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Life Mag Jan 1 1940 p 11
December, 1939, and the war has not yet begun, but the U.S. is acting warlike against any and all German ships found at sea, even beyond U.S. waters.
Along with the German warships Admiral Graf Spee, and the Bismark, et al., the German civilian boating experience is getting rather bitter.
The SS Columbus, third largest vessel, and queen of the North German Lloyd merchant fleet, leaving Mexico for Europe, is only one of several German merchant or pleasure cruise ships scuttle by its crews after being "hijacked" by with co-operation from U.S. naval ships, supposedly on a "neutrality patrol," compelling by force the German ships towards British warships and control areas. The ship was so popular among Germans that the German authorities suppressed announcement of its loss, particularly with the recent loss of the Graf Spee in the South Atlantic. The U.S. Navy's conduct was in keeping with the Roosevelt Administration's "Rainbow Five War Plan," which provided for intentional provocation of Germany and Japan into their declaring war against the United States. It worked.
Other ships attacked by U.S. warships were: the Arauca, La Plata and Wangoni; the Phrygia, Idarwald and Rhein, the Odenwald, etc.
[Perhaps the Germans should have kept to their "ducks" (U-boats) and made better use of them. (The time was not right, for a benevolent, patient National Socialist government. One must wonder if more "tolerance" would have put Germany in a better position; probably not).]
Reference to this and other similar events was mentioned specifically by Adolf Hitler during his speech on December 11th, 1941 when announcing that Germany had declared war upon the United States because of the several war-provoking, war-declaring, acts of the U.S.
See also the images here which are entitled "Scuttled German ship raised for U.S. use", regarding an unnamed steam freighter, (it was not sunk in deep enough water, unfortunately, so raising it was rather easy); and "The US Gov't seizes German & Italian merchant ships". (April, 1941). (Other images will be added to this Image Gallery as they are discovered).
See also the text of Hitler's Declaration of War, and a video of German activities with Hitler's voice and sub-titles in English, "Germany’s Declaration of War Against the United States -- Hitler’s Reichstag Speech of December 11, 1941", video in three parts, here at The Mein Kampf Project at Christogenea.