Germans in North America: Operation Kurt

Germans in North America: Operation Kurt
German submarine U-537 in Martin Bay on the Labrador Peninsula. October 22, 1943

German sailors were able to establish their station in Canada in 1943. The allies never learned anything about “Kurt” during the war. Almost all of the German witnesses died. This station was forgotten and only discovered in the 1970s.

Military meteorology

During World War II, timely weather information became of great importance. Military aviation, the fleets and troops of the warring powers operated over vast territories, on continents and oceans. Accordingly, meteorology (the science of the structure and properties of the earth's atmosphere and the physical and chemical processes occurring in it) has become the most important tool in military planning.

Aviation and navy were highly dependent on the vagaries of the weather. In bad weather, it was impossible to conduct combat operations, or they were limited, to plan landing operations, etc. To plan many military operations, it was necessary to get the weather right.

History The German meteorological service began in the 18th century. The weather service has evolved and become part of everyday life in Germany. Thus, during the First World War, chemical weapon used only after receiving a forecast from meteorologists, so as not to cover their troops. In the 1920s, the first weather reconnaissance aircraft were created in Germany: some Fokker D. VII fighters were converted for them.

By 1930, meteorological aviation points - Wetterflugstelle (WeFlugSt) - were formed at eight German airfields. Every day, weather reconnaissance aircraft made several flights from the airfields. The flights were carried out at an altitude of 5 to 8 thousand meters, where the necessary parameters were measured. Engineers created a meteorograph - a device that automatically determined air pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed.

The weather service has been constantly evolving. Specially designed aircraft for weather reconnaissance also appeared. They were FW-47, Ju-A20, Ju-A35. After the Nazis came to power, the weather service was incorporated into the Luftwaffe, and the pilots and meteorological scientists who were part of the weather squadrons were given military ranks.

Weather reconnaissance aircraft regularly flew along the coast of the North and Baltic Seas. The obtained data (air temperature and wind speed) were used on coastal batteries for calculations during firing training.

German weather reconnaissance officers received their first real combat experience in Spain. In the fall of 1936, the Condor weather point was formed, which later transformed into WeFlugSt Madrid. He remained part of the Air Force of Francoist Spain. During World War II, the Madrid Weather Reconnaissance Squadron transmitted its measurement data to Germany, where, among other things, weather forecasts were compiled for German submarines in the Atlantic.

In meteorology, forecasts are made of three types: short-term, medium-term and long-term. To compile the first two, there was sufficient data from ground weather stations located in Germany and flights of special weather aircraft from German airfields. And to make long-term forecasts, information was needed from several areas of the Atlantic and from the Arctic Ocean. To obtain such information, they began to use He-111 and Ju-52 aircraft, then they equipped four-engine aircraft and flying boats.

Interesting, but with a long-term weather forecast for the winter of 1941–1942. Before the attack on the USSR, German meteorologists made a mistake. German scientists studied the condition of the ice cover in the Gulf of Finland, which is an indirect indicator of the weather in the European part of the USSR. The colder the winter, the more northerly and northeasterly winds predominate, the more ice there is in the Baltic Sea in general and in the Gulf of Finland in particular. In January 1941, aircraft recorded an abnormal amount of ice in the Gulf of Finland.

We also took into account data from the winters of 1939–1940 and 1940–1941, which were very cold. German scientists knew that since the beginning of the 1941th century, the European part of the Russian Empire and the USSR had never experienced more than two frosty winters in a row in the past. And they concluded that the winter of 1942–XNUMX. will be moderate or even warm. But nature failed. The winter was frosty. This was one of the few mistakes made by German meteorologists during World War II.

Thus, by the beginning of World War II, Germany had the most advanced weather forecasting technique in Europe. An extensive network of weather stations, some of which operated automatically, weather reconnaissance aircraft and ships helped the German military-political leadership make the necessary and optimal decisions.

The submarine U-537 is anchored in Martin Bay, Labrador, Dominion of Newfoundland, October 22, 1943. Photo taken from the Kurt weather station on the Hatton Peninsula

North Atlantic

One of the most important theaters of military operations was the North Atlantic Ocean. The German fleet tried to block military supplies to the British Isles and attacked enemy sea communications. Until the beginning of 1943, the German Kriegsmarine sank more ships and vessels than the Allies commissioned.

