U-156/U-502 Roundtable Newsletter #10
"(The) most alluring thing about writing history (is) the story never really ends, and you never know what amazing thing you might discover tomorrow."
James L. Swanson, Lincoln's Assassins, 2006.
August 23, 2007.
Dear Fellow U-Boat Enthusiasts and Lago History Buffs:
This Newsletter is chock full of events which will send the imagination reeling and tantalize the gray matter. At the end of January 2007, I questioned whether or not I would have enough material for the August edition of the Newsletter. Well folks, your interest in the events and personal experiences of the period have been so fruitful that I now have enough material for the next three Newsletters!! As Dean Martin would say, "Keep those letters and telegrams coming!" (Or was that Perry Como?)
Topics to be covered in this Newsletter are: Special Report on Lake Tanker Pedernales from correspondence compiled by your Newsletter editor...Special Report on Admiral Karl Doenitz's BdU for February 16, 1942, submitted by Stan Norcom...Special Report on Bonaire's Internment Camp from Vic Lopez's Vol's. I and II of The Lago Colony Legend...Roundtable #5's agenda for the Lago/Oklahoma
City Reunion, September 2007...Rumors Are Flying, or Authors Who Ought to Know Better will have you questioning everything you read...Bits 'N Pieces that have no particular place to alight...Musings From The Conning Tower---Two "opposing" views which may teach us a lesson...New Roundtable Members/Subscribers (would you believe we have brow-beat our 102nd member into joining?)...Special Inquiry from John Turner...What's in The Future Mix?...And, of course, Correspondence from you, our loyal members of the Roundtable.
New Roundtable Members
Antonio Rodriguez (#100). Antonio hails from Venezuela, is an avid tracker and researcher of German U-boats that were known to frequent the coves and offshore islands of Venezuela. His enthusiasm for seeking artifacts and record verifiable experiences, know no end. If Antonio does, in fact, purse his avocational interests and manage to record his U-boat quests, his experiences would make for a best seller.
John S. Turner (#101). Captain John, USNR, is a 1967 graduate of Lago High. John and wife Chris reside in Brecksville, Ohio. Under Special Inquiry, John is seeking to find out more information about his dad, Captain Henry J. Turner, who was First Mate on the tanker Valera upon its sinking.
Ken Cvenjanovich (#102). Ken is a 1972 graduate of Lago High. He and wife Monica reside in Kingwood, Texas. Ken forwarded The Day Hitler Lost The War by Dr. Lee A. Dew, which appeared in the February 1978 issue of American Legion Magazine. Dew also wrote an article for The Red River Historical Journal, Autumn 1979, titled "The Sinking of U-156". Ken is particularly interested in the Pedernales dive site off Aruba's Palm Beach (see Special Report - The Pedernales).
Welcome aboard all!!
Special Inquiry, courtesy of the Lago Bulletin Board, 06/08/07.
John Turner would appreciate information regarding his dad's ship, the Valera, which was torpedoed by U-518 on March 7, 1944, off Baranquilla, Colombia. A shipmate was killed but the remaining 34 crewmen survived the sinking.
Captain Henry J. Turner's Valera was a 3400 ton tanker built by Walter Butler Shipbuilders in Duluth, Minnesota, 1943, and was en route with a full load of U.S. Navy oil to Cristobal, Panama from Aruba, when it was torpedoed. John's father, one of the 34 survivors, drifted several days on a life raft before being rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard vessel and taken to Panama where he spent a month in recovery. According to an article in the Saba Herald, there were five survivors on Turner's raft. (Capt.) Henry J. Turner, who was Valera's First Mate at the time, a Second Mate, the Chief Steward, a Norwegian sailor, and Peter Every. Another crewman, Quartermaster Walter Woods, also survived the sinking of the Valera. John goes on to say that U-518, commanded by Hans Werner Offermann, was sunk on April 22, 1945, by U.S. destroyers Carter and Neal A. Scott. There were no survivors of U-518's sinking.
John would like to get a crew/officers list of seamen aboard the Valera for its last voyage, e.g. ship photos, log, etc. If readers of the Newsletter could assist John in that regard he would be most appreciative.
