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The Sinking of HMS Exeter

During WWII, Allied navies suffered a devastating defeat at the hand of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the First and Second Battles of the Java Sea. The battles, which began on February 27, 1942, led to the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies. During these two battles, the Japanese sank several Allied ships, including HMS Exeter. Most of her crew survived and were taken POW, where they endured horrific deprivation and abuse. About one-quarter died during captivity, and many were buried on Ambon Island and Sulawesi (present-day Indonesia).

HMS Exeter 1939

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US joined Great Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands to form a multinational fleet. Between December 1941 and February 1942, the Japanese forces captured Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, and part of the Dutch East Indies. Allies wanted to check the Japanese aggression and prepared to engage the Imperial Japanese Navy.

On February 25, 1942, HMS Exeter sailed from Batavia (Jakarta) to Surabaya in eastern Java. The next evening, the Allied fleet conducted an overnight patrol but didn’t find any sign of Japanese ships. As the convoy returned to port on February 27, they received an urgent message that the enemy fleet was spotted 90 miles away. With little time to refuel, the Allied fleet of heavy cruisers, light cruisers, and nine destroyers, immediately reversed course and sailed for the island of Bawean, where they hoped to intercept and engage the enemy fleet.

About 4:00 p.m. on the 27th, the Allies spotted enemy ships, and the opponents engaged in a naval artillery battle. An 8-inch shell hit the Exeter and blew up an ammunition magazine. It had the effect of “lifting the whole ship in a remarkable manner,” said the captain. The Exeter was crippled and operating at half power. She turned out of the strategic column formation as other ships provided the disabled vessel with a smokescreen cover. Japanese planes overhead continued to relay the position of the Allied ships and called in firepower. The battle raged intermittently for nearly 10 hours, with the Allies desperately trying to repel the Japanese invasion fleet. The Japanese’s superior firepower dominated, resulting in heavy Allied losses.

HMS Exeter under air attack on February 15, 1942

Meanwhile, the crippled Exeter withdrew to Surabaya for repairs. Two days later, Exeter conducted a trial run to test the emergency repairs on her damaged boilers. Two Allied destroyers accompanied her out to sea. On March 1, the three vessels spotted ships from the Japanese fleet and attempted to escape undetected. With enemy ships closing in, the Allies soon found themselves under attack. Their engagement is known as the Second Battle of the Java Sea. During the fighting, a shell hit the boiler room on the Exeter, causing a large fire. Steam pressure dropped rapidly, and the power failed. With no possibility of saving the ship, the captain decided to scuttle it to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. He ordered the crew to abandon the vessel, and 1135 men jumped into rafts, floating nets, or held tight to floating debris. As the ship settled lower in the water, a Japanese torpedo hit the Exeter, and she rolled and sank.

About an hour later, some 400 survivors were plucked from the water by two Japanese destroyers. The remaining survivors spent nearly 24 hours in the water before being picked up by a Japanese ship. The prisoners were transferred to a Japanese POW camp at Macassar on Sulawesi, where they endured starvation, deprivation, and disease. Petty Officer George W. Castro was one of the men scooped from the Java Sea when the Exeter sank. The father of two survived the deadly POW camp for more than three years, until May 31, 1945, when he succumbed to disease from a lack of nutrients. His death came less than three months before the Japanese surrendered. About one-quarter of the prisoners saved from the waters of the Java Sea died while being held POW. The remaining POWs were freed after the war ended.  

If you would like to learn more about the Battles of the Java Sea or the sinking of HMS Exeter, search Fold3® today.


  1. Jessica Blalock says:

    Thank you for this account of the Exeter. I am ever angry with the Japanese and their malevolence during
    WWII. The current state of affairs in our own country is a further insult to our brave lads, and to those of the allied forces.

    • Darrell Sharp says:

      Jessica, you are SO RIGHT about the current affaires in our country today. In all my 80 years, I never though that I would see our own country divided like it is today.

