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Old 11-20-2009, 10:21 AM   #1
cawimmer430
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Default "Saved By A U-Boat" - The Laconia Incident told from survivors

Found this while googling. Very interesting and touching.


Part 1: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/s...a4262294.shtml

Part 2: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/s...a4262357.shtml

Part 3: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/s...a4262429.shtml


The following is a copy of a series of three articles that appeared in the WESTERN SUNDAY INDEPENDENT in March and April 1974.
This is George STONEMAN and his wife, Ena, of Plymouth. They are looking back thirty-one years to the day when a German U-boat saved their lives … after sinking the liner they were aboard.
The STONEMANS and their little daughter, June, spent five days drifting helplessly in a lifeboat in the tropical Atlantic and they were close to death. Suddenly, the U-507 rose to the surface. The crew fed them, gave them water and took Mrs. STONEMAN and June aboard.
It was one of the most amazing – and human – incidents of the last war and today the STONEMAN family tells their story for the first time in the first of a three-part series.


PART ONE
SAVED BY A U-BOAT!


Devon-bound. Then suddenly, the STONEMANS were adrift in a lifeboat in mid-Atlantic.


On a still, hot tropical night in September, 1942, the Pacific and Orient liner ‘Laconia’ was steaming at speed 260 miles north of Ascension Island in the Atlantic.


Behind her, Japanese armies looted and burned their way across the Pacific.
PACKED

Her 20,000 tons dead weight was packed, as it had never been before. The ship’s company was estimated at between 4,000 and 5,000 people, mostly the wives and families of British servicemen and a motley crew of soldiers, seamen and airmen.


There were also some 1,800 Italian prisoners of war – a fact that had a great deal to do with the incredible events that followed.
Among the people cramming themselves into every available nook and cranny of the ship was a Plymouth family, R.A.F. Sergeant STONEMAN and his wife, Ena and their five-year-old daughter, June.




TORPEDO

The family had been reunited at Durban in South Africa, after nightmare months of separation during which Mrs. STONEMAN and June had been hustled from the dying port of Singapore and George had been helping the R.A.F. to destroy vital installations in the South Pacific.


At 8.10pm on September 12th, in deep tropical darkness all of that was changed.


A torpedo from a German U-boat – one of a major pack – struck the ship below the waterline as she moved along at her maximum speed of twenty knots.


The big liner shuddered mightily and was immediately plunged into darkness. In less than fifteen minutes she had developed a sixty-degree list to port and within thirty minutes she had sunk.


It was never properly established how many people died. The figure was put at between two and three thousand. It was one of the major sea disasters of the war.


The STONEMAN family survived the explosion and rapid destruction of the liner and ended up in a lifeboat with forty-seven other men, women and children.
TOWED

They were more than 1,000 miles from the nearest land, some of them were injured, the lifeboat’s supplies had been contaminated – and they had no idea of their exact position.


During the six days that followed the sinking of the ‘Laconia’ came one of the most famous incidents of the war as:

· The survivors were picked up by the U-boat pack itself.
· Little June STONEMAN and her mum spent a strange – and hilarious – night aboard an enemy submarine along with over one hundred other people.
· One of the U-boats towed the drifting lifeboats for hundreds of miles to safety.
· The Allies decided to bomb the submarines which had surfaced to save the shipwreck victims.


A three-part series on the stoneman FAMILY starts today.






SAVED – BY A U-BOAT!


Ena STONEMAN, still a young-looking 66, remembers the night of the wrecking of ‘Laconia’ as clearly as yesterday.


“There I was,” she said, “ironing away and feeling fine. George was standing in his vest and pants waiting for his trousers and June was lying in her bunk looking at a book and just ready to go to sleep”.


“We were both looking forward to the dance, which was to be held in the main dining hall. It was for sergeants and their ladies”.




SHUDDERED

“I can still remember the hum of the ship and the iron in my hand. Then everything went black. The ship shuddered.”


“I was sure that I had pulled the plug out of the iron, or that I had fused the lights, until I heard the rush of water”.


