Dedicated to recording Allied and Axis engagements during WWII (1939-1945) in the Caribbean and off coastal South America through personal experiences, recollections, and dogged research by Roundtable members.
        "(E)liminating Germany's oil resources would be one of their (RAF) major contributions to shortening the war. The idea of concentrating on Germany's oil resources was not new. Oil had been listed as a prime RAF target as long ago as 1939...(E)veryone knew that oil was the Achilles heel of the German military-industrial complex." ---Robin Neillands, The Bomber War, 2001.
August 28, 2008.
Dear Fellow U-Boat Enthusiasts and Lago History Buffs:
        It has been an interesting, resourceful, and resilient summer, with the major television networks and newspapers constantly bombarding you with primaries, caucuses, and soon to be, Democratic and Republican national convention coverage. Well, perhaps it's time for a little respite---like something along the lines of the U-bootwaffe.
        Topics to be addressed in this and future issues of the Newsletter include: Roundtable Recruits (would you believe that we have enlisted Member #123?!! And to think that five years ago we had just fifteen members)...Interview With Henri Coffi, founder, The Lago Oil Museum, Lago Heights...Oral History vs. Documented History, or as cited in Newsletter #11 Varied and Informal Methods/Classifications in Reporting History by your Editor...Correspondence From Roundtable Members...The Spark of War (Chispa di Guera), Part 2 of 2 by Dufi Kock...Allied and Axis Warships Visit Aruba, Part 2 of 2 by Vic Lopez...Review of Ray Burson's booklet When Lago Was Lucky...Review of Stan Norcom's booklet U-156: From The Beginning to Das Ende...Doug Frazier's review of Robert Kurston's book The Shadow Divers...Bob Griffin's Special Report on Spain's "Neutrality" During WWII, and finally (I thought you'd never ask), What is a "Wonker"?, Part 1 of 2 by your Editor. 
        Roundtable Recruits
        Since our last Newsletter the following recruits have joined our merry band of U-booters: Raul Colon (#120); Jerry Barnes (our longtime host of the annual Zephyrhills Lago Reunion; #121); John Stephan (#122); and, Henri "Mr. Lago" Coffi (#123). Welcome aboard, guys! May your induction into the Ubootwaffe be interesting and rewarding.
        (Editor's Note: Roundtable subscriber names are emboldened throughout the Newsletter text.)
        Bill Smith (02/26/08). "Don, your computer probably got a typo imbedded in its spell checking apparatus, but I'm pretty sure the French super-sub's name was Surcouf!...I always enjoy your articles. Keep up the good undersea (and otherwise) work!
        (Editor's Note"You say Surcouf, I say 'Sucouf', let's call the whole thing off." Actually, Bill caught me in a 'diphthongic' moment. Hope I didn't leave my 'dangling participle' exposed!)
        (03/05/08): "I've been fascinated by submarines all my life, ever since U-156 left its calling cards in Aruba. Surcouf caught my fancy because it was so pretty, and so different from all other subs I'd read about. My wife's Britzius ancestors came from Bisterschied, Germany, in the Platz, near where I was stationed in the Army, and we visited there to look for family records. The first thing we saw in the little town was a 'Denkmal' obelish bearing the name of Otto Britizius, and the year of his death. I visited (Otto's) father and learned young Otto had been in a sub that was thought to have been sunk off Dakar. The old man blamed himself for the boy's death because he had signed a special permission slip due to Otto being under age. Otto's mother died young, probably partly out of heartbreak over losing both her sons because of Hitler's idiocy. The father remarried and I eventually corresponded with Otto's much younger half-sister who married an American soldier and moved to Maryland. She wrote me when Otto's sub was discovered---the 'mystery sub' lying offshore New Jersey, beneath the tanker traffic lane. A wonderful book was written about it, and a short TV documentary was made...(Harry Cooper, founder and editor of Sharkhunters) carried a long story about Surcouf, but I thought the author of the article said the Surcouf was sunk 'near Panama', which I didn't assume was very near Aruba."       
        Dufi Kock (02/15/08): "Tomorrow (February 16, 1942) is exactly 66 years ago that Lago and Aruba were lucky when U-boats U-156 and U-502 torpedoed several tankers, etc.
        "At my request, TeleAruba will present a special program tomorrow...from a four-minute video which they made in 2002.
