Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

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Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby Sid Guttridge » 29 Dec 2008 16:02

In WWI the German cruiser Dresden was caught by the British sheltering at the Chilean Juan Fernandez Islands.

In WWII did any German raiders make landfall there? I know at least three German merchant raiders passed near the islands, but did any make landfall?

Many thanks,

Sid.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby ohrdruf » 30 Dec 2008 14:26

Presumably the three raiders you mean are Orion (1940, west-about Cape Horn), Atlantis (late 1941 east-about Cape Horn) and Michel (1943 Pacific voyage). Chile made no protest of any breach of her neutral waters by a German warship or auxiliary during WWII up to March 1945. There is no evidence that any German warship or auxiliary sheltered in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago during WWII up to March 1945, when Chile made a token declaration of war against Germany.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby Sid Guttridge » 31 Dec 2008 11:00

Hi Ohdruf,

Thanks. That clears up the Chilean side.

What about the logs of the German raiders?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby ohrdruf » 31 Dec 2008 14:03

Dear Sid

Visits to Chilean islands are not mentioned in the various books by the captains ("The Black Raider" by Weyer: "Atlantis", by Rogge) nor by commentaries on the careers of the raiders. If such a visit were mentioned in the war diaries, I feel sure this would have been brought to light early on, and the lack of interest in your question from the forum participants encourages me to think that my memory serves me right. Captain Roskill's early Admiralty-sponsored volumes "The War at Sea", based on full access to the logs, agree.

The only grievance by Chile against either belligerent was the infringement of her waters by a British cruiser over a period of several months in late 1939: the Germans used this argument to prop up their complaint regarding the "Altmark" in 1940.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby Sid Guttridge » 02 Jan 2009 14:02

Hi Ohdruf,

Many thanks.

If I remember rightly, the 1939 incident you mention concerned a German blockade runner from a Chilean port, which the British cruiser reportedly captured in Chilean waters. I have details somewhere. I'll dig them out. The British claimed on this, or another occasion, that they captured a German blockade runner from Chile carrying escapees from the Graf Spee.

Chile had a later complaint after the merchantman Tolten was sunk by a U-boat off the US east coast. However, the complaint was against the US, one of whose warships had ordered her to turn off her lights. As a result the U-boat was unable to identify her as a neutral in the night and sank her.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby ohrdruf » 02 Jan 2009 17:49

Dear Sid

I put together an article on the incident in 1992. I researched it at the PRO Kew, in the Imperial War Museum Library, and ran across another mention of it in the autobiography of the German spy Erich Gimpel ("Spion für Deutschland", Süddetscher Verlag, 1956). I repeat it in brief below, since it is not without its humorous side in retrospect.

The incident in which eventually Chile made a complaint involved the old cruiser HMS Despatch. Because of her slow speed and poor seakeeping, particularly when refuelling in the Pacific swell, she spent long periods skulking in the Patagonian islands during the first two months of the war. The report which her shipboard admiral submitted admitted that "a sharp lookout always had to be kept for the Chilean Navy" which confirms the breach of Chile's neutrality was no accident.

Once the British Admiralty had been warned by Chile, HMS Despatch headed northwards. Sometime in November 1939 she was refuelling illegally in Chilean waters in the Bay of Mejillones when she saw the German freighter "Düsseldorf" coming up. She put out and captured the ship as a prize, and the "Düsseldorf" was sent to Britain under a prize crew via the Panama Canal. This aroused the interest of the German Admiralty. They were keen to know if the captain had collaborated with the British, since like all merchant captains he had orders to scuttle the ship if called upon to stop by an enemy warship, and had failed to do so.

It so happened that a crew member of HMS Despatch was put ashore and hospitalized at Lima, Peru in early 1940. The later atom-spy Erich Gimpel discovered this fact and had himself admitted to the same ward with a feigned illness. Passing himself off as Dutch, he was soon on intimate terms with the British rating, who explained that the Germans had attempted to scuttle "Düsseldorf" but the engineer had had problems getting the sea cocks open and the RN boarding party managed to stem the flooding. Gimpel radioed this information to Berlin, together with other bits and pieces he had gleaned from the rating.

