U-156/U-502 Roundtable Newsletter #9

"Human ingenuity is inexhaustible when it comes
to killing one another."
-----Peter "Ali" Cremer--- Kapitan, U-333.

January 25, 2007.

Dear Fellow U-Boat Enthusiasts and Lago History Buffs:

Interesting nautical and historical subjects to cover in this Newsletter...Part IV (Conclusion) of U-156's II WO Dietrich von dem Borne's long drawn-out attempt to vindicate himself in the U-156 February 16, 1942 deck cannon mishap and, as a consequence, be awarded the wounded soldier's medal...Roundtable #5, Oklahoma City, September 13th - 16th has managed to obtain a notable speaker from the Roundtable's own ranks....New Members....Correspondence from our readers....Special Report on The Surcouf by
Jerry Casius....Annotated U-156 BdU Report, by Stan Norcom....Incident At Sea, by your Editor....
Musings From The Conning Tower...and, What's In The Future Mix?

New Roundtable Members/Subscribers
Auke Visser (#98), founder of the web site http://visseraa.topcities.com/id17.htm which is dedicated
to WWII Lago Lake Tanker Fleet and Esso tankers during WWII, has joined our ranks of u-booters. In recent correspondence, Auke brought to my attention the book (From) Sailing Ship to Supertanker, by W.H. Mitchell and L.A. Sawyer, 1987, ISBN 0-86138-055-X, which "...is all about the United Kingdom Esso history, including Lago and British/Mexico (petroleum), and the Irish Esso history." Unfortunately, the book in no longer in print. Never realized there was an Irish Esso. Auke asks if there are any Roundtable subscribers who could provide him with a photograph of the torpedoed Lake Tanker Tia Juana for web site viewing. Auke would return the photo in the same condition as received. Auke may be contacted at aukevisser@tiscali.nl
Warren Norcom (#99), Lago High Class of '56, is one of four Oklahoma City Reunion organizers. I understand that Warren will have some mighty interesting questions to ask at Roundtable #5.
And, who will be subscriber #100?

In Roundtable Newsletter #9 I mentioned the passing of one of our subscribers, George "Bill" Potts. One of his daughters, Margaret, was nice enough to forward Bill's obituary which had appeared in the Fredericksburg (Va.) News. I found the obituary interesting and would like to cite part of it here.
"Bill Potts, 85, was born in Sheffield, England...emigrated to the U.S. as a child...and later enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Class of 1943. Hired by Standard Oil Company (N.J.), Bill began his expatriate career in Aruba...became General Manager for (Esso) Honduras...and was later given marketing responsibilities for all of Central America. He was made General Manager for (Esso) Cuba...and later named President of Esso Brazil...He retired as President of Esso in the Philippines and Southeast Asia...
"Bill trained in the United Kingdom with the Royal Air Force before joining the U.S. Army in the Signal Corps. He served in the Pacific during WWII and was part of the Okinawa invasion; he also served in the Korean War."
Quite an interesting career, Bill.
God speed.

