Two things set off the Early from the Late Classic: first,
the strong Izapan element still discernible in Early Classic Maya culture, and
secondly, the appearance in the middle part of the Early Classic of powerful
waves of influence, and almost certainly invaders themselves, from the site of
Teotihuacan in central Mexico. This city was founded in the first century BC in
a small but fertile valley opening onto the northeast side of the Valley of
Mexico. On the eve of its destruction at the hands of unknown peoples, at the
end of the sixth or beginning of the seventh century AD, it covered an area of
over 5 sq. miles (13 sq. km) and may have had, according to George Cowgill, a
preeminent expert on the site, a population of some 85,000 people living in
over 2,300 apartment compounds. To fill it, Teotihuacan’s ruthless early rulers
virtually depopulated smaller towns and villages in the Valley of Mexico. It
was, in short, the greatest city ever seen in the Pre-Columbian New World.
Teotihuacan is noted for the regularity of its two crisscrossing
great avenues, for its Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, and for the delicacy and
sophistication of the paintings which graced the walls of its luxurious
palaces. In these murals and elsewhere, the art of the great city is permeated
with war symbolism, and there can be little doubt that war and conquest were
major concerns to its rulers. Teotihuacan fighting men were armed with
atlatl-propelled darts and rectangular shields, and bore round, decorated,
pyrite mosaic mirrors on their backs; with their eyes sometimes partly hidden
by white shell “goggles,” and their feather headdresses, they must have been
terrifying figures to their opponents.
At the very heart of the city, facing the main north–south
avenue, is the massive Ciudadela (“citadel”), in all likelihood the compound
housing the royal palace. Within the Ciudadela itself is the stepped,
stone-faced temple-pyramid known as the Temple of the Feathered Serpent (TFS),
one of the single most important buildings of ancient Mesoamerica, and
apparently well known to the distant Maya right through the end of the Classic.
When the TFS was dedicated c. AD 200, at least 200 individuals were sacrificed
in its honor. Study of their bone chemistry reveals that not a few are certain
to have been foreigners. All were attired as Teotihuacan warriors, with
obsidian-tipped darts and back mirrors, and some had collars strung with
imitation human jawbones.
On the facade and balustrades of the TFS are multiple
figures of the Feathered Serpent, an early form of the later Aztec god
Quetzalcoatl (patron god of the priesthood) and a figure that may, according to
Karl Taube, have originated among the Maya. Alternating with these figures is
the head of another supernatural ophidian, with retroussé snout covered with
rectangular platelets representing jade, and cut shell goggles placed in front
of a stylized headdress in the shape of the Mexican sign for “year.” Taube has
conclusively demonstrated this to be a War Serpent, a potent symbol wherever
Teotihuacan influence was felt in Mesoamerica – and, in fact, long after the
fall of Teotihuacan. Such martial symbolism extended even to the Teotihuacan
prototype of the rain deity Tlaloc who, fitted with his characteristic
“goggles” and year-sign, also functioned as a war god.
This mighty city held dominion over large parts of Mexico in
the Early Classic as the center of a military and commercial empire that may
have been greater than that of the much later Aztec. Drawing upon historical
data on the Aztecs, ethnohistorian Ross Hassig has suggested that Mesoamerican
“empires” such as Teotihuacan’s were probably not organized along Roman lines,
which totally replaced local administrations by the imperial power; rather,
they were “hegemonic,” in the sense that conquered bureaucracies were largely
in place, but controlled and taxed through the constant threat of the
overwhelming military force which could have been unleashed against them at any
time. Thus, we can expect a good deal of local cultural continuity even in
those regions taken over by the great city; but in the case of the lowland
Maya, we shall also see outright interference in dynastic matters, with
profound implications for the course of Maya history.
That the Teotihuacan empire prefigured that of the Aztecs is
vividly attested at the site of Los Horcones, Chiapas, Mexico, studied by
Claudia García-Des Lauriers of California State Polytechnic, Pomona. Situated
near a spectacular hill, the city lies on the very edge of the great
chocolate-producing area known to the Aztecs as the Xoconochco. The southern
part of Los Horcones is a dead ringer for the complex composed of the Pyramid
of the Moon and the Avenue of the Dead at Teotihuacan, and artifacts and
monuments point to a direct Teotihuacan presence in the region. It is hard to believe
that the Aztecs were not the imitators here, and that Teotihuacan was the first
to interest itself in the cacao plantations and trade routes of the region. The
contact did not stop there, but extended to what may be a Teotihuacan colony at
Montana, Guatemala. This settlement, surrounded by others like it within a 3
mile (5 km) radius, is endowed with magnificent incense burners, portrait
figurines, and an enigmatic square object known to specialists as candeleros or
“candle holders,” though their function is not known. And Montana was not
alone. In 1969 tractors plowing the fields in the Tiquisate region of the
Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala, an area located southwest of Lake Atitlan
that is covered with ancient (and untested) mounds, unearthed rich tombs and
caches containing a total of over 1,000 ceramic objects. These have been
examined by Nicholas Hellmuth of the Foundation for Latin American
Archaeological Research; the collection consists of elaborate two-piece censers
(according to Karl Taube symbolizing the souls of dead warriors), slab-legged
tripod cylinders, hollow mold-made figures, and other objects, all in
Teotihuacan style. Numerous finds of fired clay molds suggest that these were
mass-produced from Teotihuacan prototypes by military-merchant groups intruding
from central Mexico during the last half of the Early Classic.
Contacts must have been intense and conducted at the highest
levels. Taube has detected Maya-style ceramics at Teotihuacan, some made
locally, perhaps in an ethnic enclave at the city. Legible Maya glyphs from
murals in the Tetitla apartment compound at Teotihuacan attest to royal names
and rituals of god-impersonation. Very likely, these refer not to mere
craftsmen brought from the Maya region, but to dynastic elites. Yet the
movement of these people must have been complex. Under the immense Pyramid of
the Moon, Saburo Sugiyama and colleagues discovered a burial with three bodies,
dating to AD 350–400, accompanied by carved jades and a seated, Maya-like
figure of greenstone. The positioning of this figure and the bodies nearby, all
buried upright with crossed legs, resembles patterns in tombs at Kaminaljuyu in
Highland Guatemala; the date, too, is close to a period of marked contact
between Tikal and Teotihuacan-related people. Bone chemistry suggests that at
least one of the occupants of the tomb came from the Maya region, but spent
much of his life at this important Mexican city.
Until just five years ago, Manchurians were little more
than backward bandits squabbling over pieces of torn fiefdoms. Today, we
operate our own air force against all the enemies of a modernized Manchukuo.
-Nobuhiro Uta, 1st Lieutenant, Doi ManshuTeikoku Kugun’
In 1640, Ming Dynasty control over China was falling apart.
Widespread crop failures, followed by starvation on a scale too massive for
government redress, and peasant revolts broke out to badly shake the nearly
300-year-old order. Taking advantage of these upheavals, Manchu raiders from
the north approached the capital on May 26, 1644. Beijing was defended by an unfed,
unpaid army unwilling to oppose the invaders, who entered its gates just as the
last Ming emperor hung himself on a tree in the imperial garden.
The Manchus replaced his dynasty with their own, the Qing
(or “clear”), that ruled until the early 20th century. Demise of the
Manchurian imperium in 1912 had been preceded by decades of corruption,
military defeats, and foreign exploitation, leading inevitably toward
revolution. Organized society dissolved, as private armies fought each other
for control during the so-called Warlord Era.
Observing this calamitous decline from afar were the
Japanese. They knew that someone would eventually emerge from the chaos to
unify the country, thereby fulfilling Napoleon’s dire warning about China being
a sleeping giant that, once awakened, would terrify the world. In 1931,
Japanese forces invaded Manchuria to extirpate its contentious warlords,
restore some semblance of social order, and, most importantly to themselves,
create a buffer state, rich in natural resources, between Japan and the USSR.
On February 18, 1932, Manchukuo was established with
assistance from former Qing Dynasty officials, including Pu-Yi, “the last
emperor.” Unlike Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 film of that name, the new
“State of Manchuria” was not entirely a Japanese “puppet;’ or
colony, although it had elements of both. Like most Asian monarchs of his time,
including Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, Pu-Yi was mostly a figurehead: the nation’s
symbolic personification. Real power lay in the hands of state council cabinet
ministers, who belonged to the Xiehehui Kyowakai. This “Concordia
Association” embodied the principles of Minzoku Kyowa, the “concord
of nationalities;’ a pan-Asian ideology aimed at making Manchukuo into a
multi-ethnic nation that would gradually replace the Japanese military with
By granting different ethnic groups their communal rights
and limited self-determination under a centralized state structure, a balance
was created between federal power and minority rights, thereby avoiding the
same kind of separatism that had undermined the Hapsburg’s Austro-Hungarian
monarchy or Russia’s Czarist empire. Accordingly, emigres were allowed their
own independent groups, which included a wide spectrum of agendas, from White
Russian Fascists and Romanov monarchists, to Jews involved in several Zionist
movements. Together with these diverse populations, Mongols, Hui Muslims, and
Koreans, as well as native Manchu, Japanese settlers, and the majority of
Chinese found workable representation in the Concordia Association that
dispensed with former animosities.
Because the rights, needs, and traditions of each group were
officially respected, religious liberty was guaranteed by law. Mongol lamas,
Manchu shamans, Muslim ahongs, Buddhist monks, Russian Orthodox priests, Jewish
rabbis, and Confucian moralists were equally supported by the state.
Corporatist, anticommunist and anticapitalist, Minzoku Kyowa aimed at class
collaboration by organizing people through religious, occupational, and ethnic
communities. Manchukuo was intended to be the ideal and standard by which the
rest of China was to be reconstituted.
Other similar states set up by the Japanese were the
Mangjiang government for Inner Mongolia, the Reformed Government of the
Republic, and the Provisional Government of the Republic for the eastern and
northern areas of China, respectively. These last two were combined by 1940 in
the Nanjing National Government headed by Wang Jingwei, perhaps the most
brilliant Chinese statesman of the 20th century. After Sun Yat-sen’s death in
1925, as described in Chapter 13, Jingwei became the leader of the Kuomintang,
China’s Nationalist Party, but was subsequently ousted by backstage intrigue to
put Chiang Kai-shek in control.
Jingwei believed with the Japanese that China only avoided
being a military, economic, and ideological threat to the outside world and
itself, while preserving its culture from foreign influences, by a
decentralized system of cooperative independence for the various provinces,
with emphasis on their ethnic individuality. In this, the Japanese envisioned
themselves as the power center of Asia’s Co-Prosperity Sphere. Heavy Japanese
investment helped Manchukuo to become an industrial powerhouse, eventually
outdistancing Japan itself in steel production.
Manchuria operated its first airline, the most modern in
Asia outside Japan. Flying with the Manchukuo Air Transport Company were
Junkers Ju.86s and Fokker Super Universals. The German Junkers was powered by a
pair of Jumo 207B-3/V, 1,000-hp diesel engines, able to carry its 10 passengers
nearly 1,000 miles above 30,000 feet, making it an ideal transport for China’s
The Dutch-designed Fokker F.18 Super Universal was actually
produced in the United States during the late 1920s, later manufactured under
license by Canadian Vickers and Nakajima in Japan. Chosen for its ruggedness,
especially the reliability of its 450-hp Pratt and Whitney Wasp B engine in
very cold conditions, a Super Universal known as the Virginia served in Richard
E. Byrd’s 1928 Antarctic expedition. He additionally valued the conventional,
eight-place, high-wing, cantilever monoplane for its 138-mph performance at
19,340 feet over 680 miles.
Even before the Manchukuo Air Transport Company was renamed
“Manchukuo National Airways;’ the city of Changchun had likewise undergone
a change to Xinjing, the “New Capital” of Manchukuo. The former
whistle-stop town was transformed almost overnight into a beautiful, modern,
and large city, the most culturally brilliant in China at the time. Manchukuo
was officially recognized by 23 foreign governments from all the Axis powers
and the USSR to El Salvador and the Holy See. The League of Nations denied
Manchukuo’s legitimacy, however, prompting Japan’s withdrawal from that body in
1934, while the United States opposed any change in the international status
quo “by force of arms;’ as stated by America’s Stimson Doctrine.
Still, Manchukuo experienced rapid economic growth and
progress in its social systems. Manchurian cities were modernized, and an
efficient and extensive railway system was constructed. A modern public
educational system developed, including 12,000 primary schools, 200 middle
schools, 140 teacher preparatory schools, and 50 technical and professional
colleges for its 600,000 pupils and 25,000 teachers. There were additionally
1,600 private schools; 150 missionary schools; and, in the city of Harbin, 25
Russian schools. By 1940, of Manchukuo’s 40,233,950 inhabitants, 837,000 were
Japanese, and plans were already afoot to increase emigration by 5 million
persons over the next 16 years, in the partial relief of Japan’s overpopulation
Bordering as Manchukuo did the Russian frontier, the
necessity for self-defense was apparent. In February 1937, an air force, the
Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun, was formed. To begin, 30 officers were selected from
the Imperial Army for training with Japan’s Kwantung Army at Harbin. By late
summer, their first unit was established at the Xinjing airfield under the
command of 1st Lieutenant Nobuhiro Uta. His taskto make something of the
fledgling service-was daunting, because he had only a single aircraft at his
disposal, a World War I-era biplane.
The Nieuport-Delage Ni-D.29 had made its prototype debut in
August 1918 and looked every bit its age with its open cockpit and fixed tail
skid. Even then, the French-built pursuit aeroplane did not pass muster,
because it could not achieve altitude requirements. The Ni-D.29 received a new
lease on life when, stripped of its cumbersome military baggage and its Gnome
9N rotary engine replaced by a 300-hp HispanoSuiza 8Fb V-8, it won eight speed
records, including the Coupe Deutsche and Gordon Bennet Trophies of 1919 and
Nieuport-Delage executives cashed in on the aircraft’s new
prestige by making it a lucrative export to Belgium, Italy, Spain, Sweden,
Argentina, Japan, and Thailand. Their swift model saw action in North Africa,
dropping 20-pound antipersonnel bombs on native insurgents unhappy with French
and Spanish colonialism. By 1937, the old double-decker’s top speed of 146 mph
and 360-mile range made it something of a relic, but Lieutenant Uta made good
use of its forgiving handling characteristics in the training of his novice
Appeals to Japan resulted in more modern aircraft for the
nascent Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun. First to arrive were examples of a Kawasaki
KDA-2 reconnaissance biplane. It had been designed specifically for the
Imperial Japanese Army by Richard Vogt, an aero engineer from Germany’s
renowned Dornier Flugzeugewerke. Following successful trials, the KDA-2 entered
production with Kawasaki as “Type-88-1, in 1929. Its unequal span wings
and slim, angular fuselage married to a 600-hp BMW VI engine provided a
respectable range of 800 miles at 31,000 feet.
The aircraft’s remarkable stability and rugged construction
lent itself well to the light-bomber role when fitted with 441 pounds of bombs.
