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Romantic Story WWII: U-Boat Voyage of Subhas Bose From Germany to Japan to Organise the Indian National Army

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters.



Everybody loves a tale of adventure. I would now relate one of the greatest adventure stories of the second world war and it concerns the great Indian wartime and political leader Subhas Chandra Bose. It is a well-known fact that Bose was a rival to Gandhi but while Gandhi's name is well known to the west nobody knows much about Subhash Bose and his contribution to the Indian independence movement.

This was basically because of a ploy by the Indian National Congress which came to power in 1947 and continued to rule the country for the next 60 years. They downgraded the role of Subash Bose and pumped up the role of Gandhi in the Indian independence movement. Bose became the forgotten man of Indian history but with the advent of the BJP and Narendra Modi the history books are again opened and the contribution of Bose is being appreciated.

It is worthwhile mentioning the opinion of Lord Attlee the British prime minister who oversaw Indian independence. Lord Attlee on a visit to India in 1955 clearly stated in an interview that the British left India mainly because of the effect of Subhas Chandra Bose and the effect of Gandhi's nonviolence movement was zero.

Bose had reached Berlin in March 1941. He had escaped from India where he was under house arrest by the British. Bose helped form the India Legion which fought along with the German army. Adolf Hitler had an ambitious plan to invade India with Rommel's forces advancing right up to the Suez Canal. But by early 1943 he had given up the idea after Rommel's advance stalled.

During this period the Japanese were advancing rapidly in Southeast Asia, thousands of Indians soldiers had been taken POW. Japanese mounted effective propaganda and brainwashed many of the soldiers as to why they were fighting for an imperialist power like the English when the Japanese would grant them independence.

This affected and one of the Indian Army officers Captain Mohan Singh formed the Indian National Army. Mohan Singh however was a small fish and the Japanese were looking for an eminent leader from India to lead the Indian National Army. They suggested to the German's to facilitate Bose to come over to the Far East.

Hitler had been given up his idea about invading India and preoccupied with the Russian front agreed to transfer Subhas Bose by a U-boat from Germany to Japan.

A look at the map will show the danger involved. The Royal Navy was on the lookout for Bose and the Germans did not have complete mastery over the ocean. However, a meticulous plan was worked out with the Japanese and presented to Bose. He agreed and plans were worked out to transfer Bose by a U-boat from the North Sea to the Indian Ocean and the Far East.


The voyage

The voyage of Subash Chandra Bose from Germany to Japan is one of the most thrilling tales of the second world war. Sending a single submarine from Germany to Japan was a tremendous feat.

Bose had settled down in Germany and was the head of the Indian Provisional government which had been recognized by the Germans. He was aware of the German's preoccupation with the Russian front and consented to proceed to Japan to form a provisional government there as well as lead the Indian National Army.

The German send a coded message to Tokyo informing them that the Indians leader Subhash Chandra Bose would be transported by a submarine to the Indian Ocean. The Japanese were expected to confirm back that they would send a submarine to the Indian Ocean and in the middle of the ocean, a plan was formulated to transfer to the Japanese submarine. It was a daredevil plan. The rendezvous for the two submarines was fixed about 300 km southeast of the island of Madagascar.

The success of the plan rested on absolute secrecy as Bose was a very important leader and the Allies were very eager to get their hands on him. But the British intelligence was fooled as they never imagined that Bose would have the courage to take a sea voyage by a U-boat from Germany to the Indian Ocean.

Admiral Carl Doneitz gave the green signal and a German submarine U-180 which was a type 1XD1 transport was selected for the job. It was a relatively new submarine and had been commissioned on 16 May 1942. It had a crew of 25 and was commanded by Captain Warner Muizenberg. It was part of the fourth U-boat flotilla.

The U-180 was a long-range submarine with forwarding torpedo tubes removed to create a hold for extra cargo. On February 9, 1943, it received instructions to take two passengers to the Indian Ocean. The two Indians who were brought to the submarine was Subhas Chandra Bose and his closest eyed Abid Hasan Zafrani.

