Submarinos Alemanes en Argentina
El U-977 en el Puerto de Mar del Plata
Lobos grises por doquier
El 16 de Julio de 1945, varios vecinos de la localidad de San Clemente del Tuyú afirmaron haber visto dos submarinos frente a sus costas. El juez de la ciudad de Dolores llegó a tomar intervención en el asunto y la Armada fué ordenada a enviar dos aviones: un Glenn Martin W-139 y un Douglas DC-2 a la zona, conjuntamente con varias patrullas terrestres.
La cosa no terminó en Argentina, otros supuestos avistajes fueron informados en Uruguay y Brasil. Estas noticias corrieron por el mundo, cargadas de hipótesis sensacionalistas, que hasta llegaron a sugerir la existencia de una base secreta en la Antártida para alojar a Hitler y a sus secuaces.
En el día del Libertador San Martín, se rinde el U-977
A las 9 de la mañana del 17 de Agosto de 1945, el submarino U-977 emerge a 8 millas de la costa de Mar del Plata, en las proximidades de un grupo de naves de la Armada Argentina que retornaban a puerto. Eran los rastreadores ARA "Seguí" y ARA "Py" y el submarino ARA "Salta".
Nuevamente, por medio de señales luminosas, la nave alemana se identifica y su comandante, Capitán de Fragata Heinz Schaffer acepta ser abordado por una reducida dotación de presa al mando del Teniente de Fragata Rodolfo Sáenz Valiente. Escoltado por las naves argentinas, el U-977 ingresa a la Base Naval de Mar del Plata a las 11 de la mañana.
El submarino germano de la classe VIIC había zarpado de su país el 26 de Abril, reaprovisionado en Dinamarca el 2 de Mayo y se dirigía a su área de patrulla frente al puerto de Southampton. La orden de rendición sorprendió a los tripulantes rumbo a la zona de patrulla, por tal motivo, Schaffer reunió a la tripulación y los sometió a la decisión de entregarse o dirigirse a la Argentina.
Sólo los 16 tripulantes casados decidieron retornar con sus familias y en riesgosa maniobra fueron desembarcados en Noruega (ver traduccion de P.Zidek de esta parte del libro). Los 32 restantes emprenderían un raid sin antecedentes dentro de la historia de los submarinos.
El U-977 permaneció sumergido 66 días (posible récord de días en inmersión para un submarino convencional hasta nuestros días) cargando baterías y ventilando el interior mediante el snorkel. Es difícil imaginar las penurias físicas y psíquicas de un grupo de hombres encerrados por tanto tiempo, en un reducido espacio y sin poder ver el cielo. Mucho le costó también a su joven comandante (25 años) mantener la disciplina y el orden.
C.F. Heinz Schäffer cuando comandaba el U-128.
Una vez alejados de la zona de peligro, Schaffer ordenó emerger, aunque de noche. Frente a las costas de Brasil se enteraron de la rendición del U-530, lo que se convirtió en estímulo para el viaje a Mar del Plata.
Al descender de la nave, Schaffer pidió "tres hurras por el fiel camarada de acero". El 18 se firmó el acta de rendición y se designó como comandante al teniente de Navío Daniel Victorica. Luego de revisada la documentación y despojada la tripulación de toda pertenencia personal, los marinos del U-977 fueron trasladados esa noche a las 21,30 hacia Buenos Aires. Llegados a la misma fueron llevados a la isla Martín García. Nuevos interrogatorios y un posterior traslado a los EEUU y a Inglaterra marcaron el fin del viaje de los marinos del U-977, pero no de sus penurias. Les fueron efectuados más interrogatorios individuales por expertos y nada aportaron sobre los jerarcas del III Reich.
Cuando Schaffer recuperó su libertad retornó a la Argentina y se casó con una hija de alemanes. Schaffer vivió muchos años en Argentina, finalmente viejo y enfermo retornó a Alemania donde falleció.
Final para los últimos "Lobos Grises"
El U-977 fué trasladado a Río Santiago y en Septiembre de 1945, junto con el U-530 zarparon hacia Boston, en EEUU, por sus propios medios, con una tripulación Norteamericana. Allí, luego de estudiarse su tecnología, fueron conducidos en Enero de 1946 al Atlántico Norte al Noroeste del Cabo Cod. El U-530 fué hundido con torpedos del submarino USS "Toro" y el U-977 fué blanco del USS "Atule".
Dos vistas de un submarino tipo VIIC, similares al U 977.
Abajo:U-977 es torpedeado en una prueba por el USS Atule cerca de Cape Cod, Massachusetts el 13 de Noviembre de 1945.
19 September 1945
I N T R O D U C T I O R Y R E M A R K S
The standard, type VII-C, 500 Ton U-977 surrendered in the Argentine 17 August 1945 after 107 days at sea and after an elapsed cruise of 7,644 sea miles. This German U-boat left on her only war patrol from Kristiansand, Norway, on 2 May 1945, the day after the German announcement of Hitler’s death. The commanding officer was Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant j.g.) Heinz SCHAEFFER.
According to the engineering officer U-977 left Kristiansand with only 85 metric tons of fuel and arrived at Mar del Plata with approximately 5 tons. The long cruise was possible only at extremely slow average speed. The U-boat is said to have been turned over in good working condition. Ten torpedoes (6 LUT’s with pistols Pi-2a and 4 T-5’s with Pi-4C) were still intact. It was emphatically denied that any attacks were made or any torpedoes fired.