  2. Chris J Bullivant Snr says:

    Whereas one can forgive the Germans for the horrors perpetrated by a small percentage of their populace in WW2, it is far more difficult to forgive the Japanese for malevolence which seems to be almost universal amongst their military.
    One hears stories about events totally alien to everything we believe decent, the bayoneting of the Australian nurses in Singapore whilst they were attempting to protect their patients with their bodies, the decapitation of prisoners for the most fatuous of reasons, the list goes on and on!
    It is as the bearer of Christian names given to me in remembrance of a brother killed by the Germans and a best friend killed by the Japanese in WW2 that I make the above observations, I do not wish the citizens of either nation ill will, however, I do believe the Japanese should comprehend the reasons for our recriminations against their actions during the war. CJBullivant

    • Stacy Simpson says:

      My father served in the Philippines during WWII. He only told me of one thing, such a horrible atrocity, he stopped when he saw my face. He never spoke again of anything else that wasn’t just an interesting anecdote. I feel so bad for him and all the others at what they were subjected to and witnessed, and then, for the most part, quietly carried with them the rest of their lives. My dad tried attending a veterans gathering a few times after his return, but he just couldn’t bear to hear it all.

    • Sue Bazell says:

      My father was a prisoner of war after being captured in Java, I believe, for 4 years. When asked how he felt about the Japanese, he would say “War is war, peace is peace, but don’t ask me to buy anything Japanese, even a car”

  3. Thomas Courtien says:

    Good story; and yes, the Japanese had a culture of disregard for civilized laws. Their mind set started with the belief that you should fight to the death.

    I had just read a story about the Battle of the River Plate (13 December 1939) which included the HMS Exeter. I have also watched the movie Pursuit of the Graf Spee several times in my life.

    Just recently the Battle of the Java Sea was a Final Jeopardy answer.

  4. John says:

    Petty Officer Castro is but one of the many millions of reasons WE SHOULD ALWAYS REMEMBER, NEVER FORGET!

  5. David Kennedy says:

    “one can forgive the Germans for the horrors perpetrated by a small percentage of their populace in WW2”

    No. First, It was not a “small percentage.” There are estimates that up to 50% of males between the ages of 16 and 60 served the Nazi Party or German Armed services in some capacity. It was total war, and everyone was involved.

    Second, The only significant difference between the Japanese and the German treatment of POWs was the Germans, for the most part, stayed inside the rules of “civilized” warfare-AKA Geneva conventions. The Japanese never ratified these niceties, and so saw fit to ignore them.

    Given that, German cruelty was directed toward Jews, Homosexuals, Deviants, Slavs, (The Soviets had not ratified the conventions either) Communists, Democrats and other civilians they thought less than human. US and English POWs were, after all, White, Aryan, redeemable, and protected by the conventions.

    But this is a distinction that makes no difference. One set of mass murders is not more forgivable than another no matter what the circumstances. Atrocity is atrocity

    • Peg says:

      Well said.

    • Pat says:

      Most German soldiers were not Nazi Party members. The SS was a totally different matter!

    • Donna Southwick says:

      Thank you. My grandfather was one of those little German boys who were expected to join the children who were being indoctrinated by the Nazi’s: he was 9. I am forever grateful that my great grandmother got he and his little brother out of Germany and to the United States in time.

    • Donna McCarron says:

      Well said. Perhaps the German atrocities are perceived ‘less than’ because Americans and other similar looking European allies weren’t on their target list of undesirable humans. If the Allies had found multiple mass graves filled with American soldiers gassed bodies and if Germans looked physically different, as did the Japanese, perhaps the Germans crimes against humanity would not seem so light-weight to some.

    • Fran says:

      Thank you for your thoughts. I agree totally. When I was young, it was unfathomable to me that the German Nation allowed Hitler and his loyal followers to attempt to exterminate so many! Now, after the attempted disintegration of our democracy by US citizens, I begin to understand that all of us humans are capable of terrible lies and atrocities. It is not those of one country or another. Terrible cruelty and disregard for “ Others” can happen anywhere.

