December 1939 Events of the Battle of the Atlantic  
 
  Overview  
  The Battle of the River Plate took place between the cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles and the German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee. All four ships were damaged after a two hour battle. The 14,890 MS Admiral Graf Spee would be scuttled by the Germans.  
   
  7 Allied war vessels was sunk mines or U-boats.  
  2 Allied battleships were damaged by mines.  
   
  2 German war vessels were damaged by an Allied submarine.  
   
  1 U-boat was sunk by Allied warships.  
   
  39 Allied and neutral merchant ships were sunk by U-boats or mines totaling 72,771 tons.  
  4 Allied merchant ships were sunk by the German pocket battleship SMS Graf Spee totaling 21,964 tons.  
  2 Allied merchant ships were damaged by U-boats or mines totaling 8,263 tons.  
   
  1 Axis merchant ships totaling 32,354 tons was scuttled to prevent from being captured.  
  1 Axis merchant ship safely escaped Allied forces by seeking sanctuary in Florida.  
   
  Naval Action in the Atlantic Ocean  
  Sunnday, December 3, 1939  
  Commodore Commanding South Atlantic Station, Commodore Henry H. Harwood, ordered his Royal Navy three cruisers to concentrate off the River Plate estuary on December 12. Harwood's force would battle the SMS Admiral Graf Spee on December 13.  
   
  Monday, December 4, 1939  
  The battleship HMS Nelson (28), commanded by Captain G.J.A. Miles and flagship of the Home Fleet (Admiral Charles Forbes) was badly damaged by a mine at the entrance of Loch Ewe, Scotland. The explosion seriously damaged her and injured 52 crew members. The ship would be escorted to Portsmouth, where she was repaired and returned to service on June 8, 1940.  
   
  Wednesday, December 6, 1939  
  The minesweeping trawler HMS Washington struck a mine and sank near Great Yarmouth off the eastern coast of England. Of the ship’s complement only one crew member survived.  
   
  The German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee refueled from the tanker Altmark in South Atlantic, roughly 1,700 miles from Montevideo, Uruguay.  
   
  Tuesday, December 12, 1939  
  The submarine HMS Salmon (N 65), commanded by Lt. Commander Edward O. Bickford, sighted the 52,000 ton German liner Bremen in the North Sea. The HMS Salmon surfaced and in accordance with International Law signaled the liner to stop but no notice was taken. A few moments later the HMS Salmon had to dive because of an escorting German Do-18 aircraft. The Bremen evaded the British blockade on its journey from Murmansk when it arrived safely in Bremerhaven.  
   
  Wednesday, December 13, 1939  
  The Battle of the River Plate took place between the cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles and the German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee. All four ships were damaged after a two hour battle after which the SMS Admiral Graf Spee set sail for Montevideo, Uruguay where under international law the warship would be permitted temporary neutral sanctuary in order to make quick repairs and have the wounded treated. The HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles took up positions outside the port. The HMS Exeter, badly damaged, withdrew to the Falkland Islands. The U.S. Navy would study the Battle of the River Plate from a perspective of drilling gunners to maintain fire by local (rather than a centralized director) control. To this end, a scenario similar to the River Plate engagement was included in an exercise in 1940. In addition, the Director of Fleet Training considered the "proper use of smoke either as a defense measure or as a means of covering movements of an attacking force" extremely important, and pointed out the demonstrable effectiveness of a smoke screen "as a means of protection for light forces" employed by Commodore Harwood in the battle.  
   
The submarine HMS Salmon (N 65), commanded by Lt. Commander Edward O. Bickford, sighted a German task force in the central North Sea comprising the light cruisers SMS Nürnberg, SMS Leipzig and SMS Köln and the destroyers SMS Hermann Künne, SMS Friedrich Ihn, SMS Erich Steinbrinck, SMS Richard Beitzen, and SMS Bruno Heinemann. The cruisers were a covering force for the destroyers who had laid mines off Newcastle. From great distance the HMS Salmon managed to torpedo the SMS Nürnberg and SMS Leipzig. The SMS Leipzig was so badly damaged that she would never again be fit for combat duty and was only used as a training ship. The SMS Nurnberg would be out of action until May, 1940.
   