“I think I said something like ‘Oh, George, I’ve fused the lights’.
“I heard him replying: ‘Lights be b………..! the ship’s sinking!’ And it was. It started to lean over to the side”.


“George grabbed June out of the bunk with one hand and he grabbed me with the other and out we went through the cabin door”.


“Outside there was chaos; water was streaming down the passageway and there were people screaming and shouting”.


“I was still being half-lifted and half-dragged by George; and he was carrying June with the other arm. It was a nightmare”.


“All I knew was that we were going up all the time, through the water. People were screaming. It was pitch dark.


The ‘Laconia was torpedoed at exactly nine minutes past eight by U-boat 156, commanded by Lieutenant Werner HARTENSTEIN.

He thought he had attacked a cruiser. The attack was made while his submarine was surfaced. He submerged immediately afterwards.


When no counter-attack came he resurfaced and discovered that he had sunk a troop liner and within the hour he was informed from his headquarters in Morocco that the liner had contained a large number of Italian prisoners of war.


This news was radioed to the German Naval Command in Berlin and was brought to the personal attention of Admiral DOENITZ. He ordered all German submarines in the area to pick up as many Italian survivors as possible.


HARTENSTEIN immediately contacted all the other U-boats in the area and they moved in to pick up their allies.


Mrs. STONEMAN said: “When we reached the boat deck we could see that people were falling into the sea and some of the boats were almost in the water. By this time the ship was almost lying flat”.
TRAPPED

“George immediately went to one of the boats and threw both me and June into it. Then he said he was going back to help the others who were trapped”.


“Our boat was cut loose and started to drift away. I was sure I would never see him again.”


But she did see him. Quite by accident, after helping to push people into the remaining undamaged lifeboats George jumped into the sea and scrambled aboard the nearest boat. It was the one containing his wife and daughter.


He said: “By this time I really thought we were meant to stick together”.
“It was nothing short of a miracle that I happened to be picked up by that boat. But, anyway, we were together again – and that was all that mattered.”


That night the forty-nine people aboard Lifeboat 14 lay in pitch darkness, numbed with shock and without a leader.


It was hot and overcrowded, but the STONEMAN family managed to sleep huddled close to each other.


At dawn the tropical sun woke them and Mrs. STONEMAN remembers: “I was still in my party frock and George was wearing only a heavy coat, underpants and singlet.”


“June, in her pyjamas, was quite happy with the way things were going. It was all a big adventure to her I think.”


“Some of the men aboard the lifeboat had begun to row, but we had no idea where we were heading. The boat’s emergency food and water had been damaged and contaminated and we were allowed only a cupful of water each.”


”Both of us gave ours to June who gulped it down quite happily.”

“We were quite alone on the ocean. There were no other lifeboats at all.”




NIGHTMARE

“It was then that the first submarine appeared. There was a great gush of water and this black object suddenly appeared on the surface.”


“It was Italian. They had a look at us and then disappeared.”


“The next five days were a nightmare of heat during the day and cold at night, with very little to eat and drink.”


“June was rapidly sinking into a kind of lethargy and we weren’t much better. The men kept on rowing, but we had no compass and we had no idea of the nearest land.”


“They just kept on rowing – and we found later that we were going in circles.”


“I was sure we were going to die. I think we all were.”
“Then on the fifth day the miracle happened.”


“About mid-morning our submarine – the one we later came to think of as ‘ours’ – suddenly surfaced, again with a great gushing of water and a roaring noise.”


“It was huge and painted on the bows were two pigs – one with a head like Winston CHURCHILL and the other like ROOSEVELT.”


“There were men clambering down from the conning tower as she slid towards us. They were shouting things in German.”


“There was some talk between a young blond officer, who we took to be the captain and some of the ship’s officers in the lifeboat: then they started to pass down bowls of soup and coffee.”


“It was thick vegetable soup and it tasted marvellous. They passed down simple medical supplies, like bandages and aspirin and, of course, water. They filled up our tanks.


The U-boat that came to the rescue of the STONEMAN’s lifeboat was U-507, under the command of Lieut. Com. Harro SCHACHT. She was one of the U-boat pack that had stalked ‘Laconia’.