John can be reached at email@example.com
Carol Ann Leonard (02/06/07): "I was just in Chicago from Feb. 1-5. While there I went to the Museum of Science and Technology...saw U-505 and took a tour of the U-boat...U-505 had two guns on top of the deck (20mm flak) and were located behind the conning tower...The U-boat had small bunks and the crew had to double up on them...Officers had private bunks...The bunks would not allow someone over 5'11" to stretch out. One officer was 6'2"...The meals for the crew of 59 were cooked over three large solid hot plates...The crew had to keep an accurate inventory of everything ordered and used so that they could properly balance the boat...The men did not bathe while at sea. They used alcohol to clean themselves...(At the time that U-505's Commander Harland Lange surrendered to U.S. Navy Captain Daniel Gallery's aircraft carrier and destroyer escorts) a German crewman aboard U-505 opened the seacock that allowed water to flow into the bowels of the U-boat in order to sink it...However, the crewman left the seacock's cover on the floor of the U-boat instead of throwing it over the side...Two sailors from the Navy escorts found the cover and replaced it over the hole, stopping the flow of water into U-505...
"The U.S. Navy was able to find 900 documents...as well as two Enigma (coding and decoding) machines. The U.S. kept secret the capture of U-505. The message released at the time said that the German crew had lost their lives at sea. However, at war's end the POW's were reunited with their families in Germany. They were held prisoners in Louisiana and not allowed contact with the outside world in order to let the Allies have information from the Enigma machines and captured documents....
"All in all, the tour of U-505 was very interesting and informative."
Harry Cooper (01/25/07): "...(I)n the U.S. and various other navies, the Commanding Officer is often referred to as 'the Captain' or 'Captain', but not so in the Kriegsmarine (German Navy). Kapitan, with an umlet over the a', is a rank (Captain) and only a rank. The Commanding Officer was referred to by his rank (e.g. herr Kaleu if he was Kapitanleutnant) or der Commander (the Commander). I learned very quickly when I was meeting with a group of U-boat skippers and referred to one as 'Captain XXX', and got a quick response from them all---'He was only Oberleutnant, not Kapitan.' "
(Editor [DDG] response/note: Harry, I think I'll stay on the safe side and call U-boaters "officers and crew." How about officers and gentlemen?)
Don Montague (01/25/07): "How did you get interested in U-boats?" (Ed. Note: Actually Don, it was a combination of things---Bill Hochstuhl's U-Boat 156 Brought War to Aruba and my conversations with others (e.g. Stan Norcom, Clyde Harms, Jerry Casius, Ray Burson, et al.) who have a like interest in the subject.)
Skipper Goodwin (02/02/07): "Just wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed the latest issue of the Newsletter...Great work!"
Ted Gibbons (06/08/07): "In reading some of the articles on the internet they indicate that only two ships were torpedoed off Aruba. I remember four. I thought the ships that were torpedoed were the Oranjestad, San Nicolas, Tia Juana, and the Pedernales. Although the San Nicolas and the Tia Juana were anchored at the time, they were close enough to Aruba when torpedoed. Unfortunately, most everyone that knew about the attack are gone, so it's hard to get (reliable) information..." (Ed. note: Would take your word for it Ted, rather than relying on certain internet web "experts".)
Dufi Kock (01/25/07): Editor's question to Dufi: "Were memorial services held on the island for the four brave Dutch Marines who lost their lives while attempting to disarm the beached torpedo at Eagle, which U-156 had fired at the docked tanker Arkansas?"
(04/29/07): Response to 01/25/07 inquiry from Dufi and Rev. Dick Pranger of the Savaneta Marine Camp: "...It appears from the documents that the mortal remains of the Marines were sent to Holland on May 29, 1999. I have documents and copies of death certificates to verify that...I (Rev. Pranger) will ask my colleagues if there were any ceremonial services when the remains were sent to Holland. I will also try and get more information as to when and where the funerals took place in Holland..." (Ed. note: Would still like to know if memorial services were held for the Marines in Aruba during February 1942?)
(06/08/07): (Ed. note: Dan Jensen sent Dufi a copy of the DVD he [Dan] put together on the U-156 story. TeleAruba did a one-hour program on U-156 with Dufi narrating; the TV station also showed Dan's twenty-five minute DVD.) "Did you have a chance to watch TeleAruba either Sunday or Tuesday?...
Everywhere I go these days people come up to me and say, 'That was the best program they had ever seen as far as the history of Aruba is concerned'...Dan told me that he is going to make another DVD with much more information."
Doug Tonkinson (06/02/07): "(I)s there any evidence that heavy drinking was taking place at the Guest House (Marinierskazerne or Dutch Marine Camp at Savaneta) prior to the February 16, 1942 attack?"
