Allied merchants false flag?

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Gen. Bradley
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Allied merchants false flag?

Post by Gen. Bradley » 14 Nov 2019 16:31

Does anyone know if allied merchant shipping ever flew false flags? My understanding is the uboat commanders would have to confirm the ship nationality before attacking so it seems like a obvious way to discourage attacks.

Sawpatin
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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by Sawpatin » 14 Nov 2019 20:56

Gen. Bradley wrote:
14 Nov 2019 16:31
My understanding is the uboat commanders would have to confirm the ship nationality before attacking
Not always in practice. The neutral Irish lost several ships to Uboat attacks due either to mistaken identity or failure of the Uboat commander to confirm their identity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Mer ... encounters

"A supplement to Dönitz's order found after U-260 was scuttled off Cork read: "for political reasons, Irish ships and also at times Irish convoys are not to be attacked within the blockade zone if they are seen to be such. However, there is no special obligation to determine neutrality in the blockade zone.". "

I doubt flying a false flag would have been a surefire way of protecting Allied ships from Uboat attacks...

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T. A. Gardner
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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 17 Nov 2019 23:43

During the early part of US involvement in WW 2, the US Navy did convert 6 old merchant ships of various size into "Decoy" ships. These were to operate similarly to WW 1 "Q" ships. Three were cargo steamers (Atik, Asterion, and Anacapa), a fairly new tanker (Big Horn), a trawler (Captor) and a three-masted schooner (Irene Forsythe). The idea was to lure a U-boat on the surface to approach then open fire damaging or sinking it.

The Atik was torpedoed and sunk by a U-boat while the Irene Forsythe proved unseaworthy and was paid off returning to civilian service. The Captor was converted into a minesweeper. The others proved useless as U-boats no longer gave warning before opening fire and were soon returned to civilian service as merchant ships. All, except the Forsythe, operated from 1942 into early 1943 before being given up as ineffective.

Dili
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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by Dili » 18 Nov 2019 01:28

Often in Mediterranean. Even warships. Fast Abdiel class minelayers tried to pose as 4 funnel French destroyers.

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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by Sawpatin » 18 Nov 2019 11:08

T. A. Gardner wrote:
17 Nov 2019 23:43
During the early part of US involvement in WW 2, the US Navy did convert 6 old merchant ships of various size into "Decoy" ships.
Were they flying false flags though, or were they just posing as vulnerable American merchant ships?
Dili wrote:
18 Nov 2019 01:28
Often in Mediterranean. Even warships. Fast Abdiel class minelayers tried to pose as 4 funnel French destroyers.
As I understand it, these ships were physically altered to appear like French ships when spotted, but did not falsely identify as such when challenged or fly a French ensign. Or am I wrong?

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T. A. Gardner
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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 18 Nov 2019 17:15

Sawpatin wrote:
18 Nov 2019 11:08
T. A. Gardner wrote:
17 Nov 2019 23:43
During the early part of US involvement in WW 2, the US Navy did convert 6 old merchant ships of various size into "Decoy" ships.
Were they flying false flags though, or were they just posing as vulnerable American merchant ships?
They posed as merchant ships. I don't know what flag(s) they might have flown. Their armament was camouflaged to make them look unarmed.

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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by Sawpatin » 18 Nov 2019 20:05

T. A. Gardner wrote:
18 Nov 2019 17:15
They posed as merchant ships. I don't know what flag(s) they might have flown. Their armament was camouflaged to make them look unarmed.
OP was asking about ships sailing under false colours, presumably to avoid attack. As far as I know, those "Q-ship" style decoys that the Americans used during WW2 were all posing as merchant ships of their own nation, with the intention of luring enemy attackers toward them so they could open fire with their hidden guns. Flying a false flag would have kind of defeated the purpose of such an operation, and I'm not aware of any of them doing so. Happy to be proved wrong though if someone has evidence...