Her orders, from Berlin, were to pick up as many Italian P.O.W.’s as possible, give comfort and supplies to the other survivors and to ‘shepherd’ all remaining lifeboats to a fixed control point 400 miles from the North African coast.





SHOCKED

There, the boats were to be set loose and picked up by a warship of the Vichy French navy that was already steaming to pick them up.
That was the basis of SCHACHT’s orders. But he went above and beyond them when he saw the condition of some of the British survivors, including many small children; an eight-month pregnant woman and many injured and shocked people.


He decided to break every known rule of naval warfare and take survivors aboard his already cramped vessel. Once his mind was made up he gave the order: “Bring the women and children aboard. Drape the gun with a Red Cross.”


U-507 had ceased to be a deadly ship of war. She was now a cross between a hospital ship and a kindergarten.


PART TWO…
TWO FILMS THAT BROUGHT BACK FEARFUL MEMORIES.
‘TITANIC’ AND ‘THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE’



June STONEMAN is now Mrs. June RADMORE, a working wife who lives in a quiet semi in Plympton, Plymouth.


She is thirty-seven and quite honestly she doesn’t know how much of her great wartime adventure she remembers – and how much she has picked up from the stories her mum and dad have told.


“There are some things I remember vividly,” she said, “but it is patchy, like clips from a film.”




TERRIBLE

“I’ve still got an ancient blanket from the ‘Laconia’ with a hole in the middle. My neck went through the hole while we were in the lifeboat and I wore it as a sort of coverall.”


“I’ve got a little bible given to me by a missionary girl when we finally came ashore.”


“My mum and dad have told the story so often to relatives and friends over the years that a great deal of what I think I remember must have come from what they said.”


“I remember the actual sinking best and my father grabbing me from my bunk and carrying me from our cabin to the lifeboat.”


“That was pretty terrible, with people screaming and the water pouring down the ladders against us.”


“If that torpedo had struck five minutes after it did I wouldn’t be here today. Mum and dad would have been at a big dance in the ship’s dining room, far away from where I was and they would never have got back to me.”
“I don’t remember much about the time in the lifeboat. Perhaps that’s just as well. Mum says I slept most of the time.”


“And actually aboard the German submarine all I can remember was the bar of chocolate given to me by the sailor.”


“Funnily enough, I remember feeling thirsty in the middle of the night and the sailor went and got me a glass of water.”


But some things do bring back memories for June.


“I went to see the film of the ‘Titanic’ and the scenes when the liner went down really frightened me because it all came flooding back.”




ENGULFED

“My husband asked me if I wanted to leave, but I thought it was so stupid and I watched it. But the scenes of the water rushing into the ship and people being engulfed were so bad that I had to look away.”


“More recently, we went to watch the film ‘The Poseidon Adventure’, although my husband wasn’t too keen.”


“It was the same thing all over again. When the ship turned turtle I remembered things all over again.”
“It was really scary.”


“I THINK THE GERMANS MISSED THEIR
OWN KIDS AND WERE SPOILING OURS”



The young German submariners, dressed like latter-day pirates, were not gentle in their handling of the survivors.


Their commander’s orders were brusque: “Get the women and children on board. All of them. Don’t listen to refusals and do it quickly.”


Mrs. STONEMAN was still dressed in the black cocktail dress she had been wearing in preparation for a ball aboard the liner.


By now it was caked with salt and her stockings were “more holes than stockings”.




LISTLESS

Little June was wearing the flower-patterned pyjamas that she had on, tucked up in her bunk and drifting off to sleep, when the torpedo struck.
Like all the children, she was listless and uninterested in what had been happening for several days.


Even the emergencies of the submarine didn’t arouse her from her torpor.
“When the submarine appeared I was terrified,” said Mrs. STONEMAN. “I had heard all about Germans and about U-boats. I honestly thought that they were savage and cruel and that we were all going to be gunned down.”


“I saw the submarine’s officers looking down at us and talking to some of the men further up the lifeboat.”