E A R L Y H I S T O R Y O F U – 9 7 7
Keel laid at Blohm and Voss, Hamburg, 24 July 1942. Launched 31 March 1943. Commissioning 6 May 1943. During working up exercises in the Baltic rammed at least three times, and damage to pressure hull was considered serious enough to use U-977 only as a schoolboat. Commanding officer during this period was Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant j.g.) Hans LEILICH.
In mid-December 1944 command assumed by SCHAEFFER. Schoolboat exercises continued until late January 1945. Going by way of Swinemünde, Kiel and Cuxhaven, arrived at Hamburg 20 February 1945. In dock at Howaldt Yard from 26 February to 31 March for overhaul and fitting of Schnorchel.
Fitted out and loaded in Kiel 1 April to 12 April 1945.
Departed 16 April and proceeded by way of Frederikshaven, Denmark,
to Horten, Norway. In
crossing Skagerrak 4 dives made because of aircraft.
Lay on bottom in Oslo Fjord 6 hours.
Arrived Horten 20 April and engaged in Schnorchel trials, moving on
to Kristiansand 30 April 1945 at 0500.
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F I R S T A N D O N L Y P A T R O L O F U – 9 7 7
After loading provisions, celebrating May Day, and holding a flag ceremony for Hitler’s reported death, U-977 left Kristiansand on her first and last war patrol 2 May 1945 at 2200. Using her Schnorchel 3 to 4 hours each night she proceeded submerged along the Norwegian coast. On 7 May the observation periscope was damaged due to its being left up while diving.
When the German surrender became official 8 May, there were long discussions on board U-977, then in the vicinity of Bergen. Those of the married crew members who so desired were given the choice of leaving the boat or continuing to Argentina. On 10 May between 0230 and 0330 three enlisted men and 13 petty officers accordingly took 3 of the large rubber boats, one of which was damaged and abandoned, and 16 of the one-man rubber boats and put ashore at the island of Holsenöy near Bergen. (O.N.I. Note: These men were subsequently taken into custody by the British and described themselves as “survivors” of the U-977.)
In the subsequent voyage the remaining 32 officers and men stood only their usual respective watches, 4 hours on and 8 off, however with less men on each watch. It was stated that the only one remaining man regretted giving up was the pharmacist’s mate.
U-977 made for the Iceland Passage on course 3000, diving once on sighting a plane and once on sighting a ship; she was also DF’d many times late in May. She passed Madeira about 100 miles to the west and made for the Cape Verde Islands on course 1970.
On 14 July 1945 the U-boat anchored for 4 hours, 1630 to 2030 on the SW side of Branco, in the Cape Verdes. The crew went swimming and also sang for a while on deck. The next day at 2030 a ship was sighted and avoided by changing course, and at 0303 on 21 July a plane was sighted. On 22 July St. Paul Rocks was passed 25 miles off the starboard beam.
At 0600 on 23 July they crossed the equator at approximately 300 W., and 28 of the 32 officers and men were given the customary Neptune Ceremony. The next day at 0130, 0230, and 0300 a plane was sighted three times (or possibly 3 different planes). Another plane was sighted at 1125 on 26 July and a further one the next day.
It was on 30 July 1945 that SCHAEFFER learned that the U-boat preceding him in Argentina, the U-530, with her crew would be sent to North America, but this information caused no change in his plans. A test dive to 40 meters was made 1 August. A large ship was sighted the next day and another 13 August.
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When U-977 was turned over to the Argentine authorities 17 August 1945, at 1105, she was said to be intact, including papers and documents. The following minor mechanical defects were mentioned by the engineering officer:
(1) One periscope damaged.
(2) Junkers air compressor damaged since early August.
(3) Supercharger damaged since June.
(4) Starboard diesel connection with supercharger stuck..
(5) Pressure oil-pump motor defective.
(6) Indicator for position of Schnorchel damaged.
The officers and crew of the U-boat had hopped by going to Argentina to avoid being turned over to the Russians and even possibly to be allowed to settle in South America.
S T A T E M E N T O F S C H A E F F E R
C. O. O F U – 9 7 7
“I left Kristiansand S. on 2 May 1945, normally equipped, and under orders to proceed to the Channel, (i.e. English Channel).
A few days later I picked up fragments of signals, which I suspected of being the work of enemy deception. When, however, these signals were not cancelled, I had to assume that the radio stations had fallen into enemy hands and that we had lost the war. The fact that the uncoded signals signed “Allied Committee” were coming through, convinced me that the orders contained in these signals were illegitimate and not in agreement with the German High Command. When we began our patrol, an official slogan had been posted on all Naval establishments and ships which said: The enemy shall find in Germany nothing but rats and mice. We will never capitulate. Better death than slavery.
It must be remembered that radio reception on board the U-977 was only sporadic since, for tactical reasons, we only occasionally came to Schnorchel depth. However, enough signals had been received so that I no longer had any superiors, and that I was relieved of my oath. In any case, I did not feel obligated without direct orders from my government to accept enemy orders.
I no longer considered my ship as a man-of-war, but as a means of escape, and I tried to act for the best interests of all aboard. I respected the wishes of members of my crew insofar as they did not imperil the ship or cause damage to it.
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One of my main reasons in deciding to proceed to the Argentine was based on German propaganda, which claimed that the American and British newspapers advocated that at the end of the war, all German men be enslaved and sterilized. Another consideration was the bad treatment and long delay in return home suffered by German prisoners-of-war held in France at the end of World War I. Then again, of course, the hope of better living conditions in the Argentine.
It was absolutely my intention to deliver the boat undamaged into Allied hands, while doing the best I could for my crew. I felt that the ship’s engines might be a valuable adjunct to the reconstruction of Europe. I carried out these intentions and delivered the boat in perfect condition.”
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