History, which will be discussed, ended in 1946 in the city of Nuremberg, during the international Tribunal, which tried the Nazi elite.
One of the defendants was the Grandadmiral, the commander of the submarine fleet Reich (1939-1943), Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy (1943-1945), Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the German Armed Forces from April 30 to May 23, 1945 Karl Doenitz.
The gallows really shone on Doenitz, since the German submariners did their best during the war. Plus, the fact that the Grand Admiral held such, to put it mildly, delicate posts at the very end of the war. It is clear that for an incomplete month of Germany's rule, he could not do anything wrong, especially since the war ended in fact the day after Hitler's successor took office.
But the main complaint against Karl Doenitz was the so-called order "Triton Zero" or "Order" Laconia ". The British prosecutor considered that this order was a proven crime, since, according to his submarine crews, it was charged with deliberately destroying the crews and passengers of sunken ships and ships.
A very serious charge, however, this item was not included in Doenitz's list of crimes. And instead of the expected gallows, Doenitz received only 10 years in prison.
The main reason is believed to be the intercession of US Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz, who was summoned as a consultant witness on submarine warfare.
Nimitz was really smart in submarines, but his performance at the Tribunal was amazing.
Nimitz said that Doenitz did not see anything like this in the act, since the American submarine forces in the Pacific Ocean adhered to exactly the same tactics of unlimited submarine warfare as the Germans. The tribunal took into account the unexpected statement of the American admiral and Doenitz received 10 years.
However, if you dig deeper, the participation of the Americans in the fact that Doenitz issued his order "Triton Zero" is far from being so chivalrous. Rather, on the contrary, it is very unsightly.
Let's go into history.
1942 year. The war really engulfed the whole world and it became World War by this year. They fought in all oceans and on almost all continents. The only exception was North America. The surface war with large ships at the Kriegsmarine did not work out, therefore, according to the experience of the First World War, the Reich decided to strike at Britain with the help of raiders and submarines.
It was the right decision. The number of sunk ships was in the tens a month, and the tonnage was hundreds of thousands of tons.
It should be noted that at the beginning of the war, the submariners of the participating countries still adhered to the knightly rules of the First World War and international codes of practice.
However, the case, which we will now consider, put a fat point in the history of sea chivalry. Despite the fact that submarine warfare is one of the most brutal battlefields of that war, even in its history there were moments, let's say, that did not quite fit into the general framework.
On September 12, 1942, at 22.07, the German submarine U-156 under the command of Werner Hartenstein attacked an armed transport under the British flag and hit it with two torpedoes. The attacked transport sent the message "SSS" - a code meaning "attacked by a submarine." This transport was RMS Laconia.
According to the documents, there were more than 2 people on board, including 700 crew members, 63 civilians, including women and children, 80 British soldiers, approximately 268 Italians prisoners and 1 people from a convoy consisting of Poles.
After the torpedo explosions, the ship received a strong list, which did not make it possible to lower all the boats into the water. If this succeeded, there would be enough places for everyone, even for prisoners. By the way, prisoners of war also had the right to salvation in accordance with all international rules.
However, the captured Italians were simply thrown in the holds. When the guards ran to flee, some of the Italians somehow managed to knock out the windows and crawl through the ventilation shafts.
Some were shot, some were stabbed to death with bayonets and knives. Thus, the noble sea gentlemen from Britain and their assistants from Poland protected themselves from problems with overloading boats. The Italians were not given the opportunity to even get close to the boats, driving away some with shots, some with blows.
The blood and movement in the water, as expected, attracted sharks. The Atlantic coast of Africa is, you know, a paradise for sharks who welcomed an unexpected lunch.
In general, the attitude of the British sailors to the opponents in that war could sometimes be compared with the actions of the Japanese.
Further, when the Laconia plunged into the water, U-156 appeared on the surface. At that time, the German submariners had an order to take captains and chief engineers prisoner.
