The MV Wilhelm Gustloff was built for an organization called the Kraft Durch Freude (strength through joy) in 1937. Not long after she began her journey west, she was spotted by the Russian submarine S-13, which launched three torpedoes. Less than 40 minutes after being struck, Wilhelm Gustloff was lying on her side. She sank bow-first 10 minutes later, in 44 m (144 ft) of water. To put that in perspective, about 1,500 people died on the Titanic, and about 4,400 in the worst peacetime disaster (the Doña Paz in 1987). She returned to Hamburg on April 12th.MV Wilhelm Gustloff  happened to be the nearest ship when the 1,836 coal freighter Pegaway broadcast an SOS. The fact is that on January 30, 1945 a similar ship went down with a loss of lives six times that of Titanic.The MV Wilhelm Gustloff was built for an organization called the Kraft Durch Freude (strength through joy) in 1937. That figure was probably an estimate at best, but if close it sent the Gustloff’s complement to about 8,000 people. Her purposes were to provide recreational and cultural activities for German functionaries and workers, including concerts, cruises, and other holiday trips, and to serve as a public relations tool, to present "a more acceptable image of the Third Reich". As Wilhelm Gustloff had been fitted with anti-aircraft guns, and the Germans did not mark her as a hospital ship, no notification of her operating in a hospital capacity had been given and, as she was transporting military personnel, she did not have any protection as a hospital ship under international accords.[19]. With seven other ships in the KdF fleet, she transported the Condor Legion back from Spain following the victory of the Nationalist forces under General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Filmed in Gotenhafen, the 2nd Submarine Training Division acted as extras in the movie. Fleeing before them, refugees were streaming into the German-held Baltic ports, clogging the docks, and mingling with the wounded soldiers left by German ambulance trains. The ship completed some fifty cruises during her period as a cruise ship.In June of 1939, she converted to transport the Condor Legion back from Spain following the victory of the Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. The original plan was to name the ship, Adolf Hitler but the furor changed his mind when he attended the memorial service for a slain leader of the National Socialist Party’s Swiss branch. Captain Marinesko was raised in Odessa, a port on the northwest shore of the Black Sea. In 1942, SS Cap Arcona was used as a stand-in for RMS Titanic in the German film version of the disaster. The original plan was to name the ship, Adolf Hitler but the furor changed his mind when he attended the memorial service for a slain leader of the National Socialist Party’s Swiss branch. [22] Schön's more recent research is backed up by estimates made by a different method. And the 32-year-old captain was determined to sink anything German. By early 1941, the Soviet advance westward had freed the Navy’s submarine fleet, which had been bottled up in Leningrad and Kronstadt. In April of 1938, she left Hamburg for England where she anchored out beyond the three-mile limit offshore of the docks at Tilbury. The sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, the German warship used in World War Two (WWII), is the largest disaster in recorded maritime history in terms of loss of human life. Operation Hannibal was the naval evacuation of German troops and civilians as the Red Army advanced. From September 1939 to November 1940, she served as a hospital ship, officially designated Lazarettschiff D. Beginning on 20 November 1940, the medical equipment was removed from the ship, and she was repainted from the hospital ship colours of white with a green stripe to standard naval grey. This ship was the Wilhelm Gustloff. It … She was 684 feet long, 77.5 feet wide, weighed 25,484 gross tons, and could accommodate 1,465 passengers in 489 cabins. The Gustloff’s original Operation Hannibal assignment was to carry to safety the 2nd Training Division of submarine recruits, men who had bunked on her during training. Horses that had pulled the cars that brought them and dogs that had tagged along were abandoned and wandered through the city. TODAY is the 75th anniversary of the world’s worst loss of life on board a single ship. Between 20 May to 2 June 1939, she was diverted from her pleasure cruises. [14] The passengers, besides civilians, included Gestapo personnel, members of the Organisation Todt, and Nazi officials with their families. It wasn't. Oddly, she also had two lead captains, one civilian and one military. Submarines of the Russian and Soviet navies, 1718–1990 Von Norman Polmar, Jurrien Noot, page 190 Naval Institute Press 1991. In 1945, he faced a court martial following a forbidden New Year’s Eve tryst with a Swedish national. She was out of service from November 1940 to 1945. In March of 1938, MV Wilhelm Gustloff was assigned a cruise with Austrian passengers in an attempt to persuade them to vote for the annexation of Austria by Germany. All three hit the Gustloff, and within an hour she sank taking down with her as many as 9,500 people. [25] However, based on the latest estimates of passenger numbers and those known to be saved, Wilhelm Gustloff remains by far the largest loss of life resulting from the sinking of one vessel in maritime history. 