Below are two paragraphs quoted from separate sources that present insights into Axis submarines, one German, one Japanese, operating in Mexican Pacific waters during World War II. The question is, what does either of the two enemy submarines, in fact or fiction, fully armed and able to protect themselves or not, being in Mexican Pacific waters and the Sea of Cortez during World War II in the first place and what do they have to do, if anything, with a U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat as so referred to in the title at the top of the page?
"Toward the end of World War II a German submarine from the Monsun Gruppe 33rd Flotilla operating out of Penang, Malaysia was said to have shown up at the La Palma Secret Base, a primitive submarine-pen hewn out of the jungle-like estuaries of Chiapas along Mexico's far southern reaches of the Pacific Coast by the Japanese. That German U-boat, a long range Type IXD2, was the U-196."
THE STRANGE ODYSSEY OF THE GERMAN U-BOAT U-196
"The I-12 was the last known of the giant aircraft equipped Japanese submarines operating in the eastern Pacific. Facts borne out by kills against allied shipping well west of Hawaii are solidly confirmed for the I-12 at least up to as late as October 1944. She was also the only Japanese submarine that late in the war that was in any sort of a position to have accessed the submarine facilities of Magdalena Bay in Baja California. She had shown up at the much farther south La Palma Secret Base in Chiapas, Mexico sometime around mid-December, 1944 followed within days by the equally infamous if not more so German u-boat, the U-196. When the 1-12 departed the secret base it headed north into the Sea of Cortez, then, after traversing nearly the full length of the sea she turned back, rounded the tip of Baja California and headed north."
SINKING OF THE I-12 JAPANESE GHOST SUBMARINE
The answer basically refers back to the mysterious and unaccounted for remains of a crashed F6F in the Sea of Cortez spread out and buried in the sand in a remote stretch of beach just off the coast of the Mexican state of Sonora, pieces of which still to this day only show up during rare tidal shifts brought about by extreme low tide events. The pieces have been fully identified as being that of a F6F Hellcat with the wings still having fully visible machine guns mounted in them --- of which no potential later rebuilt civilian version would ever have --- meaning, of course, the remains having to be fully military.
WW II F6F HELLCAT DEBRIS IN THE SURF OFF SONORA MEXICO. NOTE THE STILL INTACT GUNS
How much longer the pieces will continue to languish where they are in the sand before someone hauls them off is not known, but, as of this writing, they still remain in their watery, sandy grave. How the parts of the wrecked Navy F6F ended up on the beach in Sonora is not known. Regardless of who says what, no formal records have shown up that substantiates a plane of that type ever went missing in the area nor is any pilot on record as being missing or dying in any mission over the area.
According to what can be found in the Warbird Information Exchange (WIX), an online source described as a place for warbird enthusiasts to share experiences, stories, and pictures, apparently what has been put forth by an anonymous full-bird colonel claiming knowledge of the subject and repeated ad nauseam since it's first appearance, the remains are that of an F6F-5N Night Fighter out of Ream Field, a Navel Air Station (NAS) in Imperial Beach, California about three miles north of the Mexican border. The good colonel is reported to have said the F6F crashed in the spring of 1945 on a night mission. The pilot got lost and set it down on the beach.
The problem with such a scenario is that in a search of records spanning the time F6Fs were first introduced until they were phased out, none indicate a loss of plane in the spring of 1945 anyplace or for any reason in or near the area we are talking about. So too, none show up or come close enough to the location of the wreck to match ANY known downing or missing F6F in the near-by general vicinity or the wider-based Mexico-Baja-Sonora area. Below is a list of officially recorded downed F6Fs south of the U.S. Mexico border from the Pacific just off the coast in the west to the city of Monterey in the east:
- 40179, November 23, 1943, stalled and crashed near Rosarito.
- 40124, December 31, 1943, ditched, engine failure 8 miles off Rosarito Beach.
- 41609, March 24, 1944, crashed during take-off from USS Wasp off the coast of Mexico.
- 42646, July 16, 1945, flew into mountain near Monterey, Mexico.
- 70423, November 18, 1945, forced landing on beach near Baja.
- 40529, December 8, 1945, ditched, engine failure off Point Canoas.
