U-156/U-502 Roundtable Newsletter #11
Dedicated to recording Allied and Axis engagements during WWII
(1939-1945) in the Caribbean and off coastal South America through personal
experiences, recollections, and avid research by Roundtable members.
"The secret to any good history book is for
readers to be taught a history
lesson without knowing it."
Doug Stanton, In Harm's Way.
(Submitted by Al Leak, 10/26/06.)
February 24, 2008.
Dear Fellow U-Boat Enthusiasts and Lago History Buffs:
Once again we have a full report on the historical happenings
experienced and researched by our members during that unforgettable period
in our country and island history when the good guys wore white hats and the
bad guys wore black hats. Try doing that in today's world where the enemy
blends in with the local scenery.
Topics to be covered in this Newsletter are:
Special Report by Stan Norcom on the possibility
of survivors to the sinking of U-156, March 8, 1943...Special Report
by Dufi Kock on The Spark of War (Part I),
telecast by TeleAruba in 2002 (Jorge Ridderstaat, Jr. provided
Dufi the VHS video tape)...Book Review of Vic
Lopez's Vol. III, The Lago Colony Legend...Help! I
Need Help! Does Anyone Remember? by your Editor...Allied
and Axis Warships Visit Aruba by Vic Lopez...Report
on U-156/U-502 Roundtable #5, Oklahoma City, by your Editor...Correspondence from
our subscribers...New Members/Subscribers... and,
What's in The Future Mix?
New Roundtable Members
The following Roundtable #5 participants signed-up as new
U-156/U-502 members in September 2007: Spencer McGrew
(#103); Jan Tiemen Medema (#104); Thomas "Tim"
O'Connor (#105); Jim Duffy (#106); Gerald
Dixon (#107); Larry Monroe (#108); Bob
Rafloski (#109); Henk Schendstok (#110);
Charlie "Butch" Drew (#111); Bob Drew (#112);
Christina Wilbur (#113); Brian McCall
(#114); Bill Raflowski (#115); and Artie Spitzer
Jim McCasland (#117); Richard Shaffett
(#118); and Dolfi Kock (#119) joined our merry
band shortly thereafter.
Welcome aboard! Dig down deep in your memories of yore and tell us
what you remember about the week of Februay 16,1942, and any other tell-tale
One of our early Roundtable members, Chet Rogers (#31), passed away
on September 19, 2007. Chet had a thirty-eight year tenure at Lago while
serving in the Processing Department and retiring as Superintendent of the
Fuels Division. Upon retirement Chet and Marilyn made Redlands, California
home where they lived for 30 years; a year before Chet's passing they moved
to Las Vegas to be closer to family.
Chet is survived by wife Marilyn in their sixty-five years marriage,
four children, and eight grandchildren.
Your smiling countenance and great disposition will be greatly
missed Chet. God speed!
Sue Gravendijk (10/03/07): "My grandparents and all
of my father's family survived WWII in Amsterdam, while my father was in
Aruba and unable to visit them until his furlough in 1947. He had a furlough
in 1945, but Holland had just been liberated on May 5, 1945, by the
Canadians, and after the Hunger Winter there was no food for the populace,
so no additional people were allowed in the country.
"Steve Fremgen's uncle, Dick Ward, was one of the pilots who flew
missions to drop food pallets over and over again from a U.S. base in
"I have not seen Ken Burns' telecast WWII, but my cousin in
Kansas has bought the series after seeing what was aired on TV. She is
totally awed by Burns' work and the history not taught in school" (emphasis
(Editor's 10/07/07 response to Sue: "Do you realize that the
German invasion of Holland on May 10, 1940 [the scuttling of the German
freighter Antilla off Aruba's Palm Beach of the same date] and the
liberation of Holland on May 5, 1945, was four years, 360 days or five years
minus five days?")
Bill "Ted" Gibbons (Ed. Note: The
following is Ted's 06/05/07 inquiry to the BBC regarding the
February 16, 1942 U-boat attack): "I'm interested in finding out if the
BBC had a radio broadcast about the sinking of three ships off the coast of
Aruba on the 16th of February, 1942. I used to live in Aruba and have been
asked to write what I remember on that fearful night...I was very young at
the time, but my family used to listen to the BBC for world news, as both my
parents were British subjects...The ships that were torpedoed were the
Oranjestad, Tia Juana, and the Pedernales....
"The reason that I'm trying to confirm this is that some of the
survivors of the sinking reported that the German U-boat surfaced and came
along side the ships and got the names of the ships from the officers on
watch. I was told that the officers on watch thought that the submarine was
the Dutch pilot boat which guided the ships into San Nicolaas Harbor, and
being very dark didn't know that it was a U-boat."
(06/21/07 response from the BBC to Ted): "Unfortunately we
do not hold transcripts of news bulletins broadcast overseas...However, we
do hold the news' transcripts of our domestic service from the 8:00 a.m.,
February 17th news. Here is the relevant item:
"The first attack on a land target in the Americas was reported
last night from Curacao, in the Dutch West Indies. An enemy submarine has
shelled the Standard Oil Company refinery on Aruba. Three tankers were
torpedoed and a fourth was attacked, but not sunk near the harbour of
Willemstad on the island of Curacao. As soon as the attack on Aruba began,
U.S. planes took off in search of the enemy. American observers say that
there are indications that two enemy submarines were sunk."