Lieutenant Uta’s men also received the Nakajima Type 91, until recently
replaced by the Kawasaki Type 95, Japan’s leading fighter. The parasol
monoplane’s Bristol Jupiter VII, 9-cylinder radial engine was rated at 520 hp,
allowing a service ceiling of 29,500 feet and 186-mph maximum speed. Twin
7.7-mm machine-guns synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc were
standard for the time.
In July 1938, Soviet troops violated the 78-year-old Treaty
of Peking between Russia and China by establishing their common Manchurian
border, a move that alarmed the Japanese, suspicious of Stalin’s plans for a
Communist China. On the 15th, Japan’s attache in Moscow called for the
withdrawal of newly arrived Red Army forces from a strategic area between the
Shachaofeng and Changkufeng Hills west of Lake Khasan, near Vladivostok. His
demand was rejected because, he was told, 1860’s Treaty of Peking was invalid,
having been signed by “Czarist criminals”2 Soon after, he learned
that the Soviets had relocated the original 19th century demarcation markers to
make their territorial claims appear legitimate.
Japan answered this deception on the 29th by launching its
19th Division and several Manchukuo units at the Red Army’s 39th Rifle Corps,
without success. Although the Nakajima fighter planes stayed behind for
homeland defense, the Manchurians used their Kawasaki reconnaissance aircraft
to scout Russian weak spots without being detected. Based on photographic
information made available by the high-flying biplanes, the Japanese renewed
their offensive on July 31, this time expelling the enemy from Changkufeng Hill
in a nighttime attack. Beginning on the morning of August 2, General Vasily
Blyukher, commanding the Far Eastern Front, ordered a massive, relentless,
week-long artillery barrage that drove the Japanese and Manchurians back across
the border. Hostilities ceased on August 11, when a peace brokered by the
United States came into effect, and Soviet occupation of the compromised
Manchurian border was affirmed.
Far from being honored as the victor of the short-lived
campaign, General Blyukher was arrested by Stalin’s political police and
executed for having suffered higher casualties than the enemy. Russian dead
amounted to 792, plus 2,752 wounded, compared with 525 Japanese and Manchurians
killed, 913 wounded.
Although the Changkufeng Incident, or Battle of Khasan, as
it is still sometimes known, was a Japanese defeat, it afforded the young Dai
Manshu Teikoku Kugun its first operational experiences. More were to come in
less than a year during another, far more serious frontier dispute with the
USSR, when Manchukuoan horse soldiers drove off a cavalry unit of the Mongolian
People’s Republic that had crossed into Manchuria across the Khalkha River,
near the village of Nomohan on May 11, 1939.
Forty-eight hours later, they returned in numbers too great
to be removed by the Manchurians alone. The next day, Lieutenant-Colonel Yaozo
Azuma, leading a reconnaissance regiment of the 23rd Division, supported by the
64th Regiment of the same division, forced out the Mongols. They returned yet
again later that month, but as the Japanese moved to expel them, Azuma’s forces
were surrounded and decimated by overwhelming numbers of the Red Army on May
28; his men suffered 63 percent casualties.
This major Arawasi publication, the result of more
than ten years of exhaustive research in Japan by the authors George
Eleftheriou and Kiri Domoto-Eleftheriou, includes hundreds of newly discovered,
photos, most of high quality, and original material and information never
covered in any publication before.
* Pre-Manchukuo aviation in brief
* Manchukuo Airline
* Manchukuoan Air Force
* Manchukuo Maritime Police Air Unit
* Gliding in Manchukuo
One day short of a month later, Japan’s 2nd Air Brigade, in
conjunction with the Manchurian Air Force, staged a massive raid on the Red Air
Force base at Tamsak-Bulak in Mongolia. Numerous Soviet aircraft were caught on
the ground before they could get airborne, and those that did were mostly shot
down. Manchukuoan-flown Nakajimas came in low to strafe the airfields, setting
fuel dumps ablaze and holing bombers parked out in the open, defying intense
and accurate ground fire. Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun fighters suppressed enemy
opposition for the arrival almost immediately thereafter of their comrades
flying Kawasaki Ki-32s. Just previous to the attack on Mongolia, these more
modern light-bombers replaced the Manchurians’ Kawasaki Army Type 88/KDA-2
biplanes. Code named “Mary” by the Americans, the Ki-32 carried 990 pounds
of bombs used by DMTK airmen to virtually obliterate the Soviet air base. The
Red Air Force defenders of Tamsak-Bulak suffered heavy damage, with more than
twice as many Russian warplanes than Japanese-Manchurian lost.
The effective strike had been ordered by Kwantung Army
commanders without permission from Imperial Japanese Army headquarters in
Tokyo, which grounded any further air raids. Henceforward, the battlefield
situation went from bad to worse for the Japanese, who were decimated by waves
of heavy armor attacks against which they had little defense, and forced to
accept an armistice on August 31.
The very next day, Germany’s invasion of Poland precipitated
World War II, an event that promised greater significance than the Nomohan
Incident. Soviet forces halted at the Manchurian border, as Stalin concluded a
neutrality agreement with Japan, then turned his attention to Europe. Fearing
an inevitable resumption of hostilities in the uncertain future, the Japanese
began seriously outfitting more Manchukuoan squadrons.
In July 1940, Japan’s Air Defense Headquarters worked in
conjunction with the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun’s 1st Air Unit at Xinjing. At
first, only Japanese pilots and ground crews served in Air Defense, but Manchus
underwent specialized flight training soon after. A flight school was
established on August 30, 1940, in Fengtien to teach both military and civilian
pilots. The following January, some 100 cadets, unused to strict discipline and
incited by Communist agent provocateurs, murdered their instructors, then fled
By 1941, the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun’s 1st Air Unit at
Xinjing had 5 Japanese and 6 Manchurian officers, 14 NCOs of similarly mixed
backgrounds, and about 90 pilots. They were joined by a 2nd Air Unit at
Fengtien, a 3rd Air Unit Ordnance Depot of 15 Japanese and 30 Chinese officers
from the National Government of China Air Force at Harbin, the Aircraft Arsenal
Air Unit (supply), and the Tongliao Independent Air Unit Flying School, which
increased the following year to three squadrons. In September and October 1942,
the school was issued more than 20 training aircraft. These included the
Tachikawa Ki-9, a two-place biplane rigged for blind-flying with a folding hood
over the rear cockpit for the student. Powered by a 350-hp Hitachi Ha-13a
radial engine, the Spruce, as it was known to the Americans, topped 149 mph,
making the Ki-9 a respectable intermediate trainer. Staff officer transport
versions featured a glazed canopy.
Another Tachikawa was fitted was a 510-hp Hitachi Ha-13, a
ninecylinder, radial engine, that gave the advanced biplane an outstanding
maximum speed of 216 mph. Air Ministry officials were so impressed with its
performance, the Ki-55 was occasionally fitted with a single, fixed
forward-firing 7.7mm machine-gun to serve as a fighter the Allies called Ida.
The Tongliao Independent Air Unit Flying School was also
sent several examples of the Mansyu Ki-79 for advanced training. More
immediately significant, the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun received its first modern
warplanes. These were the Nakajima Ki-27 and Kawasaki Ki-32, known in the West,
respectively, as Nate and Mary. The former, as some indication of Japanese
regard for the Manchukuo Air Force, was Japan’s premiere fighter at the time,
and had been selected for production primarily for its outstanding handling
characteristics, by virtue of which it rapidly assumed ascendancy over all
other pursuit aircraft in Chinese skies.
K-27s were superior to their Red Air Force opponents at
1938s Battle of Khasan but roughly handled one year later during the Nomohan
Incident by Polikarpov 1-16 Ratas able to outrun them by 12 mph. A weaker
airframe additionally prevented the Nakajima from holding up under stress
during high-speed maneuvers, allowing the faster, sturdier, if more unwieldy
Soviet monoplane to escape in a dive the Japanese warplane could not follow.
Moreover, the Ki-27 lacked pilot armor protection or self-sealing fuel tanks,
and the 7.7-mm rounds spat by its twin Type 89 machine-guns were weak. Fortunately
for the Japanese, Nate was replaced as their leading fighter by Mitsubishi’s
more famous and altogether superior A6M Zero in time for the attack on Pearl
The Dai Manchu Teikoku Kugun received fewer numbers of
Kawasaki’s Ki-32. Vulnerable to flak and a sitting duck for enemy interceptors,
the sluggish, low-wing monoplane with its non-retractable, drag-inducing
landing gear, would have been butchered in any confrontation with the Red Air
Force. Instead, an 850-hp Kawasaki Ha-9-llb liquid-cooled, V-12 engine enabled
the tough, reliable light-bomber to deliver its 990pound payload over a
1,220-mile range, rendering Mary ideally suited for the antipartisan role to
which she was assigned. In the hands of Manchurian pilots, her interdiction of
distant enemy truck convoys and supply concentrations often came as an
unpleasant surprise for both Communist and Nationalist opponents.
When Manchukuo came within range of USAAF heavy bombers, the
Japanese 2nd Air Army assumed direction of the Dai Manshu Teikoku, augmenting
it with the 104th Sentai (“Group”), plus the 25th and 81st Dokuritsu
Chutai (“Squadron”). These units were equipped with the Kawasaki
Ki-45, known appropriately as the Toryu, or “Dragon Slayer;” for the
many American Superfortresses it claimed since four night-fighter sentais were
established to defend the home islands in autumn 1944. One sentai alone scored
8 “kills” during their first engagement with B-29s, going on to
destroy another 150.
Reorganization comprised the new Fangfu Air Corps of Manchu
pilots manning 120 fighters, mostly Nakajima Ki-27s. With their service ceiling
of 32,940 feet, they could not even approach incoming waves of B-29s operating
660 feet higher. More powerful 710-hp Ha-lb, nine cylinder, radial engines were
installed to carry the Nates just above the Superfortresses’ operational
altitude and boosted maximum speed to nearly 300 mph, but that was still 65 mph
slower than the strategic bombers. Even if the old fighters were able to
maneuver into firing position, their twin, 7.7-mm machine-guns were outmatched
by-per B-29-10,12.7-mm Browning machine-guns firing from remotely controlled
Yet, odds against the defenders were not as hopeless as they
appeared. The Superforts were unable to open their bomb bay doors above cruising
speed at 220 mph, giving the Nates a temporary nearly 80-mph speed advantage.
But the huge silvery enemy’s real Achilles’ heel was his oxidized aluminum
skin, which was prone to fire in the worst way, consuming the entire aircraft,
fore and aft. Japanese and Manchu pilots found that hits of even their puny,
7.7-mm rounds just about anywhere along the frame of a B-29 could sometimes set
it entirely alight. But getting close enough to do so was made extremely
hazardous by combined defensive fire thrown up by the Superfortresses, and many
would-be interceptors paid with their lives before they could get within range
of their own guns.
B-29s first struck Manchuria three years to the day of
Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor. Their anniversary raid was not coincidental but
deliberately timed to encourage the more than 1,600 American prisoners of war
incarcerated near Mukden. The mission’s tactical objective was destruction of
the city’s aircraft factories.
Of the original 108 Superforts that set out with the XX
Bomber Command, no less than 17 were forced to drop out, due to unforeseen
problems caused by extremely low temperatures. Inside and outside surfaces of
canopies iced over, and the big warplanes struggled, not always successfully,
to gain altitude in the thin air. These worsening conditions forced another 10
B-29s to haphazardly jettison their payloads over a railroad yard long before
reaching Mukden, utterly missing this secondary target, before banking away for
home base. When the remaining 80 Superfortresses arrived over the city, flight
crews found it entirely obscured by a heavy smokescreen. Undeterred, they
unloosed their combined 800 tons of bombs, which fell mostly within residential
districts, killing about 1,000 civilians, injuring several thousand more. The
primary targeted aircraft factories escaped unscathed.
USAAF commanders had anticipated no enemy interdiction,
regarding the Manchukuoan Air Force as nothing more than a propaganda joke,
while all Japanese fighters were believed to have been recalled to defend the
home islands. But the Americans were to be deceived as much about opposition
over Manchuria, as they had been concerning its climate conditions.
As they approached Mukden, Sergeant Shinobu Ikeda of the
25th Dokuritsu Chutai attacked one of the monstrous bombers from behind with
his Kawasaki interceptor. Before he could draw a bead on the B-29, a stream of
.50-inch caliber rounds found and shattered his canopy and set his right engine
alight. Wounded in a damaged airplane on fire and spinning toward the ground,
Ikeda eventually regained control of the Dragon Slayer, climbed back on one
engine after the same target, and deliberately collided with its tail section.
The Superfortress nosed over into a steep dive from which only one gunner parachuted
to safety. Like the other 10 men aboard the big bomber, Ikeda perished in the
Another Japanese pilot died when the B-29 he rammed with his
Nakajima was consumed in a terrific explosion that fortuitously ejected a pair
of surviving crew members uninjured into space. Two more Superforts fell under
conventional attacks, one each shot down by Japanese and Manchurian pilots.
Three B-29s, trailing debris and smoke, escaped the combat zone, but were so
badly damaged they had to be written off. For the Superfortresses’ first raid
against Manchukuo, they missed all their targets, losing 7 aircraft and 44 crew
members for 1 Japanese and 2 Manchurians killed in action.
Fourteen days later, 40 of the survivors returned to
inaccurately and ineffectually raid Mukden, veiled once more under its
obscuring smokescreen. Eighty-eight tons of high explosive intended for the
earlier targeted aircraft factory yet again fell wide of the mark. This time, a
Manchurian Air Force pilot, 1st Lieutenant Sono-o Kasuga, crashed his Nakajima
fighter into one of the Superfortresses, which exploded for the loss of its
entire crew. Another B-29 was similarly destroyed by 2nd Lieutenant Tahei
Matsumoto, a Japanese pilot serving with the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun.
To oppose both December raids on Mukden, the Japanese and
Manchurians lost 7 pilots and planes against 12 American bombers destroyed with
121 men killed and captured. Instead of taking heart at the appearance of USAAF
warplanes high overhead, Allied POWS had watched in horror, as one
Superfortress after another tumbled out of the sky in flames. Pilots of the Dai
Manshu Teikoku Kugun, together with their Japanese comrades in the 104th Sentai
and the 25th and 81st Dokuritsu Chutai, achieved a real defensive victory, when,
following the December 21 raid, XX Bomber Command terminated all further
operations against Mukden as too costly for the negligible results achieved.
Thereafter, the war shifted away from Manchuria and virtual
peacetime conditions prevailed there throughout most of 1945. By late summer,
however, a buildup of Soviet forces along the Mongolian border made invasion
from that quarter evident, and Manchukuo Air Force personnel underwent
intensive training for ground-attacking armored vehicles. Between the Imperial
Japanese Army Air Force and Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun, they were able to muster
1,800 aircraft, mostly trainers and obsolete types fit only for self-destruct
Just 50 Nakajima fighters were on hand, without, however,
enough fuel to operate them all against the 5,368 Red Air Force warplanes they
faced. Manchukuo’s Defense Force comprised 40,000 troops in 8 divisions,
insufficiently supplied and poorly equipped. Supporting them were more than
600,000 men in the Imperial Japanese Kwantung Army, but they, too, were
threadbare. Their armor consisted of 1,215 light tanks and armored cars,
together with 6,700 mostly light field pieces, opposed by 5,556 Red Army heavy
tanks and 28,000 artillery.