Claire (Loyd) Doering (08/26/06): "Thanks so much for sending us your latest Newsletter---It is so interesting. Thanks again."
Dufi Kock (08/25/06): "Your Newsletter was very well written, very informative, and with some good additional news. A job well done. Congratulations."
Bill Moyer (08/25/06): "Interesting report, Don! Thanks."
Doug Tonkinson (08/27/06): "I have one friend in the broadcasting business who has the influence to do a documentary on the attack by U-156. Great job as always with your latest Newsletter."
Don Montague (08/31/06): "Number 8 was a great Newsletter."
Harry Cooper (10/26/06): "The problem with (the retrieval) of U-534 was not with the money guys---it was with the guy who the owner put in charge of the negotiations. He made it clear that HIS hand had to be greased before we went any further. We (Sharkhunters) don't pay bribes! We hope the boat does not get broken up."
(Editor's Note: Harry's e-mail is in response to an e-mail I sent earlier regarding U-534. To make a long story short, the U-boat sits on a cradle "museum"(?) in an area of Birkenhead near Liverpool, England. Developers want the area for condominiums. The U-boat is privately owned by a Dane. Dane's representative wants his hand greased before negotiating with Harry's organization for the U-boat. U-534 is likely to end up in the bone yard. End of U-boat. End of story.)
Pauline (Morgan) Young (08/25/06): "At the Roundtable discussion on Tuesday, June 20, 2006, Aruba, N.A., Clyde Harms mentioned the school children walking around a small canal which had since been bridged. (Ed. Note: These were the school children at the Oranjestad Harbor water's edge on February 18, 1942, who witnessed the surfacing of U-502 in the harbor.) I remembered going over the little bridge coming through Oranjestad. I had read about the school children in the U-boat book (German U-Boat 156 Brought War to Aruba, February 16, 1942, Wm. C. Hochstuhl), but when Clyde said it, I remembered it again...When I was last in Aruba 53 years ago, L.G. Smith Boulevard was not there. Oranjestad was pink in color in my memory...and the following day, when we went back...there were the pink fronted stores that used to be on the waterfront. Same thing with the airport...When the big jets came in they needed longer runways and were able to fill in some of the coastline."
Norman Young (08/21/06): "My dad's name was James Young. I recently found among some of his old papers a list of the tankers he had served on. He started in 1936 as third engineer on the Andino (I think that may have been an ocean-going tanker, as he talked about being in New Jersey and Texas around that time.) That assignment seems to have lasted about a year and was followed by six-month stints on the Paraguana, San Nicolaas, Tia Juana, Yamanota, and then two years on the Avila. In October, 1941 he went back to the Tia Juana as second engineer, and was with the ship until it was sunk on February 16, 1942. After that my dad transferred to a shore job and stayed there except for another short three month job on the Andino as second engineer in late 1942. In 1943 he transferred from the Lago Shipping Company (which was apparently administered as a separate entity) to the Lago Oil & Transport Co., Ltd.; in 1955 he transferred to Las Salina, Venezuela, to Creole Petroleum Co., the Venezuelan subsidiary of Exxon or Jersey Standard as it was known at the time. Renate's (Norman's wife) father's naval books have nothing specific on either U-502 or U-156."
[Ed. Note: It appears as though Norman's dad may have served in the Lake Tanker Fleet. All of the tankers cited were of the Lake Fleet and not under Esso registry. Can any of our readers assist Norman in
this regard? Tankers of the Lake Fleet were not cited in Standard Oil's (N.J.) book Ships of The Esso Fleet in WWII because they were not of Standard Oil (N.J.) Co. nor Panama Transport Co. registry. (See Auke Visser's web site for a listing of ships in the Lake Tanker Fleet.)]

Your thoughts, comments, and insights regarding the Newsletter's Correspondence section are most appreciated. We now have ninety-nine Roundtable members/subscribers and it would be rewarding to also
hear from other members regarding the events of Lago's WWII history. It's your Roundtable and your Newsletter. As Coach Downey would have said, "Let's keep the ball rolling."