(Ed. Note: Hmmm.)
Antonio Rodriguez (09/30/07 - edited): "Out of
personal interest I'm researching a series of events related to WWII, in and
around the coast of Venezuela. The specific event...is
information/confirmation about airplane wreckage that was found in 1970 in
the hills located on the coast of Venezuela near the island of Trinidad. The
airplane (Vultee AT-19, U.S. Army)...was reported lost at sea on November
(Ed. Note: Antonio goes into great detail about where and why
the airplane went missing. Actually, too much to report here. If any of our
members would like further details regarding the crash site, etc., please
contact me at
Jerry Casius (08/29/07 - edited): "The Disney
Studios designed a lot of unit emblems for the U.S. Army Air Force, using
well known cartoon characters; it was Disney's support of the war effort. I
believe that around early 1942 they (randomly?) picked the bad wolf as a
symbol. There was no knowledge at the time of U-boat wolfpack tactics.
"Is it possible to pick a fairly precise date when the term
'wolfpack' came into use, and/or when did the U.S. public/military become
familiar with the term? Was it actually a German term (i.e. pertaining to
special U-boat patrols) or the result of creative writing byTime
and Life magazines?
"In your Roundtable circulars I often see a message from
U-boat Headquarters being referred to as a 'BdU' of a particular date...As
far as I know, 'BdU' is the abbreviation of Befehishaber der U-Boote,
commander of the submarine forces. In other words, the commander, a
"I enjoy reading the Roundtable Newsletter. Thanks for your
Janet (White) Powell (01/08/08): "Your Newsletter
gets better and better...I enjoy it and always learn something from it."
Dolfi Kock (09/21/07): (Ed. Note: The following
exchange of e-mails is from Dolfi Kock, cousin to Dufi Kock. So folks, don't
get your Dufi's and Dolfi's mixed!) "I have a photo of a plaque that is
hanging in the St. Teresa Church in San Nicolaas. It is a plaque in memory
of the Lake Tanker crews who lost their lives during WWII. Cousin Dufi
checked all the names on the plaque and all of them were born in Scotland
(Editor's 09/22/07 response to Dolfi): "Upon looking at the
wording on the St. Teresa plaque I notice that it is captioned 'Lago
Marine Club. In memory of 21 members (one of whom was from Sweden), who lost
their lives during WWII.' In a way, 'members' says it all. The
assumption can be made that the St. Teresa plaque honors only those lost
Lake Tanker seamen who were members of the Marine Club. That would include
most, but not all, officers (and crew?) of the Lake Tanker fleet. Am
I correct in this assumption?")
Dave Barnes (08/23/07): "Thanks again for all your
hard work on a fascinating story."
Vic Lopez (08/23/07): "Excellent work."
Doug Frazier (08/25/07): "This topic may be
officially dead by now, and I don't know if I mentioned this before, but on
at least two incidences during the war, German U-boat commanders took their
boats inside harbor defenses in the Caribbean, where they sunk shipping
before escaping. Trinidad roadstead...is pretty open, but in St. Lucia...the
channel is narrow and close to shore guns. At St. Lucia the U-boat attached
lights to the conning tower and ran on the surface, masquerading as a tug or
pilot boat...and made his getaway undetected. My personal feeling is that
the Oranjestad Harbour sighting (of U-502) was merely a rumor built on
misunderstanding, but the precedent is there for such an event. Who knows."
(Ed. Note: You have good understanding of accessibility to
harbors Doug, but Clyde Harms, who was at the Oranjestad
Harbour shoreline with several other schoolchildren on February 17, 1942,
definitely remembers U-502 being within the confines of the Harbour.)
Gene Williams (08/25/07): "As usual,
there's so much fascinating information in your Newsletters."
Jak Mallmann Showell (08/29/07): "...In several
places (in Newsletter #10) you wrote that a certain author had made
mistakes but that you wouldn't mention the errors. I think it is rather
important that you do list any mistakes you find. I have always been
grateful to people who pointed out mistakes in my books and it is a great
advantage to get corrections from people with specialized or local
knowledge, otherwise the same old mistakes will just keep circulating.
Mistakes could be listed and the corrections explained without malice to the
author...Some of the 'best' friends I made over the years originally got in
touch because they helped to correct mistakes in my books and I have always
been most grateful to people who have taken the time and trouble to point
(Ed. Note: Advise well taken from an author whom I consider
the most knowledgeable and prolific in the field of
German U-boat warfare during WWI and WWII. If Jak has written about it, "you
can take it to the bank". Thanks again, Jak.)
Doug Tonkinson (08/30/07-Edited):
"Received your latest Newsletter and read it with gusto. Once
again, it was terrific! I applaud you and your 'band of brothers' who have
worked so diligently to present all the information available about the
U-156 attack....You use the following description in your 06/08/07 e-mail
about what might have happened on February 16, 1942, and I thought some
hyperbole was used:
"If the Gibbins had been torpedoed by U-156 or any
other U-boat in the vicinity of the Aruba refinery, and if the Gibbins
did in fact carry 3000 tons of TNT in its hold, the subsequent nuclear
explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in contrast to a Lago Refinery
explosion, would have had the effect of an ant on an elephant's ass.
