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- BRAZILIAN SHIPS LOST

4)ANTONICO U-156





Built: 1919


Tonnage: 1,243 tons


Cargo: Asphalt in bulk and boxes containing bicycles


Sunk 28 Sep 42 by U-156 on pos. 05º30"N 53º30"W


16 Dead


24 Survivors


Built in 1919 at the French shipyard Chantiers et Ateliers de Penhoêt in Saint-Nazaire, it was completed in June of that year and served under the French name TOURNEUR. In 1923, it was sold to British owners and renamed Ashbay. In 1935, it was acquired by Manoel Leônidas de Albuquerque, a small shipowner from Belém do Pará, and renamed ANTONICO. It had 66 meters in length, 10.4 meters of beam and 4.02 meters of draft. Made with steel hull, it had 1,223 t of deadweight, propelled by a Compound type motor, with a nominal power of 81 HP, steam, coupled to a propeller, making it reach the speed of 7 knots.

The cargo in Belém and the beginning of the voyage: The ship, commanded by Captain  Américo de Moura Neves and with 40 crew on board. The vessel had departed from the port of Belém in Pará, in front of quayside 11, in the afternoon of September 17, 1942, outbound  to Paramaribo, carrying asphalt for construction of the airffield in that city and some boxes containing bicycles . When the shipment was over, the crew sailed and set off in front of the island of Mosqueiro, about 18 miles from Belem, waiting for the marine pilot who would lead the ANTONICO and his crew to the north bar. The same took them through the straits of Breves (channels formed by the islands of the Marajó Archipelago, intermediaries between the Amazon River and its tributary, the Tocantins River) for the purpose of supplying the fuel boat (but there was no deposit at Belem of this material, the ship's system had been adapted to burn firewood).


Under the command of Commander Américo Neves, the voyage continued along the Rio Oiapoque, where the ship had been supplied with more firewood. During this time the commander ordered the crew to carry out rescue exercises. In a town called Cleveland, the commander, the two pilots, and the engineer decided to visit the city. Upon returning from the tour, one of the crew alerted them that there was a submarine in the vicinity.


On Saturday, September 27, around 09 PM, the crew passed through the Island of Salvation (known as Devil's Island), on the coast of French Guiana. At dawn the following day, at about 4:15 a.m. (Central European Time), just before the mouth of the Maroni River, separating French Guiana from Dutch Guyana, the ANTONICO was attacked by  gunfire, from U-516, under Captain Lieutenant Gerhard Wiebe. It should be pointed out that the vessel in question had no armament due to its commercial activities, nor did it have a telegraph. Flaviano Rodrigues, the first pilot, who, looking at the lookout, saw a purple fire in the upper part of the boat. One of the sailors tried to warn the others by shouting: Being a low-sized vessel, it submerged very quickly, forcing the crew to lower  the  lifeboats. Until then, there had been no fatality and it seemed that the event, although dramatic for the crew, would end there.
However, already inside the boats, feeling themselves safe, the men were surprised when the submarine artillery, directed by the lieutenant Markle, was pointed to them. Then Commander Wiebe gave the order to shoot. Undecided, the crew were shot and sixteen of the 40 men died, including Captain Américo Neves. This action was probably the result of a decision taken by Hitler after the Laconia Incident, an event in which German submarines were attacked by US planes when they attempted to rescue Italian shipwrecked, who were being taken prisoner aboard that British ship. From then on, the order was for the submarines not to give any assistance to survivors.The castaways, most of them wounded, fearing a hostile treatment of the French faithful to the Vichy government, avoided Devil's Island, the closest to the sinking site, to land on a deserted beach in Hattlers village. There they were medicated and transferred clandestinely to Suriname, where the most serious wounded were hospitalized.

The case had reverberation among Naval communities, until in face of doubtful postponements and unreasonable delays and bureaucracy, Brazilian Minister of Justice publish a document  # 171 Q, which recommended dismissal of the case in view of  all lack of interest and decided to call off the request  for the extradition of the 2 indicted men to stand trial before Brazilian court for war crimes. But to no avail.

 

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