Berlin learned that when the British took "Düsseldorf" through the Panama Canal, a German rating had managed to get ashore. After 24 hours he was captured by the Panamanian authorities. He requested to be interned as was his right under international law, but the Panamanians handed him over to the US forces controlling the locks, and the US authorities returned him to the British prize crew on the "Düsseldorf".

However minor it might look, this incident involved serious breaches of the international law of neutrality. Panama acted in breach of its own neutrality, the United States acted in breach of its own neutrality and Panamanian neutrality, and Britain acted in breach of US and Panamanian neutrality.

When the repurcussions developed over the "Altmark" incident of February 1940, the passage of the prize ship "Düsseldorf" through the Panama Canal was one of the main legs of their protest because they saw a parallel between the passage through neutral waters by the German prison ship "Altmark", and the British prison ship "Düsseldorf".

The Germans argued that even a prison ship was allowed to merely sail through neutral waters if her purpose was merely to pass from A to B. In their opinion, here was the evidence that they had interpreted the law correctly with regard to "Altmark", for the prize ship "Düsseldorf" was a prison ship under British control, and had sailed through Panamanian neutral waters with German prisoners of war aboard.

The British rejected the German case by pointing out that they had used the neutral waters of the Panama Canal because it was the only way to get from A (the Pacific) to B (the Caribbean).

The Germans argued that since the "Düsseldorf" could have sailed from the Pacific to the Caribbean by way of Cape Horn, the British had abused the neutral waters of Panama to attract immunity from attack by German warships and save fuel. This was precisely the reason why "Altmark" had sailed down the Norwegian coast. Moreover, the British were obviously no respecters of neutrality because of their breaches of it involving the recaptured sailor, and having their cruiser HMS Despatch loiter in Chilean waters for weeks on end, treating them as its own.

Ultimately, there was no judge and no court to investigate the matter and because the Convention as it then stood was so poorly worded, both sides remain convinced to this day of the rightness of their argument.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby Sid Guttridge » 03 Jan 2009 11:34

Hi Ohdruf,

The British were highly cavalier regarding neutrality early in the war. They occupied Iceland, tried to sabotage the Danube at the Iron Gates, flew reconnaissance missions over Soviet oil fields.......... the list is long. So none of things you write are inherently unlikely. However, I would like to see them firmed up.

On that point, the precise position at which Dusseldorf was seized is of importance. At that time, if I remember correctly, internationally recognized territorial waters were three miles from the coast. What does Despatch's log say about this?

The Royal Navy, Royal New Zealand Navy and Royal Canadian Navy kept up an occasional presence off Chile and Peru over 1939-41. The ships used were mostly single obsolescent light cruisers or auxiliary cruisers supported by a single tanker. They conducted flag waving port visits in Chile and Peru to make sure the Germans knew of their presence as a deterent and sometimes used false funnels and supertstructure to give the impression that more were present than was the case. They responded to shore agent reports of preparations aboard likely German blockade runners and deployed in wait over the horizon opposite their ports of departure.

I don't see why the comment "a sharp lookout always had to be kept for the Chilean Navy" is necessarily indicative of anything other than what it says. Why wouldn't Despatch keep a look out for the Chilean Navy? The Chilean Navy usually conducted its annual manoeuvres in the south of the country as its main potential opponent was the Argentine Navy.