- 42309, December 8, 1945, lost and ditched due to engine failure off Point Canoas.
- 94307, October 6, 1950, lost, forced landing 17 miles west of Mexicali.
- 94454, April 29, 1950, forced landing at Caborca Field.
NOTE: The above F6F data gathered through the auspices of the WFI Research Group as found in the book F6F Grumman Hellcat (1991) by Ted Darcy. The book, no longer in print, is available in CD format.(see)
Army/Army AIr Force and the Navy/Marine/Coast Guard have differences between their serial number designation. The Army/Air Force uses a serial number preceded by a fiscal year designator. The Navy/Marine/Coast Guard uses a Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (Bureau #).
If you discount an avid personal interest in the giant airborne object of an unknown nature that overflew the city of Los Angeles and surrounding suburbs in the early throes of World War II that was able to deflect the direct onslaught of over 1400 anti-aircraft rounds only to disappear out over the Pacific escaping unharmed --- an incident that I witnessed myself as a young boy as it overflew my house and has since come to be known as The Battle of Los Angeles: 1942 UFO, along with my early attempts to fly as a ten year old boy as found in Tarzan and the Huntress and the high altitude warships called Zeppelins, you will find when it comes to flying things, primarily because of my like of the Flying Tigers, that I have page after page related in some fashion to the World War II fighter plane the Curtis-Wright P-40 Warhawk --- also known as the Tomahawk, and the Kittyhawk depending on who flew them, their area of operation, and when they were made. Although I hold no distaste toward other aircraft, and I mention many throughout my works, relative to the P-40, most do have a tendency to take a backseat. Such is the case with the truly most formidable F6F Hellcat. The Hellcat, more specifically the F6F, comes up here because of the potential possibility of one of it's kind coming in contact with another strong interest of mine, submarines --- especially so World War II Japanese and German rogue or ghost submarines.
In the opening quotes at the top of the page I mention two Axis submarines, the German U-boat U-196 and the Japanese trans-oceanic, aircraft equipped ghost submarine, the I-12. The two paragraphs entertain the prospect of both submarines being in Mexican waters. The main text the paragraphs are sourced from go into greater depth by stating both submarines were in the Sea of Cortez, with the I-12 being at least as far north into the gulf as Isla Ángel de la Guarda, also called Archangel Island, off Bahia de los Angeles and the U-196 sniffing along the coast of Sonora.
An American by the name of Jerry Kelly, sometimes of Bowie, Arizona, sometimes of Las Dunas Santo Tomas, Mexico, tells me he has come across the wreckage of the Hellcat on several occasions. Not long after an on-his-own coming across the parts of the downed craft scattered around in the low tide sand for the first time --- and with the sea once again cooperating in it's cycle of ebb and flow, he was back walking the debris field when an old man came by in a pickup driving in the sand of the low tide. The old man told him the wreck happened sometime in 1942 or 1943. Although the plane washed ashore later his father rescued the pilot who told him "they" had bombed a German ship or submarine although he wasn't sure of which. Who the "they" were other than the pilot of the downed Hellcat is not clear, implicating through the choice of words that more than just the downed pilot was involved in some sort of a multiple person or multiple craft mission over the Sea of Cortez. A few weeks later American troops arrived in Puerto Penasco, also known as Rocky Point, about 75 miles north, taking trawlers down to the site, loading up many large crates and boxes and returning to the states with them.
Kelly also tells me there is a place about 3 miles south of Santo Tomas that has been known as Germans Point for 50 years. Old timers in and around the Santo Tomas area tell the story about an old Nazi that had a fish shack there who was said by him to have come off a German sub in the war.....he went back to Germany in the 70s or 80s.....a good fisherman who always paid for his supplies with gold.
