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Dead medium: Nazi U-boat automated weather forecasting espionage network
From: Bradley O'Neill
Source(s): comp.arch, comp.misc, _U-Boats Against Canada_, German Submarines in Canadian Waters, by Michael

L. Hadley; McGill-Queen's University Press, Kingston and

Montreal, 1985.

posted by: (Canadian War Library)

Newsgroups: comp.arch

"The following [previously posted in comp.misc] is

condensed from *U-Boats Against Canada*, German Submarines

in Canadian Waters, by Michael L. Hadley; McGill-Queen's

University Press, Kingston and Montreal, 1985."

"Weather reporting formed a vital part of German

military operations. Given that weather systems generally

move from west to east across the Atlantic, it was

imperative that U-boats at sea enhance the reporting net

of surface ships and shore stations by radioing data to

BdU as frequently as possible. [BdU - Befehlshaber der

Unterseeboote (Commander U-boats); Admiral Karl Doenitz]

"Some missions consisted almost entirely of weather-

station patrols, either at the beginning or at the end of

tactical missions. In support of these wide-ranging and

highly mobile patrols, Germany built 21 land-based

automatic weather stations that would provide specific

data at predetermined transmission times. Fourteen of

these unmanned stations were established in Arctic or

subarctic regions (Spitzbergen, Bear Island, Franz-Joseph-

Land and Greenland); 5 were located around the Barents Sea

above Norway, and 2 were destined for North America. Only

the first of those bound for North America, and planned

for delivery by U-537 in the summer of 1943, was ever in

operation. The 2nd mission failed when U-867 was sunk NNW

of Bergen on 19 Sep/44.

""BdU charged U-537, on its maiden operation voyage

in the summer of 1943, with the installation of automatic

station WFL-26 [Wetterfunkgeraet-Land] on northern

Labrador. Code-named station "Kurt", it consisted of a set

of meteorological instruments, a 150W short-wave

transmitter and antenna mast, and an array of nickel-

cadmium and dry-cell batteries.

"The station was packaged in ten cylinders

approximately 1 x 1.5 m diameter, each weighing

approximately 220 pounds. The cylinder with the instrument

unit contained a 10-m-tall antenna mast with anemometer

and wind vane. In order to avoid suspicion if discovered,

the Germans had marked the cylinders with the rubric

"Canadian Weather Service". As it happened, the fact that

no such organization existed by that name did not

compromise the plan, for WFL-26 was not discovered and

identified as German until July, 1981.

"Once installed as designed, the station would

broadcast a coded weathergram at three-hour intervals. To

accomplish this, a sophisticated contact drum or Graw's

diaphragm (named after a certain Dr. Graw, then of Berlin)

would transcribe the observed values for temperature,

humidity, air pressure, wind speed and wind direction into

Morse symbols. These were then keyed on 3940 kHz to

receiving stations in northern Europe. Transmission time

for the whole weathergram, including one minute for

warming up, did not exceed 120 seconds.

"The choice of site for WFL-26 seems to have been

left largely to [Kapitan] Schrewe's discretion in

consultation with the technical advisers. In order to

avoid all possible contact with people ashore, especially

with 'Eskimoes trekking south at this time of year,'

Schrewe wanted to set up the station as far north in

Labrador as possible. At 18:45 on 22 October, 1943, he

anchored in Martin Bay, some 300 m from shore in position

60 degrees 4.5 minutes N by 64 degrees 23.6 minutes W.

"Within an hour, a reconnoitering party set ashore

by inflatable craft to locate a transmitter site. They

would leave empty American cigarette packages and match

folders on the site in order to decoy any subsequent

Allied intruders... By 18:00 on 23 October, less than 24

hours after having anchored, the work was done. The

first transmission of WFL-26 occurred 3 minutes late, but

was otherwise technically perfect.

"Throughout his Canadian patrol, Schrewe continued to

monitor WFL-26 and on a number of occasions reported

intense jamming by a station that turned out to be German.

For reasons we can only surmise, Canadian stations heard

nothing from "Kurt" in Labrador."


KTB [Kriegstagebuch ("War Diary")]/ U-537.

Douglas, Alec [W.A.B.] "The Nazi Weather Station in

Labrador," *Canadian Geographic* 101, no.6 (December

1981/January 1982): 42-7

Douglas, W.A.B., and Selinger, Franz. "Oktober 1943-Juli

1981: Eine Marine-Wetterstation auf Labrador." *Marine-

Rundschau*, Nr.5 (Mai 1982): 256-62

Note: Franz Selinger was the first to trace the location

of WFL-26, and ultimately joined Douglas to lead an

expedition to the site with the Canadian Coast Guard.