Thursday, September 17, 2015

German Submarines in the Frozen Harbor of Gotenhafen

Although East and West Prussia were used to severe winters on account of their continental climate, the winter of 1941-42 broke all records for cold. In mid-January 1942 frigid Siberian air streamed through an enormous high-pressure area over Russia and into Northern Europe. Overnight, temperatures in the East- and West-Prussian Baltic ports fell to more than 20 degrees below zero. In a very short time everything became frozen in ice, including the U-Boat arm’s training base. The U-Boat flotillas in Danzig, Pillau and Gotenhafen were forced to suspend practical training on U-Boats. Kapitänleutnant (Ing.) Otto Elwert, an instructor in the 2. Unterseeboote-Lehrdivision (ULD, 2nd Submarine Training Division) in Gotenhafen, captured the 22. U-Flottille’s predicament in Gotenhafen-Oxhöft on Agfa color slide film. The photo show the German submarines frozen in the ice. At that time the 22. U-Flottille had 18 training boats, the U-8, U-14, U-19, U-56, U-57, U-58, U-59, U-78, U-137, U-138, U-139, U-140, U-142, U-143, U-145, U-146, U-149 and U-150. All were type II boats except for the U-178, which was a VI C. This photo depicts the harbor basin area in Gotenhafen-Oxhöft. The vessel wearing the five-color camouflage scheme is the submarine escort ship Erwin Wassner (next to the Erwin Wassner are three Type II training boats of the 22. U-Flottille, frozen fast in the ice). Commissioned as the “Gran Canaria” on 21 January 1938, it was purchased by the Kriegsmarine in 1938. After conversion, on 29 March 1939 it entered service as Erwin Wassner. A First World War U-boat commander and wearer of the Pour le Mérite, Erwin Wassner had served as military attaché in London with the rank of Konteradmiral (Rear Admiral) prior to his death in 1937. Following the outbreak of war, F.d.U. (Führer der Unterseeboote) Karl Dönitz and his staff used the Erwin Wassner as a command ship until November 1939 when the operations staff, which had been reorganized as B.d.U. (Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote) in October, moved to Sengwarden near Wilhelmshaven. Kapitän zur See Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, departmental head of the B.d.U. organization, who was in charge of the entire supply organization, remained on board the Erwin Wassner. That is probably why Friedeburg was in Gotenhafen-Oxhöft with the Erwin Wassner in early 1942. During the night of 23-24 July 1944 the ship was sunk by bombs dropped in an RAF night raid on Kiel.

Source :
 "U-Boot im Focus", editon no.2 - 2007

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