"In other words, every man, woman, and child on the island would
have had to grab his ankles, placed his head between his legs, and kissed
his ass goodbye."
(Ed. Note: Over the top? Hyperbole? What do you think,
Jan Tiemen Medema (08/31/07): "I am a scuba diving
instructor in Aruba and I'm very interested in the history of shipwrecks. I
dive the wreck of the Pedernales (or what's left of it) a couple of
times a week. And I would like to locate and dive to the Oranjestad."
(09/10/07): "Thanks for adding me to the Roundtable list....Yes, I
would love to dive the Oranjestad. I have not heard of anyone who
has dove there. Ninety feet is no problem. I can scuba dive on air to about
150/160 feet. Deeper than that is better done on trimix...With trimix dives
to 200 and even 300 feet are possible.
"On a sea chart there is a wreck symbol close to the Lago Refinery.
That is in 150 to 200 feet of water.
"Also I often dive on the wreck of the Antilla. There are
different versions on its sinking. It is an interesting wreck and a great
Clyde Harms (09/09/07): "I am surprised that I have
been quoted as saying that 'all seamen who lost their lives on the
tankers were from Aruba'. In my dedication 'to the 47 sailors who
lost their lives on the Lago Oil tankers, February 16, 1942', I did not
state where these men were from. In fact, while reviewing the papers
obtained from the Aruba Archives of Historic Documents, I noted that there
was not one (lost sailor) listed as Aruban. There were Chinese, St.
Vincentians, Bonaireans, etc., but no Arubans. (I considered the absence of
Arubans reasonable. Arubans, although fishermen, are not seafarers like the
men of other West Indian islands, such as Bonaire. My father was a seafarer;
he came from Bonaire.)...Note: My observations refer strictly to the
forty-seven listed in the book (German U-Boat 156 Brought War to Aruba,
Feb. 16, 1942, by Bill Hochstuhl). I know nothing about the
many others who perished on other tankers on other dates."
(Ed. Note: My apologies, Clyde. I got tangled in my own
hyperbole, but have since seen the error of my ways. [That's what you get
Gray from messing around with your high school basketball nemesis.])
Tim O'Connor (09/02/07): "I am putting
together an oral history on the events of February 16, 1942, as a gift to my
children. As my wife is Aruban and our children are very young, this will be
a part of their history and I want to have first person accounts in order to
give them a sense of 'living history' ".
(09/26/07): "My uncle, Cornelius O'Connor, was a survivor of the
sinking of the M.F. Elliott by U-502 in June, 1942. He was picked
up by the U-boat and questioned by the U-boat officer for a short period,
then released in a raft, only to be picked up a bit later by a Brazilian
trawler...It is my understanding that the U-boat officer spoke in perfect
English and asked my uncle which country would win the war. You can guess my
"My uncle passed away years ago. When my father went back
to Virginia to bury him he brought back my uncle's possessions, which were
not much. Included was my uncle's plane ticket from Brazil to Miami, a train
ticket from Miami to New York City, and some news articles from the
Chicago Tribune regarding the sinking of the M.F. Elliott. He
was nineteen at the time and I think he was treated as a semi-war hero for
having survived the sinking and giving the U-boat officer an honest answer.
"Anyway, I found your site interesting."
(09/08/07): "...My name is James P. Duffy
and I am the author of fourteen books, roughly half of them on WWII subjects
am currently at work on a new book dealing with the sinking of the
and the subsequent rescue and how that impacted the remainder
of the U-boat war.
"Until today the shelling of the Lago Refinery by U-156 was to be an
interesting aside, but having finally, after several years of internet
searching for information and having missed your Newsletter...I
find the incident and the fact that people are still meeting and discussing
it 65+ years later, to be fascinating in the extreme. Your Newsletters
are so crammed with information that I wonder how you find time to keep it
up. Congratulations on what must be a labor of love. Needless to say, I
intend to add considerably more to my book concerning this incident and will
credit your Roundtable and Newsletter as sources...."
(Ed. Note: Welcome aboard Jim! Jim's statement "...the fact that
people are still meeting and discussing it 65+ years later, to be
fascinating in the extreme", exemplifies the cohesiveness of the 'Lago
Group' when it comes to getting things done. I could not have done it Jim,
without the assistance of other members in the Roundtable, most
particularly a certain '"element" within the Roundtable known as
the Wonker Brigade [will explain and identify "wonkers" in
a future Newsletter]).
Stan Norcom (02/09/08): "I don't know who has
challenged Gaylord Kelshall (The U-Boat War in The Caribbean), but
there are at least two others who are aware of his inaccuracies. And, with
your keen eye, that makes three.
"At the Edmond Oklahoma Historical Society talk, in
which again I gave the "U-156: From The Beginning to Das Ende"
power-point presentation, there were about twenty in the audience....
"That's an interesting question (rescue at sea of
opposing belligerent nation sailors?) as to what could be entered in the
ship's log on a rescue operation. Actually, the practice/law of the open sea
require assistance if at all possible. U-156's Werner Hartestein did that
with the Laconia and the Queen City episodes.