Was it illegal for foreign warships to pass through neutral territorial waters, or was it simply illegal for them to conduct acts of war in them?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby Alaric » 03 Jan 2009 14:50

Britain and the United States both blatantly violated neutrality and the Roosevelt Adminstration routinely violated the Neutrality Act against Germany in particular as well as against Japan. The German declaration of war against the U.S. specifically cites this a reason for declaring war (a dumb thing to do and not required by the Tripartate Act).

http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/germany-declares.htm

Not to mention the shipping of armaments to belligerents (as was done in the first war and put American shipping and personnel deliberately in harms way and violated American neutrality then as well). Not to mention the railroading of Tyler Kent, and a supposedly "volunteer" group of mercenaries who were actually American military pilots granted leaves of absence to engage in hostilities against the Japanese military in China. Less known is the fact that the Soviets also had entire air units fighting in China against the Japanese in the late 1930's.

http://www.j-aircraft.com/research/George_Mellinger/soviet_bombers_in_china.htm
http://faculty.virginia.edu/setear/students/fdrneutr/Paper.htm
http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v04/v04p173_Kent.html

Roosevelt should have been impeached, convicted and removed from office.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby ohrdruf » 03 Jan 2009 18:09

Dear Sid

The publisher did not show interest in my article and so I abandoned it halfway through. Thus I did not calculate from the log of HMS Despatch her actual position for refuelling and from where she first saw "Düsseldorf" coming up. Three miles was the limit at the time. To get a lee for refuelling at Mejillones she would have needed to enter the bay I think.

The Law of Neutrality prohibits any actual fighting in neutral waters under any circumstances. This was why the assault on the "Altmark" by HMS Cossack, actually inside a fjord, was alleged by the Germans to be such a grave violation. The Norwegians should have intervened to prevent the British attack but failed to do so, contenting themselves with a protest flag while the British were firing at the "Altmark" over their heads. The Norwegians made things worse for themselves later by stating that they considered the "Altmark" to have had the right of passage. It is also a grave breach of the conventions for a warship to commence an attack in international waters from neutral waters. During the "Altmark" affair, one of the British destroyers with HMS Cossack was actually inside Jossingfjord when she saw the German ore freighter "Baldur" in international waters, came out from neutral waters and sank her.

The question of whether a warship, or a ship assimilated to a warship, has right of passage for a long period through neutral waters was the bone of contention for the British. In Lord Halifax' Note to the Norwegians, he pointed out that to reach Germany from a voyage north-about Scotland from the Atlantic, the direct route for "Altmark" was down the open waters of the North Sea. "Altmark" had headed straight for the Norwegian coast, entered their neutral waters, and sailed south for two days through the skerries and the port of Bergen (by night, which was forbidden) so as to evade attack by British naval forces. Whereas it was not perfectly clear from the convention as it stood what the legal situation was, HM Government considered that the passage of the "Altmark" was obviously an abuse of the 1907 convention. Since the Norwegians were inclined to do nothing, the British had had no alternative but to enter the fjord and release the MN prisoners. The British were not saying that it was illegal to transport prisoners from A to B through neutral waters, as in the case of the "Düsseldorf": they were only saying that it was an abuse of the convention for a warship to go out of its way to get to neutral waters as Captain Dau of the "Altmark" had done.

The weakness of this argument was that if the British case was correct, then the neutral power, and the ENEMY Power, (since one could not expect to rely on the word of the neutral power) both had the right to board the warship to examine its charts and logs and question its officers for the purpose of determining from where the ship had come and where it was bound: if the British argument was correct, then "Altmark" would have had right of passage if she had secretly refuelled at sea off Tromsö and was going to call in at Christiansand on a diplomatic matter.


If HMS Despatch first sighted "Düsseldorf" from inside the Chilean three mile limit she was obliged by international law to forgo any attack. At the outbreak of war HMS Despatch was lurking illegally amongst the Patagonian islands from where it was her intention to prey illegally on German shipping. This is admitted in the ship's report. Accordingly a sharp eye had to be kept for patrolling Chilean cruisers who could have interned her if sufficiently convinced of her illegal intentions.

