It’s not a secret Nazi flying saucer but it’s nearly as mysterious and possibly more sinister. Researchers have found U-3523 – the legendary high-tech German submarine rumored to have been used to sneak Nazi leaders and Nazi gold out of the country as it was approaching defeat in World War II. While it was reported to have been sunk by a British bomber, its remains were never found and rumors of the sub making it to Argentina persisted … until now. Was it really loaded with losing leaders and loot?
Researchers at the Sea War Museum Jutland in Denmark have recently been searching for and finding sunken WWII ships on the bottom of the North Sea and the Skagerrak Strait between Denmark and Norway. Over 450 wrecks have been located so far, with 9 of them confirmed as German submarines. However, the advanced U-3523 was an unexpected discovery for a number of reasons.
If any submarine could have eluded Allied bombers and destroyers, it was the U-3523. Previous U-boats, while successfully deadly until the development of the Enigma code-breaking machine, could not stay submerged for long and spent most of their time cruising loudly and slowly on the surface. On the other hand, the U-3523 was a new Type XXI U-boat that was quiet, fast and allegedly capable of staying submerged for the entire length of the crucial trip from Germany to South America. Fortunately for the Allies, development of the diesel-electric “Elektroboote” (electric boat) started late, with only four being completed and only two deployed during the waning days of the war. One, U-2540 (the Wilhelm Bauer) is on display at the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven.
U-3523 was launched on December 14, 1944, under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Willi Müller. It doesn’t appear to have seen combat that late in the war — Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. On May 6, the British crew of a B24 Liberator bomber reported sinking the U-3523 with depth charges in waters northeast of Skagen. That could explain why the ship hasn’t been found until now — the Sea War Museum Jutland discovered it nine miles from that location. It’s half-buried nose-down at a depth of 123 meters (403 feet). Which reportedly makes it difficult if not impossible to recover. (Drawings of the sub can be seen here, photos here and an animation here.)
What might be found inside the U-3523? The sub had a crew of 58 and there’s no record of any non-crew members being onboard. Its last telegram, dated May 5, did not mention any unusual passengers or cargo. That might not be surprising if the boat contained Nazi leaders and hordes of gold secretly heading to Argentina. Hitler reportedly committed suicide on April 30th, but if that’s a coverup, he more likely would have snuck out in disguise on a conventional ship, like Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele. Two less-advanced German submarines, the U-530 and U-977, made it to Argentina, but both were captured and neither contained unusual passengers or Nazi gold.
Does the Elektroboote? Until its interior is inspected, if that ever happens, we may never know. For now, its legacy is that its advanced design was used by other navies to develop the Soviet Whiskey, US Tang, UK Porpoise, and Swedish Hajen-class submarines.