Chicago/Lago Reunion. The September 16th-19th Lago Reunion at Chicago's Essex Inn.

On Saturday, September 17th we will host our third U-156/U-502 Roundtable at 8:30 a.m. in a room to be posted at the registration desk

U-156/U-502 Roundtable Newsletter #6  By Don Gray Copyright 2005 by Don D.Gray. All rights reserved   (Newsletter # 6, 8/21/2005)
U-156/U-502 Roundtable Newsletter #6
                               From History's Notebook: "Originally, Admiral Karl Doenitz 
                               wanted to plant a dozen U-boats off the Atlantic coast and stop 
                               ship traffic. But Hitler allowed only six. Many people don't 
                               realize how very close we (U.S.) came to losing WWII in the 
                               opening salvos. If all twelve U-boats had been allowed to come,  
                               the whole course of history might have been different."
                                           ---Dr. Jack Irion, Marine Archaeologist, U.S. Minerals 
                                              Management Service, Christian Science Monitor
                                             July 30, 2004.
August 21, 2005.

Dear Fellow U-boat Subscribers:
       We have some interesting topics to cover and whet your appetite in U-156/U-502 Roundtable Newsletter #6.
       A few days ago I forwarded correspondence to Harry Cooper, publisher/editor, Sharkhunters International, requesting that he place an inquiry in his journal of 7000 subscribers, as to whether there are any U-boat veterans of Operation Neuland (assembly of U-156 and four other boats off Lorient, France, whose operation covered the Caribbean and the area south to the Guianas) were willing to provide an account of the operation, particularly in the Aruba-Curacao-Lake Maracaibo area.
       Stan Norcom and Dan Jensen have both provided an English translation of the German propaganda poster "Deutsches U-Boot (156) Beschiebt Olraffinerien auf der Insel Aruba." Interesting take, particularly if you're sitting in propaganda minister Goebbel's office mulling over of ways to hoodwink the German people.
       Jerry Casius translated into English what I refer to as the Dietrich-Alfred von dem Borne Memoranda, 1944-1972. As you are aware, Borne was the 2nd Watch Officer on U-156, February 16, 1942. U-156's deck cannon, upon being aimed in the direction of the Lago refinery/tank farm, misfired. Copies of the Borne memoranda were provided by Guy Goodboe as a result of his annual trip to the U-Boot Archive, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany.  
       Our latest Roundtable Newsletter subscribers are: Don Montague (Member #76), editor/publisher, South American Explorer, a quarterly journal devoted to past and present adventurous journeys to the South America continent; Tom Tanis (#77), an annual visitor to Aruba who enjoys reading Lago and Aruba histories; Pauline (Morgan) Young (#78), a graduate of Lago High, Pauline's father was Captain Herbert Morgan of the ill-fated tanker Oranjestad, torpedoed on February 16th by U-156; Vic Lopez (#79), editor/publisher of his dad's (Jim) voluminous work, The Lago Colony Legend---Our Stories; and, George "Rusty" Royer, Jr. (#80) who has a keen interest in Lago and Aruba. Rusty's dad, George Royer, was working in Power House #2 the night of February 16, 1942 and witnessed U-156's attack. Rusty's dad is 97-years young, lives alone, drives a car, and takes care of himself. We should be so lucky. Welcome aboard troops! 
       Dr. Lee A. Dew, author of "The Day Hitler Lost The War" (re: U-156, Lago Refinery), American Legion Magazine, February 1978, sent me another one of his newsarticles, "The Sinking of U-156", Red River Valley Historical Journal of World History, Autumn 1979.
       And finally, there's correspondence from our Newsletter subscribers and friends which I always look forward to receiving.
       Dan Jensen (03/28/05): "I remember my dad saying that the Spanish tankers would lay offshore to buy fuel which Lago knew was going to fuel U-boats, but because Spain was a 'neutral', they could not refuse to sell to them. I remember it p%$#ssing him off. While living in St. Croix I knew a Frenchman from St. Barts and his father who made LOTS of money buying diesel fuel in Aruba, putting the fuel in 55-gallon drums in St. Bart's and then placing the filled drums on to a 'fishing boat'. He would then go out to sea at night and return the next day with empty drums and gold. The Germans paid him in gold.
