On May 17, 1945 only 10 days after Germany's surrender, the Chief of the Argentine Navy, Héctor Vernengo Lima, sent a secret communication to the Minister of the Navy, Alberto Teisaire, advising that several U-Boats were crossing the Atlantic enroute to Argentina with the purpose of surrendering or scuttling in territorial waters.
This operation was grounded in highly reliable intelligence. Dating as far back as 1913, the Reichsmarine had already compiled exceptionally detailed handbooks and nautical charts covering the entirety of the South American East Coast.
By July 1945 multiple credible primary source accounts from local fishermen and coastal residents began to surface and feature in newspapers from the era. Even the FBI was overwhelmed by the influx of rumors and witnesses prompting them to open secret file X-25 on the matter
Finally, a first submarine made itself known. On July 10, 1945, a U-Boat of the Kriegsmarine 33rd Submarine Flotilla, tail number U-530, with Captain Otto Wermuth and a crew of 40 people, surfaced and surrendered to the Argentine military authorities in the port of Mar del Plata.
On August 1, 1945, Vsevolod Merkulov, Head of the USSR NKGB (precursor to the KGB) and People's Commissar of State Security, wrote a communication addressed to Viktor Abakumov, Head of the USSR Main Directorate of Counterintelligence, SMERSH: "I am asking you to guide the “SMERSH” counterintelligence operatives in the Soviet occupation zones in Europe with aim to search and obtain any operational and technical information regarding the activities of the German submarine fleet and the Fuhrer’s “special convoy” for transporting people and valuables to South American countries and Antarctica."
On August 17, 1945, another submarine surfaced in Mar del Plata, and also surrendered. This time a U-Boat of the Kriegsmarine 21st Flotilla, tail number U-977, with captain Heinz Schaeffer and a crew of 32 people.
On August 28, 1945, at the behest of the United States, and following interrogation by the Argentine military, Vice President Juan Domingo Peron, turned over the crews of the U-530 and the U-977 to the custody of US and British military intelligence. Shortly thereafter, the 1200-ton US Navy tugboat USS Cherokee (ATF-66) was tasked with escorting the U530 and U977 from Buenos Aires to the United States.
These vessels combined to form Task Group CTG 21.4. Departing from the Rio Santiago naval base in Buenos Aires on September 11, the two U-boats, manned by American crews, sailed in formation. Initially, the USS Cherokee towed the U530, while the U977 proceeded under its own power. Their journey concluded at the US Navy's submarine base in New London, Connecticut, on October 12, 1945.
In January of 1946, they were escorted to the North Atlantic, specifically northwest of Cape Cod. The U-977 was repurposed as a naval target and met its demise when struck by a torpedo launched from the USS Atule on November 13 of the same year. Meanwhile, the U-530 was also repurposed as an experimental submarine and was subsequently sunk by a torpedo from the USS Toro during naval exercises on November 28, 1947.
The official historical account maintains that there is no concrete evidence proving clandestine arrivals of German submarines into Argentine waters before, during, and after World War II. In 1996, President Carlos Menem's government ordered OPERATION CALYPSO to investigate the possible presence of U-Boat wrecks in the area of Caleta de los Loros in Argentine Patagonia.
The operation was carried out in August 1997, using three ships and two Grumman S2-Tracker aircraft, specialized in anti-submarine warfare. A pass over of the area detected two "strong points" of magnetic anomalies and 4 additional points, indicating the presence of large metallic objects in that location. However, the magnetographic results of this expedition were withheld "in the interests of national security".
Also in 1997, Menem's Government created the Commission of Enquiry into the Activities of Nazism in Argentina (CEANA, established by Presidential Decree PEN 390/1997 and coordinated within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade). This commission officially endorsed the version that only the U-530 and the U-977 had arrived and asserted that "while it is logically impossible to prove the non-arrival of any other Nazi submarine, such arrivals are highly improbable".
Copyright © 2024 Andres Restrepo - All Rights Reserved.