Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Unidentified Submerged Objects: The Golfo Nuevo Incidents

I admit, until recently my only knowledge of USOs came from reports from South America (specifically Brazil and Argentina) and so it seems appropriate for the second entry in this series to focus on one of the most famous series of incidents from that part of the world.

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Golfo Nuevo is a body of water formed by the Península Valdés and Punta Ninfas in the province of Chubut in the Argentine Patagonia. It is located 650 miles (1,046 km) southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Puerto Madryn is its major seaport - Wikipedia

When it comes to USO activity, the Golfo Nuevo has previous, so to speak. Even before the more famous incidents in 1958-60, it was a place weirdly frequented by submarine activity.

New information has now come to light regarding U-boat activities around Golfo Nuevo. On 7 March 1942 the CO, Third Argentine Destroyer Division advised his superior, CO Destroyer Squadron of a sighting:

"...Today 1730 hrs when the Division was heading to enter Golfo Nuevo, destroyer San Juan signalled: 'After seeing wake and ripples, hydrophones station reported a submerged vessel one to two kilometres off port bow, position 42°55' 64°01'...."

On 25 March 1942 in his report to Navy Minister Fincati, Admiral Sueyro stated: "This is not the first time that such reports have been received by me, all from the same area, Golfo Nuevo, but at different times since last year."

There was little, if any, known German hostile U-boat activities off the Argentine coast, yet here as early as 1941 submarines were being sighted visually at the entrance to Golfo Nuevo.

In the SA newspaper "Der Stürmer" of 17 June 1938, thus before the outbreak of war, Dönitz had stated: "The German Navy is proud. It has built for the Führer and Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler an absolutely impregnable retreat where he will be safe from all enemies." - UFO Casebook Forum Post

Now, of course, the events of WWII were confusing and often didn't make much sense so it's hardly surprising submarines were seen in odd places. But how about a German Type XXI U-Boat being seen here, 15 years after WWII had ended? Now that is certainly interesting.

On the 21st of May 1958 the cruisers "General Belgrano" (a ship very familiar to us Brits), "9 de Julio" and "La Argentina" were performing exercises in the Golfo Nuevo along with the destroyers "Buenos Aires", "Entre Rios", "Misiones" and "Santa Cruz" plus support vessels and naval aircraft.


Around about 10.00pm the tugboat "Sanaviron" began sonar testing. Thirty five minutes later the submarine detection sonar operator reported a contact even though no submarines were operating in the fleet maneuvers. The commanding officer of the fleet, Benjamín Moritán Colman, ordered the destroyers on to anti submarine duties. Depth charges were dropped in the shallow waters of the gulf, and during the operations a periscope was sighted from various points on the "Buenos Aires" and an oil spill seen. A schnorchel was also reported. Operations continued for two weeks with irregular sonar contact. On the 10th of June 1958 it was announced the submarine had left the gulf at a fast speed. Based on sonar reports the sub had consistently been travelling between 8 and 10 knots during it's two week enclosure. (sources Maritime History and Archaeology and UFO Casebook)

A two week search, a strange unidentified submarine and one of the largest anti-submarine operations since WWII. You would have thought that would have been weird enough.

Yet in October 1959 another unidentified submarine was detected in the Golfo Nuevo. After 5 days, and following an intensive search by the Argentinians, it again left without signs of significant damage. What was so exciting about the Golfo Nuevo? Were the Soviets spying on the naval activities at Puerto Madryn? Perhaps it was NATO doing the same?

Three months later the submarine returned... and one of strangest and woefully under reported military operations of the Cold War era began. Given the complications I'll quote from source, which is this rather excellent forum post (I know it's hardly academic, but this is a USO story we are talking about here!).

At 0930 on 31 January 1960 the torpedo boat "Cervantes" obtained a sonar contact of an object moving slowly at 90 feet, identified as a submerged submarine. A depth charge attack was carried out.

1 February 1960: In an official communiqu� published in the newspaper "La Naci�n", the Chief of the Naval Staff Operations Centre, capit�n de corbeta Juan Vasallo stated: "Yesterday the task force of cadets of the Naval Military School engaged on the annual training cruise on teh Atlantic coast, composed of the torpedo boat "Cervantes" and the patrol boats "King" and "Murature", obtained a sonar contact inside the entrance to Golfo Nuevo identified as a probable submarine. An air-sea task force has been assembled to investigate."