The captain of the German submarine Walter Hartenstein did not know that the captain of the "Laconia" Rudolf Sharp remained on the sinking ship, but it was possible to try to follow the instructions of the headquarters, since many people plus boats were floundering on the surface of the water.
Actually, Hartenstein might not have done that. "Lakonia" went in an anti-submarine zigzag, with extinguished lights and was armed. Two 120-mm guns, three 25-mm anti-aircraft machine guns and six 12,7-mm machine guns. So U-156 could follow on to Cape Town and no one would be in the claims.
Guns on "Laconia"
But the German captain gave the command to ascend, and ascending, he suddenly heard Italian speech. And then a strange thing happened: the German captain turned out to be an incomplete brute, reported to the headquarters and decided to conduct a rescue operation.
It is clear that the submarine is least of all adapted for operations to rescue a large number of people. And then Hartenstein made a very extraordinary decision: he went on the air on an open frequency and told everyone that “If any ship wishes to help the crew of the Laconia, I will not attack it, provided that I myself am not attacked from the sea or from the air. I have 193 rescued on board. 4 degrees 52 minutes South, 11 degrees 26 minutes West. "
The Kriegsmarine command approved the rescue operation. U-156 was approached by U-506 and U-507, and the Italian submarine "Comandante Cappellini". In addition, the government of occupied France (Vichy), at the request of the commander-in-chief of the Kriegsmarine, Grossadmiral Raeder, sent three more ships from Casablanca.
In general, by September 15, German and Italian submariners actually lifted all the living out of the water and began to move on the surface, towing the boats behind them. It is clear that in this position the boats were very vulnerable in any scenario, and the slightest threat of an attack would be reflected on the rescued.
The threat arose the next day, September 16. An American B-156 Liberator from the patrol force based on Ascension Island flew over U-24, which was towing four boats and in addition had more than a hundred rescued Italians on board.
When the plane appeared from the submarine, a searchlight signaled that "An Air Force officer is speaking from a German submarine, on board the survivors of the Laconia: soldiers, civilians, women, children."
In addition, the boat showed the crew of the V-24 the Red Cross flag measuring 2 x 2 meters. The Americans were supposed to see.
The crew of the plane did not react in any way and the "Liberator" flew away.
Returning to his base on Ascension Island, crew commander James Harden reported what he saw to his commander, base chief, Robert Richardson.
According to the rules of war, written, however, in peacetime, ships flying the Red Cross flag, conducting rescue operations, could not be attacked.
Richardson later claimed that he did not know that the submarine was involved in the rescue operation. And therefore, believing that the boat could shell the island and destroy the base, thereby endangering a very important supply route for Great Britain.
So-so excuse, to be honest. The IXC type submarine's armament consisted of a 105 mm gun and 110 rounds of ammunition. The destruction of an entire airfield with such "powerful" artillery weapons is poorly presented in real time, since at the first shots airplanes can rise and make the boat a "fun" life.
However, Richardson sends Harden back with orders to sink the boat. At 12.32 "Liberator" Harden attacks U-156. The bombs explode near the boat, but cause minimal damage. But he turns over and smashes two boats to pieces, killing and maiming the sailors and passengers who were in them. Note - British sailors and passengers, since there were no Italians in the boats.
What could Captain Harenstein do in this situation? Naturally, start diving. That he ordered, ordering the people on the deck to jump into the water and swim from the boat, so as not to be sucked into a whirlpool from the submerging boat.
Harden's B-24, having used up all the bombs, flew to the base. The plane's crew was awarded medals for the murder of British citizens. Well, in general, for the sinking of a German submarine, but the damage was repaired very quickly on the U-156, and the boat independently came to base.
It remains to think that the American Harden perfectly understood what was happening below, because he so obscenely threw bombs at a crawling boat, which was a very easy target. In more difficult conditions, the Americans sank both German and Japanese submarines. I'd like to think that Harden was thinking about honor and conscience, and the first call, when he hit the boats, was really accidental.
The Liberator carried eight 1100 lb (500 kg) bombs in the bay. Bombs were thrown in pairs, that is, four rounds. Apparently Harden's crew was a good crew.
