Make the US Government Apologize for the Laconia Incident of 1942
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Upon recently reading an article , a certain story stuck out that if finally resolved and handled correctly, could greatly improve US - European relations. In war, many crimes are committed, that comes with the practice. When the Allies found out what atrocities the Nazis had committed to Jews, and the Japanese treatment of American POWs, the American people were outraged. However, with the war ending, many events which are also war crimes were left in the shadows when these large cases came to light, and some have yet to be acknowledged or apologized for. One such crime were the actions made by the United States following the sinking of the British Ocean Liner, the RMS Laconia.
The Laconia was sunk by a German navy U Boat (submarine) captain since it was carrying mounted weapons on the decks. The ship at the time was carrying Axis prisoners of war, specifically 268 British soldiers, 160 Polish soldiers (who were on guard), 80 civilians, and 1,800 Italian prisoners. Surfacing to aid any of the few survivors he would have expected from a cargo vessel, captain Werner Hartenstein surfaced to find several thousand people in the water, many of whom were civilians. He immediately requested any nearby ships in the area to aid in picking up survivors on an open radio frequency, as well as eventually draping red cross flags over his sub to avoid air attack and protect the survivors. Another submarine soon arrived and assisted, but eventually a United States Air Force B24 Liberator bomber soon loomed overhead. The pilot, Lieutenant James D. Harden, saw the scene and radioed in the situation; despite the messages, red cross flags, and even the signaling in morse code of an RAF officer standing with the U boat crew on the conning tower, the bomber was ordered by Captain Robert C. Richardson III to attack and made multiple attack runs, dropping bombs and depth charges around the submarines. Several life boats being towed behind the U boats were hit with bombs, killing dozens of Allied sailors and civilians. Aware that this would not end as long as he was visible, captain Hartenstein ordered survivors off his submarine and back into the water, while slowly submerging to avoid further attack. The plane was reported to have sunk the submarine, but in reality they had missed. This event caused the German Admiral Karl Doenitz to prohibit the rescue of any survivors of sinking ships for fear of more attacks on submarines. At Nuremberg in 1946, American prosecutors indicted Doenitz of multiple war crimes, including the Laconia order, but this backfired into embarrassment when American Admiral of the Pacific US Fleet Chester Nimitz made a statement denouncing that specific charge on the ground that the American navy had operated under unrestricted submarine warfare in the Pacific since war was declared in 1941. To sum up this mess, the United States Army Air Corps (now the USAF) had attacked a rescue operation of both allied civilians and sailors as well as countless Italian prisoners of war. According to International Law Studies, both Robert Richardson and James Harden should have been charged and convicted of war crimes.
That is why I am urging the United States government, specifically the Department of Defense or President Trump, to offer an apology to all parties who suffered casualties that go against the rules of conventional warfare. I believe that this would not only bury a long over due hatchet and gap in history books, but also help better relations between the US and its European Allies, specifically England, Poland, Italy, and Germany (the nationality of those attacked), some of which have been disturbed by the comments made by Mr. Trump concerning the UN and NATO.
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