        "The reason I asked TeleAruba to come up with this special program was that I insisted that they show this program every year in order to remind everyone as to what could have happened to Lago and Aruba..."
        (02/24/08): "Excellent job on your U-156/U-502 Roundtable Newsletter #11...Keep up the excellent work. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to do all that. Hopi pabien!
        (04/11/08): "Some months ago I asked my friend in Curacao, Mr. Bregilo ('Bubba') Wanga to take some pictures of the WWII monuments in Bonaire and Curacao. Mr. Wanga was a policeman in Aruba at one time and is now retired in Curacao.
        "I am still having contact with Minister Ramon Lee in Aruba to try and get a monument in the Lago Colony. It takes time and patience, but I am not giving up."
        (Editor's Note: Those who know Dufi are aware of his dogged persistence. He does not give up easily.)
        Mary Jean (Owen) Thomas (02/25/08): "Thanks so much for your Roundtable Newsletter. It's amazing, I think, that so many of us Lago young'uns would be so intent on recording our history. You are one of the spearheads of this movement and we gratefully thank you for this. As we putter around our daily activities you are the one keeping the record straight for all of us. Again, masha danki!!"
        Jak Showell (04/04/08): "Many thanks for the Newsletter which has arrived at the U-Boat Museum in Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany. Horst Bredow (the Museum's executive director) asked me to send you his thanks and best wishes. He is well, but busy. I am here for a few weeks helping out."    
        Clyde Harms (03/25/08): "(In your Newsletter) you refer to the USAAF B-18 depth charging the U-502's wake, but according to comments I remember being made that memorable day, the USAAF did not yet have depth charges (for active use on patrols) in Aruba. I don't remember that this had ever come up before in Roundtable discussions. Do you have an answer?"
        (07/31/08): (Clyde's response is to a 07/23/08 e-mail from Tony T and Rebecca Goldstone who are gathering information for a book on WWII in the Caribbean and so state in their e-mail to Clyde, "(W)e are having a go at finding contributions from veteran sailors in Venezuela who crewed aboard the [Lake Fleet's] shallow draft tankers". Clyde's 07/31/08 response: "When I searched for the names of sailors who lost their lives during the 1942 attack, I did not find one Venezuelan among the crews."  
        (Editor's Notes: I [once again] stand corrected. Early on our defensive air corps in Aruba did not have depth charges at their disposal. Bombs, yes. Depth charges, no. Depth charges would come somewhat  later. Can anyone provide us with an answer as to the approximate date depth charges replaced or supplemented aircraft bombs in Aruba?)
        (The "no Venezuelan crew issue" is similar to the "no Aruban crew issue" on Lake Tankers, which was addressed by Clyde in Newsletter #11.)
        Bryan McCall (03/07/08): "The idea that the U-156, or any other U-boat, came alongside Lake Tankers to ascertain the ship's name, tonnage, port-of-call, etc., from the U-boat's officer on watch, is pure 'Hollywood'.
        "The Lake Tankers were not only very maneuverable, they (also) had twin propellers and twin rudders, and therefore did not require the use of tugs in and out of (San Nicolaas) Harbour. They also never used pilots to enter or exit San Nicolaas Harbour. The Harbour was under the control of the ship's captain, and therefore no pilot boats!"
        (Editor's Note: Bryan has provided us with some new "wrinkles" to consider, i.e. U-boat back-and-forth's with torpedoed ship lifeboat survivors, no pilots required on Lake Tankers, the unique maneuverability of Lake Tankers, etc. I take exception to [only] one of Bryan's observations: The confab between the U-boat's officers and the torpedoed ship's lifeboat survivors. I cannot verify that Lake Tanker crews experienced U-boats surfacing and asking pertinent/logical questions of the tanker's survivors, but back-and-forth's did occur on the high seas with torpedoed ocean-going tanker personnel (ref. Ships of The Esso Fleet in WWII, Standard Oil Co.[New Jersey] publisher, 1946; and, Stan Norcom's U-156: From The Beginning to Das Ende, [pg. 37], 2007).               
        Dan Jensen (02/24/08): "...Keep up the good work...."
        Iris Rozencwajg (02/29/08): "Thanks to all of you for keeping (us informed). It's fascinating and I forward the Newsletter to people who've never set foot in Aruba."