(Ed. note: Although the above question is contained in Doug's 06/02/07 e-mail, it should be credited to a TV person-of-note who prefaced her question/remark to Doug by asking "I wonder if you could broaden your friend's video to pit the Germans, who wanted to destroy (Lago's) infrastructure targets, against specific actions or inactions of U.S. officials 'in country' who may or may not have had a clue [emphasis added]? Hold off folks, Doug is just the messenger.)
Dufi Kock (06/08/07): Response to Doug's 06/02/07 e-mail: "...(A)ccording to my records, the U.S. soldiers were at the Welcome Party at the Marinierskazeme in Savaneta when the February 16th attack occurred...These U.S. soldiers replaced the Commander Highlanders who were staying at the Savaneta Dutch Marine Camp (and) that is probably why the party was held there. But if they were drinking, I don't know."
Dan Jensen (06/08/07): Response to Dufi's 06/08/07 e-mail: "My parents were at the (Savaneta Marine Camp) party...Now let me ask you a question: Have you ever been to a party in Aruba where there was not a lot of drinking?" (Ed. note: See how "enhancement" can get you into a lot of trouble?)
Antonio Rodriguez (04/10/07): "In 1942 a U-boat landed in the small coastal town of Rio Chico, west of Caracas, took in food supplies (paying for them), and then shoved off. This incident was recorded in the local newspaper at the time...I'm attempting to locate a person who purchased two Luger pistols in the 1970's...that he had received from German submariners...In the town of Guiria there was a German who tended to a farm in the maze of the Delta de Orinoco. Supposedly, this German brought diesel fuel and supplies to German submariners. The person of interest supposedly disappeared after local authorities got suspicious of his activities...One of my plans is to organize a visit to Isla de Patos and record what might be left of the Coastal Artillery fortification...I will also try to find out about the coastal artillery installations in Puerto La Cruz and Punta de Piedras.
"My approach is base on dedicating as much of my free time to contact people here (Venezuela) and abroad who might have historical and anecdotal details that can be traced and linked with local accounts/events."
Dan Jensen (06/08/07), on a "sober" note, writes: "When British troops attacked the island of Nevis back in the '60's because they (the British) refused to recognize Nevis's independence, the invading British troops were met on the beaches with Nevisans serving them rum and Coca Cola. Now that's my kind of war!"
Vic Lopez (05/24/07), forwarded, courtesy of Larry Riggs: "In reading an old Bits 'N Pieces on Dan Jensen's web site, I saw something about "Tex" Schelthorst's brush with mortality when a projectile came through his ceiling at the Bachelor Quarters and hit the roof of his bed. Also reportedly it went out the wall and lodged in a car radiator. His ceiling and bed were riddled...."
Ray Burson (07/20/07): "Would anyone on the Roundtable have information about the configuration and ship capacity of San Nicolas Harbor on or about February 16, 1942? I have the harbor configuration from the early 1950's to 1962 and some prewar information. But the rest is sketchy. The harbor could berth a mix of Lake Tankers and larger ships like the freighter Henry Gibbins and the U.S. Navy Oiler Chenango (Esso New Orleans).
I. Admiral Karl Doenitz's Half-Hearted February 17, 1942 Bdu* Reprimand of U-156's Hartenstein, submitted by Stan Norcom (05/13/07).
(Ed. note: *A BdU is a summary report from the Commander-in-Chief for U-Boat Operations, Admiral Karl Doenitz, for a particular patrol, operation, or specific period, whereas a KTB is a U-boat's day-by-day official patrol log.)
Stan in response to an e-mail from Ray Burson: "The closest thing I could find on a Hartenstein reprimand was Doenitz's BdU for February 17, 1942. To wit:
a.) "The only report (on) hand from the Aruba area claims only an unsatisfactory success (contraction?). Even though the indirect success may be great, the primary aim of the operation must be to inflict direct damage on the enemy.
"This is best effected by destroying enemy shipping, only after all possible opportunities for this had been seized should the tank installations on land have been shelled.
"Apparently, U-156 acted in this way, but the shelling, presumably because of the (deck cannon's) barrel premature (explosion), did not have the desired effect.
"About 1500 hours a teleprint arrived from Naval War Staff: 'C-in-C wishes the submarine operations in this area to be opened by shelling the tank installations.' But the use of guns was sanctioned by operational order from 0800 hours (five hours before dawn at that place [Aruba]). In accordance with the order from C-in-C Navy, U-502 was sent to Aruba as U-156 had a breakdown. When off Curacao U-502 and U-67 were ordered to use guns against tank installations, if possible.