Of the two years so recalled by the old man in the pickup, 1942 or 1943, 1943 would be much closer to being accurate of the two because the first production F6F-3 off the assembly line didn't fly until October 3, 1942. By February 1943, four months later, Hellcats began showing up in full operational readiness on the USS Essex. They first saw action against the Japanese on September 1, 1943 when fighters flying off the USS Independence shot down a Japanese flying boat. Although Hellcats had been flying off the coast of Mexico and along the Mexico/California border much sooner, the first recorded crash of a F6F in Mexico itself didn't occur until the end of November 1943 near Rosarito. Personally, because of events, I would pick a somewhat later year than even the old man's secondary 1943 date, possibly late in 1944 or early 1945 because it falls into a more favorable timeframe with the following:
"There are reports, or at least strong rumors to the effect, that a German U-boat arrived at the Chiapas secret base for refueling long after the Japanese stopped using it on a regular basis, only to show up along the Mexican northwest coast off Sonora late in the year of 1944. The stories go on to say the U-boat, said to be under the auspices of the Gruppe Monsun operating out of Penang, Malaysia, was carrying a rather large shipment of Nazi gold intended as an inducement for certain Mexican authorities to ensure a potential post-war settlement of high ranking Germans and Nazi refugees. However, any gold associated with such a venture disappeared along with the submarine."(source)
"The I-12 took over eventually ending up at the La Palma Secret Base sometime around mid-December, 1944. After a minor shakedown and testing in and around the secret base and just off shore by German crew members, the cargo was taken a 1000 miles north by the powerful trans-oceanic I-12 to the mouth of the Sea of Cortez that lies between the Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico, then another 1000 miles north to Isla Ángel de la Guarda, also called Archangel Island, off Bahia de los Angeles --- or one of the other smaller islands nearby and hidden in a cove."(source)
"Joseph Curry, an American treasure hunter living in Alamos, Sonora Mexico has repeatedly stated the existence of an intact German U-boat sitting in 80 feet of water in the Sea of Cortez off the coast of Sonora. During World War II, under the cover of a heavy storm apparently a junior officer and two seamen from the submarine attempted to go ashore in a rubber raft. All three, fully dressed in uniforms of German submariners, were found on the beach drowned four miles north of suspected location of the sunken submarine. The officer was carrying official documents in a waterproof pouch that suposedly implicated a U.S. citizen as a potential German agent. According to reports Curry has received, the sub is located within sight of shore on a sandy bottom, supposedly half buried listing about 20 degrees from an upright position. The periscope is almost exposed when an unusually low tide occurs."(source)
Throughout the text I write about Axis submarines in Pacific west coast waters and the Sea of Cortez, traveling alone and each far from home, most likely fully armed and fully combat capable fighting ships able to defend themselves if need be, and being quite able to implement evasive tactics and/or inflict damage in either a defensive or offensive mode if called upon. Of the three subs in the immediately above three quotes I can speak for the first two, the sub in the first quote most likely referring to the German U-boat the U-196 with the second sub being quite clearly the Japanese sub the I-12. As for the third, mentioned by Joseph Curry, I am not able to attest to it other than his testimony. However, there is little doubt if the sub exists as Curry says it does, then I am sure it would have fallen into a similar or like category of self defense capabilities. So said, it is of my opinion that the downed F6F Hellcat met it's doom by tangling with one of the three submarines, more than likely brought out of the sky by their deck guns.
The subs, any of the three, possibly not suspecting any sort of an attack that far north in the gulf and that late into the war were probably languishing on the surface when they picked up the sound of approaching aircraft. Not able to dive quickly enough the crew took to their deck guns with the end result being the the Hellcat rendered inoperative. I'm not sure if the I-12 would feel comfortable on the surface per se', however my guess is that it's crew was the most battle ready and battle tested of the three. The U-196 had sort of a hodge-podge crew, albeit mostly made up of experienced submariners. The sunken sub could have been impacted by a direct hit by the Hellcat (or others) before it crashed into the sea just off Sonora.