Special Reports
Surcouf Redux, by Jerry Casius.
[Ed. Note: In Newsletter #8, Bill Moyer reported on French super-submarine Surcouf and the possibility of it participating in Operation Westindie. The Surcouf (or perhaps a large tanker) sank under strange circumstances on February 14, 1942, or two days prior to U-156's attack on Lago. In the following special report, Jerry Casius also weighs-in on the possibilities of the Surcouf's demise.]
(08/26/06): "The sinking of the Surcouf - It seems highly likely that Surcouf was sunk by U-502 (Ed. Note: Our Oranjestad Harbor "friend") under Kapitan Jurgen Rosenstiel. So far, it has been possible to identify only six of the seven ships reported as sunk by U-502 and the unidentified target matches Surcouf - although at the time of the attack it (unidentified vessel) was identified as a tanker. This action happened on February 14, 1942, in Square EC9436. This (location) is about thirty-two (nautical) miles southwest of Aruba and five (nautical) miles north of the lighthouse on Peninsula de Paraguana, Venezuela...Surely it would be a simple matter of going to this position and diving to see what is down on the seabed. It is quite likely that Kptit. von Rosenstiel's tanker of 2500 tons turned out to be the missing submarine.
(08/28/06): "First let me say that this Surcouf research is not mine, but was done years ago by Eddie Rumpf...The following was published in Germania - The German Navy Study Group's newsletter, which has been out of print for some time.
"In February 1942, three U-boats left France (Operation Neuland sic)...U-67 (Kptit. Gunther Muller-Stockheim); U-502 (Jurgen von Rosenstiel); and U-156 (Werner Hartenstein)...[Ed. Note: U-129 (Nicoli Clausen and U-161 (Albrecht Achilles) were also a part of Operation Westindien aka Gruppe Neuland]...The U-boats would not have known that such a huge submarine was in their operation area and at night it would have been easy to confuse such a large submarine with a tanker. Their reports of torpedoed ships are almost perfect, except that the Allies cannot account for one of the ships sunk by von Rosenstiel (emphasis added). Von Rosenstiel claims to have sunk a tanker of about 2400 tons in square EC 9436 on February 14, 1942. This position is 12 degrees 09 minutes North by 10 degrees 21 minutes West. The depth of the water at this location is approximately 50 fathoms (300 feet).
"Von Rosenstiel saw his target burst into flames and sink rapidly - so it is highly unlikely that this was an imaginary sinking. He almost certainly sunk something - but what? The dates and positions fit quite well into the last hours of Surcouf and it shouldn't be too difficult to find the wreck which had been von Rosenstiel's target. The aforementioned position is about 32 nautical miles southwest of Aruba and five nautical miles from the lighthouse of Peninsula de Paraguana."
[Ed. Note: Some mighty interesting speculative information. Anyone for a dive?]

Annotated U-156 BdU Report, 1942, by Stan Norcom.
[Ed. Note: A BdU is a daily summary report/diary compiled by the Commander in Chief of U-boats, Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz (1891-1980), whereas a KTB is the war log book or war diary of combat operations written by a U-boat's kapitan. Needless to say, I tend to believe a KTB would voice the
intricacies, specifics, and authenticity of a patrol. (Stan's English translation of Kapitan Hartenstein's
February 15-16, 1942 KTB (part) patrol appears following page 20 of Bill Hochstuhl's book German U-Boat 156 Brought War to Aruba.) BRT refers to a ship's gross registered tonnage.
[An English translation summary of the U-156 KTB from Das U-Boat Archives, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany, by Jerry Casius, will be provided at a later date, as will Bill Moyer's translation of U-156's KTB
several years ago.]
[The following BdU for U-156 has been interspersed with comments, as noted, from Bill Hochstuhl's book, official KTB information, and comments by Admiral Doenitz.]