"I had decided against issuing an order to commence submarine operations by shelling the tank installations, as there was a danger that such shelling, which might or might not be successful, would do away with the element of surprise and spoil chances of sinkings.
b.) The barrel's premature (explosion) of U-156 gives rise to the fear that similar runs of misfires may occur, as with the 'South' boats in the Spring. But according to information from Navy High Command-Gunnery Captain v. Goetze, the ammunition that contained so many duds is no longer in use so that it may be expected that this is an isolated case." (Ed. note: I don't remember the U-Boat C-in-C ever backing U-156's IIWO Dietrich von dem Borne in his quest for vindication in U-156's gun barrel explosion. Where was Doenitz when Borne sought reconciliation for U-156's barrel's mishap/misfire? Borne went to the grave pleading for his Verwundetenabzeichens [wounded soldier's decoration]. Also see item under Bits 'N Pieces .)
II. The Pedernales
(Ed. note: The following correspondence between 07/16/07 and 07/22/07 was generated through an e-mail that Al Leak had sent regarding Goggle's color video "Aruba Diving on The Pedernales and Antilla".)
From your Newsletter editor to Al (07/16/07): "I'm not a scuba diver and never claimed to be, but can anyone tell me which of the video frames were of the supposed Pedernales and which were of the Antilla?
"Note that I said "supposed." The Pedernales was the first tanker torpedoed by German U-boat 156 on the night/early morning hours of February 16, 1942, when eight crewmen on the Pedernales lost their lives. The Pedernales wreckage drifted to Palm Beach where it was towed back to the Lago refinery for temporary refit. At the refinery the heavily damaged Pedernales' mid-section was cut away from its forward and aft sections. Its' forward and aft sections were then welded together, and the much shortened tanker headed to the U.S. where a new mid-section was added to the ship. The Pedernales never made the Maracaibo-Aruba-Maracaibo service run again. It spent the remainder of the war making petroleum runs to the African coast.
"The Pedernales dive site off Palm Beach is probably the damaged mid-section of the ship, and not the whole enchilada, assuming of course, that the mid-section either drifted to Palm Beach from the refinery where it was refitted, or placed at the dive site by some other party.
"Can any of your readers Al, unravel the Pedernales dive site mystery for me?"
Al Leak (07/17/07): "Huh?...Why did, or would, Esso tow the midship section of the tanker around to the west side of the island near the Antilla? Doesn't make sense to me that Lago would do that. Especially in the '40's...nobody knew then that the tourist industry would start growing in the '50's."
Warren Norcom (07/17/09): "Very good reasoning...When I look at the very unidentifiable photos (on the video), I was thinking the same thing. Now, you would think the guys who were diving knew what they were looking at.
"How do you know the Pedernales drifted to Palm Beach?...One would think the ship would float more westerly away from Aruba...I don't remember (Lago) having drydocks...And why would Lago take the mid-section to Palm Beach instead of simply hauling it out to deep water and dumping it?"
Ray Burson (07/17/07): "Tugs took the derelict in tow and muscled her onto the gound near Oranjestad. Shipyard crews cut the beached hulk in two. The bow and stern were then towed separately back to Lago's shipyard----Bill Hochstuhl, German U-Boat 156 Brought War to Aruba..., pg. 16.
"Obviously some time later the 124-foot mid-section was taken off the beach by Oranjestad and sunk at sea where it remained forgotten until divers re-discovered it and made it an attraction."
Steve Fremgen (07/17/07): "I also am not sure how the Pedernales got to her resting spot, but I know that was where she was for many years. Her site is marked with a single pipe (Ed. note: There is now a lighted buoy over the wreckage) that used to break the surface on the sandy bottom before you got to the drop off at Eagle Beach. You just did not want to hit it with a boat.
"I think they broke the ship apart to make it less of a hazard to navigation, like they did with the Brentwood in the Florida Keys."
Ted Gibbons (01/28/06): "In going over Aruba history, the tourism industry printed an article about the tanker Pedernales, and stated that U.S. Navy divers cut the ship into three parts and towed it away, which is incorrect. I assume the people in Aruba's tourism industry weren't around when this attack (Feb. 16, 1942) took place, and didn't see the tankers burning as I did while sitting on the Lago Church wall. They probably never came in contact with anyone who had to work on the Pedernales as I did. (M)y father took me down to see the ship and his crew that brought it to the drydock. After a few days work on the ship my father and his crew were as black as the ace-of-spades, covered with crude oil from working on the ship. Mom discarded most of dad's work clothes."