"The two Spanish ships (Aldecoa and Gobeo---in
the vicinity of U-156's sinking) were headed directly west so it might be of
consequence to know what ports they were headed, when they got to the
port(s), and if any log entries of radio communications by the U.S. Navy's
PBY to its Trinidad base. Lots of things to check." (Ed. Note: See
Stan's Special Report below.)
"What May Have Happened to The Survivors of U-156's
Sinking", by Stan Norcom.
(Ed. Note: Now folks, I don't want you to think that Stan and I
are "mad dogs and Englishmen standing out in the noonday sun" too
long. What Stan basis his theory on is part conjecture, part speculation.
The Spanish ships, U.S. Navy PBY, times, and locations, are factual.
Only segments leading up to the conclusion are speculative. Your comments
Roundtablers are most welcome.)
"Now I've really done it! Please help me. I have
gone beyond legitimate wonking and penetrated the area of prognostication.
But I just couldn't help myself after reading the (U.S. Navy) PBY reports.
So, here is my humble take on an item that has always piqued my curiosity
about (U-156) survivors in the raft (resulting from U-156's sinking).
1.) On the way out from Trinidad, PBY 00480 spotted two ships,
one at 10:45 a.m. (AST) and the other at 11:15 a.m. They were identified as
the Aldecoa Espana and the Spanish tanker Gobeo; thirty
minutes apart and heading west.
2.) U-156 was sighted at 1:10 p.m.; one hour and 55 minutes
after sighting Gobeo.
3.) Report of sub and sinking was radioed to Headquarters in
Trinidad at 1:17 p.m. A minor assumption is that the Spanish ships picked-up
the same message which would have included survivors in a raft.
4.) PBY leaves scene of U-156's sinking at 2:50 p.m.
5.) 5.) PBY cruises at about 180 mph so at the time of the
radioed message, the Aldecoa
and the Gobeo
were not more
than 360 miles away at attack time.
6.) On hearing of the attack, the Aldecoa
(assumption) headed back to the sinking of U-156's location which had
been reported on radio. At 12 kilometers per hour (13.8 mph) the
Aldecoa would have taken no more than 26-hours to reach U-156's
survivors. If the Aldecoa had poured-on-the-coals it may have
taken less than 26-hours. The two-man raft had a sea-anchor so they
could not have drifted very far, plus a somewhat visible oil slick would
still be at the site to assist in survivor location efforts.
7.) (Ed. Note: Here's where the heavy speculation kicks
in.) U-156's survivors were taken aboard the Aldecoa (or
possibly the Gobeo) and waited out their time before the ship
could arrive at a suitable port. Brazil, with a sizeable German
community, is out of the question however, since it was at war with the
Axis powers. So, Argentina, also with a sizeable German community, is
in. And, the Aldecoa had been to Buenos Aires before.
8.) The difficulty of getting back to Germany is apparent.
Spain was 'neutral' and neither the Aldecoa nor the Gobeo
could, at the time, arrive in an Axis port. There are also evident
reasons why the survivors didn't want to go back to Germany and they
weren't really that important for the German Navy's (Kriegsmarine) war
effort in order to spirit them back to Germany.
9.) So, it's off to Buenos Aires where they obtain proper
ID's, name changes, and generally assimilate in the European-Argentine
10.) U-156's five survivors get jobs, learn Spanish, date
Argentine girls (Lt. Dryden says from his position in the PBY the
survivors looked like teenagers), get married, have children, etc.,
while the war is storming toward conclusion in its final two years. In
essence, U-156's survivors invest in Argentina and its varied
11.) The war is over!! Germany's scene is bombed-out towns,
life difficult, jobs scarce, education and training minimal at best, the
Soviet Union has taken over one-half of Germany, families either
difficult to locate or no longer exist, (in the intervening years), a
lovely Latin wife, children, close friends, etc.
12.) Decision: Stay in Argentine. That, of course, is with
other German escapees during and after the war, as with U-977.
13.) Secrecy is paramount among the survivors and their
close community (e.g. Adolf Eichmann, Martin Borman). Consequently,
nothing else is ever heard of them and they live happily ever after. (If
still living, they would be in their early 80's."
Stan continues: The above assessment is open to all
inquiries, questions, corrections, and tweaking. To me, it takes more
incredulity to think that these guys just evaporated out in the Atlantic
on a life raft than they were picked-up by either the Aldeco
(Ed. Note: My two cents---Time and ocean currents would
also be deciding factors. Stan and I would appreciate any and all
Roundtable members to weigh-in with their comments.)
The Spark of War ("Chispa di Guera") - Part I
of II, telecast by TeleAruba, 2002, compiled/edited by
Dufi Kock with video tape provided by Jorge
The following are "Interviews Regarding the U-156/U-502
Attack, February 16-17, 1942."
Mooi Franken - Infantry Corporal
at The Savaneta Marine Camp.
