GERMAN SUBMARINE U-151
OFF DELAWARE CAPES
This is a story told years after WWI by Dr. Frederick Korner who had been an officer
aboard the German Sub U-151, to radio news commentator Lowell Thomas in 1928.
U-151 had made its way easily from Germany, through the British blockade to lay mines
in the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware Bay. In June of 1918 the U-boat had laid some of its
cargo in the Chesapeake and made way for the Delaware Capes. Early one evening we saw
the lights of Cape May and submerged to avoid any ship traffic running into the Delaware Bay.
Our periscope showed we were two or three miles distant of the Overfalls Lightship, so out of
sight we glided slowly into the mouth of the channel.
Then something went wrong. As Korner who was looking through the periscope a sudden
lurch knocked him off his feet to the bottom of the subs compartment. The U-151 slammed
bottom two or three times then leaped to the surface. There was pandemonium and panic
among the crew. The engineer sang out “she wont stay down. I cant control her.” .. We had hit
bottom and the 'shock' disabled the steering and diving apparatus, and the sub was dragged around
by the powerful currents. We noticed a strange motion, and were going round and round with the
currents like a spinning top. Up and down we went. When on surface we were still helpless and
were revolving like crazy where a large ship might run us down at any moment. The helpless
undersea raider was being pulled closer and closer to the Overfalls by the sea current.
Like a 'death knell' we could hear the lightships bells The crew down below worked
feverishly to get the steering and diving mechanism back in order. While we were topside, we
took occasion to throw over some of the mines on deck as we were in the very channel we had
planned place them.
The diving and steering were repaired and 'dive' was ordered and we lay on bottom snug
and comfortable until we caught our breath. Later, after a good rest, we again came to surface,
laid the remainder of her mines and scooted off for the open seas. A heavy fog allowed the
U-151 to avoid being seen and it maneuvered way to the open sea to home in Germany.
Commander Korner made note to America on the Lowell Thomas radio news “ Americas
isolation is now a thing of the past.”
Lowell Thomas got the story from Korner at his home in 1928 at Silesia, Germany, living
with his family and growing flowers. Also interviewed were several war prisoners taken aboard
U-151 from sunken 'prizes' who were with her during the entire cruise.
Source: Wilmington New Journal , Saturday March 22, 1941. Abstract by Harrison H
January 12, 2018.