        Special Reports
        The Spark of War (Chispa di Guera) - Part 2 of 2, compiled and edited by Dufi Kock with video tape provided by Jorge Ridderstaat, Jr.
        The following is a continuation of "Interviews Regarding The U-156/U-502 Attack, February 16-17, 1942", initially appearing in Newsletter #11.
        Anthonie Hijmering - Mr. Hijmering lived in the Tank Farm area, is the son of Andries and Olga Hijmering, and whose house was hit by an "object" during the early morning hours of February 16, 1942.
                                                         - Prelude -
        "In the early days Lago built a block consisting of four wooden barracks and a Fire Station for the policemen to guard Lago just outside of the Tank Farm area. In those days there was no housing available for the policemen. The Dutch police were guarding Lago's refinery gates. The policemen and families who were living there during the war were the Geerenstein family (Bungalow #9); the Pieter Baptist family (Bungalow #10); the Andries Hijmering family (Bungalow #11; and, the Gerrit Lugthart family (Bungalow #12).
        "The Hijimering, Baptist, and Geerenstein families each consisted of three children; and the Lugthart family consisted of two children.
        "Our next door neighbors who were adjacent to us were the Baptist family. These houses were separated by a wooden wall and as Fred (Baptist family) said, 'You could clearly hear everything that was going on at your neighbor's.
        "Tony (Hijimering family) said, 'Early one morning, while everyone was asleep, the alarm at the Fire Station sounded. It was customary that whenever the alarm went off young kids would immediately stop what they were doing or get out of bed and see what was happening. The manual alarm was cranked by hand to alert the policemen that something unusual was happening. The alarm was installed close to the home of policeman van Balen and he was responsible for sounding the alarm. He had to wind the handle and hold it for a few minutes. When everything got back to normal he again sounded a shorter alarm to inform everyone that things were back to normal. In case of fire the alarm would be sounded and all the policemen who were either on or off duty had to report to the Fire Station to assist the firemen. Later the crank alarm was replaced with an electrical alarm.  
        "On this particular morning (February 16, 1942) the alarm went off and we got out of bed and saw several policemen running to the Fire Station. Some of their wives were running behind their husbands with shoes in hand. Why? Because it was customary for the first policeman who reached the station to receive a prize.         
                                                - Object Hits Roof of Hijmering Home -
        "...All of a sudden we heard an object fall on the roof of our house with a very loud noise. It kept rolling on the roof and we thought that it couldn't be a rock. We all got scared...Everybody went running outside while the alarm was still sounding. We saw some policemen coming back to see what was happening at our house. My uncle, Jules Reeder, was also there and we all decided to wait until morning to look at the ceiling/roof (in the clear light of day).
        "The following morning I heard the police tell Jules Reeder and neighbor Arie Baptist to go on the roof of our house to ascertain if there had been any fire. There had not. Arie went to inspect the roof and said the hole was large enough that he could put his head and shoulders through it. He saw a lot of debris in the ceiling which also had several holes. The largest part of the 'grenade' went through our roof. (Editor's Note: 'Grenade' should be interpreted as either 'projectile', 'spent round' or 'object'). Other smaller parts of the object were found in our neighbor's barrack, #10. The grenade went through the ceiling and then into our bedroom. Mrs. Olga Hijmering was in a rocking chair with her baby boy (Evert) on a pillow, trying to put him back to sleep when the grenade hit, and a piece of metal drilled the pillow near the baby. Mrs. Hijmering was also hit on the leg by another piece of metal and suffered a long time thereafter. Another piece of the object landed on my father's pillow in the bedroom.
        "We determined that the objects were made of either copper or brass. We gathered the pieces together, whereupon Hijmering and Baptist took them to the Police Station. It was determined that 75% of the grenade was recovered and it was approximately 7cm long by 3cm wide. The Hijmering family kept the projectile for some time, but it was 'lost' sometime afterwards. (Editor's Note: Approximate dimensions of a 37mm projectile? or not?)
        (From Stan Norcom's booklet U-156: From The Beginning to Das Ende, pg. 17, "This may have been the casing of the star shell fired from the U.S. destroyer Winslow on the 19th of February. The evidence and testimony stands as it is without conclusion....")  