Refuelling in Chilean ports (in territorial waters was not allowed at all) was strictly controlled after the abuses by both sides in the First World War. The rule imposed after 1915 was that "enough coal might be shipped to enable a belligerent warship to make the nearest foreign port", i.e. it was an emergency allowance and not meant to enable the ship to continue operating off Chilean waters.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby Sid Guttridge » 05 Jan 2009 15:15

Hi Ohdruf,

I have two German-language sources that state that Düsseldorf was captured on 15 December 1939, but two British sources that state 5 December 1939. What do your sources say?

Either way, the British must either have had very good intelligence to accurately intercept Düsseldorf in such an obscure region, or have been extraordinarily lucky.

I have the following from p.33-34 of Die Deutsche Handelsflotte 1939-1945 Band 2 by Hans-Jürgen Witthöft (Hamburg, 2001). Perhaps you, or someone else with more precise German than me, would care to translate it into English for others:

MS Düsseldorf.

MS Düsseldorf verliess Valparaiso am 13. Dezember 1939 mit der Order, nach Montevideo zu dampfen. Tagsüber fuhr das Schiff im Schutze der Dreimeilenzone, nachts mit grösserem Abstand von der Küste. Um das Schiff im Gefahrenfalle versenken zu können, waren zwei Sprengladungen angebracht.

Am 15. Dezember wurde das Schiff von dem englischen Kreuzer Despatch angehalten und aufgebracht. Durch die beiden Sprengkörper entstanden, obwohl sie mit Zementsäcken beschwert waren, nur kleine Löcher im Schiffsboden. Die Seeventile wurden unverständlicherweise nicht geöffnet, um das Sinken zu beschleunigen. Hierbei ist ein Verschulden des verantwortlichen Ingenieurs nicht von der Hand zu weisen. Auf jeden Fall gelang es den Engländern, das wertvolle Motorschiff ohne grosse Schwierigkeiten aufzubringen.

Nach einer Meldung aus Panama soll Düsseldorf von dem Kreuzer innerhalb der Hoheitsgewässer, etwa auf der Höhe von Punta Caldera angehalten worden sein. Andere Aussagen sprechen von einem 5-6 sm grossen Abstand von der Küste. Dieser Auffassung war auch die chilenische Regierung, sie allerdings sprach von 20 sm Entfernung.

Kreuzer Despatch lief am 17.Dezember in Antofagasta ein und bat um die Erlaubnis, seine Prise, die zunächst vor dem Hafen liegengeblieben war, mit Brennstoff bis Jamaica versorgen zu dürfen. Das wurde von der chilenischen Regierung bebilligt, worauf die Reichsvertreter in Santiago de Chile Protest erhoben. Ohne Erfolg, denn im Artikel 21 des Haager Abkommens betr. Die Rechte und Pflichten der Neutralen im Falle eines Seekrieges vom 18. Oktober 1907 ist ausdrücklich vorgesehen, dass eine Prise wegen Mangel an Feureungsmaterial in den neutralen Hafen gebracht werden darf.

Am 25. Dezember passierte Düsseldorf mit britischer Preisenbesatzung und unter britischer Flagge, unter der die deutsche wehte, den Panamakanal in Richtung Atlantik. In der Kanalschleuse Pedro Miguel setzten die Engländer den Blinddarmreizungen simulierender Passagier Hans von Appen, der dann von den Vorfällen berichtete, an Land.”

Axis Blockade Runners of World War II by Martin Bryce (London, 1981) states on p.57:

“In the Pacific, a prize crew from the cruiser [i]Despatch
was able to capture the 4,390-ton freighter Düsseldorf off Punta Caldera in Chile on 5 December. The chief engineer had tried to destroy the main circulator inlet with a bomb, but it had not gone off properly. However, the ship was not in a fit condition for a long voyage, so Commodore Allan Pollard took Despatch into Antofagasta. Thanks to the British Consul’s good relations with the Chilean authorities, permission was granted for Düsseldorf to enter harbour for repairs and fuel. This was done, the freighter departed under armed guard, minus one crew-member who had escaped ashore. The ship’s stewardess also asked to remain in Chile, but she had to ‘proceed in prize’ to Jamaica with her compatriots. Although he could not be blamed for the failure of his scuttling attempt, the German master was worried about what would happen to him after the war. British assurances that Germany would then be under new management were no comfort.” [/i]

