Chapter Four – German U-boat Insignia in WW II

Research and story by Clarence Simonsen

All rights reserved

It is important to note that the Luftwaffe was the most politically favored branch of the entire German Wehrmacht in the first two years of WWII. They designed and painted unit insignia in enormous numbers that possibly reached 1,500 badges and emblems. In the early years of the war, the new Nazi Party introduced past German military events and heroes into the Luftwaffe names and badges. For some reason this proved very unpopular with Luftwaffe units who adopted the more common themes for aircraft use. Another very uncommon practice was the usage of the same Luftwaffe political art, emblems, and badges, on the conning tower of the German U-boats.

Over 430 WW II German U-Boats [Kriegsmarine] painted insignia or emblems on their conning towers. This art varied from U-Boat flotilla emblems [24] to German coat of arms [32]. A few German cities adopted a U-Boat, while other coats of arms were painted for the Commander’s home town or region in Germany he was born. Nine of twenty-four flotilla emblems featured a U-boat in the design, and these were adopted and used on many different boats.

Much like the early political nose art used by the German Luftwaffe, the German U-Boats also used British symbols which made fun of Winston Churchill and the umbrella of Neville Chamberlain. Known emblems [19] featured – devil catching Churchill, alligator and umbrella, map of Britain with rabbit Head, Churchill getting torpedo in the rear end, elephant stomping on Churchill, Mickey Mouse defending himself against bombs under umbrella, Chamberlain with inverted umbrella, Skull and Crossbones with umbrella, English top hat with word “Chamberlein !”, scorpion attacking map of Britain, seal with top hat, small dog biting tail of Lion, creature with umbrella sitting in chair, devil holding Churchill near sea mine, British bowler hat, two Black umbrellas, Pig with umbrella, red heart with letters W.C. pierced with a torpedo, and British Bulldog with bone.

Half a dozen emblems featured the swastika, two had the German Iron cross, nineteen U-boats carried the 1936 Olympic rings, six featured a sword, eleven had a laughing sawfish, nine used the horseshoe, four painted cards with four aces, two Queen of Hearts, two black spade cards, three had a Viking ship, seven contained crossed swords, eight used the letter “V”, five had a black Cat, and another nineteen used the snorting bull emblem. Other symbols used – boot, swan, white whale, fish, mushrooms, horse shoe, four leaf clover, cupid, dolphin, dogs, stork with baby, red heart, horse, lighthouse, laughing cow, tree, axe with U.S.A. on blade, bucking donkey, green frog, eagle with swastika, flying fish, star, Mercedes Benz logo, snowman, wolf, grinning fox, black lobster, black beetle, Jolly Roger flag, hedgehog, an eel, squirrel, bear drinking milk, clown, shark mouth, black spider, and teddy bear in circle.

Only two emblems contained a German female, one was the face of a German lady with brown hair, the second was the only known nude, an ugly looking witch riding her broom adorned the conning tower of U-1024. Commissioned 28 June 1944, U-1024 was based at Bergen, Norway and sailed under 11th Flotilla, which featured a Polar Bear and U-boat in the design. This Flotilla badge was also used as emblem art on nine other U-boats in WW II.

This nude witch painting did not impose on the Nazi ideology of the new German wife and mother role in giving birth to a new super Aryan race. Thus it was allowed, possibly for its hidden sexual content.

U-1024 was sunk by the Royal Navy on 13 April 1945.

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Clarence Simonsen
All right reserved

While the German Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine [U-boats] followed the Nazi ideology of not painting German females as unit badges or insignia, they both painted images of at least four witches flying on their brooms. When you view the second rocket tail art that artist de Beek painted for the launch of V3 on 16 August 1942, you will find the image of a witch carrying her broom as she flies her A/4 rocket to the moon.

I believe these witch insignia all have one common message involving German humor and sexual content and obviously nothing to do with our modern Halloween. Most early beliefs in the supernatural were simply fueled by drug use in the dark periods of European history. The use of drugs by witches was very common in the middle ages in Europe, including Germany. Many of these so called witches were in fact the ‘ladies of the evening’ who also supplied drugs for their customers. Many different hallucinogenic compounds made from plants were mixed into a special brew, ointment, or witches salves for use in their witchcraft. The earliest known written use of hallucinogenic grease appears in a book by Alice Kyteller was dated 1324. “The witch greased a staffe, upon which she ambled and galloped through the thick and thin.” The witch had anointed her broomstick with the drug grease and then became high as she rode around the room. The ointment covered broomstick was placed between her legs, coming in contact with her rectum and or vagina, where the mucus membranes quickly absorbed the drug mixture. The benefit of absorbing a hallucinogenic drug in this manner bypassed the liver and the drug passed directly to the brain, allowing the witch to get high faster. This also avoided sever intestinal pain, and in many times even death, if the brew had been taken orally. Obviously there was also a sexual part to this entire witch’s brew but that is not my objective. Many early paintings of witch art show the female nude, partly nude or flying with the broomstick backwards. This art also suggests the use of the broomstick for sexual stimulation after the application of the witch’s brew. One of the most famous witch etchings was published in Madrid, Spain, in 1799, titled “Linda Maestra” [Pretty Teacher]. This could also help explain the reason for de Beek painting the witch riding test rocket V3 at Peenemunde, 16 August 1942.

Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes was the most important Spanish artist and printmaker during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, referred to as both an old master and the first of the new modern era. Immensely successful in his lifetime, he began as an old style master painting romantic ladies. Two paintings featured the same lady in the same pose, one was fully clothed [La Maja Vestida] and the other was fully nude, La Maja Desnuda. The model is believed to have been Pepita Tudo, the secret mistress of the Prime Minister of Spain, Manuel Godoy y Alvarez, but that has never been verified. This became the very first life-size female nude painted in the Western art world and was never publicly exhibited during the artists lifetime. This nude painting changed the artistic horizon of the period, when he painted a women’s pubic hair for the very first time. In the 1900’s this famous painting also opened the door to other artists in nude female painting. The two original paintings, both size 97 cm by 190 cm, hang side by side in the Musedo dei Prado in Madrin, on public display since 1901. They are priceless works of art, published in books, stamps, and film.

Wernher von Braun’s father had a huge liberty of world famous books and he was always reading the works of Jules Verne and science fiction. I sure he also read and observed the art of Francisco de Goya, including the nude ladies and famous flying witches.

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La Maja Desnuda, painted by Francisco de Goya for the Prime Minister of Spain, his mistress Pepita Tudo. Owned by Manuel de Godoy until 1808, then seized in 1813, as obscene art. Public display in 1901, today a priceless work of art.

In 1792 Goya became deaf from an unknown illness, and during this time he created a series of etchings which he titled “Caprichos.” He produced this series of 80 etchings which were a scathing commentary on the era he lived in Spain. The set of prints were published in Madrid in 1799, and once again he upset many with his showing of sexuality and the ugliness of witches he had witnessed in Spain. The set began with a self-etching of the artist himself.

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The number 68 etching was titled Linda Maestra [Pretty Teacher].

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The image shows an old witch [front] flying at night [owl] and she is teaching the new young witch [rear] the tricks. The Goya humor is in the title [Pretty Teacher] and the old witch is in fact teaching the young witch how to apply the witches brew to her broom stick [which is backwards] and hallucinate they are night flying. This print clearly shows the artist’s sharp satirical wit combined with his attack on the follies found in civilized Spanish society. While the sexual content is most often never explained, the image is a big attraction even today, selling on the internet. Original print is property of British Museum collection and displayed from time to time.

The insignia used by the torpedo testing aircraft of “Torpedowaffenplatz der Luftwaffe” in 1942 also could have a connection to artist Gerd de Beek at Peenemunde.

In 1933, the Polish Air Force constructed an airstrip in West Prussia, located 6.5 k/m N.W. of Gdynia a port city north of Danzig, Poland. In the fall of 1941, the invading Germans began construction of a Nazi science center for testing and analysis of all torpedoes, including German U-boats and [Air-Sea] launch from Luftwaffe flown aircraft. This huge concrete structure opened on 2 April 1942, constructed in the water for safety reasons and remains today at Hexengrund [Babie Doly] Poland.

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In the same time period, [1941] the German Luftwaffe began construction at the old Polish airfield at Gdynia, adding six complete runways, two concrete 1,830 meters long. The new infrastructure included two hangars, workshops, and barracks for the new torpedo testing aircrew. The new Luftwaffe unit was named – “Torpedowaffenplatz der Luftwaffe and they designed a new unit insignia which featured an ugly witch flying on a Nazi test torpedo, and in her right arm she carries her broom.

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Insignia for Erp. St. Torpedow p.d. L.W. 1942
Clarence Simonsen
All right reserved

This insignia would first appear on the Heinkel He 111 J-1, [torpedo-bomber] which was manufactured to carry and test torpedoes. In the summer of 1943, Messerschmitt produced a special Me 410 B-5, aircraft used in the Luftwaffe torpedo testing which lasted until early 1945. These aircraft carried the very same witch insignia. This is the only German insignia I can find, where the witch is flying on an object and not her broom. This could also have sexual over tones, the witch is getting high riding the test torpedo, and she carries her broom, which is no longer her sexual object.

It is very likely a number of the Luftwaffe test aircraft, with the witch insignia, landed at Peenemunde during test trials. The reason for this all began in June 1942, when an engineer on the von Braun team [Dr. Ernst August Steihoff] conducted experiments with a submarine launched sea-to-air missile. By July, he had installed and successfully fired salvos of rockets from a special German U-boat submerged under 15 meters of water. His younger brother Fredrick Steinhoff was the Capt. of U-511, and assisted with these new test trials.