        "Both Messrs. van Meeteren and Franken said that one shell from U-156 scraped Tank 112 and then hit a house. But according to Captain Schram de Jong who stood guard at Weg Kustbatterij in San Nicolaas, sixteen 37mm grenades were fired and that they had glided between the oil storage tanks. (Schram de Jong) said, 'We lived behind the Tank Farm and one hit the roof of our backdoor neighbor (the Hijmerings). Another perforated the roof of an officer's car.' 
        (Dufi Kock's Note: According to other sources one object hit Mrs. Geerman's house in Lago Heights, but I am unable to confirm this. It could well be that this is the same house because all this area at the time was called 'Lago Heights', and the name 'Geerman' might also be wrong.)        
        "Family Hijmering was very fortunate that the grenade most probably 'lost its strength' or the explosive mechanism did not function properly based on the fact that the grenade did not explode on/in the ceiling, but only scattered little pieces of metal through the roof. Mr. Andreis Hijmering was also lucky in that when the Fire Station alarm sounded he had just gotten out of bed, whereupon a piece of metal struck his pillow. 
        "The news of U-156's torpedo and limited barrage attack is well-known through various media sources and through the dedication and determination of several people, especially our friends, the Arucanos. But few know of this grenade attack and the whereabouts of other projectiles that were fired. 
        "Due to the continuous efforts by these people we wish to cooperate with this historical information on the grenade attack, which could have resulted in the loss of many lives."
                Fred Baptist, Master Engineer
                Anthonie "Tony" Hijmering, Aruba Polis (retired)
                    Aruba, N.A.
                    February 17, 1992.    
        Allied and Axis Warships Visit Aruba - Part 2 of 2, by Vic Lopez.
        The famous author and radio announcer Lowell Thomas, had a book published in 1927, Count von Luckner, Sea Devil. Luckner was the commander of a German naval ship---a raider that preyed on Allied shipping during WWI. He sank British and Italian ships and carried their personnel aboard his ship, Sea Adler (Sea Eagle), as prisoners. He was a highly decorated Kriegsmariner after the Great War and received a commendation from the Pope for his humane treatment of prisoners. His motto---the motto of the sea---"Don't jump overboard. Stay with the ship." (Felix von Luckner was in Oranjestad Harbour July 20-23, 1937; Gilbert Brooks, Jr. was there at the time and he recounts visiting the small Dutch submarine that was docked in Oranjestad at the same time.)         
        Do you remember?
            The whaler mother ships that visited Aruba on their way to the "happy hunting grounds" in the Antarctic? The ships were based on Africa's west coast.    
            The five mast schooner with a cargo of timber from Mobile, Alabama, on February 18, 1934?
            The ten convicts who visited Aruba on November 4, 1934, via open boat after escaping from Devil's Island?
             On March 27, 1934, the tanker Ruth that carried Leon Trotsky to Mexico was in Aruba. The Ralph Watson's were good friends of the ship's captain.
            The French cruiser Jeanne d' Arc which carried the French Marines to Martinique, July 6, 1940?
        Spain's Alleged "Neutrality" During WWII. A synopsis by Bob Griffin.
        Several of the comments (in Newsletter #11) are interesting, especially those that Dufi Kock put together from first person interviews (in Aruba). With regards to your mention of ongoing research as to Spain and its so-called neutrality during WWII, may I suggest that you look into another aspect that quite probably led to some of Spain's so-called violations.
        I don't remember the story exactly, but I remember my father mentioning that Standard Oil of New Jersey had certain contacts with German companies (I.G. Farben I remember as one) which stemmed from processes that Standard Oil obtained from I.G. Farben and were paying for oil products. During the late 1930's and early 1940's, until December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor) , it was not illegal per se to trade with Germany as long as it was not war material. Further, it is my belief that the trade was further insulated by putting a Spanish Company in the middle (to sanctify or "cleanse" the deal?---Editor's Note). Hence, feedstock from Lago could be sold to a Spanish intermediary, shipped on Spanish tankers to Spanish ports, and then loaded into rail tank cars for on-carriage to Germany to become feedstock in the I.G. Farben Chemical Works, a company akin to E.I. DuPont.
        I am sure arguments could be made that eventually some of these final products could be considered war material, and I am sure the British and the Dutch, who were already at war (with Germany), would claim such. Nevertheless, it might be interesting to look from the German and U.S. sides and see what sort of data might exist....         
