I Couldn’t Make It Up – Unusual Situations of World War Two

On 16 May 1942 in a daylight attack, U-507, under the command of Korvettenkapitan Schacht, sank the SS Amapala, flying the flag of Honduras and thus neutral. The ship was enroute to New Orleans. For reasons unknown, the Master of the ship began to radio the position of U-507 as soon as his lookouts spotted her. Since she was a neutral ship, the German U-boat would not have torpedoed her since the Germans were still observing certain elements of international laws which regulated submarine warfare.

However, under international law, if a merchant ship committed a hostile act, such as broadcasting the position of a submarine, then the submarine was legally entitled to sink that ship – which is what happened to the Amapala.

As the ship sank, the crew took to the boats.

Imagine this scene if you will: in broad daylight, the master of the merchant ship rows over to the stationary U-Boat and has a shouting match with the Kommandant.

The Master of the Amapala “rowed up alongside the U-Boat and yelled to Schacht, “I didn’t know that Honduras was at war with Germany. Why did you sink my ship?”

“You radioed for help from American airplanes to be used against me,” Schacht called back.

“Those were my orders.”

“In a case like that my orders were to sink your ship,” Schacht yelled back.”

He put the U-Boat on a course away from the scene.

Quote from Torpedoes in the Gulf by Melanie Wiggins

Published by

Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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