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Cape Cod Guide Celebrates 70 Years

By Rachael Devaney



German Sub Sinks Off Cape Cod

When the German U-234 sank off the coast of Cape Cod in 1947, many historians began to refer to it as “Hitler’s last U-boat.” The U.S. Navy and destroyer escort USS Sutton captured the U-234 in Newfoundland, after Hitler’s assassination in 1945. But how did “Hitler’s last U-boat” end up at the bottom of the sea two years later off the coast of Cape Cod?

The U-234 was a type XB U-boat of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine, which was initially headed to Japan for its first and ultimately final mission. When it left Kristiansand, Germany, on December 23, 1943, the submarine carried supplies for its Japanese allies, including 260 tons of uranium oxide ore, which, in a twist of fate, would instead be used for the atomic bomb that instantly killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 through the Manhattan Project.

The day that would change the U-234’s course in history came on May 14,1945, when the U-boat was forced to surrender to the U.S. Navy and destroyer escort USS Sutton in Newfoundland, after Hitler’s assassination.

The crew, which was comprised of several high-ranking Luftwaffe officers and technical specialists intending to improve Japanese aircraft defenses, had received orders to surrender through British and American radio transmittal, and began heading toward the United States to do so. At the time of its capture, all prisoners were received safely, aside from two Japanese passengers that committed suicide in an effort to avoid imprisonment.

Because high-ranking officials were aboard the U-234 during its capture, as well as the rumored uranium, the surrender became worldwide news. But upon further investigation of the submarine’s cargo, only drawings, arms, medical supplies, instruments, lead, mercury, caffeine, steels, optical glass and brass were found on board at the time. It was later concluded that the missing 1,200 pounds of uranium somehow made its way into the hands of The Manhattan Project, which would give scientists enough of the element to destroy the city of Hiroshima.

From there, the submarine was used for experimental trials by the U.S. Navy and met her end as a torpedo target for the USS Greenfish on November 20, 1947, off the coast of Cape Cod.

And as she sank into the Atlantic Ocean, she became forever linked to the Cape, shrouded in a mantle of mystery and war history.


 


Cape Cod Schools Ahead of Brown V. Board of Education Ruling

When the German U-234 sank off the coast of Cape Cod in 1947, many historians began to refer to it as “Hitler’s last U-boat.” The U.S. Navy and destroyer escort USS Sutton captured the U-234 in Newfoundland, after Hitler’s assassination in 1945. But how did “Hitler’s last U-boat” end up at the bottom of the sea two years later off the coast of Cape Cod?

The U-234 was a type XB U-boat of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine, which was initially headed to Japan for its first and ultimately final mission. When it left Kristiansand, Germany, on December 23, 1943, the submarine carried supplies for its Japanese allies, including 260 tons of uranium oxide ore, which, in a twist of fate, would instead be used for the atomic bomb that instantly killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 through the Manhattan Project.

The day that would change the U-234’s course in history came on May 14,1945, when the U-boat was forced to surrender to the U.S. Navy and destroyer escort USS Sutton in Newfoundland, after Hitler’s assassination.

The crew, which was comprised of several high-ranking Luftwaffe officers and technical specialists intending to improve Japanese aircraft defenses, had received orders to surrender through British and American radio transmittal, and began heading toward the United States to do so. At the time of its capture, all prisoners were received safely, aside from two Japanese passengers that committed suicide in an effort to avoid imprisonment.

Because high-ranking officials were aboard the U-234 during its capture, as well as the rumored uranium, the surrender became worldwide news. But upon further investigation of the submarine’s cargo, only drawings, arms, medical supplies, instruments, lead, mercury, caffeine, steels, optical glass and brass were found on board at the time. It was later concluded that the missing 1,200 pounds of uranium somehow made its way into the hands of The Manhattan Project, which would give scientists enough of the element to destroy the city of Hiroshima.