  Thursday, December 14, 1939  
  The German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee put in to Montevideo, Uruguay, for repairs. The light cruisers HMS Ajax (22) and New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Achilles (70) maintained patrol off the 120-mile wide River Plate estuary. The heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (57) reinforced the HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles that night.  
   
  The heavy cruiser USS Vincennes (CA 44) and the destroyers USS Evans (DD 78) and USS Twiggs (DD 127) (the latter destroyer having shadowed the destroyer HMS Hereward (H 93) a short time before) trailed the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth (D 29) which was prowling the Gulf of Yucatan waiting for the emergence of the German passenger liner Columbus. The Americans maintained such a close and persistent surveillance of the Australian warship that Perth's commanding officer, Captain Harold B. Farncomb, was said to have remarked in exasperation, "Queer idea of 'neutrality' these Americans have!"  
   
  The German freighter Arauca departed Vera Cruz, Mexico, followed subsequently by the passenger liner Columbus, the third largest ship in Germany's merchant marine. The destroyer USS Benham (DD 397), soon joined by the destroyer USS Lang (DD 399), trailed the Columbus. A succession of U.S. ships would, over ensuing days, send out plain-language position reports.  
   
  Friday, December 15, 1939  
  In Montevideo, Uruguay, the German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee was ordered to leave port with 72 hours. The crew was repairing damage to the warship and fuel was taken in from a German tanker.  
   
  The RFA oiler Olynthus refueled the light cruiser HMS Ajax (22) at Samborombon Bay, off the coast of Argentina. The heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (57) covered the situation at Montevideo, Uruguay lest the Admiral Graf Spee should attempt to sortie.  
   
  The destroyer USS Jouett (DD 396) relieved the destroyer USS Benham (DD 397) at sea. The latter attempted to locate the German freighter Arauca, while the Jouett joined the destroyer USS Lang (DD 399) in shadowing the German passenger liner Columbus.  
   
  Saturday, December 16, 1939  
  The light cruiser HMS Ajax (22), heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (70) and New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Achilles (70) patrolled off River Plate estuary to watch for the German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee. The Ajax's Fairey Seafox float plane reconnoitereds the area.  
   
  The destroyers USS Schenck (DD 159) and USS Philip (DD 76), soon joined by the destroyer USS Lea (DD 118), relieved the destroyers USS Jouett (DD 396) and USS Lang (DD-399) of the duty of trailing German passenger liner Columbus off Key West, Florida. The USS Jouett and USS Lang steamed off to join the destroyer USS Davis (DD-395) in attempting to locate the freighter Arauca. The USS Schenck soon proceeded on other assigned duties.  
   
  Sunday, December 17, 1939  
  The British RFA oiler Olynthus refueled the New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Achilles (70) off Rouen Bank, the southernmost channel of the River Plate estuary. Light cruiser HMS Ajax (22) and heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland (57) cover the situation involving the German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee.  
   
  The Admiral Graf Spee, her allotted time in neutral Uruguayan waters for repair of damage received in the Battle of the River Plate having expired, and her crew transferred to the German freighter Tacoma, put to sea from Montevideo, Uruguay, and was scuttled about five miles west-southwest of the entrance of Montevideo harbor by her commander, Captain Hans Langsdorff. The destruction of Admiral Graf Spee came, as First Lord of the Admiralty Winston S. Churchill later declared "like a flash of light and colour on the scene, carrying with it an encouragement to all who are fighting, to ourselves, and to our Allies." The Admiral Graf Spee had sunk nine British merchantmen during her cruise, totaling 50,089 tons of shipping. Not a single life had been lost in the process.  
   
  The destroyers USS Ellis (DD-154) and USS Cole (DD-155) relieved the destroyers USS Lea (DD-118) and USS Philip (DD-76) of the duty of shadowing the German passenger liner Columbus.  
   
