Friday, July 27, 2012

The Sinking of the Resolute

A schooner like the Resolute,
which was sunk by a Nazi U-boat.
Seventy years ago today, a Nazi U-boat sank a Colombian schooner, setting Colombia on course to join the Allies in World War II.

The Resolute was a wooden, two-masted civilian vessel flying the Colombian flag and carrying materials to the tiny island of Providencia, part of the San Andres archipelago. There was no mistaking it for a warship, much less one belonging to Holland, United States or Great Britain. But the Nazis, characteristically, didn't care. According to El Tiempo's report today, the submarine crew wasn't satisfied with sinking the schooner, but also machine gunned its crew and passengers, killing six people, including a woman and her infant son. Several others were wounded. The survivors, saved perhaps only by the unexpected appearance of a United States airplane, later said that the submarine crew laughed as their victims fell into the ocean.

The next year, a Nazi submarine sank a second Colombian schooner, the Ruby.

A painting of a World War I U-boat sinking a troop transport ship, by Willy Stower.
Colombia responded by first siezing the property of German, Japanese and Italian citizens in Colombia, and later interning them. Undoubtedly, most of those people were industrious residents loyal to their country of residence. Colombia also supported the Allied cause by supplying raw materials and monitoring the approaches to the strategic Panama Canal.

The Caribbean was a forgotten front in history's most terrible war. Some 100 German U-Boats and several Italian submarines roamed the area, attacking Dutch, British, U.S., Canadian, Mexican, Colombian and other ships. Wikipedia's entry on The Battle of the Caribbean doesn't even mention Colombian casualties, suggesting to me that many other vessels from South American and Caribbean nations were sunk but never recorded in the annals of the war.

In fact, this page reports that U-boats sank three civilian vessels from the San Andres, killing 34 people on board.

The victims' relatives and descendants, mixed-race people called Raizales, have not forgotten. In 2001 a group of them filed a lawsuit against Germany demanding compensation. No word about any results.

According to the same web page, the Colombian warship ARC Caldas sank a U-Boat which was attacking a petroleum ship the Caldas was escorting. The report has been disputed, but if true could be Colombia's only violent participation in the Second World War.

Related posts:

Did a great Colombia Hide a Nazi Past?

Shoa Remembrance in Bogotá

German Immigrants in Colombia

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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