From there, the submarine was used for experimental trials by the U.S. Navy and met her end as a torpedo target for the USS Greenfish on November 20, 1947, off the coast of Cape Cod.

And as she sank into the Atlantic Ocean, she became forever linked to the Cape, shrouded in a mantle of mystery and war history.



Cape Cod National Seashore Nearly Didn’t Happen

As a longtime summer resident of the Cape, President John F. Kennedy understood the area’s economic needs as well as the value of its natural resources and history. With this in mind, JFK signed a 1961 bill authorizing the establishment of the Cape Cod National Seashore, which would largely protect the land from the rapid advancing development of the 1950s and early 1960s.

What further compelled Kennedy’s signature was the fact that he had created a similar bill in 1959 when he was in the U.S. Senate. After attempting to bring the bill to a vote, he and his co-sponsor, Leverett Saltonstall, ran into trouble from Cape residents that were leery of eminent domain and objected to the government running property that had been in their possession—in a few cases, for decades.

An additional problem that prevented the bill from hitting the floor was the fact that Congress would be using public money to purchase the private land that would be transitioned into the national park. It just wasn’t the time for the bill to pass, but two years later, after Kennedy was elected president, he would have the chance to see his former bill back in action. He promptly signed it into law on August 7, 1961. The breakthrough legislation immediately became nationwide news, and for the first time a national park had been created out of land that was largely made up of private entities.

Today, the 43,000-acre parcel of land and water runs through Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans and Chatham and is administered by the National Park Service. Over the years, public outcry has settled, largely because the U.S. government park protects private and public interests as well as 40 miles of beaches, marshes, ponds and uplands.

With some 4 million visitors enjoying the area every summer, the bill has not only allowed for the culture of Cape Cod to continue, it has also enabled visitors from all over the world to catch a glimpse of the rich scenery and landscapes of the Cape.



Cape Cod entertainment venue attracted some of the biggest stars in sports and music

Along with seafood, sand and sun, Cape Cod was also once known for rock concerts and worldwide wrestling. While it was short lived, the Cape Cod Coliseum, built in South Yarmouth in 1972, was used by Vince McMahon for World Wrestling Entertainment, formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation.

The 7,200-seat multi-purpose venue was also used as a sports arena for the Cape Cod Cubs of the North American Hockey League, the Cape Cod Freedoms of the Northeastern Hockey League, the Cape Cod Buccaneers of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League, and also hosted ESPN boxing shows headlined by contenders like Sean Mannion.

The Coliseum branched out from sports and featured major entertainment acts like Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, former Beatle George Harrison, Pink Floyd, the Clash, Elvis Costello, the B-52s, Alice Cooper, the Ramones and the Grateful Dead. Even though the Coliseum attracted major stars from across the nation, it wasn’t enough, and in 1974 the arena was put on the market for $2.5 million.

With no buyers, the property remained up for sale for two years, until January of 1976 when an agreement was reached that allowed the Cape Cod Cubs to pay less in rent, and the Coliseum remained open for another decade.

But by the early 1990s, the arena again faced closure and eventually became a distribution center for Christmas Tree Shops, and then later was used by Dennis East International, a wholesaler to gift shops, and Mid Cape Home Centers.

But for 10 years the Cape community and summer visitors enjoyed the action at the Coliseum, which was also a major player in launching the arts and entertainment scene that remains on the Cape to this day.



Labor Shortages restrict Business Hours, Beach Access and Incoming Revenue.

It may be hard to believe, but in 1986 Cape Cod businesses were struggling to find summer workers. While tourism was at an all-time high, the issue at hand was—and at times continues to be—the availability of affordable housing. And with Cape jobs at the time offering wages that would equal roughly $10,000 to $15,000 a year, workers couldn’t afford the average $600 a month summer rental, making it impossible to live and work in the area.