- U-156 BdU Report (Annotated), 1942 -
15th of January, 1942 - The situation in the Aruba, Curacao, and Trinidad areas were discussed by two merchant ship captains who have good knowledge (emphasis added). As a result, operational possibilities are given as: 1 boat for Aruba; 1 boat for the route from Maracaibo to Aruba; and one boat for Curacao. Most of the boats ready (U-502, U-156, U-67) are destined for this operation and will begin during the period of the new moon in February. They should leave about 19th and 20th January - Doenitz.
19 Jan. - Left Lorient, France - Hochstuhl.
1 Feb. - Five boats proceeding to Aruba - Trinidad in accordance with operation Order 51.2 (Neuland Group: U-67, U-129, U-156, U-161, U-502).
4 Feb. - U-156, U-67, U-502 given order "Neuland 176" in accordance with Order 51.2, i.e. simultaneous attack before sunrise.
10 Feb. - North coast of Guadeloupe - Hochstuhl.
13 Feb. - Curacao on the horizon. At 1830 surfaced and steered for Colorado Point light. Proceeded around the point and at 2030 moved past the (Lago) refinery. The refinery was well lighted. Four large tankers were in port and three were at roadstead; traffic also moved at night. Continued along coast to Oranjestad. He (Hartenstein) dived his boat and went into the mouth (emphasis added) of the harbor but there was little activity to be seen. Early morning air activity from Dakota Airport...logged as two and four motored airplanes caused the U-boat to submerge before detection. Remained submerged off the northwest coast of Aruba until dusk Feb. 15 - Hochstuhl.
14 Feb. - Order to "Group Neuland" (U-67, U-156, U-502, first West Indies boats):
1. Primary task is to attack shipping.
2. After such attacks have been carried out, guns may be used against land targets from the morning of "Neuland" day (16.2)...should there be any favorable opportunities.
3. If no shipping targets are encountered, guns may be used against land targets from the evening of "Neuland" day.
15 Feb. - Surfaced under cloudy skies...sailed into tanker route between the Antilles and the Lake (Maracaibo)...spotted tanker silhouettes...Moved back to Aruba...submerged and moved up to the mouth of San Nicolas Harbor (emphasis added)...considerable activity, harbor well occupied...moved toward Oranjestad. Remained below the surface most of Feb. 15th observing from its position less than two miles off Seroe Colorado the activity in the refinery and the harbor. On the surface the crew scrambled to the deck and marveled at the (refinery) light and the activity - Hochstuhl.
16 Feb. - About 1500 a teleprint arrived from Naval War staff; C-in-C-Navy wished the submarine operations in this area to be opened by shelling the tank installations. But, the use of guns was sanctioned by operational order from 0800 (5 hours before dawn at that place). In accordance with the order from C-in-C Navy, U-502 was sent to Aruba as U-156 had a breakdown (emphasis added). When off Curacao, U-502 and U-67 were ordered to use guns against tank installations, as there was a danger that such shelling, which might or might not be successful, would do away with the element of surprise and spoil the chances of sinkings - Doenitz and KTB.
18 Feb. - Reported many independent routed ships...most radiating from Trinidad. U-boat steered for Ft. de France, Martinique...After transferring wounded (II WO Dietrich von dem Borne), U-156 was to be free to attack at discretion. Instructed to concentrate on Mona Passage and Windward Passage - Doenitz.
19 Feb. - Two misfired (torpedoes) against freighter.
20 Feb. - Wounded landed at Martinique. One wounded (Businger) died on board (Ed. Note: Businger was buried at sea). Two hits, three misses fired at stationary freighter (4000 BRT)...Sinking not observed because of flying boat (airplane).
28 Feb. - Reported much traffic in Mona Passage, concentrated air traffic. Sunk La Carrier (5685 BRT). Freighter (2500 BRT) sunk by gunfire north of Haiti, tanker (4500 BRT) in DO17. (Deck) gun barrel that was damaged by premature (explosion) was again rendered serviceable by sawing off 40cm. (15.7"). Report three ships. Total 12,685 BRT sunk.
3 Mar. - U-161 reported on demand position off Aruba.
18 Mar. - U-156 returned to port.

Musings From The Conning Tower
Did you know that WWII lasted six years, one day? From the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, to Japan's surrender aboard the USS Missouri, September 2, 1945. If you count the period of Europe's Declaration of War against Germany (September 3, 1939) to the Japanese surrender, it would be five years, 364 days.

The demolition team that attempted to disarm the one of the two unexploded torpedoes loosed by U-156 were Dutch Marine officers 2nd Lieut. Pierer Joosse and Major Dirk Adrianus C. de Maagd, and sailors Leonardus Kooyman and Johannes Vogelenzang. The first torpedo loosed by U-156 in the direction of the Arkansas ran amuck, i.e. did not detonate against the Texaco tanker berthed at Eagle Pier and, to date, has never been located; U-156's second torpedo ran its course and beached unexploded on the Eagle Refinery/Beach shoreline; the third, and final U-156 torpedo, struck the Arkansas, exploded, but did not do severe damage to the ship.
Do any of our readers know if a memorial service was held for these four brave men at one of the island's churches?