  Monday, December 18, 1939  
  The destroyers USS Greer (DD 145) and USS Upshur (DD 144) relieved the destroyers USS Ellis (DD 154) and USS Cole (DD 155) of the duty of shadowing the German passenger liner Columbus. Later that same day, heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (CA 37) replaced the destroyers in trailing the passenger ship.  
   
  Wednesday, December 20, 1939  
  The heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37) disembarked the scuttled German passenger liner Columbus's "distressed mariners" at Ellis Island, New York City.  
   
  The destroyer USS Twiggs (DD 127), on neutrality patrol in the Yucatan Channel, relieved the destroyer USS Evans (DD 78) of the duty of trailing the British RFA tanker Patella.  
   
  Thursday, December 21, 1939  
  The boom defense vessel HMS Bayonet (Z 05) struck a mine and sank in the Firth of Forth, Scotland. Of the ship’s complement, 3 died.  
   
  The destroyer USS Twiggs (DD 127), on neutrality patrol in the Yucatan Channel, continued trailing the British RFA tanker Patella.  
   
  Friday, December 22, 1939  
  The destroyer USS Philip (DD-76) relieved the destroyer USS Twiggs (DD-127) of the neutrality patrol duty of trailing the British RFA tanker Patella off the east coast of Florida. While en route to Fort Lauderdale, the USS Twiggs observed the light cruiser HMS Orion off Port Everglades and anchored to keep an eye on the British warship as the latter prowled the coast.  
   
  Saturday, December 23, 1939  
  The repair ship HMS Dolphin struck a mine and sank 1.5 miles south-southeast of Blyth, Scotland in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, all 7 survived.  
   
  The minesweeping trawler HMS Glen Albyn struck a mine and sank in Loch Ewe, Scotland in the North Sea.  
   
  The minesweeping trawler HMS Promotive struck a mine and sank in Loch Ewe, Scotland in the North Sea.  
   
  Monday, December 25, 1939  
  The minesweeping trawler HMS Loch Doon struck a mine and sank east of Blyth, Scotland in the North Sea.  
   
  Thursday, December 28, 1939  
  The anti-submarine trawler HMS Barbara Robertson was sunk by gunfire by the U-30, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp, about 35 miles northwest of Butt of Lewis in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Of the ship’s complement, 1 died and the survivors were picked up by the Swedish steam merchant Hispania.  
   
  The battleship HMS Barham (04) was torpedoed and damaged by the U-30, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp, 66 miles west of the Butt of Lewis, Hebrides in the North Atlantic Ocean. Four crew members were lost. The HMS Barham was able to proceed under her own power to Liverpool, but was out of action for six months while being repaired at Birkenhead by Cammell Laird and returned to service on June 30, 1940.  
   
  Saturday, December 30, 1939  
  The Uruguayan government gave the German freighter Tacoma 24 hours to leave the port of Montevideo, deeming the ship an auxiliary war vessel since she had assisted various maneuvers of the German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee and embarked her crew when that warship was scuttled.  
   
  U-Boat Losses  
  Monday, December 4, 1939  
  The U-36, commanded by Korvettenkapitän Wilhelm Fröhlich, was sunk in the North Sea southwest of Kristiansand, Norway by a torpedo from the submarine HMS Salmon (N 65). All of the ship’s complement of 40 died. During its career under Korvettenkapitän Fröhlich the U-36 sank 2 ships for a total of 2,813 tons and captured 1 ship for a total of 1,617 tons.  
   
  Attacks on Allied and Neutral Merchant Ships  
  Friday, December 1, 1939  
  The unescorted Finnish steam merchant Mercator was torpedoed and sunk by the U-21, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Fritz Frauenheim, southeast of Buchan Ness, Scotland in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 1 died and 35 survivors were picked up by the Peterhead lifeboat Julia Park Barry of Glasgow and the motor fishing vessel Bread Winner or reached land by lifeboat. The 4,260 ton Mercator was carrying general cargo, including coffee, maize, wheat, linseed, casein, and groundnut meal and was bound for Helsinki, Finland.  
   