       Gene Williams (05/22/05): "By the way, did you ever wonder where the name of the tanker Pedernales came from? I recall Frank Griffin giving a speech at a farewell Aruba Reunion banquet years ago, and said that Lago was originally formed by four groups---Wyoming, Indiana, New England, and Texas. Hence, Pedernales (River), Texas." (DDG: Hmmm. Sounds logical.)
       Pauline (Morgan) Young (05/12/05): "(When Captain Herbert Morgan's tanker Oranjestad was torpedoed by U-156)...after being washed off the Oranjestad and floating with the current, dad was picked up either by the Dutch Coast Guard or fishermen...taken to shore and brought home to us in a company (Lago) car. The car drove to the bottom of our bungalow's steps. We thought he had gotten a berth and was coming home."
       Harry Cooper (03/22/05): "One can find 'hard facts' that prove every possible (and some impossible) scenarios to anything that happened in the U-boat war and, of course, each contributor feels that his or her deductions are the ONLY ones, and so they put them forth as if they were PROVEN facts, when actually they are merely the conclusions and opinions of one person. Don't step into that dogpile" (DDG: Good advice, Harry.)
       Tom Tanis (05/13/05): "Each time I visit Aruba I make it a point to drive through what is left of the Colony and try to imagine what life was like there during the 40's and '50's. It's such a shame that everything has been left to the elements." (DDG: You speak for many of us, Tom.)
        Paul Baldwin (05/05/05---three of a kind):
             A.) Projectile: "I do believe that the mystery of the 105mm projectile found by Jake Masters (in the Tank Farm) immediately after the February 16, 1942 attack is most perplexing. The photo of the projectile provided by (son) John Masters, together with his (John's) recollections, are just too convincing to try and come up with another scenario of where that projectile might have come from...Despite lack of evidence to support my theory, I still think (as my uncle Leo related at the time) that there was a second U-boat involved in the attack the morning of February 16, 1942....(DDG: From Admiral Karl Doenitz's Memoirs, "The second U-boat which tried to bombard the oil tanks at Aruba was forced to retire and break off the operation when patrol vessels appeared." No specific U-boat identification, no kapitano's name, and no specific date as to whether Doenitz was speaking to the events of February 16th or the following day. Frustrating.)
             B.) Cannon misfire: "(T)he fact that (U-156's 105mm deck cannon) barrel was split would surely remove any doubt (regarding non-removal of the cannon's tampion)...The cannon exploded forward and no doubt somewhat sideways and backwards also. The backward pressure apparantly did not damage the mechanism or there would have been no point in sawing off the (damaged) end of the barrel in order to use the cannon at a later date...The forward explosion that split the barrel was a result of the projectile's explosion while still in the barrel."
       Jerry Casius (0405/05): "(In translating the documents...von dem Borne Memoranda) they don't appear to add much substantial to the actual attack on Aruba. They are Borne's arguments that the gun barrel tampion was (removed) and that he personally checked (the barrel) before firing commenced. He blamed the premature explosion on bad ammo ...What is amazing is that they were arguing about this as late as April 29, 1945, when Germany was practically finished, and I believe Hitler had already expired.
             "Borne was sort of 'cold-shouldered' by the German Navy for dereliction of duty...(I)ncredible that they (Kriegsmarine) still corresponded on this matter with Borne as the Third Reich crumbled around them."
       (DDG: See Part I. of IV., Dietrich-Alfred von dem Borne Memoranda, 1944-1972, which follows.)
Technical Stuff
       Several weeks ago I asked Stan Norcom if he could decipher the English abbreviation GRT or the German abbreviation BRT after the name and tonnage of each ship sunk in submarine logbooks. As usual, Stan came through. Stan replied by stating, "The abbreviations are the same. GRT refers to a ship's Gross Register Tonnage and BRT is the German equivalent (Bruttoregistertonne). My guess is that the tonnage is sans cargo since that would change all the time...but all ships have a GRT on the registry when they are built."