    • Jim Beard says:

      If atrocities of the past century pertinent to our present century is of concern, read Timothy Snyder’s “Bloodlands, Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.” It deals with the actions of Germans and Russians in eastern Europe, e.g. Poland, Ukraine, and others in the area, and is relevant to more than Hitler and Stalin and their respective political goals, to remake the world.
      For a longer-term historical account once again of importance in this century, read Raymond Ibrahim’s “Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West.”

  6. Gary Henderson says:

    My parents knew an Exeter survivor. He said that they were being left in the water, but the Japanese Admiral ordered them back to pick-up these survivors. Sorry, I don’t know the name of that survivor and my parents are now long gone.

  7. Gary Henderson says:

    BTW Exeter had already survived the battle of the River Plate, against the German pocket-battleship Graf Spee.

    • Mel King says:

      This is how it ended for the Graf Spee:
      On December 17, however, when the Graf Spee put to sea again, only the Cumberland had arrived to reinforce the Ajax and the Achilles. The fight that the British had anticipated never took place: Captain Langsdorff, believing that a superior force awaited him, had his crew scuttle their ship; three days later Langsdorff shot himself.

  8. Richard W. Hoy says:

    The Japanese military believed that you disgraced your family and ancestors if you surrendered and did not fight to your death. You did not surrender You should kill yourself rather than disgrace yourself and family by surrendering Their society believed that and that was one of the reasons the atomic bombs where dropped on their two cities. They treated the Exeter survivors with contempt and mistreatment because they did not die and allowed themselves to be taken captive Their military and government officials treated all prisoners of the second world war that way. They acted uncivilized and should have been punished after the war for their behavior and crimes against the POW’s

  9. Charles Horace Craig says:

    We need to look at the compassion of the Japanese admiral who sought to rescue those of the Exeter crew, rather than leave them to die; a single brush cannot paint a picture of a nation-state, but that works both ways and we must look at ourselves at war and how we have treated others. Japan paid a heavy price for its take-no-prisoners approach; that approach seriously influenced the American secretary of war’s recommendation and the American president’s decision to use the more-than-horrible “atomic” bombs to subjugate them. After you punish a child, you hug it; to do otherwise is to betray your role as a parent. We punished the Japanese; then we did all we could to show them the underlying reasons their approach to war was unacceptable to the world.

    • Patrick Comey says:

      Well said, Charles

    • Ann says:

      There were still many that lost there lives in the sea, and were not saved, I don’t think we have ever treated prisoners of war like the Japanese did, my Uncle lived off anything he could catch, including rats, you need to read some of the books, like Spice Island Slaves, maybe that will paint a better picture for you.

    • Joseph Pal says:

      We did not treat survivors from a sunk enemy warship like the Japanese. My uncle was chief engineer on the Coast Guard cutter Campbell escorting a merchant convoys across the Atlantic in February 1943. After a U-Boat wolf pack attacked a convoy the Campbell engaged a U-Boat (U-606) in a surface battle that ultimately resulted in the two vessels colliding leaving the Campbell near mortally wounded. Some details of this engagement can be found on Wikipedia.

      The U-boat commander, not realizing the Campbell was rapidly losing power as it engine and firerooms flooded, scuttled his boat to prevent it being captured. The Campbell now powerless lowered its boats and pick up the U-boat survivors from the freezing water. The Campbell crew, along with some of the Germans, then built a coffer dam to prevent further flooding of an open to the sea compartment – which if fully flooded would have resulted in the loss of the ship.

      The Campbell was ultimately towed to port and the German survivors were sent to an Allied POW facility.