"What I heard was a loud explosion and I told my colleagues
who were awake, that it must be the Scotch soldiers; most probably they
had a celebration and those on shift must be horse-playing. But when I
opened the windows I saw a large fire all the way to Savaneta and I said
right away that this could not be what I thought it was. I then went to
the major on shift and explained to him what I saw. At first he did not
believe me, but when he saw the huge flames he told me to take the
motorcycle and go take a look because it was in the direction of the
"The attack happened just twelve hours before Aruba was
going to test its first blackout. I remember that the headlight on my
motorcycle was painted black with only a small opening, the size of a
quarter, was left in the middle of the headlight. Upon my return from
San Nicolaas I met all the vehicles coming with their unpainted bright
headlights making it difficult for me to drive, so I chose to ride along
the sides of the road. It was rough riding."
Alberto Thiel - Government Radio Telegrapher.
"Alberto says that Captain Werner Hartenstein of U-156
worked at the Lago Powerhouse before the war. He was a German, along
with others, who were living and working in Aruba with liberty to move
everywhere. Therefore, it was easy for them to cooperate by sending
letters and photos to the Nazis. As far as Mr. Hartenstein, he was a
very social person who knew many people here (in Aruba); one of his dear
friends was Mr. Jacobo ("Cobito") Arends, a doctor in Oranjestad. I
heard that he (Hartenstein) had a map of Aruba and had all the strategic
areas marked on the map, thus making it very easy for him to navigate to
Aruba. It probably was just a hobby for him in the beginning, but at the
end it resulted in a great necessity for him. He was familiar with the
Lago and Shell refineries in Aruba and the Shell refinery in Curacao.
and most probably had frequent contacts with Germans residing in Aruba.
He left Aruba just before the war began and went back to Europe. These
Germans were well prepared and when the U.S. War Department considered
them as risks for sabotage on both islands, many of these potential
saboteurs were interned on Bonaire."
(Ed. Note: I almost did not include Mr. Thiel's narrative in
the Newsletter. There is no indication from past history that
U-156's Commander Hartenstein ever worked at the Lago Refinery or
anywhere else on Aruba. Perhaps Mr. Thiel has his "Hartenstein"
character confused with someone else of like name who worked at the
Refinery. "Werner" and "Hartenstein" are not
uncommon given names and surnames in Germany. Could it be that Mr. Thiel
confused his character with a like-named person? Any pre-war information
on Commander Hartenstein would be appreciated.)
Vincente Provence - Sailor on Lake
"We left Curacao heading for Maracaibo with Ramona,
a Shell Lake Tanker, to load crude oil. As we were navigating close to
Aruba when we saw a flash and thought it was a Lago
(refinery) boiler that had just exploded. When the sun came up, we
reached between Aruba and Macoya, Venezuela, and found the Gulf tanker
Monagas on fire. We immediately approached the tanker in order
to pick-up anyone who might have gone overboard. We came across Jose
Semeleer in a lifeboat and immediately threw him the pilot's ladder; Mr.
Semeleer fortunately grabbed it and we pulled him aboard the
Amazone. He told us that they were torpedoed and then we realized
that the explosion we had heard earlier was from a torpedo. Not even our
captain knew of the situation.
"We then started to pick more survivors for a total of 37
from the Tia Juana, San Nicolas, and Monagas. We then
continued to Maracaibo with all survivors. However, in the meantime a
submarine fired a torpedo at our ship, the Ramona, but they
missed. Again they fired another torpedo. Fortunately, they missed
again. We saw the submarine with its telescope atop the water circling
us. Two aircraft arrived in our vicinity (they were Oriols [KLM] in
those days), which made the submarine move away from us. Later another
aircraft came and we believed it was an American fighter plane because
it had a star on it. The aircraft dropped some bombs which scared off
the submarine. We then continued our route to Maracaibo with survivors
from the three tankers.
"At 09:35 on May 6, 1942, the unescorted Amazone was hit
on the port side by a torpedo by U-333 and sank within two minutes of
Miami. Fourteen of Amazone's crew members were lost, 12 from
the Dutch Antilles, one Dutch gunner and one Swiss crewman. Survivors of
the Amazone were picked-up by the American sub-chaser USS
Karel van Meeteren - Infantry Corporal.
"The morning after U-156 fired three torpedoes on Texaco
tanker Arkansas tied up at the Eagle Pier, one torpedo hit the
empty Arkansas with hardly any damage to the ship, one torpedo
disappeared into the ocean, and one landed at the Eagle Beach. At a
certain moment I was instructed to go patrol along the beach from
Savaneta, Balashi, to the Eagle Beach. As we all know the Eagle Refinery
was also doing its share in the war. I met a young man by the name off
Sloterdijk. When we got to Eagle Pier, Mr. Sloterdijk, whose hands were
dirty, decided to go wash them with water from the incoming waves. When
he got closer to the water he saw something like a piece of pipe, but
did not worry too much because of the numerous pipes from the Eagle
Refinery. He then sat on it in order to wash his hands. Suddenly he
jumped up and yelled 'Jesus Christ, it's a real torpedo!' We then
realized that it was a torpedo and we immediately reported it to the
authorities. Immediately it was decided that it must be disarmed. A
request was sent to Curacao asking for a Dutch demolition team in order
to disarm it."
Bruno Bremer - Aruban Soldier.