On the morning of August 9, one-and-a-half-million Russian and
Mongolian troops inundated the Manchurian border. Impossibly outnumbered, both
the Manchukuo Defense Force and Kwantung Army melted away. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, a
revisionist historian at the University of California (Santa Barbara), has
shown that this Red Army offensive, not the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, prompted Japan’s capitulation.’ Japanese leaders knew that the
Red Army juggernaut would not stop with the easy conquest of Manchukuo, but
roll on into Japan itself.
Indeed, Stalin was ready to implement the invasion of
Hokkaido long before U.S. commanders intended to put their forces ashore at
Kyushu. Despite Emperor Hirohito’s broadcast surrender on August 15, the
Soviets refused to halt their offensive, sweeping across northeastern China
into Korea, coming to a halt at the 38th Parallel, where they met their
American allies. It was also the place where the next war would erupt just five
years later, in Korea.
Meanwhile, occupied Manchukuo was handed over to Mao Zedong,
who, after a bloody purge of the country’s intellectual and propertyowning
classes, used Manchuria as a headquarters for his ultimately victorious
Three fighters squadrons were formed in 1942 from flying
school cadets, with the typical strength of a squadron being as follows: 11
officers, 12 to 14 non-commissioned officers, and 90 enlisted men.
The organization of the air force in 1941 was as follows:
Wladyslaw Raginis (1908-1939) – Captain of Polish
Army, military commander during the Polish Defensive War of 1939 of a small
force holding the Polish fortified defense positions against a vastly larger
invasion during the Battle of Wizna.
Between September 7 and September 8 was fought the “Battle
of Wizna. It is often known as “the Polish Thermopylae” – a reference to the
300 Spartans who bravely held off an enormous Persian army in Ancient Greece.
Polish historian Leszek Moczulski claims that between 350
and 720 managed to defend a fortified line from around 40,000 German troops.
For three days they defended the fortified line and they managed to postpone
the encirclement of Independent Operational Group Narew that was fighting
Captain Wladyslaw Raginis was the hero of the battle and the
commanding officer of the Polish troops. He swore that he would hold position
and fight Germans as long as he was alive. Fighting for 3 days without rest or
sleep they started losing the battle. In the end, Captain Raginis told his
troops to surrender and he committed suicide by throwing himself on a grenade.
On September 3, Polish troops were attacked from the air,
but their own aircraft could not fight back. The Podlaska Cavalry Brigade was
operating in the area, but after multiple attacks on its flank on the night of
September 4, it received an order to retreat toward Mały Płock and cross the
On September 7, scouts of General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst’s
10th Panzer Division captured a village near Wizna. Polish scouts from the
mountain rifle division suffered losses and were forced to retreat to the
southern bank of the Narew. Polish engineers managed to blow up the bridge and
because of that, the Germans faced difficulties to cross the river. In the
night patrols of German soldiers managed to cross the river but were repelled
with great casualties.
In Polish culture, the Battle of Wizna is known as the
Polish Thermopylae because of the small number of Polish soldiers who fought
against a great number of German soldiers.
Here are the statistics:
720 men (20 officers)
Six 76 mm guns
42 MGs – machine guns
2 URs – antitank rifles
657 mortars, guns and grenade launchers
The area of the village of Wizna was fortified to shield the
Polish positions in the south and guard the crossing of the Narew and Biebrza
rivers. The 5.5 mile (9 km) line of defenses along the high riverbanks passed
between the villages of Kołodzieje and Grądy-Woniecko, with Wizna in the
center. In addition, the most important road, Łomża–Białystok, passed through
Wizna. However, this defensive line was poorly fortified. If broken, an enemy
would have access northwards to Warsaw. The construction of the main
fortifications began only in April 1939.
By September 1, the Poles had built six heavy bunkers with
reinforced concrete domes weighing 8 tons each, two lightweight concrete
bunkers, and eight machine gun pillboxes protected by sandbags or earthworks.
Four more bunkers were still in the construction stage when the war began.
The average thickness of the bunker walls was nearly 5 feet
(1.5 meters). They were also protected by steel plates nearly 8 inches (20 cm)
thick, which no Wehrmacht cannon could pierce at that time.
In addition to the bunkers, anti-personnel and anti-tank
barriers were erected and many trenches and ditches were dug. To flood this
area in order to create additional difficulties for an adversary, the plan was
to destroy the dams on the Narew and Biebrza rivers. However, a record dry
summer and low water levels prevented that from happening.
Despite their unfinished state, the Polish bunkers were of
excellent quality. The fortifications were located on hills, which gave them a
large radius of sight and many opportunities for shooting.
Raginis was not only outmanned 60:1 but also had to deal
with an extremely formidable foe: General Heinz Guderian. Guderian was one of
Germany’s best commanders, known for his infiltration tactics, where strong
points on a heavily defended front would be bypassed with special combat teams.
Polish engineers destroyed the only bridge over the Narew,
thereby temporarily stopping the Germans. German infantry patrols crossed the
river and attempted to advance to Giełczyn, but suffered heavy losses.
On September 8, German General Heinz Guderian received an
order to advance through Wizna towards Brześć. The next morning, his troops
invaded the Wizna area and were combined with the “Lötzen” Brigade and 10th
The Poles were vastly outnumbered. German planes dropped
leaflets ordering them to surrender, in an attempt to unnerve them and avoid
combat. They stated that most of Poland was already under their control, and
that “further resistance would only prove futile.” Just when all hope was lost,
Raginis found the means to bolster the courage of his men. He swore that he
would never leave his post alive, no matter the consequences. Inspired and
ready to accept their fate, the soldiers were now prepared to leap into the
jaws of death.
The Germans proposed a truce and attempted to force the
Poles to surrender, including through threats to shoot their captured comrades
if they did not end their resistance. Soon after, the Germans conducted an
aerial and artillery bombardment. The Polish artillery was forced to retreat to
Białystok. After the bombing, the Germans attacked the northern flank of the
Two platoons of Polish troops were attacked from three
sides, but the Germans suffered losses. After strong artillery fire, the Polish
commander of the Giełczyn area, First Lieutenant Kiewlicz, received an order to
burn the wooden bridge over the Narew and retreat to Białystok. Some of his
troops managed to escape from the German encirclement, and joined the forces of
General Franciszek Kleeberg in Białystok.
At the same time, the southern Polish fortifications were
surrounded and could not repel a tank attack. They did not have anti-tank
weapons at their disposal but, hiding in the bunkers, the Poles could still
fire at enemy infantry.
Despite this, by 6:00 PM the Polish troops in the trenches
and field fortifications had been forced to retreat to the bunkers. German tanks
managed to cross the line of defense and advance to Tykocin and Zambrów.
However, the German infantry suffered heavy losses and could not follow the
Lt. Col. Tadeusz Tabaczyński was unable to send his troops
to the aid of Raginis, although he was less than 19 miles (30 km) away from him
in the fortified area of Osowiec. On September 8, Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz
ordered the 135th Infantry Regiment, which made up the reserves of Wizna and
Osowiec, to retreat to Warsaw.
By the time this order reached the troops, it was too late.
The troops on the Wizna line were surrounded. Assaults on the fortifications
around Wizna continued. On September 10, German troops using artillery and
tanks destroyed all but two of the Polish bunkers. Regardless of the large
number of dead and wounded troops, those in the remaining bunkers continued to
In order to force the Poles to stop the resistance, Heinz
Guderian demanded that Raginis cease-fire and surrender, threatening to shoot
prisoners of war otherwise.For a while, resistance continued.
Eventually Captain Raginis, badly wounded but still in
command of what was left of his forces, ordered his men to lay down their arms
and surrender. However, true to his oath, he refused to surrender. After his
men left the final bunker he committed suicide by throwing himself onto a
Several dozen Polish soldiers were taken into captivity. The
rest fell in battle. Many civilians were murdered in Wizna, and Poland would
suffer terribly under Nazi occupation. Polish soldiers fulfilled their oath
until the very end. The heroic struggle against overwhelming odds is nowadays
one of the symbols of the Polish Defensive War of 1939 and is a part of Polish
Although the Polish units were almost entirely composed of
conscripts mobilised in August 1939 rather than professional soldiers, their
morale was very high. After the war, Guderian had trouble explaining why his
Corps was stopped by such a small force. In his memoirs, he attributes the
delay to his officers “having trouble building bridges across the rivers”.
During the Nuremberg Trials, he remarked that Wizna was “well-defended by a
local officer school.”
The resistance of Raginis’ soldiers slowed the advance of
the Germans for three days, but could not prevent the occupation of Poland.
Even so, the feat of Raginis’ troops is one of the symbols of Poland’s struggles
in World War II.
Official Polish losses are unknown. According to various
estimates, about 40-70 Polish soldiers survived, some of whom were captured. In
his diaries, Guderian estimated German casualties at 900 people, at least 10
tanks, and a number of armored vehicles.
While even though nearly all the men in this famous last stand were killed in battle, the message it sent was one of great valor and bravery. These brave men kicked off one of the bloodiest segments in human history with an act of selflessness. They showed that there is value in setting an example, in creating a legend: in slowing the advancement of evil, even if it comes at the cost of your own life.
Though the engagements on the Narew were intertwined and all
equally effective, it is often only the defence of Wizna that receives any
popular attention. Perhaps because of the circumstances of Wladyslaw Raginis’
death, it is portrayed as a heroic last stand: Poland’s Thermopylae. Indeed,
the memorial at the bunker site consciously echoes the Greek epitaph with the
words `Go tell the Fatherland, Passer-by, that we fought to the end, obedient
to our duty.’ The heroism of Raginis and his men, their determination and
self-sacrifice, is undoubted, particularly as they were effectively abandoned
to their fate by their superiors. Whether they appreciated it or not, the
crossings on the upper Narew were crucial to the success of Guderian’s plan to
drive further east towards Brest, and the few days’ delay that were inflicted
upon the Germans there were of vital assistance to the wider Polish withdrawal
However, the more breathless claims attached to the Wizna
story are rather harder to justify. Wizna alone did not – as some accounts
suggest – halt the 40,000 men of the German 3rd Army in their tracks; that
accolade must be shared with the men who defended Lomza and Nowogrod further to
the west. Neither did the battle last for three days. Though the Germans first
arrived at the river on the 7th, there was evidently little genuine combat in
the sector until the morning of the 10th, when the assault on the
fortifications began in earnest. It is perhaps telling in this regard that
contemporary German sources give Wizna very little mention, beyond complaining
of the `weak bridgehead’ there and the resulting slow progress. To them, it
seems, it was little more than a skirmish during the frustrating wait to cross
Unknown 17th Century Dutch Artist, Embarkation of William
III, Prince of Orange, at Helvoetsluis, c. 1688-99, oil on canvas, Royal
On 1 November, driven onward at speed by a strong easterly
wind, a vast Dutch fleet left its sheltered harbour at Hellevoetsluis and
sailed out into open waters. At a signal from William of Orange the great
gathering of ships organised itself into a prearranged formation, ‘stretching
the whole fleet in a line, from Dover to Calais, twenty-five deep’. The Dutch
began their mission, ‘colours flying’, the fleet ‘in its greatest splendour’,
‘a vast mass of sail stretching as far as the eye could see, the warships on
either flank simultaneously thundering their guns in salute as they passed in
full view of Dover Castle on one side and the French garrison at Calais on the
other’. As the great flotilla proceeded magnificently on its way, the Dutch
regiments stood in full parade formation on the deck, with ‘trumpets and drums
playing various tunes to rejoice [their] hearts … for above three hours’.
In his diary for the day, Constantijn Huygens junior, William
of Orange’s Dutch secretary, recorded how, the morning after they set sail: ‘We
arrived between Dover and Calais, and at midday, as we passed along the
Channel, we could see distinctly the high white cliffs of England, but the
coast of France could be seen only faintly.’ Constantijn junior, and the other
children of the distinguished statesman, connoisseur, poet and musician Sir
Constantijn Huygens, together with their father, will be important witnesses
and guides as the present book unfolds.
Poised between England and Holland (like other members of
his family he was an outstanding linguist, whose English and French were as
fluent as his native Dutch), Constantijn junior was equally at home in the
élite circles of either country. Like his father and his younger brother, the
scientist Christiaan Huygens, he moved easily between countries, his
international experience proving invaluable to his princely employer.
From the very start, the Dutch fleet achieved its key
strategic aim, creating an unforgettable spectacle, inducing a feeling of shock
and awe in onlookers on either shore. The iconic image of its offensive sortie
into the English Channel was commemorated in countless contemporary paintings
and engravings, still to be found today, on display or in store, in galleries
on both sides of the Narrow Seas. As the seventeenth-century armada made its
way along the Channel, crowds gathered on the clifftops of the south of England
to watch it pass. It was reported that the procession of ships had taken six
hours to clear the ‘straits’.
The departure from Holland and arrival in England of this
great fleet had been contrived with exceptional care, down to the very last
detail. As the foremost historian of this period of Anglo–Dutch relations puts
it, ‘The boldest enterprise ever undertaken by the Republic of the United Netherlands
was stage-managed with exquisite artistry.’ The expedition comprised
fifty-three warships, of which thirty-two were ‘capital ships’ designed for
combat – thirteen with between sixty and sixty-eight guns, seven with between
fifty and fifty-six, and twelve with between forty and forty-eight – the rest
escort ships. There were ten fireships and about four hundred other vessels to
transport troops, supplies and horses. The army was made up of 10,692 regular
infantry and 3,660 regular cavalry, plus gunners of the artillery train and
five thousand gentleman volunteers – expatriate Englishmen, Huguenots and other
sympathisers. On top of this there were 9,142 crew members and a further ten
thousand men on board the transport vessels. William’s plan was that this
spectacular floating combination of forces and resources should avoid naval
engagement at all costs. Like the D-Day landings, this was a huge feat of
transportation, rather than a navy seeking a sea battle.
The munitions, equipment and supplies with which the
expeditionary force was provided were formidable, and state-of-the-art.
According to one eyewitness (who, as usual, may have slightly exaggerated the
numbers), the fleet carried a total of seven thousand horses – mounts for the
3,660 cavalry officers, the Prince, his entourage and the officer and gentleman
volunteers, and draught horses for the carts carrying provisions and
ammunition. Further draught animals were needed to pull the fifty artillery
Every possible eventuality had been anticipated. Special
equipment for the venture had been manufactured covertly in Amsterdam, The
Hague and Utrecht. Intelligencers reported in the months preceding the invasion
that the Dutch government had ordered ‘at Utrecht the making of severall thousand
of pairs of pistols and carabins’, while Amsterdam ‘has undertaken to furnish
3,000 saddles’, and ‘they are also night and day employed at The Hague in
making bombs, cuirasses and stinkpotts’. There were ‘muskets, pikes of all
sorts, bandoliers, swords, pistols, saddles, boots, bridles and other
necessaries to mount horsemen; pickaxes, wheelbarrows and other instruments to
raise ground’, and ‘boats covered with leather to pass over rivers and lakes’.
