Franz Machon

Franz Machon

Infobox Military Person
name=Franz Machen
lived=March 18, 1918 - Unknown Date

caption=Franz Machon with his wife Mary Munik.
nickname=Franz Machen, Françis Machon, Françis Machen, Frans Machon, Frans Machen
allegiance=Nazi Germany
serviceyears=1939 - 1945
battles=Battle of the Atlantic

Matrosengefreiter Franz Machon (born March 18, 1918) was the only survivor of the sunken German submarine U-512, and one of few World War II U-Boat survivors. His story strikes remarkable similarities with Klaus Bargsten of U-521. After his capture, Franz agreed to help the US Navy observe behaviour characteristics of fellow German P.O.W.s.

Early life

Machon was born in Kattowitz (Katowice) to John and Anna Machon, two Polish commoners. In his early years he worked as a streetcar conductor while attending school. He married a woman named Mary Munik who gave birth to a son (His son was 15 months when he was captured).

After the Nazi invasion of Poland, Machon found himself drafted into the Pioneer Corp. He later requested to be transferred to the Kriegsmarine in Hamburg for submarine training.



On October 2, 1942 several hundred kilometers north of Cayenne (in position 06.50N, 52.25W) cite web | title = U-512| url =| publisher =| date = 2003-11-12 | accessdate = 2007-04-30] U-512 was intercepted by depth charges from an American B-18 A aircraft (US Army Bomb. Sqdn. 99). The German submarine quickly filled with water, and left the entire crew panicking in fear. Soon, the entire cabin was filled with chlorine gas and the crewmen began to cough. (It was guessed that the chlorine gas was produced from the batteries of electric torpedoes.) A short time previously it had been discovered that the escape lungs had been improperly stowed and that the majority of them had become wet from a buildup of condensation in the boat. Soon, air pressure in the compartment began to mount and speech became very difficult. Men were beginning to collapse rapidly from the combined effects of chlorine and high pressure. Others were starting to bleed from their mouth and from their ears in agony.cite web | title = Top Secret Report on U-512| url = | publisher = United States Navy| date = 1942-10-19 | accessdate = 2007-04-23]

In the next several minutes, tragedy would claim all 51 crewmen except for one, Machon. He and a boatswain's mate decided to attempt to open the torpedo loading hatch rather than die from the gas. Because his crewmate had no snorkel, he let him go first and quickly followed. After exiting the boat, his crewmate got confused with the direction to the surface and swam horizontally, only to lose himself between the hull and the superstructure. Upon reaching the surface, Machon swam around for roughly 1.5 hours unsuccessfully looking for his partner until an inflated life-jacket was dropped to him from a circling airplane from the 99th bombing squadron. This was soon followed by a drop of a thermos outfitted with water, a signal pistol, paddles and about 200 feet of rope.

The raft

The raft provided by the aircraft was his only form of shelter for the next 10 days. Several times, Franz unsuccessfully attempted to attract the attention of various tankers and passing aircraft by firing his signal pistol. In order to escape the heat he would usually swim in the water during midday.cite web | title = Interrogation of Franz Machon | url =| publisher = United States Navy| date = 1942-10-19 | accessdate = 2007-04-23]

On the ninth day at sea, on his raft he was attacked by seabirds which pecked him on the shoulders so violently that it left him permanent scars. He managed to capture two of the birds, which he split and dried them in the sun. Because of his provisions has been running low, he later decided to eat them, complaining slightly of their fishy taste to his interrogator.

Machon, now helpless and facing the verge of death, etched his name into the paddle so that his body could be identified. cite web | title = Interrogation of U-512 Survivor| url = | publisher = United States Navy| date = 1942-10-19 | accessdate = 2007-04-23]

The day following he was rescued by the United States destroyer, USS Ellis (DD-154) at position 07.50 N - 56.05 W on October 12, 1942.


When Machon was rescued, the interrogators gave some time for him to recover his health. When he was found, he was severely sunburned and had food deprivation.

On October 19, 1942 he was formally interrogated. At first he was very nervous giving details to the Navy officials, but then opened up after realizing Nazi propaganda about Allied torture was false in P.O.W. interrogation methods. During his stay he helped Navy officials gather intelligence data on other prisoners, and was extremely co-operative to his captors. After being relieved from his duties, he stayed at Fort Hunt until his release.


On April 16, 1945 he was handed to the Polish authorities. He then settled with his wife and child in Wirek, Poland. cite web | title = Forum Post Regarding Franz Machon| url =,30913,30913,quote=1| publisher =| date = 2003-12-03 | accessdate = 2007-04-30] Today, not much is known about Machon except for his miraculous story detailed in his interrogation on the "Ellis". Since his release in 1945, no word from him or his family has surfaced as of yet. If he is still alive today, then his whereabouts are unknown.


ee also

*Klaus Bargsten
*USS Ellis

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