Dan Jensen has put together a 30-minute DVD on U-156's February 1942 Aruba/Lago patrol. Got to hand it to Danny---it's obvious by the video that he spent considerable time putting old 35mm film, black and white still shots, and background music in the DVD. An abbreviated version of the DVD appears on Dan's web site (www.lago-colony.com): Scroll down on the left index column and click on "WWII", then click on "Dan's Movie."

Incident at Sea, by your Editor.
In my reading of Ships of The Esso Fleet in WWII, Standard Oil Co. (N.J.), 1946, I came across an incident that may, or may not, bespeak of a humanitarian act by the Unterseeboot service.
The tanker Esso Houston was en route from Aruba to Montevideo, Uruguay, May 12, 1942, with a full load of fuel oil, when disaster struck. At approximately 8:32 p.m. the Houston was struck by a U-boat's torpedo port side, amidships. The general alarm was given and all hands, with the exception of one U.S. Navy Armed Guard (John O. Peterson - lost), took to the lifeboats. With Captain Trafton F. Wonson commanding a lifeboat, the U-boat surfaced 33-feet off and an officer asked the captain, in perfect English no less, "Destination? Tonnage? Name of ship? Cargo?, etc.", and offered any assistance he could render to the ship's survivors. After exchanging formalities the U-boat commander said, "It's the war captain. Pleasant voyage." Then the U-boat submerged.
It was while searching for Houston's survivors with a flashlight from one of the lifeboats, that the U-boat resurfaced, and in a heavy German accent a voice said, "Captain, 60 yards (approximately 200 feet) astern of your vessel one of your lifeboats is sinking. It has three men in it." The Houston's captain thanked him and then rowed toward the vessel. (There were actually seven men in the lifeboat and it was on the verge of being swamped.) To quote Houston's Chief Engineer Charles A. Hicks: "These men would have been lost if it had not been for the submarine's commander's assistance."
[Add.Note: In reading Ships of The Esso Fleet...I came across a name that was all too familiar to me---Captain William Mello. Captain Mello was one of the survivors of the Panamanian flag tanker, I.C. White, torpedoed September 27, 1941 off Recife, Brazil. Captain Mello's son, Bill (Class of '52), and I played varsity basketball together for good 'ole Lago High.
[The Mello's home was on the 300 Row, opposite the Burson's bungalow. Many a Saturday night, after taking our dates home, guys would gather (guys only! girls were never allowed!) on "Mello's Wall" for chit-chat of just about anything teenagers could talk about. Several times we'd hear the captain's husky voice from the Mello's bedroom window: "Hey guys, keep it down!" Never chased us off though. There was a large sea grape tree close to Mello's Wall, just as green as green could be! I wonder why???]

Dietrich von dem Borne Memoranda, 1944-1976 - Part IV (Conclusion).
We have come to the end of U-156's II WO Dietrich von dem Borne's attempt to vindicate himself with the Kriegsmarine for being held accountable in the February 16, 1942 deck cannon mishap. The following is an official Statement from Captain Kurt Meusemann, Naval Weapons Office, German Navy, regarding the premature barrel explosion (RK) aboard U-156. (This, and prior memoranda, were provided by Guy Goodboe and translated by Jerry Casius.)

Captain M.Sc. Engineering Hamburg, November 11, 1976
Kurt Meusemann
Formerly Department Chief AWaAI
with the Kriegsmarine - Naval Weapons Office


Concerns: Lt. Cdr. Dietrich von dem Borne
Subject: RK on U-156, February 16, 1942
Reference: Enclosed are seventeen copies and reports from the years 1944 and 1945.