1 had been so badly damaged by the waves that after its crew had climbed up via ladders to the safety of their ship it was set adrift to later be washed up on the shores of Terschelling on 2 May. Wilhelm Gustloff sat in dock there for over four years. Marinesko started out in the Soviet merchant fleet then later joined the Russian Navy. With a loss of 1,500 souls, some of them very famous like John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the stor. By 7:45 a.m. all crews member were safe aboard the MV Wilhelm Gustloff. On 2 April the 1,836 gross ton coal freighter Pegaway had departed Tyne under the command of Captain G. W. Ward with a load of coal for Hamburg. She was built at the Blohm and Voss shipyards in Hamburg, Germany and launched on May 5th, 1937. On the second day of her voyage, the 58-year-old Captain Carl Lübbe died on the bridge from a heart attack. Other investigators, however, have claimed that number is actually quite low and estimated that those aboard totaled as many as 10,582 passengers and crew. The idea was the ship would provide recreation and cultural activities for German functionaries and workers. Her cruising range was 12,000 nautical miles. Therefore, instead of gaining the title Hero of the Soviet Union, he was awarded the lesser Order of the Red Banner. A greater danger, the Germans believed at the time, came from British torpedo planes and bombers as well as from mines. Up to 10,582 Crew and Passengers on the Gustloff. From 14 March 1938 until 26 August 1939, Wilhelm Gustloff took over 80,000 passengers on a total of 60 voyages, all around Europe.[7]. All Rights Reserved. Hitler decided on the name change after sitting next to Gustloff's widow during his memorial service. The shipyard is still in active operation after nearly a century and a half of building steel hulled ships. There were 1,968 votes for the union and 10 votes against. Over the years since the sinking, historians have argued about whether the Gustloff was a legitimate war target and whether her sinking should be classified as a war crime. The German ship MV Wilhelm Gustloff plowed through the choppy water, her cabins, decks, saloons, and even her drained swimming pool jammed with refugees. Giving in to the pleading, the Gustloff’s officers ordered boarding nets to be dropped from the ship, and refugees scrambled aboard. The Captain scanned the nighttime horizon and spotted the Gustloff. His degree of responsibility was never resolved, however, because of Nazi Germany's collapse in 1945. The idea was the ship would provide recreation and cultural activities for German functionaries and workers. The auxiliaries were all between 17 and 25 years old. It is one of the largest shipwrecks on the Baltic Sea floor and has been attracting much interest from treasure hunters searching for the lost Amber Room. The women on board the ship at the time of the sinking were inaccurately described by Soviet propaganda as "SS personnel from the German concentration camps". She anchored and remained in international waters. Gustloff had been an ardent supporter of Hitler almost from the beginning of the latter’s rise to power and came to be considered a Nazi martyr after his assassination. This analysis considered the passenger density based on witness reports and a simulation of escape routes and survivability with the timeline of the sinking. An Unsolved History episode that aired in March 2003,[4] on the Discovery Channel, undertook a computer analysis of her sinking. The ship was originally intended to be named Adolf Hitler but instead was christened after Wilhelm Gustloff, leader of the National Socialist Party's Swiss branch, who had been assassinated by a Jewish medical student in 1936. By one estimate,[4][5] 9,400 people died, which makes it the largest loss of life in a single ship sinking in history. The first torpedo struck Wilhelm Gustloff's bow, causing the watertight doors to seal off the area which contained quarters where off-duty crew members were sleeping. Marinesko was posthumously named a Hero of the Soviet Union by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990. Captain Marinesko knew the Gustloff had been converted from a passenger liner to a troop ship. The fact is that on January 30, 1945 a similar ship went down with a loss of lives six times that of Titanic. The first was nicknamed "for the Motherland", the second "for Leningrad", the third "for the Soviet people", and the fourth, which got jammed in the torpedo tubes and had to be dismantled, "for Stalin". The screams and cries of the doomed aboard were snuffed out as the frigid water covering the ship.The man responsible for sinking the Gustloff was born in 1913 to a Romanian sailor and a Ukrainian woman. The majority of those who perished succumbed to exposure in the freezing water.