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The U-Boat had been properly spruced up and the crew and the captain were told of their mission at the last moment. The submarine set a course that took it north along the Norwegian coast then making a turn west towards the Faroe Islands. The exciting voyage had begun. It took place right under the nose of the Royal Navy and British intelligence did not know about it.


The rendezvous

The submarine along with its precious cargo of the Indian leader now moved into the North Atlantic. Bose spent much of his time reading writing and planning how to deal with the Japanese. The U-boat travels the entire length of the North Atlantic and entered the south Atlantic and continued southwards. It rounded the Cape of Good Hope and entered the Indian Ocean. At this point on 18th April Musenburg traced the scent of a British tanker the MV Corbis. He torpedoed the tanker and only 10 survived.

The Japanese Navy had carefully planned the time and place of rendevous. The Japanese submarine I -29 and was commanded by Captain Teraoka. The voyage so for the U-boat had been fair sailing and on April 21, 1943, the U-boat neared the rendezvous point, four hundred miles south-west of Madagascar. The Imperial Navy submarine had already reached the point and was waiting. It was precision sailing and points to good seamanship by both the Japanese and German crew.

At that point, the sea became rough and mountainous waves struck the German U-boat under dark and rolling skies. The Captain of the U-boat emphatically adviced Bose not to try and cross over to the Japanese submarine with the waves rising sometimes up to 15 feet.

It was a critical moment but Bose decided to take the risk and along with Zaffran he told the captain that whatever it maybe he would like to go to the Japanese submarine. A message was passed to the Japanese submarine and two sailers with life ropes from the German U-Boat jumped into the sea and swam to the Japanese submarine. Thet returned with a dingy and two Japanese seamen. Bose and his companion jumped into the lifeboat. They waved farewell to the German captain and crew.

The crew on the Japanese submarine began to pull the dingy towards it and it was class seamanship by the two sellers in the dingy to reach the Japanese submarine. Eager hands pulled the Indian abroad the Imperial navy submarine. They were taken downstairs. Both looked back to see the German submarine moving away.

The captain of the Japanese submarine saluted Bose as he had been well briefed regarding his importance. He gave his cabin to Bose and the Japanese submarine now began to move towards Singapore. Teraoka Masao the captain was a celebrated Japanese naval officer and had taken part in the destruction of the British warships, the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales way back in 41.


Last word

The Japanese submarine now sailed towards Penang in Malaysia. The submarine docked there and the Japanese crew went out shopping for Indian spices. That day they served Bose and his companion a hot curry to celebrate the crossing as well as the birthday of the Emperor in whose realm they had arrived.

From Penang, the submarine now moved to Sabang on the tip of Sumatra Indonesia. The Imperial Army was on a rampage and had not only captured Malaysia but also Burma. The British Indian Army was in retreat. The Dutch had been ousted from Indonesia and the Philippines has been occupied. Thousands of Indian POWs had been sufficiently brainwashed by the Japanese and had joined the Indian National Army. They now needed a charismatic leader like Bose.

From Indonesia, the submarine now moved towards Japan and Tokyo. On reaching Tokyo, Subhas Chandra Bose had his audience with the prime minister of Japan general in Hideki Tojo. The daredevil voyage was over and he set about the task of becoming the leader of the Indian National Army and coined the words "DelhiChallo."l (Reach Delhi.)

This incident is a footnote in the history of the world war but for Indians, it has great significance and shows that Indians had the mettle in them to be daredevils and the myth of "Meek and Mild Hindu" propagated by Gandhi is an anachronism.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 28, 2020:

All said and done it was a great romantic escape right across the cape of good Hope into the Indian Ocean and then the tie-up with the Japanese submarine simply fantastic.

tom on September 28, 2020:

abid hassan joined ina later ifs

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 31, 2020:

Olusegun, thanks a lot.

OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on August 31, 2020:

These Photos are historical. Good work.

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