However, it seems that this was not the whole story. I have been told by PM that the KTB (War Diary) of the Marinesonderdienst for 10 January 1940 reveals that Düsseldorf was no simple merchantman. In fact she was a designated Marinesonderdienst auxiliary Versorgungsschiff (supply ship) and was captured while en route to rendez-vous with the Graf Spee, to which she was due to transfer 700 tons of fuel oil. It seems that on this level Düsseldorf certainly did have similarities with Altmark. If Düsseldorf was being used as an auxiliary naval vessel, this opens the question of the legality of her extended presence in Valparaiso. The Uruguayans seized the Tacoma in Montevideo at the end of December 1939 on similar grounds of misusing the port to aid a warship – again the Graf Spee. One wonders how the Chileans might have reacted if they had known about Düsseldorf’s status as a Marinesonderdienst Versorgungsschiff.

With regards to the sending by the British of the captured Düsseldorf through the Panama Canal: If she was captured on 15 December, it is unlikely that the British would have feared her interception in the South Atlantic because Graf Spee was blockaded in Montevideo on that date and scuttled herself a couple of days later. No other German raiders were operational in the South Atlantic. The reasons why the Düsseldorf was sent back via the Panama Canal were probably much more mundane – the route back to the North Atlantic was much (about 3,000 miles!) shorter and Despatch was attached to the West Indies station, not the South Atlantic station, and had herself entered the Pacific by the canal.

I am also having difficulty in establishing exactly where this “Punta Caldera” is. The best map I have of Chile gives a port of Caldera at about 27º South and a Punta Falsa Calera at about 40º South. The latter is south of Valparaiso and seems the more likely. Can you clarify?

I am very interested in the German diplomatic efforts you report to draw an analogy between the Altmark and Düsseldorf incidents. Can you give me some sources I could follow up?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby ohrdruf » 06 Jan 2009 13:51

Dear Sid

The book "Axis Blockade Runners" which you quote gives the PRO Kew reference to enable you to find the HMS Despatch papers quickly.
Most of my information I obtained at the Imperial War Museum Library, South London. Make an appointment the day before and tell them precisely what material you want to see. The diplomatic exchanges between the British Foreign Minister and the Norwegians are fairly extensive and include Lord Halifax' original handwritten draft with all the textual changes and rethinks.

I will let you have the Chilean Rules regarding naval auxiliaries. These were drafted in 1915 but remained in force for the Second World War. If the Chileans suspected that "Düsseldorf" was a naval auxiliary holding out in their waters they would have interned her. See supplementary post below this one.

It would be important to establish from the "Despatch" report exactly when "Düsseldorf" was captured and whether she was heading north or south. If she was heading for Montevideo, it would seem she was to be used for some manouevre involving the "Graf Spee", and that would put the date at 15 December.

"Punta Caldera" - I think this means the seaward arm of Mejillones Bay just north of Antofagasta. Rgearding the point you made, one suspects "Despatch" was waiting to intercept "Düsseldorf" on the basis of "information received".

"Tacoma" was a common or garden German freighter which happened to be at Montevideo when "Admiral Graf Spee" arrived. Probably rightly, the Germans suspected that the Uruguayans were about to hand over the interned crew of the pocket battleship to the British in contravention of the rules of neutrality, and shipped them all out to international waters aboard the "Tacoma". After a few hours adrift the Argentines sent a couple of tugs to "rescue" them. The Germans then claimed that the "Graf Spee" sailors were "shipwrecked mariners" within the meaning of the Hague convention and should therefore be shipped back to Germany by neutral ship, but even the Argentines would not buy this one, and the crew was interned in Argentina for the duration, or for as long as the Argentines could hang on to them before they went home.