  10. Steve C says:

    It amazes me the flawed opinions which exist about the axis forces. First, Germans joined the nazi party (national socialist workers party, or nazi for short – not an acronym).. kinda like now in the US, if you’re not a progressive, you’re a racist, etc., because of political and social ostracization if one didn’t. Only the nazis had graduated to the next authoritarian step, if you weren’t in the “party” you and your family were treated as less than citizens, not quite as outcast as were the focus of party hatred, Jews and other minorities, but still very serious impact to German families, especially after declared war began in 1939, and was a compelling reason to join the party – to save your family. And the impression that POWs, particularly US POWs, mostly airmen for most of the US part of the war, didn’t get mistreatment at the hands of the Germans is patently false. More than a few downed airmen did end up in concentration camps and did die there, though their numbers were far less than the millions of minorities who were murdered by the authoritarian nazis who ran the party , the military and the country – and they were voted in… during a time when political thugs ran the streets of Germany.

    As for the Japanese, the code Bushido which had existed for centuries in Japan, was not just for the military class, it extended to civilian life as well, otherwise the military would have had no source for recruits, or power. To be captured, or worse, to surrender to one of Japan’s enemies brought dishonor to the family – and that thought and creed was ingrained. They treated their captives as dishonored and subhuman, only useful as slave labor until they died from it. A classic example of this so-called “code of honor” is that even in February of 1945 when the Japanese were so obviously losing the war, the 20,000 man garrison on Iwo Jima fought nearly to the last man, less than 2200 were captured alive, or surrendered after weeks of bitterly ugly fighting on an island 5 miles long and two miles wide. This battle and Okinawa’s horrific casualty count weeks later prompted the decision to use the A-bomb as soon as it was ready (after July 16, 1945 when the plutonium implosion weapon was tested in New Mexico) on Japan. Invasion of the home islands of Japan, scheduled to start in November 1945, was planned in two huge D-Day like phases (Olympic and Coronet) and would have been vastly larger – an 800,000 man invasion force landed by sea and air, far larger than D-Day, and largely carried out by US forces – losses of up to half a million US servicemen killed outright, and times four wounded, were forecast for these operations, and probably were underestimated given the proven ferocity of the Japanese in previous battles. Even after the two A-bombs were dropped, the Japanese military did not lean toward surrender, only intervention by the Emperor of Japan allowed the surrender, and their military was even plotting a coup against him. Japanese military officers and subordinates were punished after WWII in war crimes tribunals similar to Nuremberg, that is if they hadn’t already committed suicide, which was considered honorable,. Many were tried and hanged for their treatment of not only Allied military POWs, which included biological warfare experimentation on some of those POws, but horrific civilian atrocities s as well.

    • Jessica Blalock says:

      Steve, Thank you for this accurate history.

    • Michael Davis says:

      I suggest that everyone read the book “They Thought They Were Free – the Germans 1933-1945” written in the early 1950s by Jewish-American reporter Milton Mayer, who interviewed about a dozen Germans from all walks of life on how they came to accept Hitler and the Nazis and allowed them to subjucate their country so easily. It reads like a recap of what has been happening in the U.S. the past 10 years with the rise of the nationalist right and the near loss of our democracy a year ago.

    • Patrick Comey says:

      Your comment was well-written except for your comment about being perceived as a racist if you weren’t “progressive.” That would lead to the conclusion that 90% of America is racist which of course is not true.

    • Don says:

      Good and factual

  11. Ann Lock says:

    My Dear Uncle was on the Exeter, he was picked out of the-sea by the Japanese, he was a cook on the Exeter, he didn’t survive the prisoner of war camp, he had malnutrition, and sickness, he died not long before the end of the war, it must have been the saddest day for my Grandmother and her three Sons, one being my Dad.
    I have a copy of the telegram my Gran received, and also a card of the Exeter sent to her from her Son, I cannot begin to think how dreadful it must have been knowing the way they were treated, they tried to catch rats just to survive, and any type of leaf they could reach.
    While I am alive on this earth I will never forget him.
    I look at his graveside often, God bless him .

    • Jessica Blalock says:

      How devastating. Your poor Uncle and the horrible grief for your family. God bless your work in keeping his memory alive.

  12. My great Uncle ‘ William ‘Bill’ Burrows was a telegraph operator on HMS Exeter and was a survivor captured and a prisoner of war he died a horrific death .
    We should never forget the sacrifices that were made for our freedom today.