“Then they started to lift out the women and children. They just hoisted them up from man to man and one by one they disappeared down into the submarine.”


“I think I was screaming that I didn’t want to go – but they took me and June anyway.”


“One minute we were all sitting there. The next we were being hoisted up. Then we were going down ladders.”


“I was gripping June tightly all the time and I didn’t really notice the captain standing up in the conning tower.”


“We were passed through a hole in the outside below the tower and we just kept going down.”


“The first thing I noticed was the smell and the noise. It was the smell of oil and machinery and the noise of the generators.”


“We were passed from one party of sailors to another and I was convinced that something awful was going to happen to us.”


“We ended up in the torpedo room, surrounded by Germans and those long, thin torpedoes. I couldn’t help thinking that it was one of them that had landed us all in this trouble.”


“The captain was a young blonde man with a little beard and he seemed to be worried most of the time.”


“And I noticed one man, in civilian clothes, who, we were told later, was a Nazi Party official.”


“He didn’t like what the captain was doing at all. I think he would have liked to see us all thrown over the side.”


As U-507 lay motionless about 350 miles north of the Ascension Islands, her gun draped with the Red Cross flag, high-level political manoeuvring was going on between the German naval authorities and the Vichy French government in Casablanca.




HORRIFIED

The Germans had been horrified to find that 1,800 P.O.W.’s had been aboard the ‘Laconia’.

Now, under pressure from their Italian allies, they were making desperate efforts to save as many of them as possible.

All submarines in the pack were ordered to locate and round up the scattered lifeboats and take aboard any Italians.

They were also told to “do what you can” for the Allied survivors.
Over a wide area of ocean the U-boats were doing just that. Between four submarines a total of about twenty lifeboats had been rounded up, including the STONEMANS’.

Each submarine attached lines to the boats and began to tow them to the predestined central point. There they were to be picked up by the ‘Gloire’ of the Vichy French Navy, which was steaming from Casablanca to meet them.


As he watched his wife and daughter being taken aboard U-507, George STONEMAN was having mixed feelings.


He remembers “We had no choice in the matter and we had already been given food and water by the Germans so I was sure that they meant us no further harm.”


“But I admit I felt terrible when I saw the German sailors lowering my wife and daughter inside the hull.”


“After they had gone, the submarine took us in tow and we began to move off. We all just waited to see what would happen. Certainly the situation could not get any worse.”


Inside U-507 Mrs. STONEMAN wasn’t feeling any happier about her rescuers. She said: “Each group was put in the charge of one sailor and he tried to speak to us and show us where to go,” she said. “It was terrible cramped and we had to walk about with a permanent stoop. One of the sailors gave June a bar of chocolate and she looked at it, and then looked at me, wondering what to do. She hadn’t seen such a thing for years. The sailor was smiling and nodding and saying something in German, but we couldn’t understand a word.”




SMILED

“June finally ate the chocolate and I don’t think I’ve seen a happier look on the face of a child.”


“The sailor took her on his knee while she ate the chocolate and drank a glass of milk.”


“This wasn’t anything like the stories I had been told about Germans.”
“We finally went with one sailor to his quarters and there was a cubby hole with a bunk and a bit of floor.”


“He pointed to the bunk and waved that we should sleep there. He indicated that he would lay down on the floor.”


“I still didn’t trust them, but the bunk looked so comfortable after five days trying to sleep in the bottom of a packed lifeboat, that I decided we must sleep on it.”


“June and I cuddled up on the bunk and listened to the noise of the engines as the U-boat started to move.”


“In the middle of the night I woke up and saw that June was talking to the German. He was trying to understand what she was saying.”


“And would you believe, she was trying to tell him she was thirsty and wanted a glass of water.”


“I made him understand. He smiled, went off and came back with the water. Just like any Dad getting up in the middle of the night.”


“When we awoke in the morning we got a big breakfast of semolina and some of the sailors took off their heavy socks and gave them to the children. There was quite a festive atmosphere aboard the boat.”


“I think it was because most of the Germans had been away from home for so long and many of them were ordinary family men. They missed their own kids and they were spoiling ours.”