  The neutral and unescorted Norwegian steam merchant Arcturus was torpedoed and sunk by the U-31, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Johannes Habekost, east of Scotland in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 9 died and 8 survivors were picked up by the Danish steam merchant Ivar. The 1,277 ton Arcturus was carrying general cargo, including tea, gas stoves, steel wire, cardboard folders and diaries, boots, shoes, and machinery and was bound for Trondheim, Norway.  
   
  Saturday, December 2, 1939  
  The German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee stopped the 10,086 ton British freighter Doric Star west of Southwest Africa in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The warship then torpedoed, shelled, and sank the merchantman.  
   
  A straggler from convoy HN-3 due to a gale, the 3,829 ton British steam merchant Eskdene was hit amidships by one G7e torpedo from the U-56, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Zahn, approximately 70 miles northeast of Tyne, England in the North Sea. The 29 crewmen abandoned ship and were picked up by the Norwegian steam merchant Hild. On December 7, the abandoned Eskdene was found by an aircraft and the next day towed to the Tyne by the British tug Bullger and beached on Head Sands. The ship was later refloated, repaired and returned to service in October 1940.  
   
  Sunday, December 3, 1939  
  The unescorted and neutral Danish steam merchant Ove Toft was torpedoed and sunk by the U-31, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Johannes Habekost, approximately 100 miles east of the Tyne, England in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 6 died and 15 survived. The 2,135 ton Ove Toft was carrying goal and was bound for Gothenburg, Sweden.  
   
  The Swedish steam merchant Rudolf was torpedoed and sunk by the U-56, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Zahn, in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 9 died and 14 survivors were picked up by the British trawler Cardew and the Swedish steam merchant Gunlög. The 2,119 ton Rudolf was carrying coal and was bound for Malmö, Sweden.  
   
  The German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee stopped the 7,983 ton British freighter Tairoa. The warship then sank the merchantman.  
   
  Monday, December 4, 1939  
  The unescorted Norwegian steam merchant Gimle was torpedoed and sunk by the U-31, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Johannes Habekost, in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 3 died and 16 survived. The 1,271 ton Gimle was carrying coke nuts and was bound for Gothenburg, Sweden.  
   
  The unescorted and neutral Norwegian steam merchant Primula was torpedoed and sunk by the U-31, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Johannes Habekost, approximately 120 miles east of Stonehaven, Scotland in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 8 died and 7 survivors were picked up by the Danish steam merchant Wm.Th. Malling. The 1,024 ton Primula was carrying ballast and was bound for the United Kingdom.  
   
  Tuesday, December 5, 1939  
  Sailing with Convoy OB-46, the British steam merchant Navasota was torpedoed and sunk by the U-47, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Günther Prien, about 150 miles west of Bishop Rock in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Of the ship’s complement, 37 died and 45 survivors were picked up by the destroyer HMS Escapade (H 17) and the British steam merchant Clan Farquhar. The 8,795 ton Navasota was carrying ballast and was bound for Buenos Aires, Argentina.  
   
  Wednesday, December 6, 1939  
  The Estonian steam merchant Agu was torpedoed and sunk by the U-31, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Johannes Habekost, in the North Sea. All of the ship’s complement of 18 died. The 1,575 ton Agu was carrying coal and was bound for Gothenburg, Sweden.  
   
  The unescorted and neutral Swedish steam merchant Vinga was torpedoed and sunk by the U-31 approximately 100 miles east of Dundee, Scotland in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, all 22 survived and were picked up by the Danish steam merchant Transporter. The 1,974 ton Vinga was carrying coal and was bound for Gothenburg, Sweden.  
   
  The neutral Norwegian motor tanker Britta was torpedoed and sunk by the U-47, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Günther Prien, 45 miles southwest of Longships Lighthouse, southwestern England in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Of the ship’s complement, 6 died and 24 survivors were picked up by the Belgian trawler Memlinc. The 6,214 ton Britta was carrying ballast and was bound for Curaçao.  
   
  Thursday, December 7, 1939  
  The unescorted British steam merchant Thomas Walton was torpedoed and sunk by the U-38, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Liebe, inside Norwegian territorial waters south of Svolvaer. Of the ship’s complement, 13 died and 31 survivors were picked up by the German steam merchant Sebu. The 4,460 ton Thomas Walton was carrying ballast and was bound for Narvik, Norway.  
   