  13. KLD says:

    We should never forget the sacrifices of all Allies in the defense against tyranny. Yet, we ought to appreciate the declaration to end “corruption of blood.” The Japanese are no longer at war with the U.K. and U.S. Those who fought and support Hirohito, Tojo, Konoe and the like are no longer with us. Yet, we should also challenge those who promote totalitarianism, that is the consolidation of power under one leader. Totalitarianism is tyranny that serves as an excuse to avoid the challenge of compromise required by an effective and relatively efficient democracy established by the forefathers of Our Republic, among other nations. To do otherwise, ignores the sacrifices made This Crew, among others who helped secure Japan’s surrender. Lest we set up the premise for the next war that will likely not be won by anyone if many of us are lost.

  14. Will McCullers says:

    I agree with much of what I have read above. While we are recalling uncivilized behavior by WWII armies, please remember also that some of the most barbarous behavior was practiced by the Soviet Army. And not only in conquered Germany, but in Poland and several other Eastern European countries. Rape and murder were common practices by the Soviet Army.

  15. Joseph Pal says:

    First I agree with all the prior comment about the cruelty of the Japanese military.
    It is my understanding that the Japanese were ready to fight any invasion force to the last man, woman and child – despite their citied and infrastructure being destroyed, two A-bombs and a devastated navy and air force. But what brought Hirohito to table was on August 8, 1945, the Soviet Union officially declared war on Japan, pouring more than 1 million Soviet soldiers into Japanese-occupied Manchuria. Japan fighting to the death on two fronts was somehow untenable to the Emperor and he chose wisely to surrender to the lesser on the two evils about to close in on the homeland.

    • Peter Brockney says:

      That is such a good point and one that requires a deep understanding of the history of WWII.

      The Russians were a centuries-old nemesis of the Japanese. In fact, the word kamikaze (meaning “sacred wind”) had originally been used in reference to a timely beneficial wind that enabled the Japanese navy to thwart an invasion of their homeland by a Russian aggressor naval force.

      My dad served in the U.S Navy in WWII. He monitored sonar at Pearl Harbor (after the attack by the Japanese). The photos of my dad’s service time included him as a well tanned tennis player during his off duty hours. His naval service was a life long integral part of his identity. Dad always put his three initials just below the driver’s window of our family car using the naval-flag alphabet symbols. Daddy passed his pride and patriotism on to me. The story of the Exeter and this comment string has been a great reminder of why I’m so proud of my parent’s generation. Thank you all.

  16. William L Alsmeyer says:

    Kamikaze was for an invasion by China, in Hakata Bay – NOT he Russians!

  17. This is a message on a personal one as George William Castro RN’s wife Dora Alice Blight was one of my late Father’s 1st cousins. Her Father and my grandfather were brothers. George and Dora had three children Lillian Dora Maud (1929), Elizabeth M (1932-1932) and William John (1943). Dora married Charles F Jeffrey in 1939 and died 1960 in Plymouth aged 56.

  18. Kevin Pomaville says:

    It is far too common a thing to continue to hate a people for their actions during WWII. What amazes me is the way we continue to view these people as if nothing has changed, while we Americans behave as if we’ve moved on. In truth Americans today have no personal connection with the acts of WWII. We have the publications of stories to educate us to be sure, but we lack the knowledge and feelings of the time in which they happened, so any aggressively negativity expresses how quick some people are to hate and return to the prejudices that contribute to a divided planet.

    War is complicated. There are things which people do during global conflict they would never think to do during peacetime. Knowing these stories allows us to see all sides of a conflict when during which only part of the facts are known. These stories allow us to learn the cost of war from all factions, not to encourage a rage against a people and culture that has vanished from the earth.

    I thank Fold3 for remembering the actions of our predecessors. However difficult to accept I doubt Fold3’s intention is to reawaken prejudice, hatred, or divisiveness.

    War is not to be celebrated…. mourned, respected and understood. Always moving forward.

