The Greatest Marine Disaster in History ...and why you probably never heard of it.
by Irwin J. Kappes
The sinking of the TITANIC in 1912 and the LUSITANIA three years later are commonly thought of as two of the greatest maritime disasters of all time. Yet, a German ship carrying mostly civilian refugees and sunk in the Baltic Sea in the closing months of World War II claimed more than twice as many lives as both ships combined. But little has been written about it. Why?
…reporting on ship sinkings is commonly biased against losses by enemy states. But there is third world bias as well. For example, one published list of "The World’s Greatest Maritime Disasters" includes the ferry ESTONIA, lost in 1994 with 913 lives, but omits the ferry DOÑA PAZ, lost earlier in the central Philippines with about 2,000! Some lists omit ferry losses entirely.But they’re marine losses nevertheless.
Whether it be prejudice that exists when these lists are published, or blind ignorance, it is deceiving, and shows no respect to those who lost their lives in these such tragic circumstances. As if forgotten by history.
"Superstition created all the gods and angels, all the devils and ghosts, all the witches, demons and goblins, gave us all the augurs, soothsayers and prophets, filled the heavens with signs and wonders, broke the chain of cause and effect, and wrote the history of man in miracles and lies" ~ Robert Green Ingersoll
Some attempts have been made to characterize the sinking as an atrocity. But Captain Marinesco had no way of knowing that his victims were mostly refugees and soldiers who would never fight again. As a military commander he was obliged to assume that the ship carried retreating troops. We do not know whether he would have launched his fatal attack had he known that the GUSTLOFF carried people offering no threat to Soviet forces. But he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, in wartime one shoots first and asks questions later.
I'd like to think he would not have sank the ship had he known the ship carried only refugees. We'll never know.
Very interesting article Schadeaux. Thanks for posting it.
The Earth has music for those who listen." - Shakespeare