[20]. It was, after all, a navy ship painted gray and known to carry troops. In freezing temperatures, thousands fled west to the docks at Gotenhafen, Today it is called Gdyan, Poland). The sinking of MV Wilhelm Gustloff by the Soviet Submarine S-13 resulted in the greatest maritime disaster in history with the largest loss of life at sea. Eventually she was put back into service to transport civilians and military personnel as part of Operation Hannibal. The subs surged into the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland with orders to attack any shipping they encountered. In fact, there were 9,000 civilians onboard including 5,000 children.Perhaps unaware of the civilians on board, Captain Marinesko decided the Gustloff was fair game. At around 9 pm (CET), Marinesko ordered his crew to launch four torpedoes at Wilhelm Gustloff's port side, about 30 km (16 nmi; 19 mi) offshore, between Großendorf and Leba. MV Wilhelm Gustloff was the first purpose-built ship for the German Labor Front. Chunks of ice floated on the water, and lookouts shivered at their posts. This allowed her to act as a floating polling station for German and Austrian citizens living in England who wished to vote on the approaching plebiscite on Anschluss (Union of Austria with Germany). Wilhelm Gustloff was the first purpose-built cruise ship for the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF) and used by subsidiary organisation Kraft durch Freude (KdF) (Strength Through Joy). [31], Coordinates: 55°04′22″N 17°25′17″E / 55.0729°N 17.4213°E / 55.0729; 17.4213, Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces Gordon Williamson, page 39, Osprey Publishing 2009. It is also probably the least known maritime disaster in the annals of those men and women who go down to sea in ships. Hunks of ice could be seen on the surface of the sea. At 4 am, the captain issued an SOS when the ship was 20 miles northwest of the island of Terschelling in the West Frisian Islands group off the coast of the Netherlands. In 1960, he was reinstated as captain third class and granted a full pension. Wilhelm Zahn, a submariner, argued that the ship should stay in deep water and make as much speed as possible either on a direct course or, preferably, zigzagging. In January, however, he had taken charge of the evacuation and had requisitioned ships of all kinds, including 25 substantial cargo ships and 13 liners. By 4 April, it was taking on water and slowly sinking. [8] She was the flagship of the KdF cruise fleet, her last civilian role, until the spring of 1939. The Captain is reported have been desperate to salvage his career. When he was informed by a mysterious radio message of an oncoming German minesweeper convoy, he decided to activate his ship's red and green navigation lights so as to avoid a collision in the dark, making Wilhelm Gustloff easy to spot in the night. About 1,000 German naval officers and men were aboard during, and died in, the sinking of Wilhelm Gustloff. [27] There were, however, 373 female naval auxiliaries amongst the passengers. 1 with a crew of 12 under the command of Second Officer Meyer. In the case of Lusitania, however, the Germans … It was a naval evacuation of German troops and civilians, many of whom worked at the advanced weapons bases in the Baltic form Gdynia/Goethean to Kiel. She sank taking down with her as many as 9,500 people. The Russians were fast approaching. 6 with a crew of ten under the command of Second Officer Schürmann was then lowered. [9] A storm developed on 3 April with winds up to 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) that forced the four ships apart. With all the books and films about Titanic, it’s no wonder we visualize those last dramatic cinematic moments as the broken ship sinks into the nighttime sea and the glow from the port lights go dark. MV Wilhelm Gustloff was the first purpose-built ship for the German Labor Front. She served as a hospital ship in 1939 and 1940. As a consequence of the Allied blockade of the German coastline, she was used as an accommodations ship (barracks) for approximately 1,000 U-boat trainees of the 2nd Submarine Training Division (2. The video ends with footage of divers on the wreck of the Wilhelm Gustloff in the 1990s / early 2000s. Copyright 2016 Long Island Boating World. The idea was the ship would provide recreation and cultural activities for German functionaries and workers. Chunks of ice floated on the water, and lookouts shivered at their posts. About 20 minutes after the torpedoes' impact, Wilhelm Gustloff listed dramatically to port, so that the lifeboats lowered on the high starboard side crashed into the ship's tilting side, destroying many lifeboats and spilling their occupants across the ship's side. One of those liners was the MV Wilhelm Gustloff. Marinesko followed the ships to their starboard (seaward) side for