(07/22/07): "(D)id you see the photo of the Pedernales after it was pieced together to head back to the 'States for a new mid-section? Here is the picture of the Pedernales with the (temporary) wooden superstructure (emphasis added)." (Ed. note: There are two photos of the Pedernales following page 20 in Bill Hochstuhl's book German U-Boat 156 Brought War to Aruba...)
III. Extracts From Vic Lopez's The Lago Legend, Vols.I and II regarding Several Lago Employees Deported to The Bonaire Internment Camp at The Outset of WWII.
E-mail from Vic (08/26/06): "I did a search on the 'Our Stories' from The Lago Legend(s) for the subject of detained Germans on Bonaire during WWII and came up with the following passages.":
- The Lago Legend---"Our Stories"---Vol. 1 -
Robert M. Campbell, pg. 51: "I remember that they sent a bunch of people to Bonaire to the Internment Camp, but there was also a number of people who escaped. The Zechinni's went to Venezuela. Dr. Sandvos who was in charge of the hospital got away to New York. Otto Sauer who was in charge of the Cold Storage Facilities also got to Venezuela. I saw him some years later. He was a wine steward at one of the big hotels in Caracas.
William Lawrence Ewart, pg. 235: "J.F.X. Auer was manager of the Mess Hall who succeeded Magner. Magner was later picked up as a German national and sent to Bonaire.
"Fritz Gemelar was a German electrician I interviewed in New York before coming to Aruba. I later hired him for the Electrical Department.
"Charlie Schlechta worked in the Instrument Department. I believed we hired him locally, although I am not completely sure. They were all sent to Bonaire when the Germans invaded Holland (May 10, 1940).
"Al Zucchini, an Italian, had an outstanding technical education, and was a professor at a university in Italy. I don't know why he left Italy...."
Gregorio Frank, pg. 244: "Gus Stutzman always called me Shody, but we got along very well until he was picked up and shipped off to a concentration camp in Bonaire when Germany invaded Holland.
"Carl Reichart, a nasty German, was caught stealing information from Ewart's desk just before the war. He was given eight hours to leave the island. Later we heard he was a German spy."
Edgar Jackson, pg. 230: "Lorentzen was of German descent...he and Gus palled around together."
Lotje McReynolds, pg. 442: "Word of the German invasion of Holland arrived at Oranjestad's Governor's office at midnight on May 10, 1940, and by 2:00 a.m. the few Nazi Germans in Oranjestad and San Nicolas were rounded up and given a very short time to pack a suitcase before they were shipped over to Bonaire, where they remained for the duration of the war. Not far from our Bungalow 222 there lived a German couple, and the wife attended first-aid classes which our Lago Hospital held for wives in the Colony. She was a very pleasant and quiet woman and I heard they owned some lovely things in their home. I felt sorry for her. However, Bonaire was not an unpleasant place to wait out the war. One of my cousins in Holland had a spell in a Nazi concentration camp in Germany. After the war it took six months of hospital care in Holland for him to recover."
Willie M. Miller, pg. 450: "At the start of the war, all people of German descent were forced to leave the island. They were transported in the dead of night to Bonaire where they were interred until the end of the war. Gladys told the story of being awakened in the night to crying and shouts of 'Please don't take me away", as they loaded some of her neighbors into trucks."
"Tex" Schelfhorst, pg. 669: "...All Germans and their allies were picked-up by 5:00 a.m. and transported to Bonaire by Lake Tankers. The French cruiser Jeanne D' Arc appeared before Oranjestad and wanted to land Marines. Later they were permitted to land. Further that day, lots of talking and listening to the radio. On the day of Holland's liberation I guess there was a lot of drinking! When the French Marines landed they didn't stay too long. I saw them."
William Ruben White, pg. 669: "Some of the people I knew in Aruba who spent time in Dutch internment camps for German nationals and other sympathizer nationalities in Bonaire were Gus Stutzman, Al Zucchini, Karl Schelecta, J.F.X. Auer, and the two Sauer brothers. One of them ran a business out in the Village (San Nicolas). Otto (Sauer) worked for the company in the Cold Storage Department. In the early days he was a bootlegger. At that time they weren't allowed to sell hard liquor at our end of the island."
- The Lago Legend---"Our Stories"---Vol.2 -
Jim Lopez and son Vic, pgs. 36-37: "We never heard about the German Bund[*] in Aruba until after the internees were taken to Bonaire. We also heard about the building[#] where the Bund held its meetings. It was decorated with the German flag and pictures of Hitler and other Nazi leaders." (Ed. note: [*]The Bund movement was made up of followers sympathetic to the Nazi cause; [#] Do any of our readers know where this building was located? San Nicolas? Oranjestad?)