John T
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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by John T » 18 Nov 2019 21:59

Gen. Bradley wrote:
14 Nov 2019 16:31
Does anyone know if allied merchant shipping ever flew false flags? My understanding is the uboat commanders would have to confirm the ship nationality before attacking so it seems like a obvious way to discourage attacks.
It was only in the first year of the war (or so) that US-flagged ships were off-limit to the Germans.
Swedish losses of ships with at night lit neutrality markings where
1939 12 ships
1940 41 ships
only counting ships sunk by torpedos, not mines.

cheers
/John

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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by Dili » 21 Nov 2019 03:34

Sawpatin wrote:
18 Nov 2019 11:08
T. A. Gardner wrote:
17 Nov 2019 23:43
During the early part of US involvement in WW 2, the US Navy did convert 6 old merchant ships of various size into "Decoy" ships.
Were they flying false flags though, or were they just posing as vulnerable American merchant ships?
Dili wrote:
18 Nov 2019 01:28
Often in Mediterranean. Even warships. Fast Abdiel class minelayers tried to pose as 4 funnel French destroyers.
As I understand it, these ships were physically altered to appear like French ships when spotted, but did not falsely identify as such when challenged or fly a French ensign. Or am I wrong?
Merchants had French colours and and falsely identify themselves. I am do not know what Abdiel's behavior.

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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by Sawpatin » 21 Nov 2019 12:04

Dili wrote:
21 Nov 2019 03:34
Merchants had French colours and and falsely identify themselves. I am do not know what Abdiel's behavior.
Whose merchant ships are you referring to?

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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by LineDoggie » 22 Nov 2019 23:25

Gen. Bradley wrote:
14 Nov 2019 16:31
Does anyone know if allied merchant shipping ever flew false flags? My understanding is the uboat commanders would have to confirm the ship nationality before attacking so it seems like a obvious way to discourage attacks.
False Flag was more a WW1 British Specialty like HMS Baralong
"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here".
Col. George Taylor, 16th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach

Gen. Bradley
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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by Gen. Bradley » 23 Nov 2019 05:25

The other aspect of this it was apparently common practice even during peacetime to fly a "Flag of Covenience" of merchant vessels in order to get around labor laws. This actually was not technically, a false flag as the ships were indeed registered in the country in which they sailed under. This was mostly to get around labor laws.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_c ... ce#History

I'm trying to think of a downside for British, American, etc. merhcnats simply hoisting up a Spanish, Irish, Swedish, etc. flag, at least while on the high seas far away from any coastline, in order to discourage uboat attack. At best, the uboat commander will break off the attack. At worst, it does nothing.

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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by pugsville » 23 Nov 2019 06:41

LineDoggie wrote:
22 Nov 2019 23:25

False Flag was more a WW1 British Specialty like HMS Baralong
"false flag" was a perfectly legal traditional Naval warfare ruse. Widespread usage. German raiders lots of people.

The claims against the HMS Baralog was shooting on crew abandoning U boat and firing while flying a false flag In both cases US witness supported the claims IIRC). Which is illegal. Those flags can be run down and up pretty quickly and Q Ships and other disguised warships (German raiders ie the Emden) it object is split second timing.

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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by pugsville » 23 Nov 2019 07:21

https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/

Uboat,net you can search by Nationality and get a list of ships sunk by U boats of that nationality. The German and Italian ships (often disguised) sunk by U Boats. Plenty of neutrals. Often the U boat comamnder "could not see" the neutrality markings in bad weather. Often a picture of the ship is included and you can see the large markings in many cases,

Not much in the way of US ships. Either there were not many in war zones of USA painted on the side of the ship worked well, anyone got an Idea were they a lot of US flagged ships sailed the north atlanatic before war was declared?

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Re: Allied merchants false flag?

Post by Sawpatin » 23 Nov 2019 10:39

Gen. Bradley wrote:
23 Nov 2019 05:25
The other aspect of this it was apparently common practice even during peacetime to fly a "Flag of Covenience" of merchant vessels in order to get around labor laws. This actually was not technically, a false flag as the ships were indeed registered in the country in which they sailed under. This was mostly to get around labor laws.
The most common "flag of convenience" for American ships at that time was Panama, which became an Allied belligerent after the Pearl Harbour attack. So a Panamanian "flag of convenience" would have been of little protection against Uboat attacks for most of WW2.
pugsville wrote:
23 Nov 2019 07:21
anyone got an Idea were they a lot of US flagged ships sailed the north atlanatic before war was declared?
As I understand it, before Dec 7 1941, American ships refused to enter the war zone. See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Mer ... rian_trade

"In November 1939, Roosevelt signed the Fourth Neutrality Act forbidding American ships from entering the "war zone", which was defined as a line drawn from Spain to Iceland. Cargoes intended for Ireland were shipped to Portugal. It was up to the Irish to fetch them from there."

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