"I went to the airport to pick-up four Dutch Marines from
Curacao. They were Lt. Pieter Joose, Major Dirk Andrianus Cornelis de
Maagd, and two other soldiers---Leonardus Kooyman and Johannes
Vogelenzang. When I picked them up I told them that we would go to the
Savaneta Dutch Marine Camp, but they told me to go to the Eagle Pier
instead. We went where one of U-156's three torpedoes had beached near
the Eagle Pier. First thing they told me after getting out of the car
was to take a picture of the torpedo. One of the officers pulled out a
wrench and told me that I could start unscrewing the bolts on the
torpedo. I sat down on the torpedo and started to unscrew two bolts,
while the Lieutenant started to dress himself with a plastic suit. He
then took over continuing to unscrew the bolts. The disarmed piece of
the torpedo was tied with a rope to be pulled from the main part of the
torpedo. At the same time there was a flatbed truck waiting to do
further pulling on the disarmed piece.
"The Lieutenant said that he was going to put a dynamite
stick underneath the torpedo to blow it up. We distanced ourselves about
1000 meters. When he inserted the dynamite, he lit it, and ran to where
we were standing. Apparently nothing happened when the dynamite
exploded, except sand was going everywhere. Next, the Lieutenant went to
get a cable to pull the torpedo apart. The moment that he bent over to
hook-up the cable I started to walk toward the truck. All I saw at that
moment was a flash of lightening. I didn't know if there were
casualties, all I knew was that I was lying in the hospital
with bleeding ears.
"Karl van Meeteren said that the moment the Lieutenant shook
the torpedo to take the "disarmed" part off the rest of the torpedo, it
exploded. All four members of the Dutch Marine demolition team died on
the spot. Bremen and another Aruban, Mr. Kock, who were there at the
time, suffered severe problems with their sense of hearing.
"Mr. Franken said that he had just arrived to tell the
Commander that he had to return to Curacao to get more instructions (on
the dismantling of the torpedo). I arrived at Eagle's south gate and saw
Bremen underneath a pipe and Kock was close to the beach...and then I
heard the loud explosion. When the people from Oranjestad saw all the
soldiers at the beach quite a few came to see what was going on.
Fortunately, they were not allowed to come too close.
"Mr. Thielman who was at the Dutch Marine Camp said that
later they brought the nine-foot long torpedo to the Camp. The
torpedo had lots of instructions in German, had thirty-six batteries
inside, with firing instructions on it."
William van Putten - Fireman Aboard The
"I was on watch in the early morning when the Pedernales
got hit by a torpedo. In all the oil and fire we got down a lifeboat.
The Captain, Chief Engineer, and a few of the crew, got into the
lifeboat when it started to drift without any set course because
everything on board the lifeboat got lost in the turmoil. We kept
praying for daylight in order to see where we were going. Later we were
George Granger - Sailor Aboard The
"Sixty years ago, I was a Lago employee and working on the
Lake Tankers bringing raw crude oil from Venezuela to Aruba. I had been
doing that since 1937 and when WWII arrived I was working on Lake Tanker
Hooiberg. That particular day we got the pilot who was going to
guide us into Lake Maracaibo, but we were turned back because we were
told that Aruba had been attacked. After a lay-up of four hours we went
back to Maracaibo and told that the ship ahead of us had been torpedoed
and that many people had lost their lives. I lost a brother and a cousin
who died on one of the torpedoed ships in front of the Powerhouse.
His ship was anchored outside awaiting orders to go inside San Nicolaas
Harbor because there were no berths available at the time. Nevertheless,
from that day of February 16, 1942, I continued as a sailor bringing in
crude oil, picking up ships, going to Key West and Guantanamo Bay to
bring crude to Aruba. It was a great experience, in the heart of war,
and I did not worry too much because we had to fight for our
(Part II of the "Chispa di Guera" interviews
continue in Newsletter #12.)
Allied and Axis Warships Visit Aruba - Part I,
by Vic Lopez.
"The German pocket battleship Deutchland docked in
Oranjestad. The whole Colony went aboard and drank German beer from a
bucket. Several high school girls came away with officers' caps. The
Deutchland was the sister ship of the disabled Admiral Graf
Spee that was blown up by her crew off Montevideo, Uruguay,
December 17, 1939.
(Ed. Note: The Graf Spee's Captain Hans Langsdorff
committed suicide several days after the scuttling of the ship, wrapped
in the Imperial German Navy flag with a pistol at his side. I guess in
the old days of the Imperial Navy that was the thing to do. There have
been recent efforts to raise what (little) remains of the Graf Spee
from its shallow grave. I believe more information can be
obtained regarding the Graf Spee by Roundtable member Warren
Norcom, who spent a considerable amount of time in Argentina.)
"Cruiser USS Omaha visited Aruba in April 1937.
"The British cruiser HMS Ajax took part in
the action of impending doom for the Graf Spee.
"The newly christened US submarine Pollack visited
Aruba July 20 - 23, 1937. Count Felix von Luckner was in port at the
same time as the Pollack, with his yacht, and took part in the
activities organized for the personnel of the Pollack. (A copy
of the organized program for the Pollack is autographed 'Felix
Count von Luckner.") The Count was the famous German naval officer of
WWI. Gilbert Brooks, Jr. was at the ceremonies and recounts visiting the
small Dutch submarine docked alongside."