The translation of the extract before should answer your other questions: it is 17 years since I worked on the article but I am sure the escape was at Panama and not Antofagasta. Interesting point: would the passenger put ashore for an operation be entitled to internment in Panama?

TRANSLATION:

"The motor ship "Düsseldorf" left Valparaiso on 13 December 1939 with orders to proceed to Montevideo. By day the ship kept within the 3-mile limit, by night she stood well off the coast. Two explosive charges were permanently in place to scuttle the ship if need be. On 15 December the ship was approached and stopped by the British cruiser "Despatch". Although provided with cement sacks to direct the force of the explosion, only small holes were made in the ship's hull. The sea cocks were not opened for reasons unknown, and it is possible that some guilt attaches to the responsible engineer. The British were able to capture the valuable motor ship without great difficulty.

"According to a report from Panama, "Dusseldorf" was seized inside (Chilean) territorial waters, roughly off Caldera point. Other reports say that the the interception occurred 5 to 6 miles out. The Chilean Government speaks of 20 miles offshore.

"Despatch" entered Antofagasta on 17 December and requested permission to replenish the prize, which was stopped outside the port, with enough fuel to make Jamaica. This was approved by the Chilean Government. The Reich representative in Santiago made a protest at this. The protest was unsuccessful, since a prize can be brought into a neutral port to refuel as provided expressly by the Hague Convention of 18 October 1907 respecting neutrality in naval warfare.

"On 25 December, wearing the British flag and with a British prize crew, "Düsseldorf" passed through the Panama Canal into the Caribbean. At Pedro Miguel lock, the British put ashore passenger Hans von Appen with appendicitis, and he then reported the incident."

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby ohrdruf » 06 Jan 2009 17:17

Additional posting: Chilean Neutrality

Source; "Todo es Historia" No 335 June 1995, article by Ernesto de la Guardia "La Primera Batalla de las Malvinas" p.8-25.
CHILE: A DIFFICULT NEUTRALITY

Chile was not a signatory to the 1907 Hague Convention nor the 1909 London Naval Convention but decided to apply the principles of both following the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on 7 August 1914.

On 14 August 1914, Chile introduced a domestic decree respecting the neutrality of Chilean waters.
(i) Chilean territorial waters extended one league (three miles) seawards from the coast, four leagues for police, customs and health jurisdiction.
(ii) No warship of a belligerent nation could remain more than 24 hours in a Chilean port.
(iii) No warship of a belligerent nation might fit out or otherwise prepare for warlike operations in waters of Chilean jurisdiction, or whilst remaining in those waters monitor the movements of its enemy."

Whereas the 13th Hague Convention prohibited the coaling of warships in neutral ports, but not of merchant ships of a belligerent flag, Chile lessened this to merely prohibit a warship "from loading unusual quantities of coal". In order to make clear what this meant, an absurd rider explained that "a warship may load only that quantity of coal strictly necessary to arrive at the port nearest to its home country", which for German warships meant Frederikshavn in Denmark.

This enabled the presence of German warships in the coastal waters and islands of Chile's jurisdiction, even for weeks at a time, to be explained as being necessary to ship aboard them "that quantity of coal necessary to reach Frederikshavn" and German merchant vessels ordered and loaded vast amounts of coal in Chilean ports to be loaded into the bunkers of the main Squadron in the outlying archipelago.

On 13 December 1914 the Chileans had had enough and a protest was made to Berlin. On 16 February 1915, in a protest to the German Legation, Chile designated any merchant ship "having coal aboard intended for a warship" to be "an auxiliary warship" and liable to be treated as such accordingly. This remained in force into the Second World War.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby Sid Guttridge » 07 Jan 2009 11:17

Hi Ohdruf,

Many thanks.

I use the National Archives/PRO and IWM fairly regularly and will look them out on my next visit.