Jim Lopez and son Vic, pg. 45: "The mother-in-law of the Secretary General to the Governor in Curacao was an Austrian Jew. She was taken to the internment camp in Bonaire. After two months she was allowed to return to Curacao; (however) she was warned not to appear in public to avoid insults (emphasis added)."
(Ed. notes: The last story just goes to show what idiotic extremes and "advice" some will give to people already in dire circumstances. For more WWII stories go to the "WWII and Aruba" chapter (pgs. 31-45) in The Lago Legend, Vol. II. One of the "stories" I heard regarding German sympathizers in the Colony at the start of WWII, was that a couple had a large framed picture of Adolf Hitler tacked to their living room wall. I imagine they were among the first to be shipped out.)
Rumors Are Flying......or Authors Who Ought to Know Better
How does the old saying go? "If it's too good to be true, it probably is." Or, as my dad used to say, "If you believe all you read/hear, you can eat all you see." The following are some instances that your editor has run across over the past few years regarding faux pas.
Tina Evers (01/18/07): "...My sister is in a writing class and one of the students wrote quite a story on the shelling of the Lago refinery during WWII...(H)is (the student's) story says the reason the refinery wasn't totally destroyed during the German submarine attack was because Esso/Lago had built a phoney refinery (lights, outlines to resemble the refinery), and the U-boat shelled the phoney refinery, (thereby) leaving the blacked-out real refinery intact. To quote from the story in question: 'The morning after the U-boat attack, Arubans awoke to see the refinery, which was the cornerstone of the Aruba's economy, merrily chugging along. Two hundred yards to the west lay the smoking ruins of a Potemkin' refinery.' "
(Ed. note: I wonder if either Mickey Spillane or Frederick Forsyth is aware of this guy; he'd make a great protege' for writing historical fiction. Needless to say, I e-mailed Tina a 1-1/2 page "Whoa!There Nellie" response.)
"Some fifty-seven U-boats roamed the Indian Ocean and Pacific waters during WWII. The initial group of four 740-ton boats, called Eibars (polar bears), departed French bases in Cape Town, August 1942. One of the group, U-156, was lost en route...(pg. 263)" Shooting The War---The Memoirs and Photographs of a U-Boat Officer in WWII, Otto Giese, 1993. (Ed. note: Officer Giese either had an incorrect number for the U-boat or the location of U-156's final hours incorrect (das ende: March 8, 1943, east of Barbados, B.W.I.).
"The first phase of the campaign was code-named Operation Neuland and ran from February through March 1942. The first group of U-boats directed into the Caribbean consisted of U-67 (Muller-Stockheim), U-129 (Clausen), U-161 (Achilles), and U-502 (von Rosenstiel). On February 15, 1942, U-156 attacked the harbour at San Nicolas in Aruba, torpedoing tankers Oranjestad, Pedernales, and Arkansas at their moorings and turning the harbour into a blazing inferno before turning her attention to the nearby oil refinery. Unfortunately, the intention of shelling the refinery with U-156's 105mm deck gun was thwarted when the sailor responsible (IIWO Dietrich von dem Borne) forgot to remove the tompion from the muzzle before the gun was fired...(T)he resulting explosion killing two men. The damaged end of the (deck gun's) barrel was sawn off with hacksaws and a renewed attempt at shelling (the refinery) with the shortened gun was made, but by now the defenses were on full alert and returned fire, forcing U-156 to withdraw (pg. 219)."Wolfpack---The Story of The U-Boat in WWII, Gordon Williamson, 2005. (Ed. note: I count eight mistakes in the above paragraph. I won't cite the mistakes in this Newsletter, but will in Newsletter #11. See if you come up with the same number as I did...or more)
(Referring to San Nicolas Harbour in the early morning hours of February 16, 1942): "Burning oil flowed
out of the great holes torn in the sides of the two ships (Pedernales and Oranjestad) and soon spread over the surface of the entire harbor. Ashore, men tumbled out of their bunks to be greeted by the appalling sight of the harbour in flames...while others died in the flames in the harbour (pg. 28).
(W)hile the tanker Oranjestad rolled on her side and settled into the mud on the floor of the harbour...other ships in the harbour spent the next hour...fighting the fires...(O)nly an enemy submarine, which had come inside the reef could have wrought such havoc. And indeed, U-156 was inside the reef (pg. 29)...