  The neutral Dutch motor merchant Tajandoen was torpedoed and sunk by the U-47, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Günther Prien, in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Of the ship’s complement, 6 died and 62 survived. The 8,159 ton Tajandoen was carrying general cargo, including cement, iron, steel and glass and was bound for Batavia, Netherlands East Indies.  
   
  The German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee stopped and sank the 3,895 ton British freighter Streonshalh in the South Atlantic Ocean.  
   
  Friday, December 8, 1939  
  The neutral Danish steam merchant Scotia was torpedoed and sunk by the U-23, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Kretschmer, in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 19 died and 2 survivors were picked up by the Danish steam merchant Hafnia. The 2,400 ton Scotia was carrying ballast and was bound for the United Kingdom.  
   
  A straggler from Convoy OB-48, the British steam merchant Brandon was torpedoed and sunk by the U-48, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Herbert Schultze, 80 miles southwest of Fastnet, Ireland in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Of the ship’s complement, 9 died and the survivors were picked up by the Belgian trawlers Marie Jose Rosette and Tritten. The 6,668 ton Brandon was carrying ballast and was bound for Port Everglades, Florida.  
   
  Saturday, December 9, 1939  
  The unescorted and neutral Danish steam merchant Magnus was torpedoed and sunk by the U-20, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Karl-Heinz Moehle, approximately 40 miles east-northeast of Peterhead, Scotland in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 18 died and 1 survivor was picked up by the British steam trawler Philippe. The 1,339 ton Magnus was carrying ballast and was bound for Methil, Scotland.  
   
  Sailing with Convoy OB-48, the British motor tanker San Alberto was torpedoed and sunk by the U-48, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Herbert Schultze, about 120 miles south of Cape Clear, Ireland in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Of the ship’s complement, 1 died and 36 survivors were picked up by the Belgian tanker Alexandre André. The 7,397 ton San Alberto was carrying ballast and was bound for Trinidad.  
   
  Sunday, December 10, 1939  
  The Norwegian steam merchant Føina was torpedoed and sunk by the U-20, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Karl-Heinz Moehle, north of Scotland in the northern Atlantic Ocean. All of the ship’s complement of 18 died. The 1,674 ton Føina was carrying ballast and was bound for Grangemouth, Scotland.  
   
  Dispersed from Convoy HG-9, the British steam merchant Willowpool struck a mine and sank 3 miles east from Newarp Lightship off the eastern coast of England in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, all 36 survived and were picked up by the Gorleston lifeboat. The 4,815 ton Willowpool was carrying iron ore and was bound for Middlesbrough, England.  
   
  Monday, December 11, 1939  
  The neutral Greek steam merchant Garoufalia was torpedoed and sunk by the U-38, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Liebe, inside Norwegian territorial waters. Of the ship’s complement, 4 died and 25 survivors were picked up by the Norwegian steam merchant Tellus. The 4,708 ton Garoufalia was carrying ballast and was bound for Kirkenes, Norway. The attack was observed by the Tellus  and the sinking of the Garoufalia proved to be a huge propaganda blunder for the Germans as it proved to both British and Norwegian authorities that German U-boats operated inside Norwegian territorial waters. The Germans did not send other U-boats on such patrols.  
   
  Tuesday, December 12, 1939  
  The British steam merchant Marwick Head struck a mine and sank south of North Caister Buoy off the eastern coast of England in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 5 died and 5 survived. The 496 ton Marwick Head was carrying coal and was bound for London, England.  
   
  Wednesday, December 13, 1939  
  The unescorted British steam merchant Deptford was torpedoed and sunk by the U-38, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Liebe, north-northwest of Honningsvaag, Norway. Of the ship’s complement, 32 died and 5 survivors were picked up by the Norwegian fishing vessel Firda and the Norwegian steam merchant Nordnorge. The 4,101 ton Deptford was carrying iron ore and was bound for Middlesbrough, England.  
   