“One sailor - the one whose bunk we used – showed us a picture of his wife and children and looked at it quite longingly.”


“I think it was probably at that point that I lost my fear of Germans. All the bad things I had been told about them went right out of the window.”
“We were looking at somebody just like us, a man who gave up his bed and his precious chocolate for a strange child and her mother. It was really amazing.”


“It is something I have never forgotten. And no matter what happened afterwards during the war, I will never forget the crew of that submarine and how kind they were.”


While U-507 was towing their lifeboat to the central point with the women and children aboard, her sister ship, U-156 – the one which had fired the fatal torpedo – was thirty miles north with four lifeboats in tow.
She also had a Red Cross draped across her gun.




BOMBER

Just after dawn, an American bomber attacked her, scoring no direct hits, but sinking two of the lifeboats and killing about twenty survivors.
Immediately, the captain radioed the other U-boats, telling them of the attack. He also informed his headquarters, and within minutes a huge international row was brewing.

But for the survivors, their few hours of safety and comfort were over. The U-boats had no choice but to dive for safety and leave their charges to fend for themselves.




PART THREE…
“WE WERE ANIMALS”
HOW VICHY FRANCE TREATED THE STONEMANS



The ‘Laconia’ survivors left U-507 as swiftly and unceremoniously as they had arrived.


Mrs. STONEMAN said: “One minute we were sitting down having something to eat and wondering what on earth was going to happen next.”
“Then it was all go. The sailors were running around telling us to get moving, and after that all I remember is climbing ladders again and coming out into the fresh air.”


“The sailors were pushing us along and urging us to get a move on. It was hard going trying to make sure that June didn’t fall and hurt herself, but we finally got back into the lifeboat.”


What Mrs. STONEMAN didn’t know was that an American bomber had attacked the U-507’s sister ship – U-156 – missing the submarine but hitting several lifeboats that were being towed to safety.
Years later, when the full facts of this extraordinary incident were published, the American Brigadier General Robert C. RICHARDSON, in charge of the allied air base at Ascension Island, admitted that he had ordered the attack.

“I had no choice, even though I knew the submarine was showing a Red Cross flag,” he said. “We didn’t know there were British women and children aboard the lifeboats, but even if we had we would still have bombed the U-boat”.




RUMPUS

“It was the only decision to make. A simple one – and the right one.”
“It was our duty to attack any enemy submarine, no matter what the circumstances.”

The attack on U-156 caused an international rumpus, even though the world was at war.

Grand Admiral Karl DOENITZ, the man who controlled the German wolf-pack submarines, accused the Americans of flouting the Geneva Convention, which, he claimed, allowed warships to show the Red Cross flag when in the process of picking up non-combatant survivors.

Thirty survivors were killed in the attack and the German authorities decided that their own ships and crewmen must be protected.

The submarine commanders were ordered to “ditch” their survivors at the earliest moment and dive for safety.

Luckily for the hundreds of helpless men, women and children, the U-boats had delivered them, to a designated spot – and the Vichy French cruiser, ‘Gloire’ was en route to pick them up from Casablanca.


The survivors, in about eleven lifeboats were told to keep together … they would not have long to wait.


That same day the old French cruiser picked them up and, after a refuelling stop at Dakar, delivered them to Casablanca.


The survivors thought they were as good as home, but in many ways they were just beginning an ordeal that in many ways was worse than the one they had endured.




ROTTEN


“The French were rotten,” said Mrs. STONEMAN. “That’s the only word to describe them. We ended up thinking of THEM as our enemies and not the Germans. They treated us like animals most of the time.”


On the journey to Casablanca the men were separated from the women and children and spent most of the time locked up in steel holds that rapidly became like pressure cookers.

Mr. STONEMAN said: “They really treated us rough and that journey was one of the worst I made in my life. We had little food and hardly any water.”


The STONEMANS were interned in a camp at a place called Sidi El Ayachia, an insect-infested group of mud huts on the edge of the desert.


All Mrs. STONEMAN can remember were countless days of terrible food, little water and killing heat.


