Haunting of German Submarine
By James Donahue
The following is a ghost story that probably is not true because the information strays too far from the true
record of U-65. But it is a find story of a haunting and we offer it as a special Halloween read.
The Germans developed
a powerful navy of submarines remembered as U-Boats during World War I that were extremely effective in blockading British
ports and stopping the flow of vital supplies and manpower from the United States to assist in the Allied war effort.
While the early submarines
were dangerous places to work, and most men who served on them died at sea, it was said the sailors who served on one particular
vessel, U-65, were more terrified of the ghost that haunted their ship than they were of confronting enemy forces at sea.
U-65’s keel was
laid at the naval dockyard at Wilhelmshaven in June, 1916. She was one of a class of 24 submarines especially designed
to operate out of the ports of occupied Belgium.
It was during construction that bad fortune began to dog this particular boat.
A heavy metal girder
that was being lowered into position to be welded into the hull, slipped from the crane tackle and crashed down into the partially
constructed boat, killing a German workman instantly. A second man was so seriously hurt in the accident he died in a hospital
a few days later.
Before U-65 was launched,
three men died in the engine room when they were overcome by poisonous fumes. Thus a total of five workers died before this
boat ever was put to sea.
The story goes downhill
from here. While on her sea trials, a seaman who was sent forward to inspect hatches was swept overboard and lost at sea.
When U-65 made its first test dive, instead of leveling out at 30 feet the boat dropped to the bottom of the sea when a forward
ballast tank fractured. She remained trapped there for 12 hours while flood water got to the batteries and flooded the sub
with toxic fumes. By the time the boat freed itself from the sea bed and broke to the surface again, the entire crew was violently
ill. Two of the sailors died in a hospital from the poisoning.
When the boat was commissioned
in February, 1917, U-65 was placed under the command of Oberleutuant Karl Honig. While torpedoes were being loaded for the
boat’s first patrol, a warhead exploded, killing the Second Officer and eight seamen. Nine other sailors were seriously
And this is where the
ghost first makes its appearance. While the vessel was being towed back into dry dock for repair, a seaman hysterically reported
that he had seen the ghost of the Second Officer standing on the prow, his arms folded. Another sailor named Petersen said
he also saw the ghost. The day before U-65 was to set off on her first patrol, Petersen deserted.
While on that patrol,
several men on that boat reported seeing the ghost of that Second Officer. They said one night the duty officer was found
on the bridge, sobbing. He said he saw the ghostly figure standing on the ship’s prow.
In February, 1918, after
a patrol in the Dover Straits, U-65 had just docked at Bruges
when the port came under attack by British aircraft. Captain Honig was decapitated by flying shrapnel as he stepped on the
gang plank. His headless body was thrown back on the deck. That night nine men, including an officer, saw the ghost of the
Second Officer standing beside the canvas shroud of the captain’s corpse.
After this incident,
the entire crew requested a transfer from U-65 and the boat was placed in reserve at Bruges.
The problem was so serious, a German Naval minister, the Rev. Franz Weber, conducted an exorcism of the ship.
In June, 1918, Germany was losing the war. U-boat loses were such a strain
on the German Naval Command that U-65 was put back into service. On June 30 she set out on what was to be her last patrol.
As the story is told,
U-65 was spotted by U.S. submarine L-2 while patrolling off the coast of
Ireland. While L-2 was at periscope depth,
the German U-Boat was traveling on the surface. The American skipper got into position and was about to fire a battery of
torpedoes at the enemy ship but then something incredible happened.
It was said U-65 blew
up before their eyes. Something had gone wrong inside the boat. The American submarine never fired a shot.
(The real story of U-65 is that she was built in Kiel rather than Wilhelmshaven in 1915, instead of 1916. She was stationed in Pula during the war and enjoyed a successful career, sinking 52 enemy
ships on 11 patrols. At the end of the war, on Oct. 28, 1918, U-65 was scuttled at Pula
during the evacuation.)