|SS Arauca from NavSource.org|
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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 a “small tavern just off the docks” for 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.