The fleet carried a mobile smithy for shoeing horses and repairing weapons, ten
thousand pairs of spare boots, a printing press, and a large quantity of
printing paper. Additional vessels were hired at Amsterdam to transport hay,
provisions, etc. The wind, Constantijn Huygens recorded in his diary for the day
after the fleet set sail, was steadily easterly, and the weather good.
The one decision that had not been taken by William and his
advisers in advance was whether the fleet would aim to make landfall in the
north of England, in Yorkshire, or in the south-west (in either case avoiding
the English army, which was massed in the south-east). Pragmatically, and to
perplex English intelligence, it was decided to leave that choice to the
prevailing winds. In the event, the wind, which had blown ferociously from the
west for almost three weeks previously, battering the Dutch coast and thwarting
William’s attempt to launch his attack in mid-October, swung round suddenly
(some said providentially) in the final days of October.
Responding to the favourable wind, the invasion fleet
proceeded in the direction of the English coast, headed towards Harwich, as if
to make landfall in Yorkshire. Having sailed just past Harwich, however,
William of Orange, commander-in-chief in person of this mighty flotilla, gave
new orders for it to proceed instead south-westwards, to take full advantage of
the ever-strengthening easterly wind. The English war fleet, trapped in the
Thames estuary by the same wind, watched William’s armada go by twice, helpless
to follow and engage until it was too late.
Landing of William III at Torbay, 5 November 1688.
The vast Dutch fleet sailed past the Hampshire coast at
speed, barely managing to avoid being swept past Torbay, the last port capable
of receiving it. It arrived there on 3 November, English style. Since the
Northern Provinces, along with the rest of Continental Europe (but not
England), used the ‘new’ Gregorian calendar, this corresponded to 13 November
(new style) – the day before William of Orange’s birthday. Many in his
entourage urged him to take advantage of that propitious day to launch his
invasion of England. To the Dutch the choice of date would have had enormous
‘good luck’ significance.
To the English, whose support had to be won by every
propaganda means possible, the coincidence of dates would have been entirely
lost. For as far as they were concerned, on what the Dutch considered to be
William’s birthday, the anniversary was still ten days away. Prince William and
his fleet lay to off the English coast for two more days, and then landed. On 5
November 1688 (according to the English calendar) William began disembarking
his troops on the coast of Devon.
Thus it was (once again, ‘providentially’) that the landing
took place on the anniversary of another great triumph of English Protestantism
over the hostile forces of Catholicism – the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The
convenient match with the familiar date meant that Catholic threats were
opportunely on people’s minds. Those who had witnessed the Spanish Armada
approaching a hundred years earlier, in 1588, had continued to talk about its
fearful appearance for the rest of their lives. Now, a century after that
failed attempt at conquering Britain from the sea, a Dutch fleet somewhere
around four times the size of the Armada successfully made landfall on English
soil, bent on conquest. The frigate Den Briel, carrying William, flew the
colours of the Prince and Princess of Orange. Its banner was emblazoned with
the motto – announcing the Prince’s justification for his offensive action –
‘For Liberty and the Protestant Religion’. Beneath these words was the motto of
the house of Orange, ‘Je maintiendrai’ – ‘I will persevere’.
Constantijn Huygens described their arrival in his diary:
The village where we landed is called Braxton. It is very
rundown, with few and poorly constructed houses, built of that inferior stone
which this entire coast and the land adjacent to it are made of, and covered in
slate. Nearby is a high mountain, and the houses huddle beneath it in short
rows, as if stuck to it.
At Braxton he had his first experience of roughing it
I ran into Willem Meester in front of an inn which was
named the Crowned Rose Tavern. He wanted me to join him for a glass of cider,
we entered and discovered the entrance hall crowded with a rabble of soldiers,
drinking and raging. Coincidentally, I saw My lord Coote in this place, who had
been given a room upstairs, and I entreated him to give me a place to put a
mattress on the ground, which he gladly did, and we agreed to have dinner
together in the evening. We had an exceptionally leathery fricassée of mutton
Prince William confided to Huygens that he preferred any
kind of lodging, however humble, to spending another night at sea.
Unloading troops and supplies began on the evening of 5
November. Local fishermen proposed a suitable landing point for the horses,
where the beach fell away steeply so that they would not have too far to swim
ashore, and they were unloaded without incident the following day. The landing
was completed late on the seventh. Prince William, his Scottish-born chaplain
Gilbert Burnet, his private secretary Constantijn Huygens junior, and his most
intimate and influential favourite, Hans Willem Bentinck, ‘sitting on very bad
horses’ (provided by the locals) watched the swift and efficient disembarkation
with satisfaction from a high cliff at nearby Brixham.
Burnet and the Prince agreed (though not entirely seriously)
that the easy arrival was probably proof of predestination, and certainly the
work of Providence.
Huygens’s first impression of the reception the Dutch were
to receive was favourable, in spite of the obvious local poverty (he was
Wednesday 17 December: The land between consisted of
grand and high mountains and deep valleys, everything separated by many hedges
and walls, the roads curiously poor, all of stone and strewed with loose
bricks, on top of which layers of sludgy filth.
Alongside the roads the people had gathered, as on the
previous day, women, men, and children alike, all shouting: ‘God bless you’ and
waving to us a hundred good wishes. They gave the Prince and his entourage
apples, and an old lady was waiting with a bottle of mead and wanted to pour
his Highness a glass. In a little square, five women were standing, greeting
him, each of whom had a pipe of tobacco in her mouth, like the large crowds we
have seen, all smoking without any shame, even the very young, thirteen and
fourteen year olds.
This promising start was, however, not to be sustained.
Torrential rain hampered the subsequent march to nearby Paignton, and it was
freezing cold. En route from Paignton to Exeter, carts and cannon frequently
stuck in the mud. William waited for twelve days at Exeter for the weather to
improve, and in the hope that the English gentry would begin to flock to
Meanwhile, some two hundred miles away in the capital, news
and rumours of the landing were trickling through in dribs and drabs to anxious
Londoners: ‘confusd news of Dutch Landing near Portsmouth: Forces marchd that
way early this morning … Dutch seen off the Isle of Wight … Dutch sayd to be
landed at Poole … news of yesterdays and this days riots of Rabble’. Unconfirmed
stories of military engagements, casualties, naval assaults and civil
The diarist John Evelyn and the wealthy financier Sir
Stephen Fox were somewhat better informed about William of Orange’s movements.
Evelyn wrote in his diary on 1 November:
Dined with Lord Preston, with other company, at Sir
Stephen Fox’s. Continual alarms of the Prince of Orange, but no certainty.
Reports of his great losses of horse in the storm, but without any assurance.
On 2 November (old style) these ‘alarms’ were made concrete.
Some of William’s horses had indeed been lost in a first, abortive attempt to
launch the fleet in late October, but now the armada was well under way.
Eyewitnesses had watched it leave Brill on its way to Hellevoetsluis, seen off
publicly by William’s wife, James II’s eldest daughter, the Princess of Orange.
News of the landing at Torbay reached London three days later, and immediately
provoked fears of a breakdown in civil order:
5th [November]. I went to London; heard the news of the
Prince having landed at Torbay, coming with a fleet of near 700 sail, passing
through the Channel with so favourable a wind, that our navy could not
intercept, or molest them. This put the King and Court into great consternation
… These are the beginnings of sorrow, unless God in His mercy prevent it by
some happy reconciliation of all dissensions among us.
By the beginning of December the Prince of Orange was
believed to have reached Oxford and to be on his way to London against little
opposition, but there were contrary rumours of a French force coming to James’s
assistance from Dunkirk (this news was contradicted later that day), and of
Scottish troops marching south: ‘Great confusion of reports, noe certainty.
Disturbance at Cambridge, St Edmondsbury and other places.’ On 15 December, the
Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society in London, Robert Hooke (one of
those chronicling events as they unfolded in his private diary), reported
‘confusion all’ and succumbed to a depression.
Lingering, in Devon, Prince William and his right-hand man
Hans Willem Bentinck were privately disappointed at the absence of support from
the English gentry and nobility at disembarkation. The Prince’s English
advisers were quick to reassure him that this was simply a matter of everyone
hanging back, in order not to be seen to be the first to abandon James II. In
the absence of troops gathering to William’s side, and cheering hordes of
English men and women welcoming the Prince who would deliver them from servitude
and tyranny, it was decided to choreograph William’s arrival with heavy
symbolic components, in a bid to proclaim the impeccable moral foundation for
the invasion and his good intentions, to be broadcast as widely and as quickly
as possible. A hastily written eyewitness account was rushed into print and
distributed throughout the area.
The customarily sober and understated William entered Exeter
in triumphal procession: ‘Armed cap a pee. A plume of white feathers on his
head. All in bright armour, and forty two footmen running by him.’ Fifty
gentlemen and as many pages attended him and supported his banner, which bore
the inscription ‘God and the Protestant religion’. William rode on a ‘milk
white palfrey’ and was preceded by two hundred gentlemen in armour, English and
Scottish for the most part, mounted on heavy Flemish horses. For further
dramatic effect, these knights were accompanied by ‘two hundred blacks brought
from the [sugar] plantations of the Netherlands in America [Surinam]’, all dressed
in white, turbaned and befeathered. No clearer symbolism could have been used
to represent William as God’s appointed champion, as described in the Book of
Revelation: ‘I saw and behold, a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow,
and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer.’
The white-clad ‘blacks’ reinforced the millennial theme – William was a global
ruler, whose dominion extended to the limits of the known world.
From Exeter, Bentinck wrote to the commander of the Prince’s
fleet, Admiral Herbert, still expressing concern at their lukewarm reception by
the local gentry. The arrival of the Prince’s army would, he said, have looked
less like an act of military aggression – less like an invasion, indeed – if
the local landowners had only ridden out to welcome them:
I doubt not that the Good God will bless the cause, the
people appear everywhere here extremely well disposed, it is only the gentlemen
and the clergy who are somewhat more cautious, and do not espouse our cause. I
am surprised at the latter, it seems to me that fear of the gibbet has more
effect on their minds than zeal for religion.
In fact, the gentry were busy hedging their bets, trying to
ascertain whether William’s bold adventure would succeed. They were
preoccupied, too, with covering their backs – politically and financially. As
early as 11 November, Sir Stephen Fox, anticipating his imminent dismissal from
his office at the Exchequer, hastily approached the Royal Surveyor, Sir
Christopher Wren, for written confirmation that building works he had carried
out on his Whitehall lodgings (which belonged to the Crown) ten years earlier
had cost him £1,000. Wren obliged with the certification of expenditure, and on
17 November issued a royal warrant guaranteeing Fox the right to remain in his
Whitehall property until the money had been refunded to him.
Fox’s attempts to put his finances in order were part of a
growing recognition at Whitehall Palace that the royal administration there was
in the process of collapse. Support began to ebb away from the King’s party,
and officials started discreetly to leave their posts. King James’s own first
attempt at flight on 11 December contributed strongly to the confusion, since
while attempting to remove himself and his family to safety abroad, he took
steps to disrupt affairs of state, allowing him time (he hoped) to get French
backing and to return. Before he left, he called for the most recent batch of
Parliamentary writs and burned them. As he was being rowed across the Thames
from Whitehall Palace to Vauxhall en route for the Kentish coast, he dropped
the Great Seal, which he had retrieved from Lord Chancellor Jeffreys two days
earlier, into the river. ‘He believed – correctly as it turned out – that there
could be no lawful parliament held without his writs of summons under the Great
Seal. His going thus created a hiatus in government, or interregnum, which was
to be exploited by his enemies.’
James was right in thinking that his decision to flee would
cause a constitutional crisis. Until he did so, William’s mission appeared to
be one of ‘restauration’ – to restore English government to stability by any
means necessary. With the throne apparently vacant, and government suspended,
the Prince of Orange could for the first time openly express a willingness to
fill the political vacuum by taking political control for himself and his wife,
‘to prevent the effusion of blood’. ‘Affaires being now altered by the King’s
retirement’, William wrote to the Earl of Danby, James’s supporters like the
Earl should disband their forces, return to their homes and ‘stand for to be
chosen parliament men in their counties.’ His satisfaction turned out to be
premature, however. In London, peers largely loyal to James had already set up
a provisional government or Convention, which sat for the first time on 12
December, and continued to govern the country uninterruptedly, and without
William’s interference, until James II fled for good just before Christmas.
On 12 December, as the Dutch army made its way towards
London, reports began to reach them that James II had fled to France. Gilbert
Burnet, Prince William’s Scottish chaplain, told Huygens ‘at table’, that a
‘Convocation’ or ‘free Parliament’ had been set up at Westminster to govern the
country. On 14 December they reached Henley. As they marched from Henley
towards Windsor, the weather was fine, and Huygens – an accomplished amateur
artist, some of whose exquisite watercolour landscapes survive – marvelled at
the beauty of the countryside:
Because the weather was so beautiful, we marched from
Henley to Windsor. My Master was riding along with me, and we went off course,
too much to the left, and headed toward the river, to the extent that we made a
detour of an entire mile, yet alongside that same river we saw the world’s most
beautiful views. That of Henley, when one reaches a certain height, is
We rode through a large hamlet, named Maidenhead, where my
Master stayed behind because his horse had some pebbles in his horse shoes and
consequently had gone lame. I continued on my own, and closer to Windsor came
on an empty road. For a long stretch, I had to wade through water, which came
up to the horse’s belly. I could find no one to ask directions because all the
people had gone to the street where his Highness was scheduled to make his
Windsor Castle, when they arrived, provided Huygens with an
opportunity to indulge one of his favourite pastimes – appraising the fine art
in princely collections:
At Windsor I saw once in haste the King’s apartment,
which had many good Italian paintings in it, among them those by Titian of the
Marquis del Guasto and his wife, one of a woman leaning on her elbow, lying and
reading, a naked youth of the manner of Michel Angelo da Caravaggio, and many
others. There were also some very beautiful tapestries.
On 18 December the Prince of Orange and his army entered
London in another carefully organised ‘triumph’, to be welcomed, this time, by
cheering crowds of Londoners. In spite of miserable weather, people in coaches
and on horseback, as well as on foot, lined the streets. Huygens reports with
evident relief that many of them wore orange ribbons, while others had stuck
oranges on sticks and waved them in the air. One of those who has left us his
own on-the-spot account of these events records:
The universall joy and acclamation at his entrance was
like that at the Restauration [of 1660] in all things, except in debaucheries,
of which there was as little appearance as has been known upon such occasion
and such a publick concourse. An orange woman without Ludgate gave diverse
baskets full of oranges to the Prince’s officers and soldiers as they marched
by, to testifie her affection towards them. Divers ordinary women in Fleet
Street shooke his soldiers by the hand, as they came by, and cryed, welcome,
welcome. God blesse you, you come to redeeme our religion, lawes, liberties,
and lives. God reward you. etc.