The allies had a natural advantage: in the northern hemisphere, in a temperate climate, all weather phenomena - cyclones, anticyclones, hurricanes, rains, and so on - move only from west to east. A network of Allied weather stations located along the coasts of the United States, Canada, Greenland and Iceland provided accurate weather forecasts for the North Atlantic. The Germans did not have such an opportunity. Their stations were located in western Europe from Norway to Spain and could only provide current short-term forecasts.

Reconnaissance ships, due to the advantage of the British and US Navy, could not calmly collect information in the North Atlantic. Thus, the reconnaissance ship Lauenburg, a converted fishing trawler, was quickly identified, discovered, captured and sunk in 1941. Therefore, submarines were used as weather stations. Their auxiliary task was to take appropriate measurements and transmit information to the Third Reich. However, during communication sessions, the submarine could also be detected and destroyed by the enemy.

Flights of long-range reconnaissance aircraft Focke-Wulf Fw-200 Condor also could not solve the problem: the flight was short, the effect was short-term. The plane could also be discovered and destroyed.

A way out of the situation could be automatic stations that operated without human presence. They could be placed in deserted places. The batteries could be changed periodically. Enemy radio reconnaissance could find them, but over a vast area they were difficult to detect. And if lost, the station could be easily replaced.

Siemens developed the WFS weather buoy in 1940, which submarines could anchor at the desired location. The Germans installed 12 such stations in the waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic. When transmitting information four times, the energy reserve was enough for 2 months. Then the weather station Wetter-Funkgerät Land – WFL was created. The developers of the weather station were Dr. Ernst Pletze and Edwin Stobe. Siemens produced 26 such stations.

The weather stations were equipped with measuring instruments, a telemetry system and a Lorenz 150 FK radio transmitter with a power of 150 W. Externally, it consisted of 10 small metal containers about 1 meter high and an antenna 10 meters high. The station could operate without changing batteries for up to 6 months. 14 stations were deployed in the Arctic, 5 in the Barents Sea, 1 in the Baltic, on the Åland Islands. Two stations were planned to be installed in North America.

Commander-Lieutenant Peter Schroeve on the bridge of the German submarine U-537 type IXC/40, Atlantic Ocean, October 1943

Operation Kurt

The leadership of the German Navy decided to install the first weather station in Canada, in the northern part of the Labrador Peninsula. The operation was called "Kurt". The German submarine U-537, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Peter Schroewe, was to deliver the kit, numbered WFL-28, and two military meteorologists, Kurt Sommermeier and his assistant Walter Hildebrandt, to Northern Labrador.

The trip was planned for the summer of 1943, but it was postponed to the fall due to damage to the submarine. U-537 put to sea on September 18. On the way to the shores of America, the boat played a radio game to mislead the enemy. The Germans went on the air and imitated the radio traffic of several ships. On October 18, this operation was completed, and the submarine went to the shores of Canada.

The place was chosen so that it was deserted. The task was difficult: from October 18 to 21, a snowstorm raged over Labrador. There were no navigational signs here; the boat was sailing blindly on the surface.

By noon on October 22, the boat reached Cape Chidley in the north-west of the peninsula. But Schreve did not dare to land in this place, and by evening the submarine entered Martin Bay. The scouts found a suitable place 200 meters from the shore. Meteorologists, sailors and equipment were transported on two inflatable boats. The station was installed. The WFL-28s were painted black and white for better camouflage.

The Germans also scattered empty packs of American cigarettes around to show that the Americans had installed them. On one of the containers there was an English inscription: “Canadian Weather Service.” True, this was a mistake - the Canadian weather service did not exist then. Canada was a dominion of Britain.

Civilian technician Kurt Sommermeier aboard U-537 listens to signals transmitted by the Kurt weather station broadcast from the coast of Labrador, October 24, 1943.

The station started working. The first broadcast went on air. The entire installation operation was completed in 28 hours. Captain Schroeve's U-537 returned safely to base in France.

The station worked for some time, but then fell silent. Admiral Dönitz was going to establish a second station - Operation Herbert. But the U-867 submarine intended for the operation was lost off the coast of Norway in the fall of 1944.

German sailors in North America. October 22–23, 1943


On November 9, 1944, U-537 was sunk in the Java Sea. The crew died. Of the witnesses to Operation Kurt, only meteorologists and a few sailors remained who did not go on the last voyage. They forgot about the operation.

It was only in 1977 that Canadian historian Peter Johnson discovered the station while exploring the coast of Labrador. The researcher decided that he had found an old Canadian weather station.