  The unescorted Estonian steam merchant Mina was torpedoed and sunk by the U-57, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Claus Korth, off the eastern coast of England in the North Sea. All of the ship’s complement of 17 died. The 1,173 ton Mina was carrying ballast and was bound for Gothenburg, Sweden.  
   
  Friday, December 15, 1939  
  The unescorted Greek steam merchant Germaine was stopped by gunfire and after the crew abandoned ship was torpedoed and sunk by the U-48, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Herbert Schultze, southwest of Ireland in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. All of the ship’s complement survived and were picked up by the Norwegian motor merchant Vinland. The 5,217 ton Germaine was carrying maize and was bound for Cork, Ireland.  
   
  Saturday, December 16, 1939  
  The neutral and unescorted Norwegian steam merchant Glitrefjell was torpedoed and sunk by the U-59, commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Harald Jürst, approximately 75 miles east of St. Abb´s Head, Scotland in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 5 died and 13 survivors were picked up by the Greek steam merchant Icarion. The 1,568 ton Glitrefjell was carrying ballast and was bound for Tyne, England.  
   
  The neutral and unescorted Swedish steam merchant Lister was torpedoed and sunk by the U-59 approximately 130 miles off Newcastle, England in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, all 19 survived and were picked up by the destroyer HMS Eclipse (H 08) or reached land by lifeboat. The 1,366 ton Lister was carrying wood and was bound for Antwerp, Belgium.  
   
  Sunday, December 17, 1939  
  The neutral Danish steam merchant Bogø was torpedoed and sunk by the U-59, commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Harald Jürst, 75 miles east of the Isle of May off the coast of Scotland in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 17 died and 3 survivors were picked up by the British trawler River Earn. The 1,214 ton Bogø was carrying ballast and was bound for Methil, Scotland.  
   
  The neutral Danish steam merchant Jaegersborg was torpedoed and sunk by the U-59 east of the Firth of Forth, Scotland in the North Sea. All of the ship’s complement of 18 died. The 1,245 ton Jaegersborg was carrying agricultural products and was bound for Leith, Scotland.  
   
  Tuesday, December 19, 1939  
  The British steam merchant City of Kobe struck a mine and sank sank near Cross Sand Buoy, Great Yarmouth off the eastern coast of England in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 1 died and 30 survivors were picked up by the minesweeping trawler HMS Tumby (FY 850) and the British coasters Corinia and Faxfleet. The 4,373 ton City of Kobe was carrying general cargo and coal and was bound for India.  
   
  Wednesday, December 20, 1939  
  The Swedish steam merchant Mars struck a mine and sank one mile east of St. Marys Lightvessel near Blyth off the eastern coast of England in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 7 died and 15 survived. The 1,877 ton Mars was carrying wood pulp and was bound for London, England.  
   
  Thursday, December 21, 1939  
  The Swedish steam merchant Carl Henckel was torpedoed and sunk by the U-21, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Fritz Frauenheim, off the Isle of May off the coast of Scotland in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 10 died and 7 survivors were picked up by the Norwegian Steam merchant Hop. The 1,352 ton Carl Henckel was carrying coal and was bound for Stockholm, Sweden.  
   
  The Swedish steam merchant Mars was torpedoed and sunk by the U-21 off the Isle of May off the coast of Scotland. Of the ship’s complement, 18 died and 1 survivors were picked up by the Norwegian Steam merchant Hop. The 1,475 ton Mars was carrying coal and was bound for Stockholm, Sweden.  
   
  The Norwegian steam merchant Rudolf was torpedoed and sunk by the U-46, commanded by Herbert Sohler, approximately 110 miles east-northeast of Rattray Head, Scotland in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, all 15 survived and were picked up by the Norwegian steam merchants Biarritz and Bjerka. The 924 ton Rudolf was carrying ballast and was bound for the United Kingdom.  
   
  Friday, December 22, 1939  
  The British steam merchant Gryfevale damaged by a mine three miles east of the Tyne Pier off the east coast of England in the North Sea. The 4,434 ton Gryfevale was carrying cotton seed, oil cake, and rice and was bound for Leith, England.  
   