They lived on lentils and dried peas mostly boiled into a kind of soup.
Once a day they were given a square of hard bread and a cup of strong coffee.


“It’s quite impossible for me to describe the filth of that place,” she said. “We were infested with lice and fleas and almost everybody suffered almost permanently from dysentery.”


“We were a burden to the French and they made it quite clear that they hated us. If it hadn’t been for the kindness of some of the missionaries, life would have been unbearable.”


The STONEMANS stayed in the camp for almost two months and they were finally released following the American invasion of North Africa.


Mrs. STONEMAN and June were the first to go. They went by hospital ship to Gibraltar and from there to Liverpool. Husband, George, followed a few days later.


They were finally re-united and arrived back in Plymouth just before Christmas, 1942.


The years have not blurred Mrs. STONEMAN’s memory, although she is inclined to forget the bad times – the first terrifying days after the liner’s sinking and the weeks in the French prison camp.




KINDNESS


But she vividly remembers the kindness of a handful of German sailors – the enemies she had been taught to fear.


“I will never forget them,” she said. “Even to this day, even though the war went on for three more years when we got home, I still think of those Germans with fondness and gratitude.”


“I look at it this way: without their help out on that ocean we would have died.”




These three articles were penned by JIM DALRYMPLE
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Old 11-20-2009, 05:26 PM   #2
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Rumour has it that a movie about the U-156 is being made. Might be good; might be bad. All depends on the spin.
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Old 11-20-2009, 05:41 PM   #3
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Wow. Thanks for that one. I saved it with wet eyes.

Brigadier General Robert C. Richardson should have been tryed for, and convicted of, war crimes, not Karl Dønitz.
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Old 11-20-2009, 10:53 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Snestorm View Post
Brigadier General Robert C. Richardson should have been tryed for, and convicted of, war crimes, not Karl Dønitz.
The precident for sinking ships involved in saving life goes back to the first days of submarine warfare and it was the German Navy that established it.

On 20 September 1914 U-9 (KK Otto Weddigen) torpedoed the Cressy Class armoured cruiser HMS Aboukir off the Dutch coast. Aboukir's accompanying sisters HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy stopped to rescue Aboukir's crew believing she had struck a mine. Weddigen then torpedoed Hogue and Cressy in quick succession, most of Cressy's crew were killed since all of her boats and rafts were already in the water. Over 1400 British sailors were killed, many young reservists and new recruits.

Would Hartenstein have started rescue operations had Laconia not been carrying Italian POW's? Not likely by most accounts but that is purely speculative. We do know that before the Laconia incident his actions towards survivors were typical of the older first-wave of U-Boat captains.

The stamp of ruthlessness that comes with the submarine was applied early. U-156 and the other boats involved rescuing Laconia survivors were legitimate targets of Allied ASW forces and the Allies at no time promised a local truce. Particularly as how U-Boats would not hesitate to attack an escort or dedicated rescue ship stopping to save lives in a convoy battle.

Hyperbolic comments about war crimes add nothing to the discussion.

Edit: I suspect that if you look at the actual rules under which the Red Cross operated in WW2 you will find that no armed ships could legally fly the Red Cross under any circumstances. Also a look at the transcipts from Nuremburg fail to show any such declarations by Doenitz regarding the Geneva Convention and the Laconia affair. But I might have missed it.

Last edited by Randomizer; 11-21-2009 at 12:25 AM.
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Old 11-21-2009, 12:45 AM   #5
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This is something that we'll just have to agree to disagree on without animosity.