The Hellcat, with a range of 900-1000 miles, if it was flying out of the NSA Imperial Beach near San Diego, was just about at it's fail-safe range if the distance traveled includes a most likely needed target perimeter search. The strike would have to be quick, efficient, and out of there. Some assistance in the search could possibly have been provided by a little known U.S. military radar station in full operation at the northern reaches the Sea of Cortez directly across from Sonora. If the I-12 launched it's seaplane in a test-run or some such thing while cruising the placid waters of the northern gulf, and not knowing a secret U.S. radar site was just northwest of them, they may have set off alarm bells putting into motion what could have turned into an airstrike. The radar station was one of three radar sites built and commanded by the U.S. Army in Mexico along the coast of Baja California to protect the southern approaches to San Diego. According to Mexican Forts known sites included Station B-92 at Punta Salispuedes, located 22 miles northwest of Ensenada (later moved to Alasitos, 36 miles south of Tiajuana); Station B-94 at Punta San Jacinto, 60 miles south of Ensenada; and Station B-97 at Punta Estrella, south of San Felipe on the Gulf of California (aka Sea of Cortez).(source)
In 1943 my Uncle personally became privy to the fact that German U-boats were operating in the Sea of Cortez and was shot in the back and left to die by foreign agents because of it. In 1970 he repeated to me how the events unfolded:
My uncle, a civilian in 1943 and for sure a non-combatant --- actually falling more into a role of a conscientious objector type than anything else --- I cite often in my works. He was a fairly well established artist in those days as well as what I call a biosearcher. Prior to his death in 1989 he had, as a biosearcher, more than a half dozen plant species named after him following years of trekking, searching, and discovering previously unknown and unnamed plants all over mostly remote and hidden areas and sections of the desert southwest. In 1943 he was biosearching alone in the then largely uninhabited mountainous and desert-like terrain in the central section of New Mexico between the New Mexico and Arizona border on the west and the north-to-south flowing Rio Grande on the east.
In the process of his biosearching he came across two men, and unusually so, both Asian. One of men was flat on his back all but unconscious and visibly quite ill after apparently having been bitten by a rattlesnake with the bite being left untreated. My uncle, after using the healing properties of indigenous plants he gathered up, soon found the man up and around. One of the men who had a rudimentary use of English told my uncle they were Japanese, were testing soil samples for radioactivity, and had been left off in Mexico by a submarine. By then my uncle was wanting to beat a hasty retreat but before he could one of the men shot him in the back. They took his truck and although they left him to bleed out he survived. In 1985, a full 15 years after I became privy to the information imparted to me by my uncle regarding the two Japanese operatives taking soil samples as stated above, a book titled The Japanese Secret War authored by Robert K. Wilcox was published. In the book Wilcox writes about two Japanese men who could have been none other than the two my uncle encountered as well as the U-boat they arrived in, of which I turn around and write about as found in the sourced link below the quote so cited:
"Wilcox's book that, for the first time brought to the public's attention Japanese agents having been in the desert southwest during World War II specifically tasked with testing soil samples for radiation, was published in 1985. It was in 1970, fifteen years before Wilcox's book was published that my uncle told me about his 1943 encounter with Japanese spies soil testing deep into state of New Mexico and the fact that according to their own testimony, they had initially been brought to Mexico via German U-boat from Europe. "
THE JAPANESE SECRET WAR
Below shows the remains of the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine that powered the downed F6F Hellcat. Notice part of the prop, albeit somewhat bent protruding from the sand, apparently still attached to the engine. For comparison purposes there are some absolutely fabulous photographs of the same type engine taken at a wreck site in the high desert region of the dry Mohave Desert at the link so provided below the graphic. Although the engine is the same type Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp that powered the Hellcat, the plane in the desert was a F4U Corsair. Since it is in the high country and for the most part relatively dry the engine is in remarkably good shape considering the crash and looters, making for graphically clear photos. Take notice of the similarity of the gears and parts, quite easily identified as the same powerplant.
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AIRCRAFT CRASH SITES: TRONA F4U-1 CORSAIR
For those of you who may be so interested in more of what I have presented in Footnote  regarding potential Nazi gold, crew members from the U-196, escaped German submariners from the Papago Park POW camp near Phoenix, and how any of it or none of it may or may not be related in some fashion to the small Arizona ghost town of Chloride, please see:
THE STRANGE ODYSSEY OF THE GERMAN U-BOAT U-196
SECRET JAPANESE SUBMARINES BASES ON THE
PACIFIC WEST COAST
THE NAZI PLOT TO BLOW UP HOOVER DAM
BRITISH MOTOR MERCHANT M.V. TULAGI
GHOST AND THE HAUNTED B-29
THE SINKING OF THE I-12
OF THE P-40 TOMAHAWK SQUADRON
RALPH A. MULTER
GUNNER'S MATE 3rd CLASS, U.S. NAVY
DID THE WANDERLING FLY?