  Monday, December 25, 1939  
  The British steam merchant Stanholme struck a mine and sank off Foreland Point in the Bristol Channel in the Irish Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 12 died and 12 survivors were picked up by the Norwegian steam merchant Liv. The 2,473 ton Stanholme was carrying coal and was bound for London, England.  
   
  Thursday, December 28, 1939  
  The Danish steam merchant Hanne struck a mine and sank 1 mile east of Blyth Pier, Scotland in the North Sea. Of the ship’s complement, 15 died and 2 survived. The 2,473 ton Stanholme was carrying ballast and was bound for Blyth.  
   
  The 258 ton British fishing steam trawler Resercho struck a mine and sank approximately 6 miles southeast by east from Flamborough Head, England in the North Sea.  
   
  Sunday, December 31, 1939  
  The neutral and unescorted British steam merchant Luna was torpedoed and sunk by the U-32, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Paul Büchel, in the North Sea. The 959 ton Luna was carrying general cargo, including rubber hose, zinc plates, and hessian cloth and was bound for Trondheim, Norway.  
   
  Axis Merchant Shipping Losses  
  Tuesday, December 19, 1939  
  The destroyer HMS Hyperion (H 97) intercepted the 32,354 ton German passenger liner Columbus 450 miles east of Cape May, New Jersey. The Columbus wais scuttled to prevent capture. Two crewmen perish in the abandonment. The heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (CA 37) rescued the Columbus's survivors (567 men and 9 women stewardesses) and set course for New York City, the only U.S. port that could handle such a large and sudden influx of aliens.  
   
  The light cruiser HMS Orion (85) intercepted the German freighter Arauca off Miami, Florida. The Arauca put in to Port Everglades to avoid capture. The destroyer Truxtun (DD 229) had trailed the merchantman at one point. The destroyer Philip (DD 76) was present when Arauca reached sanctuary. USAAC B-18 (21st Reconnaissance Squadron), however, witnessed the shot that HMS Orion fired over Arauca's bow (in the attempt to force the latter to heave-to) splashing inside American territorial waters off Hialeah, Florida. Learning of this incident, U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull instructed U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James Joseph P. Kennedy to remind the British Foreign Office that, as neutrals, the American republics are entitled to have their waters "free from the commission of any hostile act by any non-American belligerent nation." The U.S. Navy eventually commissions Arauca as refrigerated store ship USS Saturn (AF 40).  
   
  Other Battle of the Atlantic Events  
  Monday, December 4, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Examiner, detained at Gibraltar since November 17 by British authorities, was released.  
   
  Tuesday, December 5, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Exochorda was detained at Gibraltar by British authorities, who maintained that the 45 tons of tin plate among the vessel's cargo was contraband. The British maintained that the cargo must be taken to Marseilles and unloaded there. The manager of the shipping firm (Export Lines) maintained that the ship couldn’t proceed to a belligerent port without violating the Neutrality Act. Until the impasse was resolved, the merchantman remained at Gibraltar until December13. The U.S. freighter Exmouth, detained at Gibraltar since November 22 was released.  
   
  The U.S. freighter Yaka was detained at the Downs, England by British authorities.  
   
  Wednesday, December 6, 1939  
  The administration of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a diplomatic note protesting the British policy of seizing German goods on neutral (especially, U.S.) ships. A similar policy in World War I led to tensions between the British and American governments.  
   
  The U.S. freighter Yaka, detained at the Downs, England by British authorities the previous day, was released.  
   
  Thursday, December 7, 1939  
  The U.S. freighters Effingham and Winston Salem, detained at Ramsgate, England, by British authorities since November 27 and November 28, respectively, were release. The latter proceeded to Rotterdam, Netherlands where her cargo of 2,782 bales of cotton was seized by British authorities.  
   
  The U.S. freighter Exmoor was detained at Gibraltar by British authorities.  
   
  Friday, December 8, 1939  
  U.S. Secretary of State Hull urged U.S. Chargé d'Affaires in the United Kingdom to urge the Contraband Commission in London to release the U.S. freighter Nishmaha (then at Marseilles, France), which had been held 25 days and was considered "a most unreasonable detention."  
   