In all actuality, what was done was done, and nobody's perspective on right or wrong can impact the results. So, in that sense of things, you win, Randomizer.
On changing the outcome of events, my perspective isn't even worth 2 US Cents.
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Old 11-21-2009, 01:13 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cawimmer430 View Post
“I look at it this way: without their help out on that ocean we would have died.”
Interesting. There was a similar incident in the Pacific where an American submarine opened fire on a Russian trawler by mistake and had to save the crew before it sank. Although some of the Russians had been killed in the shelling, the survivors were extremely grateful and apparently became good friends with the sub's crew by the time they were let off in Dutch Harbor. The Russian skipper even went so far as to claim it was a Japanese ship that had fired on them and the American sub had chased it away.
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Old 11-21-2009, 06:45 AM   #7
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Interesting article.....thanks for posting
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Old 11-21-2009, 11:46 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randomizer View Post
Edit: I suspect that if you look at the actual rules under which the Red Cross operated in WW2 you will find that no armed ships could legally fly the Red Cross under any circumstances. Also a look at the transcipts from Nuremburg fail to show any such declarations by Doenitz regarding the Geneva Convention and the Laconia affair. But I might have missed it.
On uboat.net/forums there was a nice exploration on this very topic. Worth reading if this interests you.
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Old 11-21-2009, 04:12 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randomizer View Post
On 20 September 1914 U-9 (KK Otto Weddigen) torpedoed the Cressy Class armoured cruiser HMS Aboukir off the Dutch coast. Aboukir's accompanying sisters HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy stopped to rescue Aboukir's crew believing she had struck a mine. Weddigen then torpedoed Hogue and Cressy in quick succession, most of Cressy's crew were killed since all of her boats and rafts were already in the water. Over 1400 British sailors were killed, many young reservists and new recruits.
The incident you describe was commited legaly since not HMS Hogue nor HMS Cressy were flying a Red Cross flag, nor they had been rescuing civilians.
They were warships that had been rescuing combatants hence eligible for attack.
Speaking purely out of experience from other similar incidents.

Now, on the Laconia incident besides the Red Cross flag, the American High Command was already informed about the situation and the German effort to save civilian lives but still the order was given for the bomber to attack.

Besides that, i agree with you that hyperbolic comments about war crimes add nothing to the discussion but we all know that many allied war crimes were either covered up, taken lightly or even never reached the surface since the victorious force had the power to blame everything to the defeated. And i think thats what Snestorm is trying to say.
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Old 11-21-2009, 04:53 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Lt.Fillipidis View Post
The incident you describe was commited legaly since not HMS Hogue nor HMS Cressy were flying a Red Cross flag, nor they had been rescuing civilians.
They were warships that had been rescuing combatants hence eligible for attack.
Speaking purely out of experience from other similar incidents.

Now, on the Laconia incident besides the Red Cross flag, the American High Command was already informed about the situation and the German effort to save civilian lives but still the order was given for the bomber to attack.

Besides that, i agree with you that hyperbolic comments about war crimes add nothing to the discussion but we all know that many allied war crimes were either covered up, taken lightly or even never reached the surface since the victorious force had the power to blame everything to the defeated. And i think thats what Snestorm is trying to say.
Read the actual convention:

http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/225?OpenDocument

Protection of the Red Cross at sea applied only to neutrals engaged in saving life or designated hospital ships conforming to the provisions of the conventions. As belligerant warships U-156 and the other subs involved in the Laconia rescue were neither and so had no claim to protection. They were every bit as legitimate targets as were Cressy and Hogue in 1914.

However distasteful the actions of the Allies in the Laconia rescue efforts may be to some, I would submit that there is no crime without an offence. There was no offence because the Red Cross displayed by a belligerant warship for any reason had no legal status. My $0.02.

As I understand it the Vichy French warships that came in response to the plain language distress calls from U-156 and BdU could have legitimately flown the Red Cross and so been immune to attack under the provisions of the convention. I stand corrected as I had thought no armed vessel could use the Red Cross but Neutrals could when actively engaged in lifesaving or when carrying survivors to a neutral port. Belligerant warships cannot use the Red Cross under any circumstances.
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Old 11-24-2009, 03:22 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lt.Fillipidis View Post
The incident you describe was commited legaly since not HMS Hogue nor HMS Cressy were flying a Red Cross flag, nor they had been rescuing civilians.
They were warships that had been rescuing combatants hence eligible for attack.
Speaking purely out of experience from other similar incidents.

Now, on the Laconia incident besides the Red Cross flag, the American High Command was already informed about the situation and the German effort to save civilian lives but still the order was given for the bomber to attack.