Deutsches U-Boot (156) Beschiebt Olraffinerien auf der Insel Aruba or German Submarine Fires at Oil Refineries on the Island of Aruba
       The above is the caption of a WWII German propaganda poster found on the wall of an abandoned school house in war torn Germany by an advancing U.S. infrantyman. The poster depicts a German U-boat, presumedly U-156, quite a distance from San Nicolaas Harbor, firing its deck gun in the direction of an already aflame Lago refinery. Both Dan Jensen and Stan Norcom have provided an English translation of the poster's "message":
             "On February 12(see #1. below), 1942, German submarines invaded the Caribbean Sea, sank three tankers, altogether 17,400 BRT, by the coast of Curacao and Aruba and fired at the oil refineries on the islands where crude oil from Venezuela is processed.
             "Therefore, the strongly interfered oil transportation to England and the USA suffered even more from this severe strike due to numerous loss of (oil) tankers.
             "Curacao and Aruba were governed by the Netherlands. After the capitulation of the Netherlands on May 11, 1940, they (the two islands) were taken over by England(#2) and later by the United States(#3) after they entered the war. The submarines fired at factories that lubricated the war machinery. Thousand of tons of oil burned(#4). The oil refineries were destroyed(#5)."
       1. U-156's sinking of the Oranjestad, and severe damaging of the Pedernales and Arkansas (Eagle Oil), was on February 16, 1942.
       2. Taken over by England, no. Garrisoned, yes.
       3. Taken over by the U.S., no. Garrisoned, yes.
       4. Thousands of tons of oil burned, yes. But not from the Aruba or Curacao 
refineries. Oil aflame on the water was from the torpedoing of the Oranjestad   
and Pedernales.
5. "The oil refineries were destroyed." Pure hogwash. With the exception of an
errant (35mm) projectile denting a storage tank and a projectile (with German inscription) found in the Tank Farm by Jake Masters the following day (see Correspondence above), the refineries at Aruba and Curacao were unharmed.
Book Notes
       I was successful recently in locatiing Dr. Lee A. Dew, author of "The Day Hitler Lost The War" in the February 1978 issue of American Legion Magazine. As many are aware, Dew's five-page newsarticle pertains to U-156's attack on the lake tankers and attempted attack on the Lago refinery.
       In an article for the Red River Valley Historical Journal of World History, Autumn 1979, Dew outlines the particulars in the demise of U-156 and crew, 300 miles east of Barbados. There are a few interesting passages in Dew's "The Sinking of U-156" which I believe bear repeating:
             "There had been a flurry of excitement the previous month when Navy pilot Lt. (J.G.) John A. Dryden's crew had spotted a Spanish-flag liner one day apparently hove to in mid-ocean...Many people suspected the Spanish ship was a supply vessel for the U-boats, but there was no concrete proof...(On a March 8, 1943 patrol) a ship was spotted and Dryden dropped down for a look...(I)t was their old acquaintance, the Spaniard, loafing along just as it had been a month before. Did this mean that a U-boat might be lurking nearby?" (See Dan Jensen under Correspondence above.)
             In conclusion, what of U-156's survivors? It is certain five men were seen and photographed clinging to one of the two liferafts that Dryden's PBY had dropped. Nevertheless, the survivors of U-156 were never seen nor heard from again.
       In an e-mail Jane (Hochstuhl) Getty states "Just finished reading Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurson...It is riveting and to think it all occurred a few miles south of me on the Jersey shore. I can now understand the fascination with U-boats having read this book."
       Other stories of shipwrecks and of U-156's actions may be found in Dominique Serafini and Catherine Salisbury's very colorful 112-page booklet Dream Wrecks: The Best Shipwrecks of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao (www.dreamwrecks.com or domiserafini@aol.com or cathsalis@aol.com).
Dietrich-Alfred von dem Borne Memoranda, 1944-1972 - Part I.
       As stated earlier, Guy Goodboe and Jerry Casius provided copies and translations into English of these memoranda. Briefly: Upon surfacing and at the ready for deck action, U-156's 105mm deck gun exploded upon the order to "fire!" in the direction of Lago refinery, in the early morning hours (1:30 a.m.) of February 16, 1942. As a result of the explosion, 2nd W.O. Borne was severely wounded (foot lost) and seaman Businger eventually succumbed to his wounds. The argument that Borne offers to the Kriegsmarine over a period of years gets down to one of two premises. Either there was a malfunction in equipment (deck cannon) or a mistake made in following procedural orders, i.e. removal of tampion or gun barrel plug prior to firing. Needless to say, Borne takes the side of equipment malfunction. But I am getting ahead of myself.