William’s London entrance was designed to ensure that his arrival
would be remembered as a liberation rather than a conquest. Crowds could be
fickle – the same people had also lined the streets for King James, who had
returned to the capital, after a first attempt at joining his wife and baby son
in France had been thwarted, two days earlier. The Prince had therefore taken
precautions to ensure that there was no unseemly opposition to his arrival. He
had sent a senior troop commander on ahead of the main army, with units of the
trusted Dutch Blue Guards, to take up positions protecting Whitehall, St
James’s Park and St James’s Palace, in advance of his coming into residence.
One of his key instructions was to replace the guard protecting James II with a
contingent of élite Dutch troops, and to move him out of London, ostensibly for
his own safety.
Three battalions of Dutch infantry and supporting cavalry
entered London at about ten o’clock on the night on 17 December. ‘Having
secured the posts at St James Palace, they marched on Whitehall in battle
formation, their matches lit for action.’ As King James was going to bed around
eleven o’clock, he was informed of their presence in St James’s Park. Thinking
there was some mistake (’he could not believe it, because he had heard nothing
of it from the Prince’), he sent for the Dutch commander, Lord Solms.
Then Count Solmes pressed the adding of some new [Dutch]
Troopes of the Prince’s, just then come to town, to the Guards at Whitehall.
The King was unwilling of that. But Count Solmes said it was very necessary.
Having vainly ‘argued the matter with him for some time’,
James ordered Lord Craven (long-time devoted servant of James’s aunt, Elizabeth
of Bohemia, and now in his eighties), commander of the Coldstream Guards
protecting the King at Whitehall, to withdraw his men. Craven protested that he
would ‘be rather cut in pieces, than resign his post to the Prince’s [Dutch]
guards’. James, however, insisted, ‘to prevent the possibility of a disturbance
from guards belonging to several masters’. The King retired to bed, a prisoner
in his own palace, only to be woken during the night and escorted out of London
The Coldstream Guards marched reluctantly out of London to
St Albans. Solms ordered all English army regiments in and around London to
move out to towns and billets scattered throughout Sussex and the home
counties, thereby ensuring that the troops were thoroughly dispersed. The Life
Guards were packed off to St Albans and Chelmsford. ‘The English souldiers sent
out of towne to distant quarters,’ John Evelyn recorded – they were ‘not well
So the Prince and his highly disciplined Dutch army marched
into London down Knightsbridge, confident that they would meet no resistance,
along a two-mile route lined with Dutch Blue Guards. In the absence of any
actual military drama to mark this final act in the well-orchestrated invasion,
it was an entrance as carefully staged, in a long military tradition of
‘glorious entries’ into conquered cities, as that first entry into Exeter a few
weeks earlier. William again wore white, with a white cloak thrown over his
shoulder to protect him from the heavy rain. There was some consternation when
the Prince, who disliked crowds, did not actually remain at the head of the
cavalcade the full length of the official route to Whitehall, but instead cut
across St James’s Park and gained access to his new residence at St James’s
Palace from its ornamental garden.
Some historians have argued that William’s route across the
park and through the palace gardens was a genuine mistake on his part (leaving
his future subjects, thronged several deep along Whitehall to welcome him,
disappointed). There is, however, a more plausible explanation. William, in a
tradition of Dutch Stadholders going back several generations, was an enthusiastic
amateur gardener, taking a keen interest in the latest garden designs and their
execution at all of his numerous Dutch royal palaces.
Almost twenty years before the invasion, at the time when
William was engaged in consolidating power in the United Provinces for the
house of Orange, a former royal gardener to Charles II, André Mollet, had
published a book on the design and execution of ambitious formal gardens, The
Garden of Pleasure. Lavishly illustrated, with plates depicting the formal layout
of shrubberies, kitchen gardens, flowerbeds and parterres, the book was a
celebration of the garden designs of various European royal estates for which
Mollet had been responsible, including Charles II’s London gardens at St
James’s Palace. Since William of Orange’s own ambitious garden for his palace
at Honselaarsdijk, outside The Hague, was included, we may be sure it was a
‘coffee-table’ book with which the Dutch Prince was familiar.
Mollet’s description of the garden he had created for the
Stuart royal family at St James’s particularly emphasised the originality and
ambition of its design. Because the site was low-lying, with no elevated
viewing point from which ‘Embroidered groundworks and Knots of grass’ could be
admired, the garden designer had instead ‘contrived it into several
Parallelograms, according to its length’. These lozenges were ‘planted with
dwarf-fruit-Trees, Rose-trees, and several sorts of Flowers’. The outer
perimeter of the garden Mollet had marked ‘with Cyprus-Trees and other green
Plants, to make Pallissade’s of about five foot high, with two perforated Gates
to every Square’. The formal avenues were planted with ‘dwarf-fruit-Trees and
Vines; the great Walk on the Right-hand is raised Terras-like, and Turff’t’,
and at their intersections Mollet had designed an imposing fountain, and a
‘Round of grass whereon to set up a Dial or Statue, as also in several places
Cut-Angles, as may be seen upon the Design’. To offset all this formality,
there was also a carefully designed wilderness:
And in regard it falls out, that at one end there happens
to be wild Wood, we have contrived another of green trees over against it, of
which the great Tree which was found standing there in the middle makes the
Head, both of the green Wood and the rest of the Garden; which tree we thought
to leave as a remembrance of the Royal Oak [within whose branches Charles II
reputedly took refuge from Cromwell’s soldiers during the Civil War].
The elegant complexity of the St James’s Palace gardens is
still to be seen in engravings of the period, and on the many surviving London
When, on his triumphal progress into London, Prince William
came to the edge of St James’s Park, the sight of a garden project about which
he had read, and which was closely related in plan and execution to his own
much-loved pleasure gardens in the Northern Provinces, surely proved
irresistible to him. He had already made more than one detour in the course of
his military advance on London from Exeter, to indulge in a bit of tourism in
the form of excursions to celebrated English stately homes and their formal
gardens.36 Now he simply detached himself from the splendid cavalcade, and
commenced his experience as King-to-be and owner of a string of magnificent
royal palaces and grounds (including St James’s), with a short tour to admire
the park, shrubbery and elegant gardens.
Strategically the advance deployment of Dutch troops, and
the withdrawal of their English counterparts, ensured that London was secured
for William before his arrival, and that King James was at his mercy even
before the Prince himself reached London. The King had indeed been ‘escorted’
out of St James’s by Dutch guards on 18 December, ‘under pretence of keeping
off the rabble’, and taken to Rochester, only hours before William took up
occupancy. Just over a month had elapsed since the invading forces had landed
on English soil. Less than a week later, King James absconded from his
Rochester house-arrest, and left England for France. The Dutch Blue Coats
guarding him had been carefully instructed to let him get away.
The Blue Coats continued to guard Whitehall, St James’s
Palace and Somerset House for many months, ‘to the general disgust of the whole
English army’. The entire London area remained under Dutch military occupation
until the spring of 1690. No English regiments were allowed within twenty miles
of the city. The English and Scots regiments of the States General’s forces,
which had led the triumphal entry (in order not to alarm the citizens of London
too much) were stationed at the Tower and Lambeth. Dutch and German regiments
encamped at Woolwich, Kensington, Chelsea and Paddington, while another crack
regiment was positioned at Richmond, and the Huguenots put up in various parts
of London. As far as possible, the Prince avoided billeting his troops on
private households, and insisted that they behave courteously, and pay for any
goods acquired. Nevertheless, in spite of his efforts to avoid the appearance
of foreign occupation, the continuing presence of large numbers of heavily
armed troops in the city caused growing consternation and unrest.
The Dutch invasion of 1688 was a brilliantly stage-managed
sequence of events, forever vivid in the memory of those who witnessed them. A
number of contemporary diarists record the intensity of their feelings as
events unfolded – whether they were for the overthrow of the Catholic James or
against. John Evelyn (one of those apparently unsure of his own response to the
imminent regime change) had recorded in his diary the sense of dread with which
the news was received in late October that William’s immense fleet was poised
ready to sail. There were ‘tumults’ in London as ‘the rabble’ attacked and demolished
Catholic places of worship. Evelyn reported a ‘universal discontent’, which had
‘brought people to so desperate a passe as with uttmost expressions even
passionately seeme to long for & desire the landing of that Prince, whom
they looked on as their deliverer from popish Tyrannie’. For those like Evelyn
who had lived through the turmoil of the Civil War years, the upheaval caused
by William’s intervention in England’s national affairs seemed all too likely
to herald another period of instability. Figuratively wringing his hands, he
recalled in his diary his fearful state of mind as he witnessed the arrival of
William’s invading army, when ‘To such a strange temper & unheard of in any
former age, was this poore nation reduc’d, & of which I was an Eye witnesse.’
The complexity of the political response to James’s
‘abdication’ and William’s ‘peaceful’ arrival has been much discussed by
historians, particularly since the three hundredth anniversary of the ‘Glorious
Revolution’ was celebrated in 1988. In the end, the decision of the English
people to accept William and Mary as joint monarchs had a good deal to do with
a general reluctance to return to the bad old days of public disorder and civil
unrest. Regime change was preferable to another civil war.
U-boat Type XXVII B/5 or Seehund (seal) was the most
successful small-scale submarine designed and operated by the Kriegsmarine. In
contrast to all its forerunners which, with the exception of Hecht, were mere submersibles,
Seehund was a straightforward U-boat. Made operational in numbers earlier in
the war it would have represented a dangerous threat to Allied shipping.
It was the design of naval architiects Fischer and Grim. The
latter was a young engineer who had been actively employed for several years at
the Kriegsmarine naval shipyard at Wilhelmshaven, and had taken the post of
consultant for small-scale submarines with K-Amt Berlin (located in Schell Haus
on the Tirpitzufer). This office, headed by Otto Grim and designated ‘k1Ue’ had
been created in 1942 shortly after a proposal was put forward to build a
100-tonne ‘pocket U-boat’. It would be 25.33 metres long, 2.7 metres in the
beam, have a draught of 2.34 metres and a surface speed of 9 knots. An armament
of three torpedoes was envisaged. This project was not pursued but in 1943,
after the attacks on Tirpitz by British midget submarines, consultancy office
k1Ue was reactivated. Under great pressure the design for the two-man submarine
Hecht was turned out while in parallel K-Amt worked on a series of ideas
designated Type XXVIIB. These would have a long range, carry several torpedoes
and have diesel-electric drive. The first blueprints, completed in June 1944,
bore a strong resemblance to Hecht.
The torpedo-like hull had a bow section for better
sea-keeping when surfaced, and saddle tanks. Enlarging the keel to accommodate
the batteries made more space available in the boat’s interior. The two
torpedoes were suspended from two grabs alongside the hull. A 22 hp diesel
engine provided surface drive. Speed was designed to be 5.5 knots surfaced and
6.9 knots submerged.
The building contract for the three Seehund experimental
boats U5001-U5003 was awarded to Howaldtswerke Kiel on 30 June 1944. Enthusiasm
for the pocket U-boat was so great that orders and boat numbers for series
production (U5001 to U6531) were allotted even before the designs had been
submitted. The ministerial programme of June 1944 wanted a thousand. Schichau
Werft at Elbing in East Prussia and Germania Werft Kiel would produce 45 and 25
boats respectively each month. Other centres for mass production were Simmering
(Graz), Panker (Vienna), W. Schenk (Hall, Austria), CRDA Monfalcone (Trieste)
and Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz (Ulm).
The reality was different. Dönitz was not prepared to give
Seehund priority over the large Type XXIII Elektro-Uboote. There were shortages
of raw materials, skilled yard workers and transport bottlenecks. In the end,
series production was concentrated mainly at Germania Werft and the Konrad
bunker at Kiel no longer required for Type XXI and XXIII assembly. The three
experimental boats were completed in September 1944 by Howaldt Werke. In the
series production, Germania delivered 152 and Schichau 130 boats, the monthly
October 1944 35
January 1945 35
A total of 285 Seehund were supplied to the K-Verband.
The Seehund displaced 14.9 tonnes. It was 11.9 metres in
length and 1.7 metres in the beam. Fitted amidships was a small raised platform
with ventilation mast, light-image reflective magnetic compass, periscope,
hatch for crew access and side viewing ports. Later boats had a plexiglass
cupola for navigation purposes pressure-resistant to 45 metres. Propulsion came
from a Büssing 60 hp 6-cylinder heavy lorry diesel motor for surface drive and
an AEG 25 hp electric motor for submerged travel. The diesel continued running
submerged following a full speed alarm dive to 10 metres, in emergencies to 15
or 17 metres. This was possible because the diesel exhaust gases were expelled
outboard through a vent at up to 2 atmospheres pressure. The critical depth was
20 metres, before which the engineer had to close the vent as rapidly as
possible to prevent the external water pressure overcoming the exhaust
pressure, entering the diesel and flooding it. The diesel fed on air in the
boat. The crew would be deprived of breathable air if the diesel was kept
running too long at depth. They could survive in air pressure of 550 millibars.
The Seehund had a range of 270 sea miles at 7 knots, if
fitted with additional fuel tanks outside the hull up to 500 sea miles.
Submerged, 63 sea miles was possible at 3 knots. Surfaced maximum speed was 7.7
knots, submerged 6 knots.
Seehund was the absolute zenith of contemporary
pocket-submarine design worldwide. It could dive rapidly and be fully surfaced
within four seconds. By six or seven seconds it could reach five metres. Great
things were anticipated of it. The small hull would generally escape detection
by radar, and not return an Asdic echo. When submerged at slow revolutions the
electric motor would be barely audible to hydrophone gear. Even depth charges
with the most violent shock waves would probably pass it by. At least, that was
what the designers hoped for, but in practice the assumption varied from the
The free-flooding forward compartment of Seehund contained
the dive tanks. A tunnel below the pressure hull between the stern-most dive
tank and forward of the diesel bunker held two 8 MAL 210 battery sets. Within
the pressure hull the arrangement was very similar to Hecht. Forward of the
control room bulkhead was the battery room with six racks (six 8 MAL 210
batteries each of 32 cells). The control room contained the driving position
and two seats, one behind the other, for commander and engineer. The latter had
the control panel in front of him and on the order of the commander fired the
torpedo. When attacking the boat ran at periscope depth. The two (later three) metre
long revolvable periscope of first class construction was inbuilt. Its optical
spectrum allowed the commander to search the skies before surfacing.
Armament consisted of two standard G 7e torpedoes hung from
a retaining rail secured by two protective arms either side of the keel. This
arrangement required the boat to be lifted from the water and landed for
reloads. Before the war’s end a Seehund-flotilla reportedly received the
Walter-torpedo or K-Butt. On 28 November 1944 SKL reported that a Seehund travelled
more than 300 sea miles during a four and a half day endurance voyage.