two hours before making a daring move to surface his submarine and steer it around Wilhelm Gustloff's stern, to attack it from the port side closer to shore, from whence the attack would be less expected. It was for this reason that it became the first official evacuation ship for our girls,” Wilhelmina Reitsch, who was in command of the 10,000 female naval auxiliaries in the area, later said. Over 10,000 soldiers and desperate civilians were allowed to board the ship which was originally built to accommodate about 1,900 people. Over a period of time, he moved up through the ranks until he commanded a submarine, the S-13 S-Class sub, built in Russia. Before sinking Wilhelm Gustloff, Alexander Marinesko was facing a court martial due to his problems with alcohol and for being caught in a brothel while he and his crew were off duty, so Marinesko was thus deemed "not suitable to be a hero" for his actions. It was terrible, but it was a result of war, a terrible result of war."[26]. As the Russians rolled through they murdered, raped and pillaged their way across the country. Some women were holding up their children. At that time, she was designated as an accommodation or barrack ship for roughly 1,000 U-boat crew trainees at the port of Gdynia. She was also to carry a number of women auxiliaries, some of whom had served in antiaircraft and artillery positions to free men for the front lines, and some wounded soldiers. The Gustloff had been pressed into service as a transport ship during the Spanish Civil War, was later converted to a hospital ship, and in 1940 was converted again, this time to a barracks ship for U-boat trainees in Gdynia, Poland, on the Bay of Danzig. No one bothered to count them, but radio officer Rudi Lange later said, “I think I remember being told by one of the ship’s officers to send a signal that another 2,000 people had come aboard.”. By one estimate 9,400 people died, which would make it the largest loss of life in a single ship sinking in history. [9] The closest of the ships that answered the distress call was Wilhelm Gustloff which reached Pegaway at 6 am. They were then transported back to Tilbury. Within an hour the Gustloff sunk beneath the waves. Measuring 208.5 m (684 ft 1 in) long by 23.59 m (77 ft 5 in) wide, with a capacity of 25,484 gross register tons (GRT), she was launched on 5 May 1937. The sinking of the German liner Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945 was the worst maritime disaster in history, with an estimated 9,250 fatalities. The submarine sensor on board the escorting torpedo boat had frozen, rendering it inoperable, as had Wilhelm Gustloff's anti-aircraft guns, leaving the vessels defenseless. MV Wilhelm Gustloff was the first purpose-built ship for the German Labor Front. Wilheim Gustloff was a cruise ship of 684 feet in length. It was a kind of sea going public relations organization.Wilheim Gustloff was a cruise ship of 684 feet in length. When the subject of maritime disasters at sea arises, the first name that almost always comes to mind is Titanic. The MV Wilhelm Gustloff was a German armed military transport ship which was sunk on 30 January 1945 by Soviet submarine S-13 in the Baltic Sea while evacuating German civilian refugees from East Prussia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Estonia[3] and military personnel from Gotenhafen (Gdynia) as the Red Army advanced. In that role, Dönitz would sign the Allied terms of unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945. y has been retold in several dramatic films. She was then assigned as a floating barracks for naval personnel in Gdynia (Gotenhafen) before being armed and put into service to transport evacuees in 1945. The itinerary included concerts, cruises and all sorts of gala holiday trips. Despite the wounded men on board, the Gustloff was not legally a hospital ship. Wilhelm Gustloff was constructed by the Blohm & Voss shipyards. He was replaced by Friedrich Petersen, who after commanding the ship for the remainder of this cruise left the ship until he returned to command it on the ship's final voyage.[11]. At 55 degrees 07 minutes north, 17 degrees 41 minutes east lies the broken and dead body of a once proud and majestic ship. German forces were able to rescue 1252 of the survivors from the attack: the torpedo boat T36 rescued 564 people; the torpedo boat Löwe (ex-Gyller), 472; the minesweeper M387, 98; the minesweeper M375, 43; the minesweeper M341, 37; the steamer Göttingen, 28; the torpedo recovery boat (Torpedofangboot) TF19, 7; the freighter Gotenland, two; and the patrol boat (Vorpostenboot) V1703, one baby. In addition, she was not marked as a hospital ship. About 1 pm on January 30, the Gustloff cast off. The Wilhelm Gustloff was the most lethal shipwreck in history, but some details of the sinking remain unknown. [9] On 29 March 1938 she departed on her second voyage carrying workers and their families from the Blohm & Voss shipyard on a three-day cruise.[9].
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