  U.S. Consul General in Hamburg, Wilbur Keblinger, reported that German prize control authorities were detaining more than 125 neutral ships in German ports: at least 40 Swedish, 12 Danish, 5 Norwegian, 40 Finnish, 14 Estonian and 14 Latvian, comprising practically all the neutral vessels clearing Baltic or Scandinavian ports with cargos of goods that are on the German contraband list.  
   
  Saturday, December 9, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Explorer was detained at Gibraltar by British authorities.  
   
  Sunday, December 10, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Steel Engineer was detained at Gibraltar by British authorities.  
   
  Monday, December 11, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Azalea City, detained at London by British authorities since November 27, was released to proceed to Antwerp, Belgium and Rotterdam, Netherlands, after certain cargo was detained for guaranties. The U.S. freighter Steel Engineer, detained at Gibraltar by the British the previous day, was released.  
   
  Wednesday, December 13, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Exochorda, detained at Gibraltar by British authorities since December 5, was released.  
   
  Thursday, December 14, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Extavia, detained at Gibraltar by British authorities since November 29, was released.  
   
  Friday, December 15, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Exmoor, detained at Gibraltar by British authorities since December 7, was released.  
   
  Sunday, December 17, 1939  
  The U.S. freighters Meanticut and Excalibur were detained by British authorities at Gibraltar.  
   
  Monday, December 18, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Meanticut, detained by British authorities at Gibraltar the previous day, was released.  
   
  Tuesday, December 19, 1939  
  British Admiralty scientists led by Dr. C. F. Goodeve and Dr. E. C. Bullard devised a method to demagnetize ships to prevent from them from detonating magnetic mines. The system , known as "degaussing," involved fitting an electric cable around the hull of a ship and creating a magnetic field exactly opposite to that of the ship. The scientists utilized a German parachute mine recovered by Commander John G. D. Ouvry and Doctor Albert Wood on November 23, 1939 on the mudflats at Shoeburyness.  
   
  Captain Hans Langsdorff of the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee shot himself in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  
   
  The U.S. freighter Nishmaha was free to sail from Marseilles, France to continue her voyage, but port conditions and weather prevented her from sailing as scheduled.  
   
  Wednesday, December 20, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Exochorda arrived at Naples, Italy with the 45 tons of tin plate condemned by the British prize court at Gibraltar among her cargo, having been permitted to sail by her master's agreeing to ship the 45 tons of tin to Marseilles< France from Genoa. Another 100 tons of tin, however, consigned to a Swiss buyer, are put on the "detained list" and held in Genoa at the disposal of the British consul. That turn of affairs prompted U.S. Ambassador in Italy William Phillips, to take up the matter with the British Ambassador, who expresses his awareness of the "irritation and resentment...in American commercial and shipping circles" over the seemingly "arbitrary, careless, and casual" methods shown by the British contraband control people.  
   
  The U.S. freighters Oakwood, bound for Genoa, Italy, and the Executive, bound for Greece, Turkey, and Rumania, were detained by British authorities at Gibraltar.  
   
  Saturday, December 23, 1939  
  Twenty-one American republics protested to France, Britain, and Germany because of "the naval engagement which took place on the thirteenth instant off the northeastern coast of Uruguay, between certain British naval vessels and the German vessel Graf von Spee."  
   
  The U.S. freighters Explorer (detained at Gibraltar since December 9) and Oakwood (detained there since December 20) were released by British authorities.  
   
  Wednesday, December 27, 1939  
  The U.S. Department of State dispatched a "vigorous protest" to the British Foreign Office concerning the British practice of removing and censoring U.S. mail from British and U.S. and neutral ships.  
   
  The U.S. Consul General in Hamburg reported that German prize control authorities had released all but seven neutral vessels detained in German ports for the evaluation of cargo deemed contraband.  
   
  Thursday, December 28, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Exilona was detained at Gibraltar by British authorities.  
   
  Sunday, December 31, 1939  
  The U.S. freighter Excalibur, detained at Gibraltar by British authorities since December 17, was released.  
     
   
     
   
 

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