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
In some reports related to crashed or downed Hellcats in Mexico, said to be researched from Ted Darcy's book, the word Caborca, as in Caborca Field, is misspelled as Cabaraca Field. So too, some of those same reports indicate --- misspelling or not --- there is no Caborca Field no matter how it is spelled. That might be true if you go by the name only. However, there IS a rather long and quite functional dirt airstrip in Caborca that goes by the name of Manjarrez de Caborca Airport. If it dates back to World War II is not known, although it wasn't until April 29, 1950, five years after the war that a F6F was reportedly put into a position to perform a forced landing at Caborca, Caborca being located on the Mexican mainland some 50 miles inland from the Sea of Cortez and about 65 miles due south of U.S./Mexico border.
MANJARREZ DE CABORCA AIRPORT
CESSNA LANDS AT AERODROME MANJARREZ CABORACA, SONORA
The most recent whereabouts of Jerry Kelly, at least on home or blog-type pages I can find related to him, and he shows up often, have, and unusual for him if the recent past is any indication, last posted dates of quite some time back. If he is still around or can still be reached --- or will even respond --- is not known. It was Jerry who took and most graciously provided me access to the photographs of the downed Hellcat near his home in Mexico used on this page. See:
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Although this particular page is about a given Hellcat, the specific one Jerry Kelly is standing on the wing of as shown above, and it's certain fate in place and time and what happened to it --- AND not a submarine page or about submarines per se', without the submarines that I've incorporated into the story, then it is my belief that none of what happened would have happened.
THE WANDERLING AND SUBMARINES:
Over and over people want to know why my almost borderline psychological addiction with all this submarine stuff in the first place? After all, they ask, are you not a known Zen man of some accomplishment --- why page after page of submarines, why not more on Enlightenment or help for those seeking along the path?
Good question. Even though the submarine pages are each stand alone pages unto themselves, they are still interwoven into the fabric of my own journey along the path, thus inturn it is hoped, casting light however meager, for guidance along your own.
The answer starts well over a half century ago, on the morning of Friday March 10, 1944. On that date I was a young boy traveling in India under the auspices of a foster couple and staying at the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Totally unrelated and unbeknownst to me or anybody involved with me or the parties I was with, on that same date as well, the British Motor Merchant MV Tulagi, loaded with a cargo of flour and 380 bags of mail sailed from Australia for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) under control and orders of the British Admiralty. Proceeding down the New South Wales Coast, and, via the Bass Strait she rounded Cape Leuwin and on into the Indian Ocean. Seventeen days later, on March 27, 1944, with a full complement of 54 on board she was torpedoed by the German Submarine U-532 of the First Monsun Group operating out of Penang, Malaysia. She sank in 20 seconds. Of the 54 crew members only 15 survived, taking to two lifeboats. Following the torpedo attack and after 58 days adrift the seven members of ONE of the rafts finally came across a group of small islands. Just before midnight they landed on Bijoutier, a tiny island of the Alphonse Group belonging to the Outer Islands of the Seychelles. The eight members of the second raft, separated halfway into their drift from the first, basically disappeared and have never been officially accounted for. Some time after the sinking of the British Motor Merchant MV Tulgai found me in the Indian Ocean as a passenger on a lone, unescorted ship in those very same submarine infested waters on a return trip bound for England and then the U.S. During the months I was gone the woman of the couple I was with had written three letters to my father which years later eventually fell into my hands, of which the following quote refers to her comments found in her last letter:
"TheLiverpool Letter, except for several long incoherent paragraphs about picking up a live survivor or two or none at all amongst several dead in a life raft sometime before arriving or after leaving Cape Town, South Africa, circulated mostly around the logistics of bringing me home."
SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: And The Last American Darshan
The letter so mentioned in the quote was written by the woman of a couple that took me, as a young boy, to India. In the letter she indicated that a liferaft was encountered in some fashion by the ship we were on during our return trip to England. How she worded it wasn't totally clear and could be deciphered, at least in how I read it, in a number of ways. It was clear in what she said that there was a liferaft, but IF the liferaft was encountered before or after Cape Town or IF there were or were not survivors was muddled. She didn't elaborate one way or the other or attempt to clarify the event because anything regarding the liferaft had nothing at all to do to do with the point she was trying to get across in the letter. I do not remember anything about a voyage home or anything to do with any liferafts. However, backtracking through all the events, in all my research, taking into consideration time, place, ships attacked and sunk, survivors and non survivors, etc., only one ship fits the bill, the aforementioned British motor merchant MV Tulagi. Now, I have no idea how many times the ship I was on came into the periscope crosshairs of German U-boats, if any. However, the whole route of travel from India, around Africa and into the Atlantic on to England was crawling with submarines, every one seeking an easy, vunerable target. Looking back it must have been pure luck, fate or karma, but in any case throughout the years I have come to appreciate the results and established in me a strong interest in how the actions and selected non-interaction of submarines and their operations, Japanese or German thereof, have impacted the outcome of my life.
SINKING OF THE BRITISH SHIP MV TULAGI
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TWO-MAN JAPANESE- MIDGET SUBMARINE MOUNTED
ADJACENT TO THE MOTHER SHIP'S CONNING TOWER
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ZUNI ROSETTE AT TOP
IMPERIAL SEAL BOTTOM
Anybody who has any amount of the desert southwest in their veins knows it is laced with stories of lost treasure from top to bottom. So too, as much as those stories are loved, almost none of them ever end up with any sort of a positive results regarding wealth or riches for the majority of treasure seekers.
When I was a kid my dad used to tell stories about the Lost Dutchman Mine located somewhere in the mysterious Superstition Mountains of Arizona, always saying he was going to search for it one day. I remember he even had a book, Thunder God's Gold (1945), that devoted several chapters giving all the clues and directions on how to find it, but, to my knowledge, he never went looking for it. A few years after the book came out a movie based on the chapters in the book on the Lost Dutchman Mine was released titled The Lust For Gold (1949) going over the same basic clues albeit in a narrative or story-like style. I must have seen the movie a 1000 times, or at least more than once, and have to admit the mine and the treasure of gold it is said to hold has a certain inexplicable draw to it.
One time traveling across Arizona I came across a cast gold ingot in an antique store in the old mining town of Jerome. It had a seal or crest embossed on it that I thought at first was the Zuni Sacred Rosette. The ingot had Asian script etched into it's surface, in the end turning out to be actually of World War II Japanese origin. According to my Uncle, a onetime major southwestern desert bioseacher and gadfly, similar ingots had shown up more than once in the hands of Germans during or shortly after World War II, raising more questions than answers.
There are rumors all over the desert that caches of Nazi gold had been stashed in any number of places in the desert, most notedly Arizona and more specifically the ghost town of Chloride located maybe 23 miles north of Kingman. And that's the punchline, caches of Nazi gold. None of it has shown up anywhere ever, at least to my knowledge. However, I personally saw the gold ingot sitting in a display case an antique shop in Arizona, not with a Nazi swastika emboldened on the surface as always seems to be depicted in the legends of Nazi gold, BUT instead imprinted with the Imperial Seal of Japan.
Gold was used by the Japanese Imperial Government to purchase uranium oxide from the Germans. In turn the gold was intended to be shipped through to Germany via the same U-boats that delivered the uranium to Japan, but instead began piling up in the German held Asian submarine ports because of being bumped by more important strategic materials. I have stated elsewhere that a number of Nazis and German military, senior or otherwise, living in south Asian Japanese occupied territory, possibly in collusion with some crew members of the U-196 fled from Djakarta in 1944 (rather than France) with a cargohold full of gold.
I also said that there was a chance some of the crew, my guess 10 or 15 members, possibly a few more, may have gone ahead and disembarked in Sonora, Mexico taking their share of the gold with them figuring when the war ended they would slip across the border into the U.S. and simply blend in with returning G.I.s or released German POWs. In preparation they apparently moved the bulk of their gold from Mexico onto the U.S side. That is where or how SOME of the rumors of Nazi gold being stashed in the desert may have originated. However, as you can see it could not have been very much and it wasn't Nazi gold per se' but actually Japanese gold on route to Germany intended as payment to the Reich. It just never made it that far.