        (Editor's Note: A little bit of "neutrality" goes a long way. Bob cites Spanish sea going tankers and Spanish rail tank cars as product transports. It is "rumored" that Spanish tankers shipped refined product from Lago to one of its coastal ports and then transferred the product to German U-boats. Allied to that, it is also rumored that Spanish tankers were re-supplying German U-boats at sea with diesel fuel.  
        (There is more to be said about the "neutrality of nations" during wartime. We will follow-up on Bob's interesting take on "trading with the enemy" in a future issue of the Newsletter.)                    
        Interview by your Editor.
        While in Aruba this past summer I had the opportunity to interview a well-known Aruban, Mr. Henri Coffi, aka "Mr. Lago", at his Lago Oil Museum ("Researchers welcome!") in Lago Heights. If ever there was a repository of Lago memorabilia, this is it! Undoubtedly the most extensive collection of artifacts, papers, payroll sheets, albums and photographs from the early 1940's through the '80's, and other items from memory lane, ever assembled. (Not to take away from the University of Texas, Austin).
        If I remember correctly, many years ago when Lago was rolling-up-the-carpet in early 1985, Henri had his office in the Administration Building. One day, as the story goes, he was leaving the building when a pile of "trash" caught his eye near the Dempster Dumpster. In that pile of trash were hundreds of glossy photographs from the early days at Lago. Something on the order of a treasure trove for memorabilia collectors. That trash pile was the inspiration for, and beginning of, The Lago Oil Museum. (A side note: Several years ago I remember Coastal Petroleum's Wynn Norris escorting me and several others on a tour of the refinery. In the Main Office lobby display case was a sizeable check value emboldened with a raised German swastika, undoubtedly acquired by Lago prior to late 1941.) 
        Henri is at a loss as to what to do with the Lago memorabilia. At this time, the University of Texas at Austin, as a repository for the historical items, is not feasible. Henri would like to keep or bequeath the collection to a local (Aruba) institute for safe keeping so that Aruba's youth would have immediate access to the material. But to whom? And where? There is one public facility in Aruba, which will go unnamed, where "researchers" have a habit of slicing, dicing, and underlining articles for which they have a particular "professional" interest. This facility (the identity of which you have probably already guessed) requires greater security and oversight of research material. It has improved over the past year, however.                            
        Henri is reluctant, and reasonably so, to "throw out" the Lago material. This is the sign of a good historian/collector. (Just ask my wife.) Never throw anything away because tomorrow is the day that you will need it.
        If you desire a real look at Lago's past, drop by Henri's historic Lago Oil Museum (#30 Quelstraat, Lago Heights, one block north of the Lago Heights Club) on your next visit to the island. Call (584-8456; cell phone 563-3511) or e-mail Henri (hfcoffi@setarnet.aw) to schedule an appointment for reviewing the research material. 
        Henri spent almost 25-years with Lago and is a founder of one of Aruba's minor political parties (one party member elected to Parliament). He is good company and enjoys talking about Lago times and Aruba politics. 
        Henri Coffi is also our latest U-156/U-502 Roundtable member (#123).
        Categorizing History by your Editor. 
        Approximately 2-1/2 years ago Roundtable member and long time friend W.E. "Ted" Gibbons and I got into an e-mail discussion about what was, and what was not, considered the reporting of history. The following is a synopsis of what we discussed in February, 2006.
        Researched HistoryPro: For the record. Con: Unfortunately, documents are written and recorded by humans which sometimes result in human error.
        Long, slow, tedious, and plodding, but probably as close as one can get to the actual event without "being" the event. I would rank fellow U-156/U-502 researchers Stan Norcom, Ray Burson, Jerry Casius, Clyde Harms, and Dufi Kock in the "Researched History" category.
        Eyewitness Accounts. Pro: Instantaneous; On the scene. Con: There can be embellishment and varying accounts of the event "in the eye of the beholder".
        At one time I would have classified this as the number #1 category, but came to realize that time can play tricks on memories. USAAF airman Ira V. Matthews story of sighting a U-boat between the mangrove reef and the end of the Dakota Field runway is an example. I'm fairly certain that Matthews believed what he claims to have seen in his B-12 "...bombing raid of a German U-boat off Oranjestad Harbour" on February 18, 1942. There's just one problem. Matthews wrote the article for the 40th Bomb Group Association Memories' Newsletter 43-years after the event!