In Germany, in the early 1980s, former Siemens employee Franz Selingen decided to write a book on the history of the German weather service. While studying the archives of the late Dr. Kurt Sommermeier (participant in Operation Kurt), he found a photograph of a weather station and a submarine. Zelinger, having studied all the stations during the war, concluded that the place in the photograph was Canada.

American and Canadian sources did not confirm that there was a German weather station on their coast. Zelinger continued his research, identified U-537 from a photo and found out the details of the operation in October 1943. In 1980, Selingen wrote a letter to the official historian of the Canadian Ministry of Defense, Alex Douglas, in which he spoke about the U-537 mission. A Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker sailed into Martin Bay and discovered a weather station. Today it is at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Thus, this was the only military operation of the Wehrmacht in North America. The submarine U-537 made an amphibious landing in 1943 and installed a weather station, which was found only in 1977.

The Canadian Coast Guard examines the wreckage of the German weather station Kurt for the first time, July 21, 1981.
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  1. +5
    8 February 2024 04: 52
    The Germans had a weather station in Greenland until British special forces dug it out of there
    1. +7
      8 February 2024 05: 28
      Hello Mikhail, good day, Comrades! I'm interested in how the automatic transmission of weather information via radio signal was ensured. There were no “digits” then.
      1. +6
        8 February 2024 05: 43
        Quote: Kote pane Kohanka
        How was automatic transmission of meteorological information via radio signal ensured?

        There were probably sensors that recorded changes in temperature, pressure, wind force and humidity, and then transmitted all this as a signal to headquarters. If you have ever dealt with a mechanical recorder, then this is exactly the system involved. Complex, but nevertheless very primitive. Please note that this is just my guess. Good morning to you!
      2. +3
        8 February 2024 16: 32
        Quote: Kote pane Kohanka
        how automatic transmission of meteorological information via radio signal was ensured. There were no “digits” then.

        How do you think the “digital” goes through the satellite? Through a notebook in a box? Also via a radio channel, all current “digital” wireless devices work, only the frequency and transmission power are different.
      3. 0
        9 February 2024 18: 44
        It's a strange design - they stand on stands, I don't understand why.
      4. +2
        9 February 2024 23: 02
        There were no numbers, but there was pulse technology. An analog signal can easily be converted into pulse width modulation, that is, a signal in which the signal-to-pause ratio is equal to the transmitted value. But there are few signals there - temperature, humidity, pressure, wind, wind direction, precipitation. That means only six requests are enough. 12 times a day, every two hours. If the messages are lengthened to 10 seconds, they can be deciphered even with a stopwatch, by ear. And in 42 there were also tape recorders and even more so paper recorders.
        1. +2
          11 February 2024 15: 44
          Quote: stankow
          And in 42 there were also tape recorders and paper recorders, even more so

          You can simply play the voice over the air with pre-recorded readings on tape or tape recorder wire. Selecting a section of tape based on actual weather conditions is mechanical. And the advantage of such a device in a hermetic capsule is that it will not be afraid of bad weather conditions - the tape recorder wire is not afraid of frost.
    2. +11
      8 February 2024 06: 19
      Quote: Dutchman Michel
      The Germans had a weather station in Greenland

      On our New Earth и Franz Josef Land there was also a weather station and, not yet on our Spitsbergen, Same...
      1. +5
        8 February 2024 08: 33
        According to some reports, German weather stations were also located at the mouths of the Ob and Yenisei.
        1. +4
          8 February 2024 08: 41
          Quote: Amateur
          According to some reports, German weather stations were also located at the mouths of the Ob and Yenisei.

          I read, though in not entirely reliable sources, that there were even entire bases for submarines in Taimyr. But our historiography does not reject this...
      2. +7
        8 February 2024 08: 34
        There was an English weather station on Spitsbergen; I remembered the Tirpitz raid accompanied by 7 destroyers to destroy it.
  2. +3
    8 February 2024 10: 58
    the Wehrmacht's only military operation in North America.
    In a deserted area.
  3. +2
    8 February 2024 12: 15
    Yes, the Krauts climbed far) I remember reading from Kuznetsov that they even made caches of fuel in the Arctic..
  4. -2
    8 February 2024 19: 55
    when they said that Ukrainians would freeze, they also probably calculated the wrong forecast.
    This year in the Donbass the winter lasted 1 month and the frosts were slight. It's obviously getting warmer every year.