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Monday, July 06, 2015

France - Lorient - We Spent A Night In The Home Of The Nazis Wolf Pack Sub Pens

From 1940 to 1945 - most of France was occupied by the Nazis. Hitler planned to rule the world for one thousand years and it appears that he planned to do much of it from France. He heavily fortified the entire French Coast.

The subs rode these trolleys into the sub pens in K1 and K2.

Thanks to the UBoat fleet - Hitler very nearly won the war in 1942. He had built a series of fortified submarine pens along the coast at Brest - St Nazaire - Bordeaux - etc. The Uboats could sail into the underground pens undetected - where they could be refurbished  and reloaded. The pens were self-sufficient. They had their own supplies of fuel - electricity - water - and food. As a matter of fact - when the Nazis surrendered in Reims - the troops in the submarine pens refused to come out. The Allies solved that problem by completely leveling the city of Lorient - nothing was left standing. The base would have nothing to support it. 

My grandfather - Roy Shartle Everhart - was in the Merchant Marines. He died on July 4 - 1942 when Captain Gunther Heydelmann’s Uboat-575 put a torpedo into the engine room of the USS Norlandia when it was sailing west off the coast of the Dominican Republicc Of the 30 or so men on board - 20 survived - but not Everhart.  Everhart was the fireman/water tender on duty. The fragile old ship and old man could not survive a direct torpedo hit. When the lifeboat lighted - the Uboat surfaced - the Captain gave them German brandy and directed them to shore. Heydelmann received the German Iron Cross for sinking 8 ships and survived the war until in 1986. Most of the men on the Normandia were in their 20s - Everhart was 55 - older than the captain. 

Lulu found us a very nice hotel on Priceline called - Escales Oceania - near the train station. It was very modern and clean - with a fantastic breakfast. After breakfast today - we took a cab to Kerroman Sub Base. After the war - the French chose to keep the base intact and until 1997 - they serviced all of their diesel powered subs there. 

There are three separate sets of sub pens - called K1 - K2 - K3. They had space to hold 30 submarines inside. K1 and K2 - were on land - that is the subs were brought up on a ramp and rolled into the various safety pens. This exposed the subs to bombing - even though it was just a few minutes.  K3 was designed and built at water level - the submarine were able to enter submerged - safe from prying eyes and bombs.

The Germans used tons of local concrete. The steel reinforcement was brought from Germany. French labor was readily available - in Norway - the people were not as supportive building those sub pens.  Since the pens were like a little city (under concrete) - they spent a lot of money in the local economy. 

At the time - only one other structure used so much concrete. The Hoover Dam - another wonder of the mechanical world - poured in the 1930s - is more massive. 

Near the train station - after our tour - Lulu found this fantastic French Bakery. For 12 euros - she got a giant sandwich to cut in half - 2 cokes - and three pastries to kill for. 

A German professor took this picture of us - note his finger. On most of the trains we have 220 volt electric power and wifi internet.

Lulu found a really nice Escales Oceania Hotel in Lorient for 61 euros.

Our room shower in Lorient.

Our room had this beautiful French door with balcony overlooking the street. We left the door open all night.

The front torpedo room in this demo sub had 8 torpedoes in tubes.

After the war - Frances inherited some of the leftover Uboats.

In K1 and K2 - the subs rode the rails into the sub pens.

These giant steel doors made in Germany prevented side tossed bombs from entering the pens.

The pens had two roofs. The first one was 10 feet thick. Later they built a second roof another 10 feet thick with and 3 foot air space between them. When bombs hit the top roof - the air space absorbed the explosion. The subs stayed safe inside - along with the barracks - workshops - offices - power plants - fuel supplies.

Notice the steel reinforcement since this is a rotting concrete wall.

The guide is explaining the difference between K1 - K2 - K3.

This was the main entrance ramp into the pens. Once the subs got here - they could surface in safety - and go up the ramp on rails.

In K3 - the subs entered at water level and stayed there. Inside - the water could be pumped out to make a dry dock.

The 3 Sub Pens.

This demo sub is on rails into the pens.

They had a section of the Berlin Wall stored there. Notice how the wall had a footer so that you could not dig under it.

This beautiful church was across from the bakery by the train station. Although it looks old - I can guarantee you that it is not older than 70 years because the Allies leveled the city. The Germans held out in Lorient after the Nazis surrendered.

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