        The sooner an eyewitness event is transcribed to paper the closer the account is to reality. Even then, as we know from newspaper reporting, eyewitnesses invariably come up with different versions of the same story. Unfortunately, sometimes it's in the "eye of the beholder". 
        Speculative or Alternative History. Pro: Can get the gray matter working. Con: Don't take them too seriously. 
        These are the "what if" books. What if the Confederates had won on the third day at Gettysburg? What if the Germans had developed super size U-boats, advanced rockets, and long range aircraft much earlier in the war? What if U-156 had been successful in its attack against the Lago refinery? These make for fantasizing and fairly good reading, that is, if you're into speculation. Speculative history can be an interesting novelized part of history, provided it is noted as such.
        Revisionist History. Pro: "Fairy tales can come true.... Con: Can get the gray matter turned into a bucket of sludge. 
        I consider these the "baddies". They want you to believe what they tell you. Motive and objective? To "set things right" as they see it and to deny, deny, deny. And to attempt to rebut researched history and replace it with their history. For example, David Irving's claim that the Holocaust, with its numerous death camps, never happened. The Allies just made it up, don't you know. All those Movietone Newsreels and documented research in the U.S. Archives is just a bunch of hooey! These people have either been sucking the grape too long or have taken up residency in Michael Jackson's Never Land. Thankfully, their audience is limited...very limited.        
        Book Reviews 
        Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurston. Random House @ 2004, ISBN 0-375-20858-9.
        It is the factual account of the discovery and exploration of a U-boat (U-869) found off the New Jersey coast. The boat, in 230' of water, was first explored using compressed air, then later with tri-mix. The exploration claimed three lives (from probably less than two dozen divers), and, as there was no historical record of the loss of a U-boat in the immediate New Jersey area, the principal story is the almost obsessive quest by the two principal divers to identify the vessel. In doing so, they found major errors in the accepted history of the U-boat fleet.
        Well written, on par with Junger's The Perfect Storm. I highly recommend the book to all of the Roundtable participants, not only for the story, but for the detailed story of the historical research and resources, some of which might benefit the Roundtable.
            ----Reviewed by Doug Frazier, July 31, 2008. 
        When Lago Was Lucky, by Ray Burson, Copyright 2006.
        Now here's what researched history is all about. Ray has obviously spent many hours on the telephone, computer, and in the library, researching this particular event. I do not know of any other publication regarding that period (prior to and during February 16-19, 1942) which amplifies the decisions and consequences of the Allied and Axis actions. Ray has put it all into perspective: he provides us with dates, names of ships, officials directly and indirectly involved in the event, response from both sides, and precisely "why Lago was lucky".
        Ray's When Lago Was Lucky complements other publications on the subject of German U-Boat 156's raid on the Lago refinery. But by saying it "complements" does not do Ray's work justice. He joins a short list of journalists* "who (finally) got it right".
            ----Reviewed by your Editor.
        If you wish a signed copy of When Lago Was Lucky, please contact Ray at rbmo@semo.net or write to him at P.O. Box 608, Doniphan, Missouri 63935-0608. 
        U-156: From The Beginning to 'Das Ende', by Stan Norcom, September, 2007.
        Stan has taken the U-156 and described everything about it. Its' commissioning, patrols, ships sunk, its' part in the "Laconia Incident" rescue attempt, and its final demise March 8, 1943 off Barbados. The only thing Stan didn't do was to count the number of rivets in the U-boat's hull. The booklet's forty-nine pages are chock full of photographs from the period.
        Stan describes in great detail each of U-156's five patrols. The most memorable patrol involved the "Laconia Incident", where Hartenstein attempted to rescue 1083 survivors from the British troopship Laconia which U-156 had just sunk. The episode is well known in the ranks of WWII rescue attempts at sea. Unfortunately, Hartenstein's U-156 and other rescue vessels from French West Africa and Dahomey were fired upon by an American B-24 Liberator out of Ascension Island. The Axis U-boats had displayed 6.5' X 6.5' Red Cross rescue flags draped on their decks. Hartenstein had sent out an all-points-bulletin in English saying "If any ship will assist the ship wrecked Laconia crew, I will not attack her, provided I am not attacked by ship or air force." Well, the B-24 received orders from base to attack (the rescuing) U-boats. Consequently, all lines from the rescue vessels to survivor lifeboats were cut and the rescue attempt was abandoned.