"Then the harbour was rocked again...Two torpedoes hit the 6400-ton tanker Arkansas almost simultaneously. The great ship was ripped open and once again burning oil flowed out into the harbour...The Arkansas owned by the Eagle Oil Company, settled to the bottom almost immediately, but oil continued to flow out of the great gashes in her hull, fueling the raging inferno in the harbour (pg. 30).
(After U-156's deck gun had exploded): "While U-156 hid in the smoke cloud, the (sub's) engineers, using hacksaws, worked away at the (damaged) barrel, in this highly unorthodox procedure. It took quite a while and many hacksaw blades to finally cut through the wire wound gun barrel and dump the useless end overboard...Finally, U-156 was ready. Her deck gun was now forty centimeters shorter, but U-156's Hartenstein wanted to try again. Once more the boat turned towards the refinery...Nevertheless, the considerably shortened U-boat's gun had managed to get off two rounds., both of which surprisingly landed in the refinery compound (Colony?)...Hartenstein eased U-156 out of the gap in the reef and into deeper water....(pg. 31)." The U-Boat War in The Caribbean, Gaylord T.M. Kelshall, 1994. (Ed. note: Mistakes? I gave up after ten. Stan Norcom has repeatedly written publisher Naval Institute Press (Annapolis) and author Kelshall in Trinidad, requesting that an errata be placed in future editions of Kelshall's book, but to no avail. The book is over 514-pages in length; the above are quotes from only four of those pages. Go figure.)
Bits 'N Pieces
Horst Bredow of Deutsches U-Boot Museum-Archiv fur Internationale Unterwasserfahrt, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany, recently (2006) had a heart attack, but is on the mend. Horst is the Director and dedicated historian of the official German U-Boat Museum. He is 84 years young. Get well, Horst!
Jak Showell has a new book available on Amazon.com titled, The U-Boat Century: German Submarine Warfare, 1906-2006. The link is Amazon.com: Jak Showell
Guy Goodboe and Jak made a trip to Flensburg to the German Naval Training School in search of some good photographs for Jak's new book.
Ray Burson e-mailed Bob Griffin that his (Bob's) recollection of the opening of the West Entrance to San Nicolas Harbor after WWII was incorrect. Dr. Johan Hartog's 451-page tome Aruba Past and Present: From The Time of The Indians Until Today, 1961, cites the opening of the harbour's West Entrance in 1938. Bob's retort: "(B)elieve me, I don't remember that! What I probably remember is when they deepened the harbour after the war to accommodate the new class of supertankers."
Saw a copy of the front and back covers to Jorge R. Ridderstaat's new book (which is at the printer's, as of this date), The Lago Story---The Compelling Story of an Oil Company on The Island of Aruba, and it's an eye-catcher! Front cover: color photo of the Lago refinery taken from the anchored fishermens' boats in the Big Lagoon; the back cover is an aerial shot of tankers berthed in San Nicolas Harbour.
Good piece on "Tricky Fortunes of The Esso Fleet", pgs.30-33; 41, in the September 2007 issue of Sea Classics magazine.
Courtesy of the late Otto Giese, from his book Shooting The War...pg. 236: "...It was a wonder that we had not exploded U181's (37mm anti-aircraft gun) barrel, since it had been firmly stuffed with seawater-resistant grease (emphasis added)." (Ed. note: I'll bet IIWO Borne is rolling over in his grave regarding his numerous attempts to absolve himself from U-156's deck gun mishap/explosion!!)
In Larry Riggs' 08/16/07 Lago Bulletin Board, I see where he is using color photographs to enhance his report. The photos both brighten and break-up the report to where it is eye-appealing and, as always,
informative and interesting to read. Now, if I can just get my computer guru (Lisa) to show me how it's done, maybe, just maybe, we can also brighten-up our Newsletter with a few well-worn photos.
A WWII Seamens' Memorial at Lago for tanker crews who lost their lives off Aruba, has taken on new life. Stan Norcom broached the idea early back in 2006 and Dufi Kock has joined Stan as his local contact in promoting the idea with the Aruba Government. We'll keep you posted on future developments.
Musings From The Conning Tower
The following commentaries/vignettes from your editor may be classified as "history lost" and "history retrieved." Informal as they are, perhaps a poignant lesson can be learned from both.
I have a close relative whose father was a paratrooper during WWII and jumped into France with the U.S. Airborne on D-Day plus two. The Colonel is now in his eighties; he has seven grown sons, each son is married and, at last count, the Colonel and the Mrs.have fifteen grandchildren. Here's the rub. The Colonel has not related to his sons or grandchildren what he experienced during the time the troops were in France and Germany. Nothing. And it is understandable. Undoubtedly what he witnessed was horrific and would bring back unpleasant memories.
