FATE OF THE U-133




the Wanderling

There is a story that shows up in a half a dozen places on the internet about a German attempt to destroy Hoover Dam using a submarine during World War II. The story tells of the supposedly last mission of the German submarine U-133 that was to travel up the Colorado River from Baja, California and somehow take out the dam. The same story is repeated basically over-and-over, word-for-word, on all of the internet sites except for maybe one or two that leave out the so-called source. When the source is cited it is always a somewhat questionable and rather elusive publication called the USS Shaw Newsletter from the year 1996 even though the USS Shaw herself was decommissioned in October 1945 and sold for scrap in July 1946. For the record, there is a report carrying a certain amount of validity of an actual attempt on by the Germans against Hoover Dam using a submarine, the vessel so used however was an unnumbered boat and had nothing to do with the U-133.


In 1994, two years before the suspposed USS Shaw Newsletter was published, the diving team of the Sea Breeze Technical Dive Facility under Divemaster Aristotelis Zervoudis managed to locate and identify the wreck of a German submarine on the seabed of the Saronic Gulf. That submarine turned out to be the U-133. The following is how Zervoudis presents it:


The U-133, a VIIC class German submarine, was lost with all hands on March 14, 1942, due to navigation error and a mine explosion. She is laying in 78 meters depth, very close to the naval base of Salamis, the place from where she left for her last voyage on a still today secret mission. The wreck is broken in two pieces due to the mine explosion which hit her on the bow starboard side causing some 15 meters of the bow to break apart from the rest of the submarine hull.

The broken bow piece was the first one to touch the seabed in right position, as the rest of the submarine fell over it, with the stern “sitting” over the bow creating a 90 degrees angle.

The main part of the hull is "sitting" on the seabed on her starboard, with oil still leaking from her fuel tanks. The 88 gun is still there, as are the anti aircraft guns, the periscopes are in low position as the sub was at the surface when she hit the mine. The conning tower hatch is the only one which is open, from there you can see the ladder that leads to the control room. The intact condition (all other hatches are closed) of the stern leads us to the belief that there is a strong possibility that a big part in the aft section is still sealed and water tight. The conning tower is covered with nets that makes the approach very difficult. Two torpedoes are laying on the seabed in front of the bow torpedo room, most probably dropped there as they were stored on the outer deck. The wreck site is like a ghost place, an extremely difficult trimix dive.

Aristotelis Zervoudis PADI Divemaster
Sea Breeze Technical Dive Facility
(see)


Here are some details of the ship from the official U-boat site (uboatnet): U-133:

Laid down 21 Aug 1940 Vegesacker-Werft, Vegesack-Bremen
Commissioned 5 July 1941 Oblt. Hermann Hesse
Commanders 07.41 - 03.42
03.42 Kptlt. Hermann Hesse
Oblt. Eberhard Mohr
Career 3 patrols 07.41 - 09.41 7th Flotilla (St. Nazaire) training
10.41 - 12.41 7th Flotilla (St. Nazaire)
01.42 - 03.42 23rd Flotilla (Salamis)

Successes: Sank the British destroyer HMS Gurhka (1,920 tons)

Fate: Sunk 14 March, 1942 in Mediterranean outside Salamis (Saronic Gulf), Greece, in position 37.50N, 23.33E by a Greek mine. 45 dead (all crew lost) (see)

U-133 left Salamis on the 14th March,1942 at 1700hrs and hit a mine only 2 hours later. The U-boat was lost immediately with all hands. According to data from Greek navy records U-133 hit a Greek mine, which was probably laid in 1941.

The commander of the 23rd Flotilla stated after the incident that U-133 left the prescribed way.

The typical internet story on the alleged submarine attack on Hoover Dam can be found by going to Footnote [1]. However, how wrong or impossible the internet story may be, in the end there is much more truth to the story than myth. It is the facts that are wrong. A more accurate discription of the suspected attack, leaning toward what actually happened, can be found by going to:


GERMAN SUBMARINE ATTACK ON HOOVER DAM


THE STRANGE ODYSSEY OF THE GERMAN U-BOAT U-196


THE NAZI PLOT TO BLOW UP HOOVER DAM


JAPANESE MIDGET SUBMARINES
THE JAPANESE PLAN TO NUKE LOS ANGELES

JAPANESE SECRET WAR


SINKING OF THE I-12



SEE ALSO:


F6F NAVY HELLCAT, NAZI SUBS, AND THE BAJA MEXICO CRASH SITE


SECRET JAPANESE SUBMARINE BASES
ON THE PACIFIC WEST COAST


THE SHIPWRECKED SAILOR


P-40 WARHAWK
PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR


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Footnote [1]


The following below, is found on UBOAT.NET Myth and Stories, albeit debunking it much in the same way as I have. Nevertheless, the story continues to be presented in one form or the other over-and-over elsewhere on the net, ad infinitum, as if it were fact:


U-133's mission to destroy the Hoover Dam

According to an article from 1996 U-133's last mission was to travel up the Colorado River from Baja, California and destroy the Hoover Dam. The article is from the USS Shaw's newsletter. The article states that U-133, piloted by Captain Peter Pfau along with 54 sailors made it to as far as Laughlin, Nevada before sandbars made them abort their mission and scuttle the sub.

This is only a cute story, U-133 would never have made it that far (see map showing its approximate path from St. Nazaire, a suitable base, to the target) as its fuel supply would never have allowed this (not even close, the type VIIC could make it to the US east coast by filling up part of its water tanks with fuel but even then it was stretching it). There was also no U-boat commander named Pfau.

Had such an unusual and daring raid been attempted during the war, people would talk and we would know about it by now.

Follow up: A reader pointed out that "... would also have been impossible for the fact that they would have had to somehow bypass the Parker and Imperial Dams (both of which opened in 1938), would have to traverse the entire length of the Colorado River without being detected (I assume that they would have to be surfaced for the duration of the journey to aid in navigation), and would arrive in the Gulf of California only to discover that the Colorado River is not as traversable as one might think."



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Please note the route in red of the submarine going from Europe around South America on the smaller top graphic is from the discredited report of the attack on Hoover Dam by the U-133. The actual route, shown in the larger second graphic, was a four-part journey leaving from Europe from the same location, but going instead around the tip of South Africa into the Pacific eventually to be picked up by the long range Japanese sub the I-12 and taken to the La Palma Secret Base for a shake down cruise prior to being towed into the Sea of Cortez.


THE SINKING OF THE I-12


LAGUNA DAM COLORADO RIVER


USS SHAW: HER FATE AND HISTORY


THE COLORADO RIVER: WAS IT NAVIGABLE?