Haunting of German Submarine U-65
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
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.)