    Thanks for the knowledge.

    • Elizabeth Conboy says:

      May I offer to you and your family my sincere condolences and express my gratitude that men such as your uncle lived. He was a patriotic American who answered his country’s call and offered himself as a soldier. He will forever be a hero. I understand the family’s grief.
      My family also has a military service history. I am grateful and proud of and indebted to them and the millions of others who have served so courageously in these horrific circumstances. We will never forget them.
      May God comfort their grieving families and may these heroes rest eternally in peace in His Heaven. Elizabeth C

  19. Kevin says:

    In the first paragraph the word ‘aggressively’ the word should have been ‘aggressive’ and in the third paragraph there is supposed to be a ‘,’ after ‘predecessors’.

    I hit send without editing my words first. I just didn’t want to be misunderstood.


  20. PeterBee0527 says:

    I think America got its revenge for all those murdered at Pearl and even other places during the war. When the US dropped two A bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, a bunch of innocent civilians were instantly fried and vanished into thin air. All the atrocities the Japanese committed on those serving in the Armed Services for America, Britain, etc was repaid in spades when those 2 A-bombs went off in those 2 cities. It brought Japan to her knees and saved a bunch of American lives that if we had invaded Japan a million or more American lives, and British lives would have died.

    • Elizabeth Conboy says:

      I know what you mean, Kevin. My one typing finger always touches something and gets me in a pickle! Thank goodness it’s not on THE RED PHONE . I appreciate your comments and experiences. Ed

    • dan dobbs says:

      the bombs also saved many American POWs as the Japanese were about to start burning them alive, watch the Great Raid, an American movie, but it easy to extrapolate the same fate waited other Allied POWs

  21. James E Stonehouse says:

    I and many others so often forget to give enormous gratitude to the brave souls. I sit comfortably at my desk, all is safe. It’s because of these brave, brave lads.

  22. Accounts such as this one need to be told wherever and whenever they can and remain as part of history; history that was real, indeed occurred and shall not be re-written. Thoughts always should go to the brave men who experienced, endured, survived along with those who perished during this turbulent time in early WWII in the Asia West Pacific.
    Lest we not forget………

  23. DSW says:

    Interesting comments throughout! While I was alive during WW II, I did not serve, way too young. After the war, my mother remarried a man who had served on four different battleships, as part of “Admiral, Battleships” staff. While on duty when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, he was ordered by the Admiral to take the Admiral’s launch and pull sailors out of the water. In telling me his “story” of the war he would always break-down and cry, apologizing for his crying. The story he then would tell still comes to my mind as if I’d actually been there. Horrendous!

    During the remainder of the war, he served on four battleships as I mentioned. Relaying his experiences, he was privy to a variety of experiences, mostly deadly and some heart rendering, from being torpedoed to surviving a kamikaze attack. Yet, with all the atrocities of the war committed on all sides, he was the first to propose to the Pear Harbor Survivor’s organization that the Japanese pilots who brought the war to our doorstep be admitted to the organization. . . an act of forgiveness many of us might learn from.

    And there is a lesson to be learned beyond forgiveness. Because of his story I began when in high school to learn all I could about the war, from all sides. In doing so I also studied what went on in Germany after WW I. A path was charted by a man full of hate and most likely a troubled mind, to create division, and in doing so establish a new order in the likeness of his off-balance pathology. The hatred grew within the population of Germany until that twisted pathology had incorporated a circle of individuals who helped spread the pathology to essentially a significant portion of the population of Germany.

    My point, without going into the atrocities committed as a reminder of how “sickness attracts sickness” is that our Democracy has been undergoing a very similar pathology growth as occurred in 1930 Germany. In the last decade our political leadership has begun to slip hatred and falsehoods into everyday conversations expanded by some news outlets (“control the news and you can control the people). As a result, we have a divided nation, more so than ever before. Telling a lie three times does not make it true. There is more than a Covid virus infecting this country, it is one of division. The end result is aimed at totalitarian control by a small group of self-centered off-balanced minds. It is time for Americans to wake up. Atrocity could be just around the corner!

