Posted 18 February 2008 - 08:30 PM
Posted 19 February 2008 - 12:00 AM
According to many survivors, the Belgian crew abandoned the sinking ship and left the American soldiers to fend for themselves. The British Commander in charge of the convoy ordered the Leopoldville's anchor dropped to prevent the troopship from drifting into a minefield outside the harbor. While this solved one problem, it created another. When a tug arrived on the scene, the dropped anchor prevented it from towing the sinking vessel into shore. Murphy's law states that whatever can go wrong will. On Christmas Eve 1944, Murphy's law was in full effect. Delayed radio transmissions for help, delayed response of rescue craft, heavy seas and freezing temperatures were just a few of the many things that sealed the soldiers fates. And it being Christmas Eve, serviceman at an American base in Cherbourg who could have aided the stricken Leopoldville were taking a night off from the war, either partying or attending church. No one seemed to be around to help.
By the end of that terrible night, 763* American soldiers were dead, many drowning or freezing to death in the icy waters of the English Channel. These soldiers represented youths from 47 of the then 48 United States. New York State alone lost 80 young men, including 39 from New York City. Many of those killed were only 18 to 21 years old and 493 of the bodies were never recovered. Three sets of brothers were killed, including two sets of twins.
Because of wartime censorship and to cover-up the mistakes made by the various governments and officials involved, the disaster was not reported to the news media. Survivors were told by the British and American governments to keep quiet. Amazingly, relatives of the victims received notices that their loved ones were Missing in Action, even though the U.S. War Department knew them all to have perished. Later, the men were declared Killed in Action, but even then no details of their deaths were divulged to their families. After the war, the tragedy was considered an embarrassment to the Allies and all reports were filed away as secret by the American and British governments. Families of victims searched vainly for information about the deaths of their loved ones. Only in 1996--over 50 years later--did the British declassify documents relating to the sinking of the Leopoldville.
The Leopoldville disaster was the worst tragedy to ever befall an American Infantry Division as the result of an enemy submarine attack. Yet, this is more than a story about a terrible wartime tragedy, it is about how governments, in order to hide their own mistakes, can hide the truth from those who need it the most.
*The death toll has often been reported as 802. A review of the official Leopoldville Disaster List from the National Archives totals 763 confirmed dead.
The Sinking of the Leopoldville - The Story
Not much more that I could find.
Posted 19 February 2008 - 12:01 AM
Posted 19 February 2008 - 12:12 AM
Posted 19 February 2008 - 12:19 AM
in some ways this is like operation Tiger in April of 44 when the LST's that got ripped to shreds by KM S-booten - much was hidden and still is about the Slpton Isle affair.
Posted 19 February 2008 - 04:26 AM
Posted 04 January 2010 - 10:55 PM
Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:50 AM
Are you still interested in a first-hand account of the sinking of the SS Leopoldville?
Yes, please do post it.
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