The forgotten torpedo of Curacao

It’s a well known picture: a soldier on the beach of Aruba, guarding a stranded torpedo fired by the German submarine U-156. In the background the crippled Laketanker SS. Pedernales being towed away. The caption says:

(NY13-Feb.24) TORPEDOED TANKER AND UNEXPLODED MISSILE—A Dutch marine stands guard near an unexploded torpedo on the beach at Aruba, Dutch West Indies, Feb 16, while tugs tow back to port a British tanker which was struck by another torpedo during a submarine raid on shipping in the area. The beached torpedo later exploded while being dismantled, killing four marines and injuring three other persons. (AP Wirephoto)(js b31850cor)1942.

This torpedo was fired by U-156, under the command of kapitänleutnant Werner Hartenstein on the night of February 16, 1942 during a coordinated attack by 5 U-boats, known as Operation Neuland. The torpedo missed it’s target (the Esso tanker Arkansas) and subsequently ran up the beach. See also: Pedernales the Phoenix of Aruba

During the research for his book “De Antillen in de Tweede Wereldoorlog” (“The Antilles in the Second World War”), the author Jos Rozenburg discovered some very interesting pictures in the National Archives of Curaçao, a report from the Military commander of Curaçao and  info in the warlog of U-67 that shed new light on this picture and reveals, besides the beached torpedo of Eagle beach Aruba, the existence of a second German torpedo stranded on the reef of Curaçao.


(left: G7e-torpedo U-67 on reef Curaçao, source: AP/, right: G7e-torpedo U-156 on Eagle Beach Aruba, source: Life Magazine/

The pictures:

When taking a closer look at the AP picture, several items raise suspicion. Should this picture be taken on Eagle beach (as the caption says), the photographer is facing westward. The location where the previously torpedoed and crippled Pedernales was run aground to prevent it from sinking (Palm Beach) is North of Eagle Beach (in other words to the right in the picture). Therefore vessel in the background should have been towed in the opposite direction.

There is also another picture of the torpedo on Eagle Beach published in Life Magazine, March 2, 1942. In this picture the torpedo is situated on the beach and in the background the Eagle Pier is visible. The beach in this picture is pristine white. In the AP picture there’s no sandy white beach but a beach with a reef like texture.


February 16, 1942 G7e-torpedo on reef in Curaçao : source National Archives Curaçao)

The pictures found in the National Archives of Curaçao of the beached torpedo, as well as the crippled tanker being towed in the background, show unmistakably similarities with the AP picture. According to the National Archives these pictures where taken on the reef in Curaçao on February 16, 1942.

Torpedo on Curacao:

(Inspection of G7e torpedo on reef in Curacao fired by U-67 on February 16, 1942. The man in the picture could be Dutch sergeant major D.A.C. de Maagd who died the next day while dismantling a German G7e torpedo in Aruba. picture: Yad Vashem)

Up till now there had only been sketchy bits of unconfirmed information that after the Neuland attacks a German torpedo had also been found on the shores of Curaçao. Confirmation for this has recently been found in the warlog (also known as KTB, Kriegs Tage Buch) and the firing reports (Schussmeldungen) of U-67, operating near Curaçao. In the early morning hours of February 16, 1942 the U-67, commanded by kapitänleutnant Gunther Muller-Stockheim, fired in total five torpedoes at the tanker SS. Rafaela and reported four of them (G7 Electric propulsed torpedoes) as inexplicable misses. Only the fourth torpedo, a G7 Air propulsed torpedo, was a hit. Muller-Stockheim mentioned the possibility of the fifth torpedo (which was meant to be the coup de grace) having run up the beach near Willemstad.

Rafaela towed by the tug “Parmo” and the Navy auxiliary vessel “Mico” to the Anna Baai.

Additionally, more confirmation has been found in a report of the Militairy Commander of Curaçao Captain Von Asbeck to the Governor Mr. Kasteel in which he mentions the demolition of a German torpedo on the beach of Curaçao on February 16, 1942. After the attack the damaged Rafaela was towed by the tug “Parmo” and the Navy auxiliary vessel “Mico” to the Anna Baai.




Kriegstagebuch (warlog) and schussmeldung (firingreport) U-67, torpedo nr.5: 


(left, KTB U-67, source: US National Archives,  middle & right Schussmeldung U-67 torpedo nr.5 source: Wurttembergische landesbibliothek Stuttgart)

The caption:

All this information confirms without doubt there was a beached torpedo on the shores of Curaçao. It has been staring us in the face since February 24, 1942 in an AP picture. The AP picture was not taken on Eagle Beach, Aruba but in Curaçao. The morale of the story: never trust a caption blindly.

More background information on (WW II) wrecks in Aruba can be found at



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