                               Artillery Report on U-156's Deck Gun
                               Gutachten, Germany. October 9, 1944.
Report/Opinion of the Inspector Naval Artillery Concerning the Accident on U-156.
       As to causes of the explosion:
             a.) Muzzle tampion not removed.
             b.) Ammunition misfire.
Reference a.) The operating instructions specify that the No. 4 (seaman) has to remove the muzzle tampion. Contrary to that, the Artillery Officer ordered No. 1. and No. 2 seamen to remove the tampion. Ableseaman Corporal Bootsmaat Herdecker has declared that he, as well as No. 2 and No. 1 seamen, did not remove the tampion when the gun was made ready two hours before the attack. According to the statement of the Artillery Officer, however, the tampion had nevertheless been removed. It can not be accepted with certainty that it is possible to ensure by looking with a blue-light (make sure the gun barrel is clear of any obstacle) that from a 15-foot long gun barrel the tampion has been removed.
             Also, the disappearance of the muzzle tampion supports that it had not been removed, but ejected with the first shot. Still, it is possible that the tampion was blown overboard by the pressure of the detonation.
             With the explosion at the first shot (emphasis added) it is nevertheless reasonable to suppose that the muzzle tampion had not been removed.
                   Reference b.) In this period (early 1942) explosions also occurred with 105mm anti-aircraft guns which fired the same ammunition. Investigations carried out afterwards pointed at faulty ammunition.
             Summary: The available factual findings allow with largest probability the conclusion that the muzzle tampion had not been removed before the firing.
       Rear Admiral

       Don't draw conclusions just yet, fellow U-boaters. At the conclusion of this four-part series you decide who was right and if the correct procedure was or was not followed.
What's in The Future Mix?
       A. Chicago/Lago Reunion. The September 16th-19th Lago Reunion at Chicago's Essex Inn is just around the corner. From Denny Dodge's latest Reunion Bulletin it appears that there will be upwards of seventy former Lagoites and friends in attendance. On Saturday, September 17th we will host our third U-156/U-502 Roundtable at 8:30 a.m. in a room to be posted at the registration desk. We invite all fellow Roundtablers and friends to attend the annual meeting. Bring material, newspapers, theories, ideas, exhibits, and issues related to the period. The meeting is open to anyone wishing to observe or contribute to the discussion of events.
       B. Newsletter #7 should ready for forwarding the last of January.
             Topics to Include:
                   1. Memorandum - Part II of the Dietrich-Alfred von dem Borne 
                   2. Correspondence from our subscribers and supporters.
                   3. Plans for Roundtable #4 during the Lago/Aruba Reunion in Aruba,
                         June 2006.
                   4. An interesting first hand account of what Dan Jensen remembers
                         about the night of February 16, 1942. 
                   5. Capsule of September's Chicago Roundtable #3 meeting. 
                   6. Review of U-boat Commander Herbert A. Werner's WWII 
                         autobiography, Iron Coffins.
                   7. Review of Wolfgang Petersen's popular 6-hour movie/video, Das Boot.
                   8. I'd like to get into the U.S. Neutrality Act of 1937/1939 Revision, but I 
                         may be opening Pandora's Box. What say you?
And in Closing.....
       Needless to say, I look forward to your e-mails and I pay particular attention to your insight, opinions, and experiences of February 16-18, 1942. You need not to have been on the scene during that period. I wasn't. Our family didn't arrive on The Rock until August 1945, several days after V-J Day. But the experiences that some witnessed and that some have researched are valuable in the mix. All you need to do is ask questions and show an interest in the subject. I have a saying. "You can never ask too many questions, only too few." To paraphrase Dean Martin, "Keep those questions and letters coming!" I will answer, or get an answer, to each and every piece of correspondence that crosses my desk. You can bet on it.
       Should any Roundtable member change his or her e-mail or postal address, please drop me a line. And, if you know of anyone with a like interest in U-boats, WWII, the Caribbean, Lago refinery, or who did what to whom and why, have them signed up for the U-156/U-502 Roundtable Newsletter.
       Until the next time....
       Your man in the trenches,

       Don D. Gray, Moderator/Editor
       U-156/U-502 Roundtable Newsletter