A further Type XXVIIB variant was the ‘small U-boat K’
designed for closed circuit circulating propulsion by naval architect Kurzak
who had been appointed by OKM to investigate the possibilities at Germania
Werft Kiel. A 15 hp diesel motor available in large numbers was adjudged
suitable. A large 1,250-litre pressure flask in the keel supplied oxygen for
the system. Seventy sea miles at 11–12 knots submerged was possible, 150 sea
miles at an underwater cruising speed of 7.5 knots. After a discussion at OKM
on 25 May 1944, Kurzak received a contract to develop the idea for a pocket
U-boat. He chose the Daimler-Benz OM 67/4 100 hp motor. The engine (with an
electric motor for slow running) would be ready-mounted on a common frame and
slid into a stern box, secured with a few relatively accessible screws. Kurzak
paid special attention to suppressing the resonance but found that four rubber
shock absorbers in the corners of the frame sufficed. The designers hoped that
this measure would be enough to eliminate the need for the slow-speed electric
drive unit. The final result was a very light, simple engine.
Work on the Seehund closed circuit system was continued by
naval architect Dr Fischer, head of the engineering bureau ‘Glückauf’ set up in
the buildings of a girls’ school at Blankenburg in the Harz. An important
colleague in this Type 127 design was engineer Kurt Arendt.
Contracts for the prototype Type 127 were awarded to
Germania Werft Kiel and Schichau Elbing. By the war’s end Germania had three
boats under contruction. These were to have received the Seehund conversion
Büssing NAG-L06 diesel because so few Daimler-Benz motors were available. Bench
tests confirmed that the Büssing diesel could be successfully substituted for
circulatory drive purposes, but the war ended before the first prototype was
Training of Seehund Crews
The Seehund crews trained at Lehrkommando 300,
Neustadt/Holstein (Neukoppel) in a camp on the edge of the Wiksberg barracks,
the home of 3 U-boat Lehrdivision. The exact date when this Lehrkommando was
established is not certain but was probably at the end of June 1944. Presumably
there was a forerunner, a small unit known as Versuchskommando 306 which had
the job of preparing the training of Lehrkommando 300.
First chief of Lehrkommando 300 was LtzS Kiep, who had just
completed training as a U-boat watchkeeping officer. His successor was Knight’s
Cross holder Kptlt Hermann Rasch (13 ships of 81,679 tons sunk as commander of
U-106). His last boat had been the trainer U-393. Rasch was temporary
operations leader of the Seehund base at Ijmuiden until relieved by FKpt
The technical shore staff head, Hecht and later Seehund
instructor was initially a midshipman, Oberfähnrich (Ing) Hinrichsen. Once the
Seehund boats arrived he yielded the post to Flotilla Engineer KKpt Ehrhardt.
On 4 October 1944 Oblt (Ing) Palaschewski took over from Ehrhardt.
From July 1944 the volunteers, and a sprinkling of pressed
men, arrived at Neustadt. As was usual with K-Verband Command all wore
field-grey for camouflage purposes. Tactical training began with the delivery
of the first Hecht on 26 July. It was evident almost from the outset that
trained U-boat men were needed to handle the boats. It was through human error
and inadequate mastery of the techniques that the fatal accidents referred to
in Chapter Four occurred. Therefore only U-boat watchkeeping and engineer
officers, midshipmen, cox-swains and senior engine room ratings who had
undergone U-boat training qualified for Seehund training.
In September or October 1944 the first Seehund was brought
to Neustadt. The training was typically hard and lasted eight weeks. It
concluded with a Baltic navigation voyage over three days and torpedo-firing
practice. For training purposes Lehrkommando 300 had available the survey ship
Meteor, used as a target, and the torpedo preparation ship Frida Horn, a former
Horn-Line steamer. The leader of torpedo practice was Kptlt Hagemann assisted
by Oblt Stepputat shipped aboard Frida Horn. Probably the air-sea rescue ship
Greif was attached temporarily as an escort to this command before being used
to evacuate refugees from the East in the last month of hostilities. Six other
air-sea rescue boats from Köslin, KFKs and communications vessels worked the
torpedo retrieval routine and as escorts on training and practice sessions. The
exercises took place in Neustadt Bay and between Pelzerhaken and
Timmendorferstrand. Later, in April 1945, training was transferred to
Wilhelmshaven (Graukoppel) and directed there by KKpt Ehrhardt. A Seehund
flotilla was transported by train to Aalborg in Denmark on 23 September 1944
and at the end of the year moved from Neustadt to Holland.
The Seehund Flotilla and Its Men
Lehrkommando 300 at Neustadt had the following officer
Chief: Kptlt Hermann Rasch
Adjutant: Oblt Gerhard Hermeking
Camp Commandant: Oblt Willi Demmler
Training Officers: Kptlt Klaus Ohling, Oblt Helmut Wieduwilt
Torpedo Officers: Oblt Willi Sebald, Lt Friedrich Weinbrecht
Torpedo Officers: Oblt Willi Sebald, Lt Friedrich Weinbrecht
Acceptance Officer: Oberfähnrich Werner Hertlein
Medical Officer: Lt Dr Adolf Hollunder
The officers of Übungsflotille 311 were listed in Chapter
The officers of K-Flotilla 312 included:
Flotilla Chief: Oblt Jürgen Kiep
Torpedo Officer: Lt Paul Reinhold
Pilots/Engineers: Oblts Rudolf Drescher, Klaus-Gert Krüger,
Karl Wagener, Hans-Hellmuth Seiffert, Wolfgang Bischoff; Lts Dietrich Meyer,
Benedict von Pander, Winfried Scharge, Paul Reinhold, Harro Buttmann, Alwin
Hullmann, Günther Markworth, Oberfähnrich Korbinian Penzhofer Which pilots and
engineers were attached to K-Flotillas 313 and 314 can no longer be
ascertained. From about February 1945 the Seehund crews were led as 5
K-Division. The following men were known to have been involved in sea-going
Oblts: Alfred Dierks (Flotilla Engineer), Horst Kuppler,
Palaschewski, Heinz Paulsen, Wolfgang Ross, Karl-Heinz Vennemann, Wolfgang
Lts: Hans Werner Andersen, Wolfgang Bischoff, Wolfgang
Böhme, Harro Buttmann, Wolfgang Demme, Karl von Dettmer, Rudolf Drescher,
Claus-Dieter Drexel, Siegfried Eckloff, Horst Gaffron, Gernot Gühler, Walter
Habel, Martin Hauschel, Klaus-Joachim Hellwig, Helmut Herrmann, Willi Hesel,
Hinrichsen, Horstmann, Max Huber, Alwin Hullmann, Wolfgang Jäger, Ludwig Jahn,
Friedrich-Wilhelm John, Wolfgang Kähler, Kallmorgen, Herbert Kempf, Jürgen
Kiep, Harald Knobloch, Konrad, Henry Kretschmer, Alfred Küllmeyer, Karl-heinz
Kunau, Giselher Lanz, Rolf Löbbermann, Günther Markworth, Dietrich Meyer,
Friedrich Minetzke, Gerhard Müller, Ulrich Müller, Johann von Nefe und
Obischau, Otmar Neubauer, Jürgen Niemann, Benedict von Pander, Werner Plappert,
Heini Plottnick, Reinhold Polakowski, Werner Preusker, Winfried Ragnow,
Gotthard Rosenlöcher, Felix Schäfer, Gerhard Schöne, Karl-Heinz Siegert,
Wolfgang Spallek, Klaus Sparbrodt, Otto Stürzenberger, Hans Wachsmuth, Wagner,
Hans Weber, Hans-Günther Wegner, Reimer Wilken, Willi Wolter, Götz-Godwin
Oberfähnriche: Friedrich Livonius, Korbinian Penzhofer,
(Where known, the boat number and crew names are supplied,
commander first, engineer second. The appropriate rank of each where known will
be found in the preceding alphabetical listings.)
The Seehund base in Holland was at Ijmuiden, a district
located at the entrance to the Noord Zee Kanal near the town of Velsen in the
province of Noord-Holland. Velsen (population then 30,000) was an outlying
suburb of Amsterdam. Besides being a large fishing port, it had jam factories,
furnaces, steel and iron works, also cement, paper and chemical industries.
From 1940 Ijmuiden had been an S-boat base. The area seemed
very promising for Seehund operations with its numerous tributaries and islands
where the boats could be hidden from enemy air reconnaissance. The steadily
growing importance of the port of Antwerp for the Allies meant that a huge
number of shipping targets was available. The Noord Zee Kanal connected
Amsterdam to the sea. It was constructed with a lock system designed to keep
Amsterdam independent of the tides. Ijmuiden was at the seaward end of the
system and had three locks of different sizes to accommodate all sizes of
The HQ of K-Flotilla 312, the first Seehund flotilla, was
located in an unheated two-storey building in the Rijkswaterstraat industrial
area. An old mission house and the Velsen cemetery chapel served as the
Operational Staff (later 5 K-Division) facility. The shore staff workshop was
set up on the Hoogoven Pier, the crematorium and chapel made for a suitable
Aboard the boats neither roll-neck sweaters nor fur and
leather jackets were effective against the Dutch winter. Since thick clothing
hindered movement, the cold damp which filtered through the hatch and diesel
air shaft made life miserable for the crews. Crew shipboard rations was
concentrated fare poor in roughage and based on egg-white: pea-, lentil-and
millet-soup cubes, rice with meat, dried vegetables, potato puree, dried egg
powder, for sweet buns baked with cocoa, chocolate and almond nougat. Beverages
were made from compressed bean coffee, Nescafé, compressed tea, some alcohol,
also vitamin-C products, and naturally caffeine and cola nut extracts to aid
alertness. Routine patrols could last up to four days and so a hotplate was
installed for heating up rations as required.
Ashore the officers shared a house on the Kerkenweg in
Driehus, the crews were later given a villa on the eatern side of the railway
line to The Hague. The shore staff, about 100 men, were lodged in terraced
housing near the small lock and in an hotel in the Velsenbeck Park. The Seehund
were moored in the central lock alongside low-floating jetties.
A few days before Christmas 1944 some of the training staff
were transferred to Wilhelmshaven (Graukoppel) and paired off to take over new
boats. Operational leader of K-Flotilla 312 was Kptlt Hermann Rasch. The first
six Seehund left Germany for Ijmuiden on Christmas Eve. Each day another group
of six followed so that by the end of the year 24 Seehund had arrived at the
Dutch base. On 29 December 1944 the flotilla was at readiness.
By order of Admiral Heye the first Seehund operation was
scheduled for 1 January 1945 against Allied shipping in convoy lanes of the
outer Scheldt between Ostend and the Kwinte Bank to position 3°10′E, and from
the south coast of England against the Antwerp-bound traffic west of 10°50′E
and south of 52°N. The boats would run parallel to the Dutch coast to the Hook
of Holland, then pass through the eastern Hinder Kanal to reach their
operational area off Ostend. From 1700 the Seehund feet – 18 boats – transited
the small lock at Ijmuiden to embark on an operation expected to last three to
five days. It was heavily overcast and rainy, the wind light, sea state
Beaufort 2–3, but then the weather deteriorated rapidly, the wind increasing to
storm force. Icy rain rattled down on the submarines, pitching and tossing in
the rising seas. Vision became worse as the first combers swept the boats’
hulls. The catastrophe was about to begin.
Shortly after sailing, when still in sight of land the first
casualty occurred when a Seehund hit a mine and blew up. U-5035 was forced to
return with a leaky propellor shaft. Contrary to assurances that they would be
invisible to radar, from intercepted enemy wireless traffic transmitted at
Ostend and in the Scheldt it was soon evident that that was not the case.
The majority of the boats reached the operational area where
they achieved a single success, Paulsen + Huth sinking the British trawler
Hayburn Wyke, 324 tons, at 2225 on 2 January. On their return the boat struck a
mine off Ijmuiden and both lost their lives. Also that day Andersen + Hardacher
in U-5327 ran aground a mile west of Domburg on the enemy-occupied island of
Walcheren. A farmer hid them but later they were captured by Dutch Resistance
fighters after a brief firefight. The British seized the boat.
Hertlein + Haun had rudder damage. The destroyer HMS Cowdray
discovered the submarine and fired on it from a quadruple-barrelled gun on the bow.
The crew abandoned and were picked up by the British. Another Seehund, number
unknown, was sunk on 2 January at 2002 by the frigate HMS Ekins north-east of
On 4 January at about 1230 Kallmorgen + Vogel ran aground
south of Katwijk while returning to base. The crew survived.
Scharge + Rösch had no luck. After a bomb exploding near the
boat had caused little damage, they were forced to dive and depth-charged by
two corvettes. Scharge ordered a torpedo fired at one of the pursuers. The
torpedo stuck in the grabs. Later the diesel began to splutter, and the boat
stranded off Scheveningen. After Scharge fired distress flares the crew was
rescued by a naval flak battery on the evening of the seventh operational day.
U-5305 Penzhofer + Heinicke found no targets. On the return
voyage the diesel broke down and the boat was run aground on the island of
Voorne. Both swam to the mainland.
On 2 January U-5309 von Pander + Baumgärtel spent twelve
hours in the vicinity of buoy NF8 being hunted by MGBs. The magnetic compass
and diesels had failed after a depth charge attack. Sailing for home on battery
drive only they eventually ran the boat aground off the Hook of Holland. A KFK
brought them home.
A difficult time was experienced in U-5024 by Markworth +
Spallek. After receiving serious damage from depth charging and bombing they
were forced to run the boat aground on a sandbank off Goerre island. The two
crew, who had spent a long time in the icy water, were found unconscious by a
Wehrmacht patrol in a rubber dinghy.
Löbbermann + Plappert were surprised four miles north-east
of Zeebrugge at 1655 on 5 January by a patrol boat, probably HMS Samarina. The
crew was forced to abandon, were picked up by the British and brought to
A terrible drama must have unfolded in one of the boats of
the first wave. On 3 January the two crew were finished physically and
mentally, their nerve gone. According to the commander’s account, at the
request of the engineer the commander shot him dead and then fired a bullet
into his own head. This wound was not fatal. The commander was later found
adrift on the wreck of an MTB (how this came about, and whether the boat was
British or German, is not explained) and he was taken to a military hospital.
The outcome of the court-martial (the survivor of a suicide pact is guilty of
murder) is unknown.
On 5 January while in the Noord Zee Kanal a Seehund torpedo
discharged itself, hitting a lighter and damaging a harbour defence boat.
Hullmann + Hinrichsen in U-5013 had failed to find any ships
on their first voyage. Their rations were ruined, compressed air and oxygen
used up. The hatch was open, following seas washed over the boat partially
flooding it, and it had sunk in 18 metres. After a superhuman effort the crew
managed to raise her an hour or so later and ran into Ijmuiden on 5 January
totally exhausted. After that Hinrichsen was given a shore appointment.
