loud bang. The concussion knocked me and General Billy over like Dutch nine-pins."
At first, Fremont thought that Emmetsburg was being attacked by the Germans or Japanese, or perhaps both. However, after the concussion passed and his sight returned to normal, he noticed a dark shape on the brightening waters of the lake.
"I am not ashamed to admit that I was frightened. I had been through most of the great battles in the Western Theater during the War of the Rebellion, and had been wounded by bullet and canister. But on this occasion, I almost browned my trowsers."
Fremont's senses, honed by the battles of Shiloh, Corinth and Atlanta, cleared rapidly. He began to discern the dark shape on the lake more clearly in the grey rays of dawn. He then heard voices coming from the shape, voices speaking German. And then, as the shape drew nearer to him, he caught a glimpse of what looked like a flag fluttering from what looked like a stepped-structure rising from the center of the shape.
"It was one of those Nazi swastikas. And I knew that somehow a German Holland boat had gotten into the lake. Well, I knew where my duty lay."
With a celerity that belied his 98 years, Mr. Fremont, followed closely by General Billy Sherman, scampered up the Great Stone Steps and into town. His first stop was his own houseto choose an appropriate weapon: "At first, I was going to take up my 1853 Enfield that I had carried during the Rebellion; but I knew those Dutchies would have superior firepower, so I took up the M1921 Thompson submachine gun that I had acquired in '28, when I participated in the rum trade in violation of the Volstead Act."
Thus armed, Otis continued to the Police Station, two blocks away. However, he found that both of the duty policemen were not in. Shrewdly determining that the two officers were at McNamara's Band, a local tavern, he took himself and his dog there. Not only did he find the two Police Officers at the tavern, he also found the graveyard shift from the local Munitions Plant coming in.
"The did not beleive me at first but, most of them had seen the flash and heard the blast. So, grudgingly, they followed me."
He led them down Lake Street, to the campus of the University of Emmetsburg, which at that time opened out to a good view of the lake (a view now blocked by the massive baroque edifice of Kerensky Hall). What they saw galvanized them into action. One of the policemen, Officer James O'Halloran, ran back to the police station to alert the military authorities. The rest of the workers, many of them veterans of the First World War, armed themselves and reassembled shortly thereafter to meet the amphibious invasion by the Third Reich.
Officer O'Halloran first telephoned Fort Des Moines. Because it was an early hour, the NCO on duty at the Women's Army Corps (WAC) training post dismissed the policeman's call for help as the ravings of a drunken lunatic.
"This sergeant who answered, " recalled O'Halloran fifty-three years later, "he was a real wisenheimer. He said the Navy handled German submarines. He told me to call Ottumwa Naval Air Station. So, I did."
The duty officer at Ottumwa NAS, however, proved to be of a much different mettle than the Sad Sack at Fort Des Moines, for it was none other than Lt. Commander Richard M. Nixon, USNR, who took the call.
Nixon immediately realized the gravity of the situation. Assuring officer O'Halloran that help was on the way, he sprang at once into action and alerted the duty section and the rest of the station. Within minutes, teletypes across the Midwest clattered out the alarm:
"GERMAN SUB IN FIVE-ISLAND LAKE, PALO-ALTO CO., IOWA. THIS IS NOT AN EXERCISE!"
In short order, US Navy aircraft, TBM Avengers, PV-2 Venturas, and F6F Hellcats, were armed and airborne, winging their way from Ottumwa NAS and Great Lakes NAS in Chicago, Army Air Force B-17s and B-25s from Offut Field outside of Omaha, O-47s and AT-6s, and, belatedly and with red-faces, a contingent of armor, infantry, and 500 WACs from Fort Des Moines, all on their way to Palo Alto county, all on their way to Emmetsburg and the submarine in Five-Island Lake.
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