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Bose's journey from Germany to Singapore by submarine was a well-remarked incident of World War II history. But what was the need for the Germans or the Italians to use a submarine to transfer a civilian? Was it impossible for them to arrange a flight? Or was it done to force Bose, whose relationship with Hitler was frosty, to make an uncomfortable and unsafe journey?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

No, it wasn't possible to take a plane.

As I mentioned in the (currently accepted) answer to Which city was attacked by Nazi-German war flights in India during WW2? , the Nazis did not possess any plane capable of making a flight from German-controlled territory to India, much less Japan, without stopping for refueling, and they did not have any aircraft carriers.

Even so, airplanes in WW2 were not nearly as safe as they are today. Worse, they can be spotted, and if spotted in range of an enemy air field fairly easily taken down. This is, in fact, how the allies killed Admiral Yamamoto. So it is quite likely submarine transport would have been safer, even if air transport was an option.

In fact, the transfer to the Japanese sub occurred 10 days after Yamamoto was shot down. Its likely both Bose and the Imperial Navy wouldn't be inclined to risk another VIP that way so soon.

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trying to envision a route they could have flown, and indeed it runs into trouble over the Black Sea, a long way from Japan. While Turkey and Iran weren't active warzones, they were nominally under allied control as far as Germany was concerned. India of course was British controlled, as was Afghanistan. Even a Condor would be unable to make it from Romania to China nonstop. –  jwenting Feb 14 '13 at 7:36
@jwenting Then how did the diplomatic staff of the Allied powers travel? –  Arani Feb 14 '13 at 13:25
@Arani The allied powers controlled the seas, traveled by ship mainly. They also had access to the small number of very long range flying boats like the Boeing 314 Clippers. And of course they controlled large contiguous landmasses, allowing them the luxury of safe airports at convenient intervals. –  jwenting Feb 14 '13 at 14:25
Wait... wasn't Yamamoto killed as a result of sigint, and not being "spotted"? –  DVK Feb 14 '13 at 22:34
@DVK - A bit of both. Without the sigint they wouldn't have known where or when to look. But to borrow from Douglas Adams, The Pacific... is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is. Presumably the same sigint would have been just as capable of finding out that the Japanese were transporting Bose, but a submarine would have been much harder to find. –  T.E.D. Feb 14 '13 at 23:07
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