    • Patrick Comey says:

      Well said#

    • Don says:

      We are indeed in a time preceding something dastardly dangerous in our global midst. The force is strong and growing and it seems contagious in our government like termites breeding in a rotten log, feasting intensely, deliberate and with no thought of slowing down. Every faction of government, media and the corporate world seem to be marching in unison to their common dance, a goal to rule the world and destroy anything or anyone in their way.

  24. Jim B says:

    I got more from the comments than the article, but thanks to the writer for starting it.

  25. andrew wood says:

    A great story matched by the comments with not a trace of zenophobia

  26. Sue Murphy says:

    My uncle Ernest Arthur McDonald was one of the survivors who succumbed to the deprivations on 13th April 1945. He was only 21. He is buried in Ambon War Cemetery.

  27. Lisa says:

    My grandfather Robert Graham was in A turret when abandoned ship was called on the HMS Exeter, he was one of the men in the water for 24 hours! They had to climb a rope to get onto the Japanese ship, with barely any energy left he finally got to the top just be kicked back off again, a fellow shipmate pointed out that he still had his belt on with his knife showing, he threw it off and tried again this time he got onboard, this was to be the start of daily beatings, starvation and disease for over 3 and a half years!

  28. Martin Pettit says:

    My partner, her family and the rest of the village of Liomer were rounded up by the SS during the retreat from Normandy in August 1944. The men and women were lined up on either side of the square and the children were put in a room in the Mairie. The men were to be shot, the women to be raped and then shot, finally the children were to be locked in and the building set on fire. By good fortune the local priest was negotiating with the SS and this delayed things long enough for the Wermacht to arrive. They rounded up the SS and sent them on their way and then proceeded to free all the residents before continuing their own retreat. So no, the Germans were not all the same, the SS were just sub-human.

  29. Kerry W says:

    I would not be here if my Grandfather didn’t come home from Burma, he fought the Japanese in the jungles during the monsoon season there. He was a CHINDITS and proud of it. I owe him my life and my children’s lives.

  30. Kerry McLaughlin says:

    I read each of the comments and was gratified to note the intelligence and humanity from most contributors. Many spoke of their fathers who were in WWII battles. My father, a paratrooper, went missing in the Battle of the Bulge outside Bastogne at Monty. He is still MIA though some personal belongings, but not his dogtags, were found at a lazarette (POW prison hospital. His buddy told me my dad was hit by a German 88 and was “mortally wounded” as his buddy was taken POW. Though Jewish, his dogtag said he was ‘C’ (Christian), which saved his life. 75 years later, he tears up when thinking of my father. I am amazed that he harbors no hatred of Germans despite the horrors of battle and his stint as a POW until the end of the war.

  31. Andrew Rice says:

    English and Americans were slave holders for centuries… Don’t forget that when you speak of atrocities.

    • Jessica Blalock says:

      Andrew –In a room full of vipers…you would whine about flies.

    • Andrew Rice says:

      War is war… what the Slave Trade did remains unimaginable for a civilized people.

    • Don says:

      We are indeed in a time preceding something dastardly dangerous in our global midst. The force is strong and growing and it seems contagious in our government like termites breeding in a rotten log, feasting intensely, deliberate and with no thought of slowing down. Every faction of government, media and the corporate world seem to be marching in unison to their common dance, a goal to rule the world and destroy anything or anyone in their way.

    • Don says:

      Andrew Rice:

      Slavery is an abhorrent thing but it did not begin in America. It was imported into America by Europeans who slaughtered their own people into submission for centuries. Abraham Lincoln’s Union Army took Irish men and boys who had come to America to get away from that hellish extermination attempt right off the ships they arrived on, and forced them into the Union army as cannon fodder. The great slave market, located on the beautiful Washington D. C. mall we see today, was a massive market, selling humans into bondage forever. Founders of famous schools along the New England coast were built and/or largely financed by rich slave dealers who lived there. When it became illegal in Washington to bring more slaves in, they benefactors of so many institutions simply had their ships wait patiently out at sea to meet the slavers as they arrived, then transport their human cargo over and re-direct them to Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti and Central American destinations where they owned vast sugar plantations.