As is easily apparent, my more admirable idea of having found physical proof of a connection between the Zuni and ancient Japanese laying in amongst a bunch of trinkets and old watches in some obscure shop in Jerome quickly went by the wayside, instead adding more credibility and strength to the stories of German submarines in the Sea of Cortez, most likely the U-196, and stashes of, even though it wasn't, Nazi gold hidden away in the desert.
On Monday, January 7, 1985, and on-and-off almost all of the next day, without getting into a whole lot of the logistics, I sought out and met with a former World War II German submariner at the Riverside Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada.
The submariner was named Johann Kremer, a former POW visiting the U.S. for a reunion in Phoenix, Arizona. He said in 1944 he had escaped side-by-side along with the infamous U-boat captain, Jurgen Wattenberg and 60 others from the Papago Park POW camp in Arizona and, like Wattenberg, never made it to their intended goal, the Colorado River. But here he was now, 40 years later, after visiting the Grand Canyon the day before, standing there next to me along the Colorado River recounting tales of days gone by.
During our time together Kremer was approached by a man identifying himself as a former Kriegsmarine U-boat crew member currently living somewhat inland along the coast of the Sea of Cortez in Sonora, Mexico. While the three of us were together Kremer and the other man only spoke in German so I really didn't get the full gist of the story he was telling, although intermittently Kremer would turn and explain to me parts of the conversation. During the conversation the man, after removing something from what looked like a well-worn bowling bag he had next to him on the floor, set a small open-top olive drab cloth bag on the table that contained within itself a rather snug fitting cardboard box.
Eventually the man opened the top of the cardboard box. Inside was what looked to me like two small cast or a cut into a couple of pieces gold ingot about the size of two paperback pocket books back-to-back. When the man pulled one of the pieces part way out to show Kremer, it is exactly what it was. The man made it clear that during the war he was never an internee or prisoner at the Papago Park POW camp, but instead had been a crew member on a submarine he identified as a Type IXD2 from the Monsun Gruppe 33rd Flotilla operating out of Penang, Malaysia, and without clarifying, or at least as Kremer excluded or related it to me, said he ended up in Mexico and that there was more gold where that came from.
One of the things I recall vividly from the meeting --- because to me it was so interesting and so off subject --- was that even though Laughlin wasn't that far north from the place he left in Mexico, he had been on the road several days. He said it took him longer than the distance would indicate because not only he couldn't speak English but he didn't have any papers. Thus said, even though it was only somewhat over three hundred miles, it had taken him days to get to Laughlin. I remember it specifically because he said, as it was translated to me, his 60th birthday was coming up the very first part of March and after taking care of some business in the U.S. somewhere in the mountains near Kingman, Arizona, he had to get back to some rendezvous spot to meet some guy that was going to get him back across the border and home. If the home he was alluding to was in Germany or in Mexico, what his birthday had to do with it, or why the need to go into the mountains somewhere near Kingman or what his ultimate fate after that was, I don't know.
Down along the Arizona-Mexico border there is a small town named Lukeville, named such after the World War I American of German immigrant descent come war hero and flying ace Frank Luke Jr., known famously on both sides of the action as "the balloon buster." Luke was born in Phoenix, the third generation of an early line of Arizona German immigrants. His grandfather, Charles Luke, was a member of a mining contingent attacked by Native Americans in Alumn Wash near the Silver Hills mine in Chloride on September 22, 1866, ending in all members of the party except Luke killed.
In 1972 a popular television series of the time, Kung Fu, was first aired. In the series a young boy was being trained to be a monk by a Shaolin master, the boy often being called "grasshopper" by the master. A friend of mine from my old Army days had been stationed in Germany and while there married a German woman after which they had two kids. On occasion I overheard the mother affectionately calling the youngest of her two children, a boy, grasshopper, and did so in her native language, German. I recognized the German word for grasshopper during the conversation being spoken in German between the former submariner from Mexico and Kremer. Why either of the two, at that time or any other time, would be talking about grasshoppers one way or the other was beyond me.