(Part II of Vic's "Allied and Axis Warships Visit
Aruba" continue in Newsletter #12.)
U-156/U-502 Roundtable #5 -
Oklahoma City, September 15, 2007.
Roundtable #5 was held at 9:00 a.m., Holiday Inn Hotel &
Suites, with moderator Don Gray presiding. Main speaker was Stan Norcom
who spoke on U-156: From The Beginning to
Das Ende. Stan spent
many hours in preparation for his talk and it was quite evident from the
interest shown by the audience. Stan put together a 50-page booklet
under the same title. If you are interested in purchasing this well
researched, please drop Stan a line at
After a brief delay in getting the power-point computer to
work, Stan regaled the audience with his take on U-156, its demise, and
the possibility of survivors, which may be a topic for a future
Roundtable discussion. Doug Frazier and Warren Norcom are to be
complimented in assisting Stan with his presentation---Doug with his
substitute computer and Warren with his orchestrating behind-the-scene
events. Thanks guys.
Several news article exhibits for the period February 16,
1942 to March 23, 1942, from The Aruba Post
(now defunct) and Time
magazine were provided by Dolores Grissom and other members. Ray
Burson's When Lago Was Lucky
was a sell-out as was Stan's
U-156: From The Beginning....
If you wish to purchase Ray's booklet,
please contact him at
I believe it is fair to say that between Stan and Ray's
booklets, Bill Hochstuhl's German U-Boat 156 Brought War to
Aruba..., and the Aruba Esso News' October 18, 1946 to
January 17, 1947 series titled "1939-1945: The War Years at Lago" (also
attributed to Bill Hochstuhl), and Dan Jensen's "A Short History of The
Lago Oil & Transport Co, Ltd.", that these gentlemen have covered the
waterfront for Lago/Aruba WWII events for that period. That is not to
say future news articles will not be forthcoming. (The Roundtable
already embraces one writer who has authored fourteen books on WWII and
is currently working on a Laconia-Hartenstein book.)
Fourteen people in the audience became new
U-156/U-502 Roundtable subscriber-members, bringing our total membership
to 119. There has been more e-mail correspondence generated from
Roundtable #5 than any other meeting; the 2007 Oklahoma City meeting
attendance (40) was second only to the 2006 Aruba Roundtable (#4) which
hosted 45 members and guests.
After a round of questions and much discussion the
Roundtable adjourned at approximately 10:45 a.m.
(Roundtable #6 is scheduled to meet during the June 2009,
Aruba-Lago island Reunion.)
Book Review by your Editor -
The Lago Colony Legend, Vol. III, by Vic Lopez.
Well folks, Vic has done it again. Another volume, and if
possible, just as good as the first two volumes, if not better. Only
this time Vic has added many photographs, the layouts bring attention to
the reader, with interesting biographical stories that you can associate
with and grab your attention. Have to admit, libro numero tres is the
best yet! The clarity of the photos in Vol. III is exceptional.
What Vic has done is provide a biographical sketch of
expatriate life on a tropical isle between the 1920's and 1970's. Vic
Lopez's The Lago Legend---Our Stories series joins Ginger
Bassett's Aruba Chronicle, Bob Schlageter's Pan Aruban,
the Aruba Esso News' special series on WWII, the Aruba
Post, Larry Riggs' Lago Bulletin Board newsletter, Dan
Jensen's Lago Colony web site, Johan Hartog's Aruba--Past
and Present, Bill Hochstuhl's German U-Boat 156 Brought War to
Aruba, Ships of The Esso Fleet in WWII by Standard Oil Co. (N.J.),
and Jorge Ridderstaat Jr.'s forthcoming book,The Lago Story,
are the pieces d' resistance when it comes to telling the whole story of
life on a barren little island in the Caribbean.
Now that you have "gotten the hang of it" Vic, there has to
be a Vol. IV in the works. You can't stop now. You're on a roll. Just
keep digging deeper into you dad's voluminous Lago/Aruba photographic
and biographical files.
The Lago Colony Legend series is a real
contribution toward telling the Lago story. I strongly recommend adding
it to your library.
Help! I Need Help! Does Anyone Remember?
Question #1: Does anyone know the
location of The Bund's meeting place/building? San Nicolaas? Oranjestad?
I believe I've asked this question before, but here goes
anyway: The Bund movement. It was cited in Newsletter #10, pg. 6. The
Bund movement consisted of individuals showing allegiance to Nazi
Germany. In and around New York City during the early 1930's it was very
active. From Vic Lopez's The Lago Legend, Vol. II, Jim Lopez
states "We heard about the building where the Bund held its meetings. It
was decorated with the German flag and had pictures of Hitler and other
Question #2: Am I the only one who
remembers anti-aircraft pom-pom guns (no, not the boom! boom! cannons
atop Colorado Point) mounted on the southeast side of the coral cliffs
facing the 4th Lagoon? (.50 caliber bore anti-aircraft pom-pom guns were
used by the U.S. Navy on their ships against Japanese aircraft in the
Pacific during WWII.)