      I can go on about that despicable trade but it would take more than just a while. That being said, I redirect to the Emancipation Proclamation, a political tool more than a free anyone tool. It was written to encourage slave revolts in the South as a war tool ( partly successful but not on a grand scale).
      Lincoln was catching hell from the public because so many fathers, husbands and sons were being killed and maimed in the war. It was a tool to take the black male, arm him and turn him against his former master but with white commanders. Though he is given great credit for freeing the slaves, he actually did not do a lot of freeing. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, by vote in Congress, was passed months after President Lincoln died. But that’s pretty close so some historians agree and others do not. That’s just how it is but take it with a grain of salt and let’s move forward. I’ll tell you why I’m somewhat of a disbeliever in the whole thing and I feel it’s a good reason. If it was about equality, then why did it take 100 years of Congress and a batch of Presidents that long to have voting Rights passed into law. Did it take 100 years to write it down? Hardly. Was it wait til we can use those votes at our own discretion? More likely than not, I think.

      I live in Alabama and I know hunger, I know what hard life can be, I know what it’s like to fear people, etc., etc, ad nauseam. I know what it’s like to live and go to school with only white people, to go to movies where black citizens had to sit in the balcony away from white people. I ate in cafes and restaurants where blacks weren’t allowed except in the back or in the kitchen. I was a kid but I remember. I have seen injustice to people, white and black, simply because of their color. I lived in many places, some where an alley separated black and white neighborhoods. I remember never seeing a white man emptying garbage cans into trucks, just driving them. There is so much more I can tell you and I mean no insult in any of my words.

      I only attended an integrated school once before high school and that was Sarasota, Florida, and only for a few months in 5th grade. Next was in high school, back in my home of Birmingham. For the first time, I saw quite a few students of color mixed with whites. Very, very little trouble there but there was some. I can only remember a couple but we went to classes together and we played sports and studied together. In college, I garnered friends in sports snd class. We studied the same, practiced and sweated together, ate on training table together and roomed together.

      All these 50 years later, I see a lot has changed. My black friends from sports in high school and college, neighbors and more are just like my white friends from the same places. We talk on social media a lot, we share stories and pictures a lot. We go to reunions, we meet for meals and watch sports together. I work in film, several Civil Rights stories, and write poetry. I don’t pull punches and I do not coddle people. I treat everyone as I hope to be treated.
      There are still troublemakers of whatever kind you might think, anywhere, anyplace, anytime but that’s America today. And as bad as things once were for everybody but the rich, things are way better socially in most areas. Slavery was an inherent evil brought to America and the rest of the New World. In many ways life is now better but sadly, there are new versions of evil popping up around the world, and here. If there is ever to be a truly better world then it must start with people like you and me. We can’t help how or where we were born, we can’t help our color, or financial status or anything at birth. We can only make a difference to those willing to see the world without us telling them how or what to see. We have to make a stand for what’s right, decent and Christian without our plowing old ground to get the same old, same old results. I wish you well. The fact that I have survived at all is an amazing feat. I wish you better luck than I have had but the Lord knows I’ve been blessed. God bless and carry your torch. May it burn bright.

      Slavery did not begin in America. Let us pray that it ended here.

  32. Gene says:

    I was in Montevideo in January 2020 and saw the Graf Spee anchor on display there at the cruise dock.

  33. Cheryl A Fredrick says:

    This article and comments have given me a lot to think about. Thank you!

    • LKayU says:

      Wow! I’m just blown away by this thread. Informative, thought provoking, many very well written narratives. My oldest brother was killed in Vietnam, so that has been as far back as I’ve gone on my journey through history. After reading the articles and this blog, I’ve got that tug, the need to delve back further through WWII and WWI. Who knows what from there.