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However, what I consider as valid answers to all of the above questions pretty much came together for me one day out of the blue a few years later when I decided to go to Chloride for the first time. I took U.S. 93 to Arizona CR 125 which goes right into Chloride --- and that's when it dawned on me. The building complex that forms the small inhabited area at the turnoff spot where 125 intersects with 93 is called Grasshopper Junction. It is my belief that when "grasshopper" came up in the conversation between the submariner and Kremer they were talking about Grasshopper Junction. For whatever reason there was some sort of a connection between Frank and Charles Luke, Chloride, and the residual German community spread throughout the general area, and I think the Silver Hill mine or Alumn Wash had something to do with it.
CHARLES AUGUST LUKE
There is a formidable war memorial in Germany dedicated to the memory of all U-boat officers and men who served and lost their lives at sea in the German Navies during World War I and II called the U-Boot-Ehrenmal Möltenort (Möltenort U-Boat Memorial) located in the seaside resort of Heikendor just off the Baltic Sea. The memorial has a high, large half-circle-wall with the open section of the half circle facing toward a central monument. On either side of the walls are a series of metal plates, one each for each U-boat and each plate containing the names of those who lost their lives in the line of duty in each of the so designated U-boats. One of the memorial plates is dedicated to the U-196. Both the name and birthdate of the man who approached the former POW in Laughlin appears on the plate. I know because I've seen it myself.(see)
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When I say the subs were fully armed and able to take care of themselves, i.e., fend off attacks, it is speculation on my part as it is quite clear one of the three subs, if it exists, went down. There is no time frame for the reported sunken sub per se' and it may have gone down in a storm, but, for the other two, the U-196 and the I-12, both were in the Sea of Cortez, an area not known for the need of any kind of defenses --- and for sure, that late into the war most thought none were needed.
How fully equipped the U-196 was is not known. However, there are no reports that she engaged in any type of hostilities after leaving Penang November 30, 1944, to undertake a war patrol around Australia. The I-12 is another thing. When it attacked and sunk the American Liberty ship John A. Johnson on October 29, 1944, in the process of sinking her the I-12 unleashed a whole barrage of deck gun fire all over the remaining hull pieces killing large portions of the surviving crew, some in lifeboats. With that and other interactions how fully armed she remained is not clear. However, it is thought both subs accessed the La Palma Secret Base in Chiapas, southern Mexico for fuel and provisions prior to their trek north into the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California). Even if the Secret Base did have all the fuel and provisions they may have needed it is doubtful they would have had any amount of deck gun ammunition available.
LUST FOR GOLD
The U-boat memorial has a series of commemorative metal plates, one each for each U-boat with each plate containing the names and birthdates of those who lost their lives serving in the line of duty on each of the so designated U-boats. One of the memorial plates, as should be expected, is dedicated to those who served on the U-196. Both of the names and birthdates of Dr. Heinz Haake and the man who approached the former POW in Laughlin appear on the U-196 plate, the man of which doing the approaching I met in Laughlin as well. I know that their names and birthdates appear on the U-196 plate because I personally saw both of their names and birthdates on the U-196 plate myself, the having done so coming about as found in High Mountain Zendo described briefly in the quote below:
"I found it most expedient to make myself scarce, which I did, traveling through Europe for six weeks-plus instead, leaving the Condors and wolves behind. Along the way, Stonehenge, Pompeii, Acropolis, Running of the Bulls, the villa of British author and playwright William Somerset Maugham, Da Vinci's birthplace, statue of David and a friend in Cannes.
"Although on other occasions I have done or visited some or all of the places above, for me, on this trip, one of the most important things I wanted to do was to visit the German World War I and II submarine memorial called the U-Boot-Ehrenmal Möltenort (Möltenort U-Boat Memorial) located in the seaside resort of Heikendor just off the Baltic Sea. My interest is because along with hundreds of other German names that appear on the metal plates dedicated to submariners who died in the line of duty serving on U-boats --- a man I met, a former German submariner who strangely enough had been living in Mexico and whose hand I shook and was quite obviously alive and well, has both his name and birthdate on the plate that commemorates the fallen crew members of the U-196."
HIGH MOUNTAIN ZENDO