        Stan goes into greater detail about the Laconia Incident in his booklet. A sidebar note: At the Nuremberg Trials consequences of the Laconia Incident were brought up while Admiral Karl Doenitz was in the dock. Doenitz had issued orders subsequent to Laconia's sinking which in essence said "Every attempt to save survivors of sunken ships, and the fishing-up of men swimming and placing them on board lifeboats, the righting of overturned lifeboats, the handling of food and water, have to be discontinued....Stay hard. Don't forget that the enemy didn't take any regard for women and children when bombarding German towns."
        A U.S. Navy Admiral from the Pacific Fleet came to Doenitz's aid by saying that the U.S. was not exactly blameless in rescue attempts.
        Of U-156's five patrols, the Laconia rescue attempt probably takes center stage. The rescue is only one part of Stan's well documented and well researched booklet. If you wish to purchase U-156: From the Beginning to Das Ende, please drop Stan a note at smnorcom.bonbini@att.net
            ----Reviewed by your Editor.
        (Editor's Notes: There are three books/booklets that tell the whole story of U-156's February 16, 1942, attack against Aruba and the Lago Oil refinery. I believe the booklets complement each other: Bill Hochstuhl's "German U-Boat 156 Brought War to Aruba...", Ray Burson's "When Lago Was Lucky", and Stan Norcom's "U-156: From The Beginning to Das Ende." These treatises directly address the dilemma faced not only by Lago Oil & Transport Co., Ltd. with its mega-producing oil refinery, but also the U-boats which failed to successfully carry out their secondary objective---that of destroying land targets such as oil storage tanks and the refinery complex. [The eleventh hour change in Group Neuland orders from destroying primary land targets to shipping targets (rightfully) confuses (some) analysts to this day.]
        (The above is not to take away from authors who have addressed the February 16-18, 1942 wartime period. Notably, Johan Hartog's Aruba: Past and Present; Jim & Vic Lopez's three-volume series titled The Lago Legend---Our Stories; and most recently Jorge Ridderstaat's The Lago Story. More WWII history about Aruba has been written in the past several years than ever before.)         
        Questions Looking For Answers, Part 1 of 2 by your Editor.
        Some of the following questions may have been addressed in the past, but I don't believe they have been sufficiently addressed to the point where you can say, "Hallelujah, mama! Pass the biscuits pappy! Gray finally got it right."
        Anyway, for what it's worth, let's "try" again so that your editor can sleep more soundly.
        1. Why the change in Operation Westindien orders at the eleventh hour from "attack land targets" (Grand Admiral Raeder) to "attack shipping" (Doenitz, Commander-in-Chief of U-boats)? How does a Commander-of-U-Boats countermand a Grand Admiral? Did Doenitz "get to" Hitler at the last moment? Was Raeder on Hitler's "short list'? (Raeder resigned his commission in early 1943 and was succeeded by Doenitz as commander-in-chief of the Kriegsmarine. Doenitz later became Germany's head-of-state upon Hitler's death.) 
        3. U-boat attacks in the Caribbean subsequent to Operation Westindien were few and far between. Why didn't Germany return to the "happy hunting grounds" and attack the refineries at Aruba and Curacao? An "opportunity" wasted? Although early 1943 was the beginning of the end for the Third Reich, surely someone in its high command must have known the vital importance of refined oil in order to continue the war. U-156 did return to the Caribbean in 1943, but (again) only to concentrate on ship targets.  
        The major Allied targets in Europe were the oil refineries in Hitler's conquered territories.
        Germany was far ahead in the production of synthetic fuel, but not enough of the product could be refined sufficiently to supply its tanks, aircraft, U-boats, etc.  
    The above will be followed by additional questions in Newsletter #13. 
    Weigh-in, troops. Give it your best shot. Help me to sleep soundly at night. 
        What is a "Wonk"Part 1 of 2, by your Editor.