3 February 1960: Secretary of the Navy contraalmirante Clement announced that more warships had been attached to the task force. He considered it probable that there were two submarines "because these boats generally operate in pairs."

4 February 1960: After hours and hours of depth-charging by seaplanes it was thought that the submarine must have been destroyed. Escape was impossible, for a minefield had been laid across the ten-mile wide entrance to the gulf, and a large foce of anti-submarine vessels stationed on listening watch seaward of the minefield. The search force was finding it impossible to obtain a bearing on the boat by radar, sonar or hydrophones. Although the submarine could be heard, its geographical location was impossible to establish. This made it extremely difficult to attack the boat.

For days and days the aimless attacks went on. At night hundreds of flares lit the night sky while ships' searchlights swept the waters. Up and down, up and down they steamed, depth-charging then listening, then depth-charging again. It had become a wonderful festival for all the many holidaymakers who visit Puerto Madryn at this season of the year.

10 February 1960: The submarine was confirmed as being audible within the gulf. Ten warships waited in a semi-circle beyond the minefield while maritime aircraft circled overhead. The corvette "La Rep�blica" had arrived with replacements including many experienced sonar operators while Argentine marines occupied Cracker to prevent a possible landing. On this day at 2245 hrs a second submarine surfaced in international waters. This was considered to be a lure. The newspaper "La Naci�n" quoted military sources next day as saying that the surfaced submarine "has a profile very similar to the German Type XXI wartime U-boat. It is said that the design has been copied and can make 16 knots submerged." This boat had "great manouevrability" and had made "audacious attempts to draw off the Argentine Fleet to allow the intruder to escape from the gulf."

11 February 1960: Argetnine President Frondizi ordered an all-out attack to destroy the intruder. He had thirteen warships and forty aircraft available.

13 February 1960: Modern depth-charges, flares, sonar buoys and other advanced anti-submarine weaponry arrived from the United States together with WWII anti-submarine veterans. The US technical team was led by Captain Ray Pitts, Naval Operations HQ reporting directly to Vicealmirante Raga, Chief of Argentine Naval Operations. The new depth charges were of terrific effect and could destroy a submarine down to 200 metres, which was deeper than anywhere in Golfo Nuevo.

On The Diplomatic Front: 13 February 1960: The Spanish newspaper "Las Provincias" published a telex from correspondent William Horsey in which he reported that the intruder submarine had been positively identified as a Type XXI German U-boat of WWII. In unconfirmed reports, oil which the boat had discharged was analyzed and found to be the kind made by satellite states of the USSR to the formula used by the Third Reich.

The Argentine Navy now issued a final ultimatum to the submarine to surface and surrender or be sunk. To avoid any possibility of an international incident, Argentina requested 26 nations including the US, USSR, Britain, France and West Germany to admit that the submarine was theirs. All answered in the negative.

The suspicion was that this must be a Soviet submarine. The Soviet naval attach� to Buenos Aires, rejcted the accusation in indignation while Vice-President Mikoyan stated "...the only thing they are going to kill in that gulf is a heap of fish." The formal denial of the Soviet Government was reinforced over the next few days when the Soviets made no attempt on the diplomatic or military fronts to assist the submarine to escape. If it had been sunk and identified as Soviet, the USSR would have been exposed to ridicule worldwide, while the USA would have made endless capital out of its part in the sinking.

14 February 1960: Two strange submarines arrived in international waters outside the gulf and began to manouevre near the Argentine Fleet. They were described as "gigantic" but the type "could not be ascertained with exactitude". Inside the gulf the depth-charging with the new, powerful explosives began, one every ten minutes all day.

15 February 1960: The naval forces reported that the intruder submarine "had the mysterious ability to avoid electronic detection." This meant that it did not return the radar beam, and its bearing could not be determined from hydrophone or sonar equipment. Late this day the Argentine Minister of Defence, Justo Vilar, announced that that submarine "must have escaped". This meant he believed it had sailed through the minefield and got between the vessels on listening watch.

17 February 1960: The patrol boats "King" and "Murature" maintained contact with the submarine briefly.

18 February 1960: Official Argentine sources reported that they were" sure that the submarine had escaped".

20 February 1960: Contact was re-established with the intruder inside the gulf, and the biggest navy-air concentration since the Second World War gathered for the "final onslaught".