I think it more likely the Dusseldorf was heading south. In 1939-40 all other German merchant shipping movements on the Pacific coast of South America had been from north to south, with a view to making a break round Cape Horn. (Later, in 1941, when this route proved too hazardous, the German merchantmen still in Chile sailed for Japan.) Furthermore, if she was ordered to supply Graf Spee, a southerly course would have been necessary.

Contradicting this is that she apparently sailed from Valparaiso. If she was found off Punta Caldera (27ºS) then she would have been sailing north. However, one source says she began in Antofagasta, so this is not entirely clear.

I will check on Tacoma's status. Dusseldorf was not the only designated V-Schiff in South American ports. The Uruguayans objected to her secretly assisting Graf Spee's scuttling while in Montevideo and sailing from Montevideo without notifying the port authorities. They therefore interned her crew aboard her at the end of 1939. However, when the Uruguayans finally took her over in 1941 they found that the crew had sabotaged her engines. For all German fears, there was little likelihood that the Uruguayans would hand the Graf Spee's crew over to the British. Some wounded left in Uruguay did not fall into British hands. The Germans probably calculated that the Graf Spee's crew would get a better reception in Argentina. Indeed, if I remember rightly, 34 out of her 36 officers and at least a hundred key technicians escaped Argentine custody.

I suspect that the "escape" in Panama may well be the same incident as the passenger apparently put ashore by the British because of appendicitis.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby ohrdruf » 07 Jan 2009 18:28

Dear Sid

I must have seen the "Altmark" State papers at PRO and not the Imperial War Museum Library. I would start your investigation at PRO.

The behaviour of the Uruguayans was very open to question from the moment the "Graf Spee" incident began for them. I did a translation on this subject, and consider that Uruguay acted in breach of the laws of neutrality. "Graf Spee" arrived at Montevideo flying a protest flag after being fired on within a mile of the English Bank, when obviously she was inside neutral waters. The incident was confirmed by a Uruguayan warship, but the authorities refused to entertain the complaint, and that was just the beginning. (Let me know if you require more information on this.) Finally the diplomatic people were so exasperated that they told Langsdorff to blow up the ship in the harbour and destroy it (i.e. the harbour). Langsdorff eventually reasoned them out of this idea.

As you suggest, the principal interest of the Germans was in getting the officers and technicians back to Germany as soon as possible. This was achieved within a reasonable period of time from Argentina. You understate the success: all but six officers and about 200 technical people had got away from Argentina by mid-1941. Argentine collusion was rather obvious on occasion, and it was necessary for the Interior Minister to thank the British Embassy "ever so much" for their offer "to lend British expertise in tracking down the escapers," but if the Argentines needed British assistance they would "let them know".

During the officers' considerations of whether "Graf Spee" could flee Montevideo successfully for Japan, the idea of a setting up chain of supply ships was taken into account. Langsdorff had Raeder's permission to break out seawards if he thought he could get clear. Possibly this accounts for the various courses "Düsseldorf" followed.

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Re: Did German raiders use Chile's Juan Fernandez Is. in WWII?

Postby Sid Guttridge » 08 Jan 2009 13:40

Hi Ohdruf,

There was dispute as to what represented Uruguayan waters. The British and Germans only recognized the 3-mile limit, but Uruguay and Argentina claimed a line running from Punta del Este in the former to Cabo Antonio del Norte(?) in the latter. Graf Spee continued firing on Ajax and Achilles after she had crossed this line and they continued to reply once they had crossed it as well. However, I don't think either side breached the 3-mile limit.

The Uruguayan warship was the Uruguay and her account doesn't mention breaches of the 3-mile limit but does of the Punta del Este-Cabo Antonio line. Uruguay protested to both the UK and Germany about this but both rejected the complaint on the grounds that the 3-mile limit was the only internationally recognized demarcation. They also both rejected complaints from all over the Americas that the combat had taken place within the 300-mile neutrality zone unilaterally declared by the American Republics but not recognized by anyone else.

Cheers,

Sid.


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