In 1945, Donald Cahill and I use to scout Colorado
Point on the 4th Lagoon side looking for spent artillery and
cartridge shells. I distinctly remember two sets of pom-pom guns in that
Question #3: Does anyone remember
the story of a German collaborator being caught with a radio transmitter
in the trunk of his car at Colorado Point?
Question #4: The ammunition cache in
the coral cliff (it's still there) opposite the Picnic Grounds. Does
anyone remember seeing ammunition being stored there during the war? And
what is the "hole/tunnel/space in the cliff" being used for today, if
What's in The Future Mix?
Topics to be covered in future Newsletters:
1.) More information on the French mystery
super-submarine Scouf is forthcoming. In Newsletter #8
Bill Moyer reported on the Scouf and in
Newsletter #9 Jerry Casius also reported on the
Scouf. The Scouf sank under mysterious circumstances
on February 14, 1942, or two days prior to U-156's attack against
Lago/Aruba. Jurgen von Rosenstiel of U-502 reported sinking seven
tankers in the area whichScouf was located at the time; only
six of the tankers, however, have been accounted for. There is the
possibility that Scouf was the unidentified "seventh" sinking,
although that has never been confirmed. At the time of Scouf's
sinking it was 32 nautical miles southwest of Aruba and 5 nautical miles
from Venezuela's lighthouse at Peninsula de Paraguana.
Harry Cooper, Editor and Founder of Sharkhunters
("The Official History Publication of the U-Bootwaffen") about a
year ago forwarded an article written by Dennis Stocks for Harry's
Sharkunters journal (KTB# 123) regarding the Scouf. From
Harry's letter of February 19, 2007: "(One of our members) reported that
U-502's Jurgen von Rosenstiel claimed sinking a certain number of ships
on his Caribbean patrol...(All) of these sinking were confirmed but one,
and...von Rosenstiel described the unaccounted sinking as a small
tanker...(D)ue to her shape, Scouf could easily have been
(mistaken) for a small tanker through the submarine's periscope. And so,
it's possible that U-502 sent this French giant to the bottom. This will
be a tough one to solve."
More recently, an article in Harry's journal KTB# 204,
November 2007, titled "The Incredible Scouf" by Raul Colon,
tends to lend more mystery to the French super submarine and its
questionable allegiance to Vichy France? the Free French?
Sorry that I have droned on so, but I need Harry's
permission to quote from his recent KTB (#204) before doing a follow-up
article on the Scouf. The Scouf is a story that keeps
2.) We'll learn more about the night/early morning
attack of February 16, 1942 from Dufi Kock's "The Spark of War" aka
"Chispa di Guera" interviews.
3.) Vic Lopez will regal us with more
shards and barbs from his "Allied & Axis Warships Visit Aruba".
4.) Review of Ray Burson's When Lago Was
Lucky. (I've been remiss in not reviewing Ray's
booklet before now. Bear with me, Ray.)
5.) Review of Stan Norcom's booklet U-156:
From The Beginning to Das Ende.
6.) "Varied and Informal
Methods/Classifications In Reporting History", by your Editor.
You may agree with me on this one....then again, you may not.
7.) Special Newsletter---"Spain's
False Neutrality During WWII", by your Editor. This is going to
take some time and effort, so hang loose and don't expect it
8.) Wall Street and The Rise of Hitler,
by Anthony C. Sutton. On target correspondence between Stan
Norcom, Warren Norcom, and other Roundtable members regarding
9.) Bill Moyers and Jerry Casius'
translations of U-156's log between late
1941 and early 1942.
10.) What's a "wonker"? (I thought you'd
And in Closing...
Newsletter #12 should be in the
mail by mid-August, 2008.
If you know someone who'd like to join our merry band of
Roundtable member/subscribers, please drop me an e-mail and we'll
welcome them aboard.
If for some reason you, as a member of the Roundtable and
subscriber to the Newsletter, find you did not receive the
current issue, please notify me and we'll zing you a copy asap.
If you change your e-mail address, please notify
me as soon as possible. We do not want, nor like to, lose loyal
literally speaking, lives for your correspondence. If you have a
story to tell, or know of someone who could add interest to our
collection of events, please, please, drop us a line. We appreciate and
look forward to all correspondence---whether it's positive or
negative. If it's negative I can take it. I might cry a little, but I'll
get over it.
Let's not forget Dan Jensen's
web site (www.lago-colony.com
for information A to Z on Lago and the postings of prior U-156/U-502
and, Larry Riggs' Lago
for the latest Aruba news.
And finally, if I've been remiss and not thanked you before
now, thank you Dufi Kock, Stan Norcom, Doug Frazier, Guy Goodboe,
Vic Lopez, Dan Jensen, and Vicki Markle, for
the DVDs and CDs which you've sent regarding Lago of yore, Aruba photos
before the arrival of turistas, Aruba during WWII, and other
topics of interest to readers of the U-156/U-502 Roundtable
Newsletter. We couldn't have put together a Roundtable or a Newsletter devoted
to telling the history of wartime Aruba without you.
Until next time...
Your man in the trenches....and Davy Jones' Locker.
Don D. Gray, Moderator/Editor
U-156/U-502 Roundtable & Newsletter
Copyright 2008 by Don D. Gray.
All rights reserved.