        In Newsletter #11 I alluded to "....Exactly What is Wonk?" in the "What's in The Future Mix" section of the newsletter. In order to maintain a modicum of sanity in transcribing notes, answering e-mails, translating from German to English back to German, and in general playing knick-knack-polly-whack-give-the-dog-a-bone with our cat, I had to resort to a bit of levity with some of my erstwhile U-boat companions. In so doing I devised, melded, construed, approached, and concocted "The Wonker Society For Empirical Research". The following is a sample of the "charter" of our "society" and how it fell on ill times:
            "Recently Stan Norcom's wife Donna asked 'Exactly what is a  wonk?' Donna, not knowing the blissful and erstwhile attributes of a Wonk, dutifully christened the three wonk charter members Winken, Blinken, and Nod. Therefore, in order to set the record straight and promulgate the various "attributes" of said society (e.g. secret handshake, password, turned-up pointy shoes, dunces caps, and uncalled for promiscuous scratching), it is with great aforethought and afterburner that the Charter of The Wonk Society for Empirical Reserarch (W.S.E.R. or "wiser" for short) is hereby mandated, consummated, baptized, hung-out-to-dry, and consecrated in a vat of Jack Daniel.....forevermore. It is only fitting and proper that we do this.
            "Background of Wonkerism....
                Founded: January 2005. 
                Location: Transylvania, possibly somewhere in the outer reaches of Mongolia.
                Habitat: Deep, dark, dank, abysmal, abandoned cave, slab of granite for a desk, boulder for a chair, single candle for light.
                Dress Code: Bear skin (preferably skinned); Eve Arden's ("Our Miss Brooks") slippers.
                Drink of Choice: Truth serum.
                Modes of Communication and Calculation: Sheep's horn, stylus, abacus.
                Mode of Transportation: Tyrannosaurus Rex.
                Wonker Credos: ' Tis better to have wonked than never to have wonked at all.' 'To err is inhuman. To forgive, let's think about it.' 'To horse! To horse! The Wonks are coming!' (Note: Due to the complexity of wonker research more than one credo has been approved by the High Buzzard of Wonkerville. Anyway,  wonkers have a difficult time remembering who and what they are.)
                Wonk Defined: One steeped in the vicissitudes of research, research, research, fact, fact, and more fact.
                Uncommon Valor Recognition Award: The Onomatopoeia Award aka The 'Gotcha" Award. Presented only on rare, dull, unworthy, rainy days, and ho-hum occasions."
                                     (----  To be continued  ---- Aren't you the lucky one!)
        What's in the Future Mix?
        Topics to be covered in future Newsletters.
        1.) Official Log of U-502 provided by Stan Norcom and translated into English by Wilfried Poenitz.
        2.) What is a Wonk? - Part 2.
        3.) Questions Looking For Answers - Part 2.        
        4.) Interview with Romualdo Coffi - 95 years young, former Lago employee, and Henri Coffi's father.
        5.) Official February 16, 1942 (1:00 p.m.) telegram from American Consul Miles Standish to U.S. Secretary of State, Washington, D.C.
        6.) Special Report by Vic Lopez regarding his mom being a "merchant seaman" on a Canadian tanker.
        7.) Roundtable #6 will be held in Aruba on Tuesday, June 23, 2009, during the Lago/Aruba Reunion. Details to follow as we get closer to the date.
        2008 Aruba Aside
        In closing I have some sad news to report, guys. San Nicolaas' house-of-ill-repute (Hija del Dia) has had its top story gutted. Is there nothing sacred? I guess whatever residents remain will have to "take to the streets."  
        And in Closing...
        Newsletter #13 should be in the mail the latter part of February, 2009.
        As I've said so often, if you change your e-mail and/or postal addresses, please drop me a brief note. We like keeping our Roundtable members up-to-date on forthcoming historic events. In other words, we don't want to lose you.
        Correspondence----The Newsletter lives and breathes by you inquiries and experiences. Don't be shy. Ask any question or relate any event/experience which you find interesting and worthy. I can't think of one piece of postal mail or an e-mail that I haven't posted in a NewsletterYou keep the Roundtable going!
        Let's not forget Dan Jensen's web site (www.lago-colony.com) for all information past, present, and future regarding Lago and Aruba. The last time I spoke to Danny he told me that he had 12 million "hits" last year on his Lago web site. Yes folks, that's 12 million. Heck, I can't even count that high.
        And Larry Riggs' Lago Bulletin Board takes a backseat to no one. Drop him an e-mail at RiggsLarry@aol.com in order to receive the latest scuttlebutt on Aruba and correspondence related to past happenings in the Colony. 
        Thank 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.            


Dan's comment.

When I spoke to Don the hit counter was showing about 2.25 million hits in 12 months, since then it has dropped to about 1.80 million hits per year, still a large number.