About a month ago I was eating lunch at Jerry's Sub in Jupiter, Florida, when diagonally across from me were two elderly gentlemen in quiet conversation looking over a much weathered scrapbook. I happen to glance (stretched my neck) toward the scrapbook from my table opposite them, and eavesdropped on their conversation. In my side glances at the scrapbook I noticed the photos were not reproductions from a magazine or book, but actual photos of WWII fighter planes in the air and bombers on the tarmac and in flight formation. Almost like someone in the crew had stuck his head outside the airplane window and took photos. My curiosity got the best of me. I arose from my booth, walked over to where they were sitting, introduced myself, and carried on a conversation with both gentlemen for about 1/2 hour. What did I learn from these two veterans? Captain W.H. Burgess was a WWII P-38 Lightning fighter pilot in N. Africa and Sicily, escorting B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator bombers to their targets. The second gentleman flew F-86 Sabre Jets over Korea during that war.
So what's the point of these two stories? The preservation of our history---whether it be oral or written. As a young boy I knew there were living veterans from the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and WWI still among us. Now they're gone. What they witnessed, and hopefully preserved either in the written word or on tape, is priceless to researchers, chroniclers of history, and readers of history, such as yourselves.
If you know of veterans who served in WWII, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or any American war, get them to tell of their experiences, however heart-rendering they may be, so that their sacrifices will be remembered forever. (While living and working in El Paso, Texas between 1958 and 1968, I regret not taking the opportunity to interview some of our WWI "Hat-in-The-Ring" American aviators. Now they're all gone...long gone.)
U-156/U-502 Roundtable #5 will be held Saturday, September 15, 2007, at 9:00 a.m., in Salon Room D, at the Holiday Inn, during the Oklahoma City/Lago Reunion. Stan Norcom will be our Main Speaker; the topic of his talk is "U-156: From The Beginning to Das Ende". After Stan's talk, the floor will be open to questions and comments. Coffee and doughnuts will be served and seating will be available for all.
As of this writing, there are 155 former Lagoites and friends signed-up for the Oklahoma City Reunion,
hosted by those four fearsome feathered little indians, Reggie Kennerty, Warren Norcom, Stan Norcom, and Carl Beyer.
Come one, come all. Hear and learn more of Aruba's/Lago's history during the war years.
What's in The Future Mix?
Topics to be featured in future Newsletters:
U-156's KTB, by Bill Moyers.
Special Newsletter on Spain's False WWII Neutrality, by your Newsletter editor.
Review of Ray Burson's booklet, When Lago Was Lucky.
Correspondence among Stan Norcom, Warren Norcom, and other Roundtable
members regarding the book, Wall Street and The Rise of Hitler.
U-156's KTB, by Jerry Casius.
Review of Vic Lopez's The Lago Colony Legend, Vol. III---"Our Stories".
Interviews With Lake Tanker Crewmen, et al, concerning the February 16, 1942, attack,
provided by Dufi Kock and telecast by TeleAruba ("Chispa di Guera" or "The Spark of War")
More on the mysterious loss of French super-submarine Surcouf, courtesy of Harry Cooper thru his
international publication Sharkhunters.
Were There Survivors to U-156's Sinking? If so, Who Rescued Them? by Stan Norcom.
Report on the Oklahoma City/Lago Reunion's U-156/U-502 Roundtable #5.
The Varied and Informal Classifications of Reporting History, by your Editor.
And in Closing...
Newsletter #9 was forwarded to members/subscribes on January 25, 2007. If for some reason you did not receive the Newsletter, please let me know and I will forward a copy.
Newsletter #11 should be ready for the e-mail express by mid-February 2008. And, allied to that, if you know of someone interested in Lago/Aruba WWII history and would like to become a subscriber to the Newsletter, please drop me a line or have them drop me a line.
Should you change your e-mail address, please drop me a brief note with your new e-mail address.
I cannot emphasize more the importance of WWII veterans "telling their stories" for posterity sake, to either you, our subscribers, or to members of their families.
If you have a question regarding Lago/Aruba history of WWII, please forward it to us. If we don't have the answer, we'll get the answer for you. Keep those letters and e-mails coming---it's your Newsletter. The Roundtable and Newsletter wouldn't exist without you.
And until next time...
Your man in the trenches....and Davy Jones' Locker.
Don D. Gray, Moderator/Editor
U-156/U-502 Roundtable & Newsletter
Copyright 2007 by Don D. Gray.
All rights reserved.
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