Here is the third article in this series. We are expecting a fourth article very soon.
THE HORROR VOYAGE OF U-530
According to the declassified Argentine/US interrogation reports(1), U-530 sailed from Kiel on 19 February 1945 and left Oslo for the Unites States coast on 5 March 1945. Oblt Wermuth met up briefly with U-853 in mid-April although the purpose of this meeting is unknown.
Wermuth apparently had orders to operate off New York. U-530 carried two short-wave receivers, one all-frequency and one radione receiver. Wermuth thought that one of the short-wave receivers might be damaged but the others were in good order. While in his area of operations he was to follow procedure and not transmit except for the daily weather reports. His last contact with Berlin was on 26 April, but at the end of April close to Long Island he entered a mysterious “radio dead zone” where not even the coastal radio stations could be heard and the boat remained cloaked in total radio silence “until 8th or 10 May”. Interference was also caused to other electronic equipment. Because both U-853 and U-530 continued hostilities contrary to orders issued by Dönitz on 4 May, it is obvious that both boats suffered a long-term radio blackout following their presence off Long Island.
At some time before 4 May 1945, U-530 was in US territorial waters where Wermuth “allowed all crew members to view New York through the periscope”. Fifty-four men went one by one to the periscope and each saw “very clearly skyscrapers, trains and cars, and dirigibles of the coastal defence overhead(2)”. Never during all this sightseeing was there a fear that the periscope might be detected by those dirigibles overhead whose only purpose in being there was to scour the coastal waters looking for U-boat periscopes: and nor was there a fear that it might be spotted by radar. Another boat with similar orders was U-977 which had orders to enter the British port of Southampton “and sink shipping there”(3). This dangerous activity in May 1945 would have required both boats to be invisible.
The LUT torpedo was almost infallible. It ran loops either side of a mean course and also had an acoustic guidance system. The FAT did not have the latter but was generally very effective. On 4 May, Wermuth said that U-530 attacked a convoy of up to twenty ships in fog. One LUT stuck in the tube, the other two failed. On 6 May U-530 fired two LUTs which failed against a large convoy. Then a LUT missed a tanker and a FAT missed a straggler. On 7 May two FATs failed against another large convoy. No convoys reported being attacked by a U-boat during this period.
At this point Wermuth jettisoned the five remaining torpedoes as “being in a condition to explode”. He refrained from stating what condition they were in. The only reasonable theory for the U-530 radio total dead zone and the torpedo failures is that some weapon or equipment aboard, possibly a “miracle weapon rocket”, had an electro-magnetic basis which proved susceptible to a ray or beam while off Long Island.
Once Wermuth suspected a leak he had to act fast. If the leak was combining with the torpedo warheads to bring them to a condition where they were likely to explode, deck gun, torpedoes, flak, all munitions and anything else which might be tainted with a residual trace had to be thrown overboard at once. Because radon gas is notoriously difficult to contain, the entire outer structure of the boat would have to be scrubbed repeatedly with the virulent corrosive cleaner carried aboard no doubt just for that purpose.
After radio contact with the outside world was restored on the 8th or 10 May, U-530 headed to the waters 1000 sea miles ENE of Puerto Rico. Here lies the Sargasso Sea and the Doldrums with little wind or swell, ideal for work scrubbing the boat with corrosive cleaner, jettisoning the remaining weapons and ammunition, burning contaminated materials and taking stock for the run to Argentina. Wermuth then set course to the south, crossing the Equator on 16 June 1945 and maintaining a slow speed until 20ºS, the men living on distilled seawater and having no food because the leak had poisoned the provisions.
Wermuth told the Argentine naval interrogators that he saw the Punta Mogotes light at Mar del Plata at 0300 hrs on 9 July 1945 from 18 miles offshore and went down the coast to Miramar arriving there at 0600 hrs on 9 July. “At nightfall on 9 July I surfaced and made my way eastwards back along the coast keeping three miles offshore until reaching Mar del Plata submarine base where I drifted until the early hours”(2). The US Naval Attaché did not want this jaunt to Miramar published and so falsified his translation from the Spanish to read: “Wermuth told the Argentines of first sighting the Mogotes light at 0300 hrs on 10 July, thought about going to Miramar to surrender and then he submerged and waited for dawn to view the port of Mar del Plata(1).”
Why did Wermuth go to Miramar? “At the end of 1943, Generalmajor Friedrich Wolf, naval attaché at the German Embassy, had arranged with Gustav Eickenberg, a German-Bolivian tin magnate who had a ranch at Mar del Sur, to use it as an Etappendienst station for disembarkations from U-boats. The best spot for the arrival of a U-boat was equidistant between the lighthouses at Miramar and Necochea, where a path led up to Eickenberg’s ranch(4).”
The probability is that Wermuth got off the boat at Miramar. Here the containers of cash, jewels and travellers’ cheques(5) were unloaded and he took with him the U-530 log, charts and books for the conference with German naval intelligence officers of the Etappendienst. In the final article, the U-530 game of musical chairs in which most crewmen lost their ID documents and adopted an alias, and the Germans surrendered an empty boat.
“U-530 appeared to have survived some dreadful calamity. The great rusty hull, its paintwork shredded and peeling, contrasted vividly with the smart, steely grey, small Argentine submarines at the base. The decking was very corroded and had been the seat of a major fire. The conning tower had cracked and was falling apart…the interior was covered with mould.” Colonel Bustos was appalled by the “vile nauseating stench in the interior despite the boat having been aired for three days”, by the “haggard and exhausted appearance of the crew” and to cap it all, for the first time in the history of the German U-boat Arm, a submarine had arrived in port with its provisions lockers almost full but the crew suffering from scurvy. The worst afflicted were “put on a diet of boiled potatoes and lemons(6).”
(1) See the declassified US Navy Report, Report on Interrogation of Prisoners Surrendered at Mar del Plata on 10 July 1945, item US Naval Attaché Buenos Aires, Observation of Argentine Navy Interrogation of Prisoners from U-530-Interrogation of Oberleutnant Otto Wermuth: www.uboatarchive.net/U-530.htm
(2) Salinas & De Napoli, Utramar Sur, p.401 and 424: Helmut Kraft: Submarinos alemanes en la Argentina, Buenos Aires 1998.
(3) Schaeffer, Heinz: In his interrogation at Mar del Plata on 20 August 1945, Schaeffer offered to show the Argentine interrogators his written orders for Southampton.
(4) Ecos Diarios, Necochea, 22.2.1944 quoted in Jorge Camarasa, Puerto Seguro, Buenos Aires 2006, p.63. The Miramar zone was very important for German naval planning and with the tacit cooperation of the Argentines was the centre for a major disembarkation from two U-boats on the night of 27 July 1945 to another German ranch near Necochea known as Moromar.
(5) These clandestine deliveries to Argentina by U-boat were fairly commonplace during 1945. See the article by Deuxième Bureau agent Alain Pujol, Le Figaro, 1 September 1970.
(6) Bustos, Yo fuí testigo, op cit.
Author’s Note: Final Article follows.