In this first operation, K-Flotilla 312 lost sixteen Seehund
and eighteen men, an appalling statistic. K-Verband Command and OKM were
horrified. Kptlt Rasch was ordered before Grossadmiral Dönitz to deliver a
personal report. Despite these heavy losses, a new operation was planned for 9
Between 1830 and 1930 on 10 January, four Seehund sailed for
Margate on the Kent coast. A fifth boat dropped out with trim problems. Two of
the four boats returned prematurely. Wegner + Wagner had compass failure in
U-5311, Stürzenberger + Herold were tracked by radar, damaged by aircraft and
pursued by two MLs. Both these boats put back into Ijmuiden on 11 January.
South of the Kentish Shoals (naval grid square AN 7935),
Kiep + Palaschewski sank a collier of about 3,000 gross tons at 1500 on 12
January in heavy seas, wind force 5–6 with persistent snow showers. This was at
the entrance to the Thames estuary. The name of the ship could not be
established as Kiep turned away at once in compliance with his orders. The
sinking was confirmed by the B-Dienst which had been monitoring British radio
traffic. The boat returned safely to Ijmuiden on 13 January.
Krüger + Bahlmann stranded at 1330 on 14 January off
Zandvoort and had to destroy the boat with explosives.
In better weather on 17 January ten Seehund set out. Nothing
was achieved and all boats returned safely. By 20 January the number of operational
boats at Ijmuiden had risen to 26, these reinforcements arriving despite the
closure of Schichau Werft at Elbing in the face of the Russian advance in
Between 1400 and 1600 on 21 January ten Seehund left
Ijmuiden in three groups for the Dumpton and Elbow Buoys, South Falls,
Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. This operation reported no successes, nearly all
boats had technical problems. U-5033 Bischoff + Hellwig had a defective diesel
vent, U-5339 Kempf + unknown had both compasses fail. U-5368 Drescher + Bauditz
had a faulty diesel, another boat was losing lubricant, another collided with a
buoy. Von Dettmer’s boat had to break off the mission when the engineer said he
could not go on because of seasickness. This boat then stranded about 7 sea miles
south of Ijmuiden and had to be blown up. Aboard U-5334 Ulrich Müller + Niemann
the bilge-pump, light-image compass and trimming switches all failed. The boat
was pursued by an aircraft working with British search groups and had to be run
aground in a sinking condition on 23 January off the Hook of Holland after the
torpedoes had been discharged to aid buoyancy. The boat was destroyed by
Another Seehund crew had tragic bad luck. The boat reached
the operational area but entered the Thames estuary as the result of a
defective compass. A torpedo was fired at a ship and missed. On 22 January the
boat regained the North Sea. After two days voyaging blind the Seehund arrived
south of Lowestoft where the launch ML 153 tracked her and attacked with depth
charges. The boat waited on the bottom and eventually escaped. When night fell
the commander decided to surface. He was not aware that the current had drifted
the boat northwards to Great Yarmouth, and on 25 January, heading in the wrong
direction, he ran the boat aground on Soroby Sands. After nearly three days
attempting to refloat her and living in the stinking interior the crew gave up
and fired their distress flares. The Trinity House lighthouse tender Beacon
came out to assist.
On 19 January SKL reported on the current state of
preparations for further Seehund operations which were presently being made
extremely difficult by north-westerly storms preventing sailings. A deluge at
Petten in Noord Holland breached dykes and displaced sand dunes.
The last Seehund operation of January 1945 began on the 19th
at 1500 when ten of the dwarf fleet left the small lock at Ijmuiden in two
groups. Operational zones were the crossing points for Allied convoys near the
Dumpton Buoy and the sea area of the South Falls sandbanks. The orders were to
return to base if the weather worsened, especially if the wind backed to the
south-west. The wind soon strengthened to gale force with a sea state varying
from 5 to 10. It was overcast with very poor visibility – not good weather for
The area of operations was naval grid square AN 8744. Only
two boats got there. On 30 January U-5335 Stürzenberger + Herold discovered a
convoy of three steamers and escorts. Before they could fire the escorts forced
the boat to dive. Later heavy seas caused the boat’s return. The other Seehund,
Ross + Vennemann, put back on 30 January and reported having torpedoed a
collier between the Dumpton Buoy and the Margate roadstead. There was no
official confirmation for the claim.
None of the other eight boats found the enemy. U-5342 Böcher
+ Fröbel abandoned the voyage after only three hours with damage to couplings.
Schulze + Macy put back on 30 January with a leak astern. Weber + Knupe were
losing lubricating oil and feared that the diesel would seize up. U-5338
Wachsmuth + Feine were unable to find the operational area through navigational
difficulties. Seiffert + Stiller searched the Goodwin Sands without reward,
U-5332 Wolter + Minetzke broke off because of the rough seas in the Margate
road-stead: Kruuger + Bahlmann returned for the same reason, in U-5041,
Kretschmer + unknown found his engineer so totally incapacitated by seasickness
in the sea conditions that he could no longer assist in running the boat.
In January 1945, 44 Seehund voyages were sailed and ten
boats were lost. At the beginning of February three boats operated off
Ramsgate. On 3 February Wolter + Minetzke in U-5332 claimed sinking a ship of
3,000 gross tons off Great Yarmouth, but B-Dienst was unable to confirm.
On 3 February 1945 Kptlt Rasch was relieved of command as
Flotilla Chief and appointed head of Lehrkommando 300 at Neustadt. Presumably
his wolf-pack tactics had let him down and led to unacceptably high losses. The
new chief of K-Flotilla 312, and later 5 K-Division, was FKpt Albrecht Brandi,
an experienced U-boat officer who, on 23 November 1944 as the second
Kreigsmarine recipient (Wolfgang Lüth was the first, 9 August 1943) received
the Diamonds to his Knight’s Cross with Oak-leaves and Swords. At the outbreak
of war Brandi had been 1WO aboard the minesweeper M1 (commander, KKpt Bartels).
Subsequently he went to the U-boat Arm and as commander of U-617, U-380 and
U-967 had sunk 25,879 gross tons of merchant shipping, two destroyers, the fast
minelayer HMS Welshman, a Fleet tug and a naval trawler. After leaving the
U-boat Arm, Brandi was appointed Admiralty Staff Officer to Commanding Admiral
Eastern Baltic, and had been a Staff Officer with K-Verband Command since 1944.
His assistants were KKpt Heinrich Stiege and Kptlt Karl Born.
On that same 3 February 1945 an operation previously
prepared by Kptlt Rasch was due to begin. As if to usher in the change in
command, Ijmuiden was bombed. No Seehund was damaged. The Allies did not target
the locks to avoid flooding Velsen. This resulted from a secret agreement
between the Allies and Dutch to prevent unforseeable consequences for the city
At 2330 eight Seehund left for the Thames estuary, the
crossing and assembly point for Allied convoys. This operation had no success.
U-5368 Wilken + Bauditz had navigation problems after being
tracked by radar and attacked by aircraft.
U-5033 Bischoff + Hellwig and U-5326 Knobloch + Leidige were
forced to return with technical problems.
U-5339 Kempf + unknown stranded north of the Hook of Holland
on 7 February. The boat had to be destroyed, the crew was rescued. The same day
U-5329 Ulrich Müller + Niemann returned to Ijmuiden having failed to reach the
U-5311 Wagner + Wegner ran aground about 10 sea miles north
U-5348 Dietrich Meyer + Schauerte reached the operational
area despite the weather and scouted the Thames-Scheldt route for ships in
vain. This shipping lane was well lit by night by a string of light-buoys every
two miles. On the way home Meyer surfaced alongside the hull of a patrol boat.
The commanders of both vessels were so taken aback that neither reacted in
time. No action ensued. U-5348 escaped and reached Scheveningen on 8 February.
U-5344 Livonius + Pawelcik also returned to base on 8
February after having been depth-charged in the operational zone by MGBs.
A new operation against the Thames-Scheldt route began on 10
February when eight Seehund sailed: by nightfall U-5363 (Buttmann + Arno
Schmidt), U-5337 (Horstmann + Nitschke) and Lt Polakowski’s boat were all back
at Ijmuiden with technical problems. They were joined on the morning of 12
February by U-5335 (Kunau + Jäger), and 13 February by U-5347 (Sparbrodt +
Jahnke) because of thick fog.
Schöne + Sass in U-5347 were attacked by aircraft at 2330 on
10 February off the Hook of Holland. Six bombs exploded close to the boat
putting out both compasses. Nevertheless they reached the operational area but
were foiled by thick fog. The boat was losing fuel and trailing lubricant.
Early on 13 February the bunkers and batteries were drained. Schöne put his
command aground on the island of Texel, about 30 sea miles north of Ijmuiden,
and destroyed it with explosives.
U-5349 (Kähler + Harte) was discovered beached at Castricum
north of Ijmuiden by Wehrmacht forces at 1500 on 16 February. There was no sign
of the crew.
U-5345 failed to return, nothing further is known.
These failures must have prompted a rethink at K-Verband
Command. The so-called wolf-pack tactics practised by the large U-boats in
their heyday and to a limited extent by the Seehund were no longer viable, not
least because the boats had no radio. This ruled out centralized direction or
even agreement between the respective captains. Moreover the problem of radar
had been grossly underestimated, and the plethora of technical defects which
was causing many boats to put back prematurely pointed to the need for a better
standard of maintenance and preparation for operations.
FKpt Albrecht, a willing listener, sent his boats out only
in small groups. What he could not influence however were the strong defences
protecting even the smallest convoys, and the enemy’s immense aerial presence
day and night.
On 12 February five Seehund sailed to attack the convoy
traffic heading for Antwerp. U-5332 (Wolter + Minetzke) and U-5342 (Börchert +
Fröbel) put back with technical problems the same day.
U-5354 (Streck + Niehaus) was depth-charged in the operational
area, counting 259 explosions. The boat was badly damaged but got back to
Ijmuiden on 16 February, finally running aground inside the harbour mole.
U-5361 (Ziepult + Reck) attacked convoy TAM 80 off North
Foreland on 15 February, torpedoing and seriously damaging the Dutch tanker
Liseta, 2,628 gross tons. Reck was found unconscious on the beach at Voorne
island on 23 February, eight days later. There was no sign of the boat, the
remains of Lt Ziepult washed up at Ijmuiden in April 1945.
U-5356 (Preusker + unknown) failed to return from this
At 0830 on 16 February four Seehund left Ijmuiden to attack
shipping in the western Scheldt, supported at night by 15 Linse explosive
U-5363 (Buttmann + Arno Schmidt) and U-5332 (Wolter
Minetzke) returned on 18 February: Wolter had attacked a convoy of landing
ships but the escorts had driven him off.
U-5041 (Kretschmer + Radel) was sunk. The circumstances are
not recorded. Kretschmer was captured, Radel did not survive.
U-5337 (Horstmann + Nitschke) disappeared without trace. The
crew was declared dead on 23 February.
Since the Seehund was no more successful than the Biber in
the Scheldt, K-Verband returned to the concept of operations on more open
waters. On the afternoon of 19 February 1945 three Seehund set off for the
Wachsmuth + Feine in U-5097 lost their bearings in adverse
weather. The boat was so severely damaged by a bomb near-miss that it could not
longer submerge, and eventually drifted ashore at Egmond aan Zee, ten sea miles
north of Ijmuiden. The crew was rescued by a flak detachment, the boat
U-5342 (Böchert + Fröbel) failed to return. The crew was
declared dead on 1 March 1945.
The last operations of February remain confused but there
were successes. The crews had become hardened by their earlier experiences and
now they had some luck. The various accounts as to the number of Seehund at sea
between 21 and 26 February differ, but was probably eight.
Gaffron + Köster fired both torpedoes at a destroyer at 2300
on 22 February. A hit was observed, B-Dienst reporting a probable sinking which
the British side disputes.
U-5367 (Ragnow + Vogel) fought their way through heavy seas
in the Channel, breakers restricting visibility. At about 0600 on 23 February
they heard Asdic. East of the Goodwin Sands visibility deteriorated. Towards
evening a flashing buoy appeared on the starboard hand. Then a Hunt-Class
destroyer was seen approaching bowon. Dive, torpedo ready! The destroyer
pounded overhead and kept going. Lucky! The sea state was now 6 to 7. The
bunkers had emptied, the batteries were drained. U-5367 drifted towards the
enemy coast. The crew abandoned the boat and swam through thin ice to shore
where gunners took them prisoner.
Habel + Rettinghausen were lurking near the Dumpton Buoy.
Their compasses were malfunctioning, Habel was navigating by the occasional V-1
which passed over and the stars. Suddenly the destroyer Mecki appeared. Both
torpedoes were fired – missed. MGBs dropped patterns of depth charges near them
for twelve hours. Having escaped, off the Hook of Holland they hit a mine.
Though waterlogged the boat stayed afloat. On 24 February they made Ijmuiden.
Sparbrodt + Jahnke in U-5330 had returned because of a
blocked fuel line. They sailed again next day and on 23 February, five sea
miles north-east of South Falls near the East Dungeon Buoy, found the French
destroyer, La Combattante. At 1028 a single torpedo was fired at 600 metres
range. Eighty seconds wait with bated breath then – a hit between bridge and
funnel! The destroyer went down swiftly. MGBs rescued 118 members of the
U-5365 (Hermann + Holst) returning from the operational area
ran aground near the German artillery battery at Katwijk. Holst remained with
the Seehund while Hermann paddled ashore in the inflatable dinghy. A Dutch
lifeboat came out with a salvage crew and the Seehund was towed into
The numbers of the other boats cannot be determined. The
following enemy ships were sunk:
22 February, 17 sea miles east of North Foreland, a Seehund
attacked convoy TAM 87 and sank the armed landing ship LST 364, 2,750 gross
24 February, 0930, 3 sea miles off North Foreland, the
British cablelayer Alert, 941 tons, was torpedoed by a Seehund and sank
immediately with all hands.
26 February 0530. The steamer Rampant from convoy TAC sank
following an explosion near buoy NF8. Ships of the convoy saved 46 crew.
26 February 0955. The steamer Nashaba was sunk near buoy
NF7. 24 survivors were picked up.
In February, there were 33 Seehund voyages sailed and only
four boats were lost. For the first time, midget submarines had inflicted
important losses. At Ijmuiden it rained decorations. On 27 February in a
reshuffle at Staff Operations, Lt Hullmann relinquished the chart room to Oblt
Seiffert who held the post until 20 April, when Lt Sparbrodt took over.
In March K-Verband Command began to feel the pinch. Fuel was
becoming scarce. The number of Seehund operations declined and were only sailed
in small groups or singly as rolling operations. SKL could not, or would not,
recognize the disastrous war situation. On 27 February the Chief of Torpedo
Production addressed Dönitz on the subject of equipping the Seehund with the
so-called Spinne torpedoes. Tactical trials had been carried out with this
weapon at Neustadt and had been assessed as promising. The main difficulty was
the inadequacy of torpedo production.
SKL demonstrated the extent to which it had become a
stranger to reality by proposing Seehund operations in the Mediterranean.
Following a request by C-in-C South West on 1 March 1945, OKM thought it should
set up a base on the coast of the Ligurian Sea by the beginning of April from
which 80 Seehund would operate. Immediate steps would have to be taken to
install heavy duty bilge pumps because of the different specific gravity of
seawater in the Mediterranean. Nothing came of this idea.