U-156 sank. Hartenstein advised the people in the boats to stay in the same area and wait for the French ships. He had information that the light cruiser Gloire and the patrol ships Dumont Durville and Annamit had already left.
But in the boats they decided that with such a rescue operation it would be possible not to live at all until the next day. And two boats, taking water and provisions from the Italians from the Capellini submarine, set off towards Africa. It was a cruel campaign.
The first boat reached the African coast after 27 days. Of the 56 people on board, 16 survived. The second boat was picked up by a British trawler 40 days later. Out of 52 people, 4 survived there ...
And at the headquarters of the Kriegsmarine, learning that U-156 was attacked, they gave the order to the commanders of U-506 (commander Lieutenant Commander Erich Würdemann) and U-507 (commander corvette captain Harro Schacht) to land the British and Poles on boats and leave.
Interestingly, both German captains did not obey the order! And they continued to go towards the French ships on the surface, covered with people on the deck.
And Richardson kept trying to sink the boats. And the B-24 was joined by five B-25 bombers. The five spotted and attacked U-506, carrying 151 people, including 9 women and children.
The attacks of the five B-25s were also unsuccessful!
In general, everyone was lucky, French ships appeared in the area and Richardson finally calmed down. He decided that the French were going to attack his base (he probably had paranoia and a broken radio), the commander of the American base withdrew the planes to prepare to repel the attack from the sea.
The French ships took in all those rescued by the Germans and Italians.
What is the bottom line. The result is sad. Of the 2732 people on board the Laconia, 1113 survived, of the 1619 who died, 1420 were Italian prisoners of war.
But this incident had very far-reaching consequences. Including the order "Triton Zero" or as it was also called, "Order of Laconia", which Karl Doenitz, who appreciated his submariners, issued already on September 17, 1942.
There is no point in citing the text here, it is easy to find it on the Internet, if anyone is interested, the point is that from now on, submarine crews were prohibited from providing assistance to the crews and passengers of sunken ships.
One has only to regret that the knightly concepts of the rules of warfare are a thing of the past. After all, literally some twenty years ago, during the First World War, such behavior was quite normal. But the further, the more ruthless the opponents became in relation to each other and the more merciless the war became.
It is simply stupid to be surprised that the Americans, the British, the Japanese, and the Germans - all of them have become hostages of bitterness today. The Second World War changed a lot in the minds of people and those claiming this title.
But Grossadmiral Doenitz, in fact, was saved by this very thing.
By the way, no one saw Captain Richardson, who ordered the attack on the boats with the rescued, in the dock. Despite the fact that, according to all international standards, the order to attack a boat under the Red Cross flag is the most that neither is a war crime.
The history, of course, is written by the winners.
Submarine U-156, Commander Lieutenant Commander Walter Hartenstein, was sunk on 8 March 1943 by a Catalina attack east of Barbados. The entire crew (53 people) was killed.
Submarine U-506, commander Lieutenant Commander Erich Würdemann, sunk on 12 July 1943 in the North Atlantic west of Vigo by depth charges from the US Navy B-24 Liberator. 48 crew members were killed, 6 were rescued.
Submarine U-507, commander of the corvette captain Harro Schacht, sunk on 13 January 1943 in the South Atlantic northwest of Natal by depth charges from the US Navy Catalina. All 54 crew members were killed.
The conclusions are as follows:
- not always and not all Germans were beasts in human form.
- Americans were not always the saviors of humanity.
- American pilots knew how to sink the submarines of the Germans and Japanese.
- The "misses" of the American crews on the boats participating in the rescue operation "Lakonia" were caused not by a lack of combat experience, but by the presence of conscience.
- Karl Doenitz was incredibly lucky that his colleague Chester William Nimitz also had a conscience.
- The Second World War finally forced the military to part with such concepts as chivalrous behavior towards the enemy.
The author deliberately excluded the Soviet side from the enumerations and comparisons for obvious reasons.