General von Steuben

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SS General von Steuben at Venice before WWII.

The SS Steuben was a German passenger liner of 14,660 tons that was sunk during World War II. She was launched as München, renamed in 1930 General von Steuben after Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a hero of the American Revolution, and renamed simply Steuben in 1938.

History

During World War II, she had served as a troop accommodation ship, and from December 1944 as a refugee and evacuation ship.

On 9 February 1945, the liner sailed from Pillau (near Königsberg) on the Baltic coast for Swinemünde in western Pomerania. It was officially reported that there were 2,800 bedridden wounded German soldiers; 800 civilians; 100 returning soldiers; 270 navy medical personnel (including doctors, nurses and auxiliaries); 12 nurses from Pillau; 64 crew for the ship's anti-aircraft guns, 61 naval personnel, radio operators, signal men, machine operators and administrators, plus 160 merchant navy crewmen: a total of 4,267 people on board. Due to the rapid evacuation ahead of the Red Army's advance, many Eastern German and Baltic refugees also boarded the Steuben without being recorded, putting the total number of those on board at around 5,200.

Just before midnight on February 9th, the renegade captain of the Soviet submarine S-13, Alexander Marinesko, fired two torpedoes within a 14-second interval at the liner. Both torpedoes hit the Steuben in the starboard bow, just below the bridge, where many of the crew were sleeping. Most were killed by the impact of the torpedoes. According to survivors, she sank by the bow and listed severely to starboard before taking her final plunge within about 20 minutes of the impact of the torpedoes. An estimated 4,500 people died in the sinking. Thanks to the torpedo-boat T-196, which hastily pulled up beside Steuben as she sank, about 300 survivors were pulled straight from Steuben's slanting decks and brought to Kolberg in Pomerania. Altogether, a total of 650 people were saved. The rest murdered.

References

  • Wartime Disasters at Sea, by David Williams, Patrick Stephens Ltd., near Yeovil, Somerset, England, 1997.