The successes at the end of February must have encouraged
FKpt Brandi to continue the struggle with much greater numbers. In favourable
weather on 6 March a number of Seehund sailed in a joint operation with seven
Biber to attack shipping in or bound for the Scheldt. The Seehund were to find
their targets off Great Yarmouth near the Elbow Buoy and off Margate where the
Thames-Scheldt traffic assembled into convoys.
The boats of Ross, Gaffron, Göhler, Drexel and Markworth
returned shortly after sailing with the usual variety of technical problems.
A Seehund was sunk on 7 March 26 sea miles east of Ramsgate
by MTB 675, another fell victim on 10 March to a Beaufighter off Goerre. The
same day the frigate HMS Torrington and MTB 621 sank two Seehund off the South
Goodwin lightship, one of these being U-5374, Siegert + Keilhues being taken
At 0951 on 11 March a British escort vessel sank Lt
Neubauer’s boat half a mile off the Kellet Buoy, the crew being rescued. The
same day two other Seehund were lost, one off Ramsgate, the other 17 sea miles
north of Dunkirk.
On their first voyage, on 11 March Huber + Eckloff damaged
or sank the freighter Taber Park, 2,878 tons, during an attack on convoy FS
1753 off Southwold (naval grid square AN 7668).
At 1125 on 12 March John + Teichmüller were surprised in fog
by the coastal patrol vessel HMML 466. John was captured, Teichmüller gunned to
U-5336 (Hauschel + Hesel) was surfaced in a strong gale, the
hatch continually swept by high seas. The Seehund crashed from wave to wave and
icy cold reigned in the boat. They dived. Suddenly Asdic and screw noises were
heard. Down came the depth-charges. Hauschel came to periscope depth, sighted a
warship and fired a torpedo. It stuck fast in the retaining grabs, its
propellor speeding the Seehund towards the enemy ship. Sweating with the effort
and panic, they finally managed to steer the boat away and ran for it to the
north-east. After being at sea seven days their oxygen was very low. Land came
into sight. Soldiers with foreign steel helmets were seen. Artillery rounds greeted
their arrival – the boat was off the Canadian-held island of Walcheren. With
their last reserves of strength Hauschel and Hesel steered away from the
hostile coast and made Ijmuiden on 12 March. The engineer had to be lifted out
and stretchered ashore.
On 12 March off West Schouwen a fighter-bomber gunned Lt
Böhme’s boat. It burned and both crew perished.
On their return to base in U-5064, Kugler + Alois Schmidt
reported having sunk a steamer of 3,000 to 4,000 tons.
On 10 March SKL had decided to use Seehund submarines to
supply the starving German garrison at Dunkirk. K-Verband Command received
orders to fit out three boats to carry transport cylinders of provisions,
batteries, limpet mines and mail. The boats were to be ready at Ijmuiden on 15
On their return to base on 13 March, Fröhnert + Beltrami
reported having sunk a steamer in the Thames estuary. They had also survived a
The same day U-5377 was lost, von Neefe und Obischau +
Pollmann were saved: U-5339 (Kempf + unknown) was depth-charged and sunk off
Buoy NF5: off Harwich on the same day a Seehund ran into five boats of 165th
Minesweeping Flotilla and after being forced to dive in a hail of 2-cm and
7.5-cm followed by depth-charges, the boat was lost at position 52°01′24″N and
None of the three Seehund known to have been off Margate on
16 March returned. On 18 March B-Dienst reported a British signal describing
large quantities of oil and wreckage found near the Margate coast, and four
empty lifeboats. What ship this was and its cause of loss remains a mystery.
On 21 March in light fog, U-5366 (Hauschel + Hesel)
discovered a convoy assembling in grid square AN 7663 between Lowestoft and
Great Yarmouth. At 0330 Hauschel torpedoed a Liberty freighter which exploded
three minutes later. The whole sea was lit bright as day, the victim must have
been carrying munitions. U-5366 touched bottom at Egmond aan Zee during the
night of 24 March but reached Ijmuiden undamaged.
Gaffron + Köster got caught up in a battle between German
S-boats and British MTBs and MGBs on 22 March. The Seehund was fired on and the
tower was damaged, making the boat undiveable. The crew abandoned and were
picked up by the British. The same day Göhler + Kässler were attacked and sunk
by a fighter-bomber shortly after leaving Ijmuiden.
At 0452 on 22 March, MTB 394, while lying stopped on
listening watch about 23 sea miles south-east of Great Yarmouth, was rammed by
a Seehund. The British opened fire into the mist, heard cries for help and
picked up two German submariners.
At 1920 on 24 March U-5264 fired two torpedoes at a
destroyer near the South Falls sandbanks and missed.
On 25 March the British motor launch ML 466 was torpedoed by
a Seehund and exploded. There were no survivors. The attacker may have been the
boat of Meyer + Schauerte which had left Ijmuiden two days previously and
failed to return, although Wagner + Wegner or Plottnik + Mayer who were in the
area on 24 March are also possibles.
At 1200 the same day Warnest + Nöubeling came under attack
from motor launch ML 1471 near Tamarisk Buoy. Warnest decided that attack was
the best form of defence and responded with two torpedoes which missed. He
escaped, however, and returned to base.
On 26 March in grid square AN 7956, Küllmeyer + Raschke
torpedoed the steamer Newlands, 1,556 tons, which sank at once. The boat
returned to Ijmuiden on 27 March.
On 25 March at 1440 Beaufighter Q of RAF 254 Squadron sank a
Seehund about 17 sea miles north-west of the Elbow Buoy.
At 0231 on 26 March the escort destroyer HMS Puffin
pinpointed a Seehund by Asdic about seven sea miles off Buoy 4. The submarine
surfaced, rammed the stern of the destroyer, slid along the hull and exploded,
tearing a great hole in the destroyer’s forecastle, damaging the keel. Puffin
remained afloat and picked up the two Germans from the water. After an
inspection ashore, the destroyer was declared a constructive total loss.
On 27 March ML 586 sank a Seehund west of Walcheren.
On 30 March a Seehund sank the coaster Jim, 833 gross tons
southeast of Orfordness. Twelve of her crew of twenty survived. Another Seehund
was sunk by the harbour defence vessel HDML 1471.
On 27 March three Seehund left Ijmuiden to supply the German
garrison at Dunkirk. The boat of Fröhnert + Beltrami began to food and being
undiveable returned to base. They sailed again the following midday. Weather
was extremely bad with enormous seas. The storm lasted seven days: Fröhnert’s
boat reached Dunkirk on the last day of the tempest and was guided through the
coastal minefield by the stern light of a naval trawler. Both crewmen were
admitted to the military hospital with exhaustion. After their recovery they
were received by Admiral Frisius. On 9 April they sailed, and reached Ijmuiden
despite air attacks and a flooded diesel.
In summary it may be said that the fighting between hunters
and hunted became particularly bitter and resolute in March 1945. Seehund boats
sank or damaged five steamers of about 15,000 tons. A patrol boat was torpedoed
and a destroyer written off as a total loss after being rammed. On the debit
side, 5 K-Division lost at least 15 Seehund and 30 men dead or prisoner.
Before the beginning of April 1945, Anglo-American forces
reached north-west Germany and were virtually surrounding Festung Holland.
Additional Seehund at readiness in Wilhelmshaven naval base and U-boat bunkers
on Heligoland island prepared to sail for Holland, transport by road or rail
being no longer possible. Heavy air attacks on K-Verband bases caused damage to
buildings but the midget submarine force escaped unscathed. After the weather
improved sorties were sailed from 4 April with great determination. By the end
of the month 36 individual missions had been been sailed to the English east
coast, the Scheldt Esturary and to Dungeness near Dover.
On 8 April, 5 K-Division had 29 boats at Ijmuiden, only half
of them operational. Four others arrived on 20 April, 14 on 1 May from
Wilhelmshaven, and another two from Heligoland.
Two boats sailed, one each on 5 and 6 April respectively,
for the Thames-Scheldt route. U-5366 (Hauschel + Hesel) returned on 8 April
with no successes to report, the other boat was sunk, probably on the 6th. Nine
Seehund sailed at 2130 on 7 April to attack convoys between Dungeness and
Boulogne. Bischoff + Hellwig failed to return and were presumed killed in
action on 19 April. U-5332 (Wolter + Minetzke) ran aground at Calais. After
destroying the boat, they surrendered. Rosenlöcher + Musch remain missing. The
boats of von Pander + Vogel, Ross + Vennemann and U-5074 Schöne + Sass returned
to base, the latter boat being undivable after a Martin Marauder bombed it at
0630 on 8 April.
The operations of these and a number of other boats can only
be assembled in fragmentary form:
9 April, 0531. A Seehund torpedoed the tanker Y17 from
convoy TAC 90 eight cables off North Foreland Buoy NF5. The tanker burst into
fl ames after an explosion and
sank. There were no survivors.
9 April: Near Dungeness, Buttmann + Arno Schmidt attacked
convoy TBC 123. Buttmann sank the freighter Samida, 7,219 gross tons with one
torpedo, and seriously damaged the US freighter Solomon Juneau, 7,116 gross
tons, with the other. The Seehund was subsequently sunk by ML 102 east of
Dover. The body of Schmidt drifted across the North Sea and washed up on the
island of Föhr, to be interred at Wyk cemetery.
Another Seehund was sunk this day by Beaufighter W of 252
Off Orfordness, a Seehund sank the British cable-layer
Monarch, 1,150 gross tons.
10 April: Pander + Vogel reported having sunk a tanker of
about 1,000 tons. Penzhofer + Schulz attacked a destroyer in the South Falls
area. The torpedo failed to release and dragged the submarine to the target,
where a collision ensued. The destroyer stood off and machine-gunned the
Seehund. The submarine escaped and made Ijmuiden on 12 April.
11 April: East of Dungeness a Seehund attacked convoy UC63B,
damaging the freighter Pat Wyndham, 8,580 gross tons. The same day the attacker
was sunk by ML 632.
U-5071 (Hullmann + Schiffer) was heading for home when
attacked from the air. Splinters damaged the torpedo warhead, which did not
explode, and the boat made Ijmuiden on 12 April.
U-5070 (Markworth + Spalleck) discovered a destroyer
escorting a refrigerator ship of about 3,000–4,000 gross tons off Dungeness
near buoy C6. Markworth fired both torpedoes and dived immediately to 15
metres. After 50 seconds there was a deafening explosion. The Seehund settled
on the bottom at 26 metres, screw noises overhead. A four-hour long
depth-charge inferno began. U-5070 survived.
At 0828 a Seehund was seen by escort vessel HMS Guillemot
three miles off North Foreland Buoy 1. ML 586 gave chase and sank the submarine
at 1330 hrs. Later, at 1945, ML 585 sank another Seehund near the South Falls.
12 April: Two Seehund including U-5366 (Hauschel + Hesel)
headed for the Thames-Northbound and Thames-Scheldt crossing point. In U-5366
the bilge pump failed, but Hesel carried out repairs under difficult
circumstances. On 13 April Hauschel sighted a convoy. Both torpedoes were fired
and missed. The boat put into Ijmuiden at 1700 on 18 April.
Between 0758 and 1020, aircraft attacked several Seehund at
position 52°N 02°E and claimed one sunk.
At 1630 Mosquito H of 254 Squadron RAF, Wellington V of 524
Squadron and Beaufighters M and U of 236 Squadron attacked and sank a Seehund
25 sea miles west of the Hook of Holland.
13 April: Barracuda L of 810 French Squadron sank a Seehund.
U-5090 (Kunau + Jäger) arrived at Ijmuiden after finding no
targets around Dungeness and surviving a day-long depth-charge attack. During
the delivery voyages from Wilhelmshaven to Ijmuiden, the boat of Schäfer +
Wurster was sunk. The boats had sailed after being informed that 500 RAF
bombers had attacked Heligoland in waves.
14 April: Four Seehund including U-5074 (Schöne + Sass) and
U-5364 returned to Ijmuiden from unsuccessful sorties.
The losses continued. The destroyer HMS Garth sank a Seehund
off Orfordness: on 18 April a land battery at Blankenberghe sank another. A
third boat was found beached and abandoned on the 19th. The Konrad + Kaldenberg
Seehund which had sailed on 10 April began to founder after being attacked by a
fighter-bomber. Konrad was killed. Kaldenberg threw the body of his commander
into the sea intending to use it as a float in an attempt to swim for shore. On
the way he was found by a British patrol boat and rescued.
At midday on 16 April the tanker Goldshell, part of convoy
TAM 40, sank north of Ostend after a violent explosion: it could not be
attributed definitely to a Seehund.
While running for Ijmuiden a Seehund ran out of fuel and
battery power. After drifting for days the rations came to an end. The current
took the boat towards the minefields off Katwijk. On 24 April the crew, having
written their farewell messages and put the bottle into the sea, abandoned the
submarine. Wehrmacht shore personnel spotted them. Their voyage lasted ten days
and is the longest Seehund patrol on record.
On 29 April off Walcheren the steamer Benjamin H Bristow was
sunk either by a mine or Seehund torpedo. The last definite torpedoing of a
ship by a Seehund occurred on 23 April 1945 near the South Falls. This was the
Svere Helmersen. The last Seehund to be lost to enemy action was sunk in a
depth-charge attack south-east of Lowestoft on 29 April by the corvette HMS
Because of the war situation, K-Verband Command cancelled
the Seehund training programme on 27 April. Under the protection of the two
auxiliaries Frida Horn (Kptlt Hugo Holm), and Meteor, the VP boat VS 517 (Kptlt
Paul Masch), the naval trawlers KFK 203 (Lt Otto Klähn) and KFK 204 (Lt Alfired
Laon) and a few air-sea rescue boats, the training Seehund were escorted from
Neustadt to Eckernföurde and then to Grafensteen in Denmark. The Danes refused
to admit them and referred the German convoy back to Neustadt. The training
division eventually surrendered at Surendorf.
On 28 April 1945 the Dutch operations terminated, although
several Seehund continued to act as blockade breakers into Dunkirk. On 2 May
1945 four boats undertook the dangerous journey and reached the port before the
capitulation. On 6 May 1945 the German units in Holland struck their flag. The
Royal Canadian Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment of 1st Canadian Division
took over Ijmuiden. About 5,000 Wehrmacht personnel went into captivity.
The Seehund pocket U-boats sailed 142 missions from Holland
and accounted for about 93,000 gross tons of shipping (British sources estimate
120,000 tons). They were therefore the most successful German midget
submarines. These results could not affect the outcome of the war, but if the
Seehund had been developed and operational as little as six months earlier, it
could have caused Allied shipping grave problems, particularly at the time of
the invasion of Normandy. In any case they forced the continuing use of
hundreds of escort vessels to protect convoys. The operations led to high
losses in personnel and materials. The greatest respect is due to the brave men
who accepted the challenge to fight an overwhelmingly superior enemy dominating
the sea and air.