Besides that, i agree with you that hyperbolic comments about war crimes add nothing to the discussion but we all know that many allied war crimes were either covered up, taken lightly or even never reached the surface since the victorious force had the power to blame everything to the defeated. And i think thats what Snestorm is trying to say.
Thank you. Your communication skills are far above my own.
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Old 11-24-2009, 06:10 AM   #12
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Anytime Snestorm.

@ Randomizer
I've read the text you provided me but i havent seen any clear refferences that prohibit the use of a Red Cross flag by belligerent warships.
Although the following articles give me the impression that belligerent warships ARE eligible to assist the sick, wounded and shipwrecked thus being shown some tolerance.(which applies to both U-156 and Cressy and Hogue incidents equalizing the scales, although i personally put more weight on U-156 since they were rescuing civilians that belong to the enemy)

Art. 16. After every engagement, the two belligerents, so far as military interests permit, shall take steps to look for the shipwrecked, sick, and wounded, and to protect them, as well as the dead, against pillage and ill-treatment.
They shall see that the burial, whether by land or sea, or cremation of the dead shall be preceded by a careful examination of the corpse.


Art. 17. Each belligerent shall send, as early as possible, to the authorities of their country, navy, or army the military marks or documents of identity found on the dead and the description of the sick and wounded picked up by him.
The belligerents shall keep each other informed as to internments and transfers as well as to the admissions into hospital and deaths which have occurred among the sick and wounded in their hands. They shall collect all the objects of personal use, valuables, letters, etc., which are found in the captured ships, or which have been left by the sick or wounded who died in hospital, in order to have them forwarded to the persons concerned by the authorities of their own country.

U-156 and the other uboats where fully covered by these articles since all involved forces were informed about the incident a few hours after it occured.
Assuming that they were forbidden to use a Red Cross flag, makes them a legal target to attack.
Legally
Robert C. Richardson may not be guilty of war crime but in the moral code, it's certain he's guilty as much as it's certain that the bomber attacked.

Edit: Typo.
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Old 11-24-2009, 09:35 AM   #13
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@Lt.Fillipidis
First off thanks for keeping the tone of the discussion level-headed and polite.

As to use of the Red Cross by belligerents, the provisions of Article 5 seemingly restricts the use of symbols to indicate military hospital ships one of which is the Red Cross flag. Article 6 goes on to state:

Quote:
Art. 6. The distinguishing signs referred to in Article 5 can only be used, whether in time of peace or war, for protecting or indicating the ships therein mentioned.
Since the only ships mentioned therein Article 5 are hospital ships I infer that belligerent warships are excluded from protection of the Red Cross.

That being said I will not attempt to dispute the morality of the Allied actions since any such opinions would be driven by purely subjective and highly emotional considerations.

The general consensus that Richardson was a war criminal of the worst sort can, I believe, be countered by the text of the very Conventions that he is accused of violating. My only reasons for posting in this topic at all were to place the Allied actions on a legal rather than ethical footing. We all should know that there are actions which may be legal and immoral at the same time.

I rather look upon the entire Laconia affair as symptomatic of total war as practiced in the 20th Century.

Cheers
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Old 11-24-2009, 04:42 PM   #14
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Aye. Its not being said crystal clear, thats why i didnt noticed it.
Anyway, its just like you said. Wartime actions can be legal and immoral at the same time after all. But im in better terms with morality than law
so i cant just accept such things as symptomatic. For example, i put less weight to Otto Weddigen's attack (although not justifying it) because these three ships were the first sinkings of his career, if im not mistaken, he hadnt seen any live battle thus being inexperienced and maybe even eager for his first sinkings (i just speculate. wasnt in his head to know what he was thinking). On the other hand though, you have Robert C. Richardson, who at the time was almost 60 years old, had served already in WW1 and had seen the horrors of it before. Taking into account that he was already informed about the situation leads me to the conclusion that he valued more one submarine than some hundrends of human lives, enemy or not.

All the above are my personal point of view based on morality.
Under a law-based point of view, you already said it all.

Cheers.
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