21 February 1960: In the early hours the intruder surfaced. It was seen to be a Type XXI German U-boat of WW2 design. Homing torpedoes were fired but "incomprehensibly all missed". More salvoes were fired at the submarine, but these also missed. Finally the newest sonar-type torpedoes were launched. These also all missed.

22 February 1960: The intruder submarine surfaced briefly to discharge oil.

23 February 1960: The Argentine Navy reported "carefully combing the waters of Golfo Nuevo on 21 and 22 February without making any further contact with the intruder, which is believed to have escaped. It is felt however that it may return. Nevertheless the search is being stepped down...."

Lest you think these are the delusions of some crazy conspiracy theorist, here's the Time Magazine article that was released during the events.

Type XXI U-Boat (US U3008 in 1948)

There is a much more popular, and slightly more crazy, version of events out there which are repeated in exactly the same, word for word, way:

In 1960, the Argentinean Navy tracked two unidentified submerged objects in the Golfo Nuevo, 650 miles south of Buenos Aires. At first it was thought that they were US submarines, but then they appeared to break apart and fly out of the water. Paul Stonehill, co-author with Philip Mantle of UFO-USSR, explained how the objects simply emerged from the water and vanished. Paul went on to tell us that the Soviet leader at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, was so impressed with the report that he ordered his representative in Buenos Aires to find out more about the event

I think this version of events does NOT go with known length of time the USOs were detected for. It seems to have gained popularity in this rather lazily researched USO documentary (more lazy than my research and that's saying something!)

So who's submarines were they? Was one of the superpowers using their old XXI's to spy on smaller countries (Puerto Madryn was a major anti submarine base) with impugnity? Certainly everyone denounced such suggestions, the US even sending more depth charges to Argentina!, but in the Cold War such duplicity was not uncommon. However I suspect even the Soviets wouldn't have denied involvement given the almost certain destruction of the submarine (I'll get to that in a minute!). Could it be our friends in the Fourth Reich? Perhaps the Nazi's last refuge was not Antarctica but some secret base in south America, hence the interest in south America. "Former" Nazis have strong connections to south America and specifically Argentina (thanks to things like the ODESSA programme) so it's not completely insane. Or perhaps it's some unknown player, a country who got hold of an XXI and was testing it out? Unlikely but possible. Ivan T. Sanderson believed it indicates an advanced civilisation lives beneath the waves, one that is responsible for all UFO and USO unexplained encounters.

Based on the information it seems clear to me that this was SOMETHING and not just sonar echoes. The problem is that if we say it was submarine, how on Earth did it survive in the Golfo Nuevo for weeks under such a constant bombardment (possibly the biggest anti submarine campaign post WWII). Some, such as my favoured source, suggest that the submarines were of a much higher technical capability with force fields, invisibility and/or the ability to jump into another dimension. This would certainly jive with most of the Antarctic base stories for the Nazis for instance. BUT it's a bit too out there for my liking. The Time magazine article suggests that hammering noises were heard (which would indicate repairs being carried out) and oil slicks were seen. Perhaps it wasn't invulnerable but just able and lucky. Based on the information available it is impossible to draw a conclusion as to the origin of these mysterious submarines but that's half the charm isn't it?

Whatever the case, I find this story truly compelling. It also highlights USOs are NOT (just) UFOs. No need for aliens or exciting time travel to explain away some USOs, although I suppose that also applies to most UFO reports. But hey still... no aliens required.

Further Reading

Invisible Residents - Ivan T. Sanderson (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

The Beast Reawakens: Fascism's Resurgence from Hitler's Spymasters to Today's Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists - Martin A. Lee (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist


Naveed said...

How bizarre. I think I've said it before, but I really think there is a small group of true Nazis out there somewhere still. Or at least was out there. Odds are that unless they had a good sized population left in a hidden base somewhere, that they died out within the last 60+ years since WWII.

Jae said...

I'm not a believer yet, but there are some really interesting things that can be used to point to that conclusion.

Gosh, how would we deal with the discovery of a Nazi base? The moral implications are mind blowing for dealing with an unreformed population of National Socialists. Great idea for a novel I think...