Sunday, May 8, 2011

Florida History: WWII, Port Everglades, a German ship

SS Arauca from

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By Jane Feehan

Port Everglades once played host to German cargo ship, Arauca, as a result of World War II hostilities. The ship set sail on its maiden voyage before England (and France) declared war on Germany Sept. 3, 1939.

After leaving Mexico, Arauca was sighted and chased by British cruiser Orion off Florida’s coast December 19, 1939. One shot was fired over the bow of Arauca in a maneuver meant to drive it beyond the neutral sea limit. Instead, the German ship, in a pursuit witnessed by many on Fort Lauderdale’s shores, found refuge in neutral Port Everglades.                                                              

The crew was confined primarily to Arauca until shortly after the U.S. entered the war in December, 1941; their stay in Fort Lauderdale was not entirely gloomy. One newspaper reported the Rotary Club sent cigars and magazines to the German sailors for their first Christmas in Port Everglades (Miami News, Dec. 23, 1939). Another account reports the German crew met the crew of British Merchant Marine vessel, the Harburton, at asmall tavern just off the docksfor a few beers (Palm Beach Post, Feb. 23, 1940).

Pleasantries ended after Dec. 7, 1941. President Roosevelt, who sailed into Port Everglades aboard his yacht Potomac in March, 1941, ordered German, Italian and Danish ships in U.S. ports to be seized. The crew of the Arauca was sent to Fort Lincoln in North Dakota and then Ellis Island for confinement until war’s end.

But what of the Arauca?  Seized by the U.S. government, it was commissioned by the U.S. Navy as a cargo ship, the USS Saturn, to deliver supplies along the east coast. Soon after, it was reclassified and participated in the European theater. The USS Saturn received one battle star for service during the invasion of France. It was turned over to the Maritime Administration in 1946 and remained in its reserve fleet until 1972 when it was sold to a Spanish company and then scrapped.

For the first WWII recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, see: 
Gillis, Susan. Fort Lauderdale: The Venice of America. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2005
Palm Beach Post (see parenthetical ref.)
Miami News (see parenthetical ref.)

Tags: Fort Lauderdale in the 40s, Fort Lauderdale in the 1940s, Fort Lauderdale during WWII

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