The job shortage epidemic continued for several years, and by 1987 Cape restaurants were shutting down portions of their space, local businesses were closing on weekends, and even beaches were limiting and restricting areas due to a lack of lifeguards and town workers. Finally, in 1987, a published report documented a $47 million loss in revenue for the previous year, due to the vacancy of 14,000 seasonal and year-round jobs on the Cape and Islands.

With the situation showing no improvement in 1988, business groups began to hold job fairs and offer employment plus housing packages, and sent mass mailings across the country. While the job and housing deals attracted workers from New England, business owners were still strapped for help and began to hire foreign workers from English-speaking countries like Ireland, England and Jamaica.

The workers would travel to the U.S. in groups and also live together and pool their resources. This enabled them to both afford rent and save before they returned home in October. And because Americans remained unwilling to relocate to the Cape for jobs and the tight labor market continued, the U.S. government began to grant visas despite the 1986 Immigration and Reform Act.

The problem began to ease as years progressed into the 1990s. Today, the Cape and Islands attract a strong youth and college-age population during the summer season but still largely depend on foreign workers. Until solutions are found to attract a younger year-round population, foreign workers will continue to be welcomed to Cape Cod.



Cape Community Bands Together to Brace for Historic Storm

The last thing Cape Cod needs in the summer is a hurricane. But when Hurricane Edouard reached Cape Cod shores, coming all the way from Africa, it bulldozed its way into being the strongest hurricane of the 1996 storm season.

Reaching hurricane force on Aug. 23, 1996, the storm clipped New England by Aug. 29, with 85-mile-per-hour winds and hit the Cape and Islands hard, forcing the mass evacuation of thousands of tourists and resulting in one of the biggest traffic backups of all time—an 18-mile stretch from Hyannis to the bridges in Bourne and Sagamore.

As a result of the evacuations, the Cape economy took a huge hit, losing millions right before Labor Day, which is one of the summer’s biggest weekend booms for tourism. And with massive flooding, power failures, wind damage and erosion, the Cape also suffered much physical damage from Edouard, leaving some 35,000 people without power.

On a positive note, the Cape community banded together to turn the local schools into safe shelters for 900 people—many of them members of the senior community—that hunkered down until the storm passed. Similar teamwork was seen at Cape marinas and harbors, with most of the help coming from people who didn’t even own a boat.

While there have been hurricanes since, and certainly more to come, the Cape’s ability to protect its shores and its people is unwavering.



Offshore Wind Farm Proves Highly Controversial

Initiated in 2001, the Cape Wind Project has a long and arduous history. Now, 14 years later, the $2.5 billion, 130-turbine offshore wind project in Nantucket Sound is floundering to survive. In 2008, Cape Wind advocates published a Final Environmental Impact statement that outlined the characteristics of the project and analyzed the effects that construction, operation and maintenance would have on marine life and land environment.

The statement, which was quite controversial, would eventually lead up to a deal in 2012 between Cape Wind and energy companies NStar (which distributes electricity on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard) and National Grid (which services Nantucket). From that point until January of 2015, the project was slated to move forward, although the plan had many antagonists, including the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

And while the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that the wind farm could produce 4,000 gigawatts of power—nearly four times the current U.S. capacity—according to the alliance, the wind farm’s negative impact on wildlife was greater than the benefits of renewable energy.

Audra Parker, president of the alliance, said in a 2014 interview with E&E Publishing that the wind turbines would harm or kill migratory birds, threaten marine mammals, interfere with air navigation, boat navigation and commercial fishing, desecrate the lands and traditions of local tribal groups, and even interfere with missile defense systems.

As it turned out, the deal would actually be left dead in the water, not due to Parker’s fierce opposition but because the two energy companies would pull out of the deal in January of 2015, according to the Cape Cod Times.

With the deal expected to go through, it came as a shock to the Cape community, it came as a shock to the Cape community when both NStar and National Grid terminated their contracts with Cape Wind, essentially stopping the project in its tracks. Both power companies claimed that Cape Wind had missed critical deadlines, which propelled them to end the possibility of renewable energy, at least for now.

 

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