German submarine U-977
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (September 2009)|
U-977 moored at Mar del Plata naval base
|Career (Nazi Germany)|
|Ordered:||5 June 1941|
|Builder:||Blohm & Voss, Hamburg|
|Laid down:||24 July 1942|
|Launched:||31 March 1943|
|Commissioned:||6 May 1943|
|Captured:||Surrendered to Argentine Navy 17 August 1945 at Mar del Plata, Argentina|
|Fate:||Sunk by torpedo from USS Atule during torpedo trials, 13 November 1946|
|Class & type:||Type VIIC U-boat|
|Displacement:||769 tonnes (757 long tons) surfaced
871 t (857 long tons) submerged
|Length:||Overall 67.1 m (220 ft)
pressure hull 50.5 m (166 ft)
|Beam:||Overall 6.2 m (20 ft)
pressure hull 4.7 m (15 ft)
|Draught:||4.74 m (15.6 ft)|
|Propulsion:||Surfaced: 3,200 hp
Submerged: 750 hp
|Speed:||Surfaced 17.7 kn (32.8 km/h; 20.4 mph)
submerged 7.6 kn (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph)
|Range:||Surfaced: 8,500 nmi (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
submerged: 80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi) at 4 kn (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph)
|Test depth:||Calculated crush depth: 220 m (720 ft)|
|Complement:||44–52 officers & ratings|
German submarine U-977 was a World War II Type VIIC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine which escaped to Argentina after Germany's surrender. The submarine's voyage to Argentina led to many legends and apocryphal stories: that it had transported Adolf Hitler or Nazi gold to South America, that it had made a 66-day passage without surfacing or that it had made a secret voyage to Antarctica.
Voyage to Argentina
U-977 was launched in 1943. She was used in training and made no war patrols during her first two years of service. On 2 May 1945 she was sent on her first war patrol, sailing from Kristiansand, Norway, under the command of Oberleutnant Heinz Schäffer (1921–1979). Schäffer's orders were to enter the British port of Southampton and sink any shipping he found there. This would have been a very dangerous assignment for a Type VII boat. When Admiral Dönitz ordered all attack submarines to stand down on 5 May 1945, U-977 was outbound north of Scotland.
Oberleutnant Schäffer decided to sail to Argentina instead. During later interrogation, Schäffer said that his main reason for this was German propaganda broadcast by Goebbels, which claimed that the Allies' Morgenthau Plan would turn Germany into a "goat pasture” and that all German men were to be "enslaved and sterilized". Other factors were the poor conditions and long delay in being repatriated suffered by German POWs at the end of World War I (see Forced labor of Germans after World War II), and the hope of better living conditions in Argentina, which had a large German community.
Schäffer offered the married crewmen the choice to go ashore in Europe. 16 men opted to so, and were landed from dinghies on Holsenöy Island near Bergen on 10 May.
U-977 then sailed to Argentina. Schäffers version of the voyage states that from 10 May to 14 July 1945 inclusive she made a continuous submerged Schnorchel passage, "at 66 days the second longest in the war (after U-978's 68 days)". A conflicting account from the U.S. Navy (USN) report of 19 September 1945 contradicts Schäffers version.
The USN Report on the U-977 crew interrogations was compiled within a month of the boat's surrender; it makes no mention of any 66-day voyage always submerged, an interesting omission since the details of the voyage must have been still fresh in the minds of the German crew. They told the American interrogators that U-977 "made for the Iceland Passage on course 300º (that is, a little North by West) diving once on sighting a plane and once on sighting a ship (this means she was surfaced at the time): "she was also D/F'd many times late in May".
According to the USN report the submarine stopped in the Cape Verde Islands for a short break en route, then completed the trip traveling on the surface using one engine. Crossing the equator on 23 July, she arrived in Mar del Plata, Argentina on 17 August after 99 days at sea from Bergen and a voyage of 7,644 nmi (14,157 km; 8,797 mi).
In general, historians have tended to discount the USN report and accepted Schäffer's report as the more accurate version. The Schäffer map provides only three dates: 8 May "End of the war", 24 July 1945 "crossed Equator", and 17 August 1945 "arrived at Mar del Plata".
Schäffer maintained that he crossed the Equator on 23 or 24 July 1945, on this date both the US Navy and Schäffer agree. Comparing the USN report with Schäffer's account, the impression is of two separate voyages from Norway meeting up at the Equator on 23 July 1945.
After arriving at Mar del Plata on 17 August 1945, U-977 was surrendered to the Argentine Navy. She was later towed to Boston and given to the U.S. Navy on 13 November 1945. On 13 November 1946, she was sunk off Cape Cod by USS Atule during torpedo trials. The crew was transferred into U.S. jurisdiction by presidential decree on 22 August 1945 and flown out for interrogation in the United States.
Schäffer later wrote a book: U-977 – 66 Tage unter Wasser ("U-977 – 66 Days Under Water"), the first postwar memoir by a former U-boat officer. It was published in 1952, and was translated into English under the title U-boat 977.
In the arts
Documentary film U-977 - 66 DAYS UNDER WATER directed by Nadine Poulain, Schäffer's granddaughter, currently in the final stages of production.
- Office of Naval Intelligence (19 September 1945). "Report on the Interrogation of Prisoners from U-977 (File Op-16-2)". U.S. Navy. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
- Time Magazine 23 Feb. 1953 Book review "Go In & Sink"
- U-977 at "uboat.net"
- Schäffer, Heinz, U-Boat 977: The U-Boat That Escaped to Argentina 2005 ISBN 1-84145-027-8 (First published in Germany in 1952 as U-977 – 66 Tage unter Wasser)
- Schäffer, Heinz (2006). El Secreto del U-977. Buenos Aires: Editorial Hisma. ISBN 987-22996-0-9.
- Schäffer, Heinz, Leonce Peillard Der U-Boot-Krieg 1999 ISBN 3-453-14825-8 (In German)