The special U-511 with underwater launch equipment was later sold to Japan for testing and became RO500. Frederick took over command of a new boat U-873 on 1 March 1944.

I believe Gerd de Beek observed this Luftwaffe witch insignia on the He111 J-1 test aircraft and adopted the same idea for his painting of the launch of rocket V3. It is possible he was also a passenger in one of these aircraft flown by Dr. Ernst A. Steinoff.

Both Brothers Dr. Ernst and U-boat captain Fredrick Steinhoff were avid National Socialists, and Nazi members who joined the party in 1937. By 1940, Ernst Steinhoff had received three degrees: a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics 1931, a Master of Science in 1933, and a Doctor of Engineering degree in Applied Physics in 1940. He was also a qualified pilot and employed by the German Research Institute for Glider Flight, where he first met von Braun in spring of 1939. His professional qualifications mattered the most to von Braun, and by July 1939, his new friend had appointed him Director for Flight Mechanics, Ballistics, Guidance, and Control of all Instrumentation at the German Army Rocket Research Center at Peenemunde, Germany. Steinhoff would often take the control of a He-111 and fly to a meeting or research project, such as the ex-Polish airfield at Gdyna. During his 1942 submarine testing, many technical drawings were required and I believe Gerd de Beek was his architect. In the fall of 1937, all technical drawings at Peenemunde were stamped “STATE SECRET” and the coding and spoken word became a secret part of everyday life at the testing center. This secrecy created a massive restriction on areas you could enter, objects you could see and topics you could talk about.

Few members at Peenemunde were given the highest priority, which allowed them to read, observe, and visit the test activities on the complete secret base. The highest priority was given to Hitler, Dornberger, Speer, von Braun and Ernst Steinhoff. I believe that Gerd de Beek had this high priority or at least when he was working with von Braun or Steinhoff. Steinhoff was in charge of planning, development and testing of missile guidance systems, including automatic controls. This involved numerous technical drawings which were produced in the [Zeichnungsverwaltung] Drawing Administration Division where de Beek was a manager. Peenemunde administrators maintained a very close watch on all “State Secret” documents, tracking on paper to whom and where they were passed. If de Beek completed a sketch on paper, this hand-drawn image must be destroyed as soon as the official technical drawing was completed. For that reason alone it is obvious that Dr. Steinhoff and illustrator Gerd de Beek worked very close together under the complex rules of German secrecy. Somehow amid all these secret rules and regulations a little witch tail art painting was completed. It is still a mystery why this tail art was allowed in the first place, which will be described in another chapter.

De Beeks little test rocket witch appears holding her broom in her right hand, as she rides the new green A/4 rocket into space. The German rocket has received the nickname – “Cucumber”, which could be a play on words in this case, as the Peenemunde witch is getting high riding her cucumber to the Moon. The first Germans rockets were born under the Weimar Republic, when Berlin was the drug, and sex capital of the world. Wernher von Braun was a young man living in Berlin and enjoying this part of his life which involved many girls and possible use of drugs? The Berlin nightlife involved intercourse with both sexes, while everyone indulged in cocaine, morphine, and hallucinogenic compounds which were imported from Africa. It is also possible these ideas were combined in this second known A/4 tail art painted by Gerd de Beek for Wernher von Braun on 16 August 1942.

On 11 May 1945, brother Captain Fredrick Steinhoff surrendered his U-873 to the U. S. Navy and was imprisoned with his crew in a Boston jail, awaiting transfer to a P. O. W. camp. He was a dedicated Nazi National Socialist and followed all the ideals of the Third Reich. This possibly cost him his life in a Boston police cell. On 18 May 1945, he was being question in his cell by a civilian interrogator from the U. S. Government when he became violent. A large U. S. Marine guard beat Fredrick in the face and he was returned to his cell bleeding and swollen. The next morning he was found dead from self-inflicted wounds to his wrist, which had been cut using the broken lens from his sunglasses. His boat U-873 was scrapped in 1948.

Dr. Ernst A. Steinhoff was one of the German V2 scientists who surrendered to the U. S. Forces at Bavaria on 2 May 1945. He was then loaned by the U.S. Forces to assist the British to launch four captured A/4 rockets at Cuxhaven, northern Germany, in October 1945.

On 23 February 1946, he arrived with 104 other German scientists at El Paso, Texas, to begin work at the new White Sands Missile Range. Once again he will be united with graphic artist Gerd de Beek and more rare tail art will be painted in the United States.

[More details in Chapter Eight].

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National Archives and Records Administration – public domain.

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Clarence Simonsen
All right reserved

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