1. Based on the vote of Chief A Wa vom, March 3, 1945, and the letter of Commanding Admiral of U- Boats, and letter number P 1815 Secret, order of February 23, 1945, a firing trial took place on the
Range of Unterluss, whereby a total of ten 88mm and 105mm ammunition shots were fired from
guns with different barrel loadings/pressures...(B)arrel tompions/plugs with varying ways of fixing
were installed. Initially, dummy shells were used. Later sharp ammunition.
No damage to the gun barrels occurred, neither due to the shooting out of the tompions nor due
to premature explosions in the barrel. Premature rack(breech?) explosions also did not occur.
2. On the basis of theoretical judgements and the practical evidence mentioned under 1.) above, the
aforementioned RK is caused by a faulty fuse or (related questions were not addressed further)
by a partial detonation due to water impacting in the barrel (handwritten underlining added
in Statement by ?).
3. Because of the war, results of the case could not be resolved in time toward the sense of
a rehabilitation of the former Lt. Cdr., Dietrich von dem Borne.

S/ Meusemann

[Note by Jerry Casius: "Von dem Borne was sort of 'cold-shouldered' by the German Navy for dereliction of duty. As I indicated previously, incredible that they still corresponded on Borne's claim as the Reich was crumbling around them."]
[Ed. Note: Dietrich von dem Borne's appeals to the Kriegsmarine for rescinding the dereliction of duty charge against him took place over a thirty-two year period. Whether or not there were further appeals to the German Naval High Command by Borne, or others, is not known. Should further evidence become available, we will report it to you.
[Part of Meusemann's November 8, 1976 Statement (emboldened added by your Editor), however, leaves the door open to the thought: Was Borne finally absolved of the February 16, 1942 incident or not? You decide.]

What's in The Future Mix?
U-156/U-502 Roundtable #5 will be held 9:00 a.m., Saturday, September 15th, during the September 13-16, 2007, Lago Regional Reunion at the Oklahoma City Holiday Inn. Reggie Kennerty, Warren Norcom, Stan Norcom and Carl Beyer are sponsors of the Reunion. The Roundtable has the distinct pleasure of having member Stan Norcom as main speaker. Stan will be speaking on Operation Westindie (Gruppe Neuland); the actions of U-156 off the Lago Refinery; and, the subsequent sinking of U-156 off Barbados, March 8, 1943. (Stan is one of the most knowledgeable individuals when it comes to the events leading up to February 16, 1942, and U-156's subsequent demise.)
"What Not to Believe" - A topic for Newsletter #10 that's either bound to stir your imagination or
having you scratch your head in wonderment. A cornucopia of misquotes and misinformation "attributed" to February 16, 1942 actions.
Bill Moyer's translation of U-156's KTB for the period February 16-18, 1942.
The (Supposed) Neutrality of Spain During WWII - Was it a Farce? Part I. A dialogue among several Roundtable members on Spain getting the best of both worlds, and what part, if any, did Lago play?Based, in part, on Anthony Sutton's Wall Street and The Rise of Hitler, 1976.
Jerry Casius' translation of U-156's KTB from the U-Boat Archive, Cuxhaven-Altenbruch, Germany.
Stan Norcom's paper What May Have Happened to Survivors of U-156's Sinking.
Review of Ray Burson's booklet, When Lago Was Lucky, 2006.

And in Closing...
Your interest in the Lago/Aruba events of February 16-18, 1942, and beyond, prove most rewarding. We always look forward to receiving your mail and will attempt to answer any questions put before the Roundtable. Let us know if the Newsletter meets with your approval, or if there are ways in which we can improve the Newsletter. After all, it's your forum and we do need feedback.
New subscribers to the Newsletter are most welcome---just pass on their name(s) and e-mail address.
And finally, as I've indicated in the past, if you change your e-mail and/or postal addresses, please drop us a line with the current addresses.
The next U-156/U-502 Roundtable Newsletter (#10) should be ready for mailing by mid-August, 2007.

Thank you,
And until next time...
Your man in the trenches...and Davy Jones' Locker.

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

Copyright 2007 by Don D. Gray
All rights reserved.