Guam commemorates 100th anniversary of German warship SMS Cormoran II

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The Guam Visitors Bureau organized a number of events to show the public the ship’s tie to Guam before the war.

Guam – April 7 commemorates the 100th anniversary of when the German warship, the SMS Cormoran II, was scuttled in Apra Harbor. 

Initially, the Cormoran, commanded by Captain Adalbert Zuckschwerdt, came to Guam in December of 1914, urgently looking to refuel. Although neutral in the war at the time, then-Naval governor of Guam William J. Maxwell refused to allow the ship to refuel, citing a lack of coal and supplies. Instead, the crew was allowed to stay on-island for over 2 years, eventually becoming guests and forming friendly relations with the people until the United States declared war on Germany during WWI in April of 1917.

By then, Capt. Roy C. Smith was governor of Guam, and shortly after the U.S. officially entered WWI, ordered the surrender of the Cormoran. The first shots of the war by the U.S. were fired when a supply boat returning to the Cormoran, unaware of the new conditions, failed to stop when ordered by U.S. sailors. Capt. Zuckschwerdt, rather than surrender, opted to scuttle the Coromoran instead. The seven Germans who were killed in the scuttle were buried with full military honors at the U.S. Naval Cemetery in Hagåtña.

During a site visit to Apra Harbor, Michael Hasper, the Chargé d’Affaires of the German Embassy Manila, said “It was here and on that day that the U.S. entered the war which ultimately ended in the defeat of the German empire… May our remembrance today of the 100th anniversary of the scuttling of the SMS Cormoran in Guam send out a message of peace to the world.”

The Cormoran, laying in its final resting place in Apra Harbor, was joined by the Japanese freighter, Tokai Maru, in 1943 after it was torpedoed by a U.S. submarine in WWII.

The shipwreck site is now a unique diving spot for Guam’s residents and visitors, and the Guam Visitors Bureau is pushing special dive packages so diving enthusiasts can see part of this island’s history. Nowhere else in the world can divers touch two shipwrecks from two world wars at the same time.

According to GVB’s Public Information Officer, Josh Tyquiengco, “For divers, this is a great opportunity for them to experience an ‘only on Guam’ moment. And we’re just happy to be out here in the middle of Apra Harbor, remembering this history from 100 years ago.”

GVB and the U.S. National Park Service have scheduled a lecture series in Sumay through April 12, and a Peace Memorial Service for Cormoran Sailors as well as a Resolution presentation from Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, Jr., held Friday afternoon at the Hagåtña Cemetery & Padre Palomo Park.

Here is the schedule of events GVB has organized for the 100th Anniversary:

Thursday, April 6, 2017, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Rufus Hasplur of Lamotrek, Federated States of Micronesia, and Guam historian Tony Ramirez will co-host a lecture based on the oral accounts of people who interacted with the SMS Cormoran II Crew during her stay in Micronesia.

Friday, April 7, 2017, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
A Peace Memorial Service for Cormoran Sailors will be held at the Hagatña Cemetery & Padre Palomo Park on the 100th anniversary of the scuttling of the SMS Cormoran II.

Monday, April 10, 2017, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Mike Musto will share the story of two ships whose fates became entwined, with one replacing the other and ultimately earning a place in both Guam and American history.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.  
National Park Service historian, published author and expert hiker Dave Lotz will lecture on “The German East-Asia Squadron, the origin of the Cormoran story of World War I.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The last day of lectures will feature Dr. Bill Jeffrey giving his lecture on the marine archaeology program, focusing on the SMS Cormoran II.

All lectures will be held at the T. Stell Newman Visitors Center in Sumay from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. The presentations are open to the public and there is no cost for admission.

For more information about the lecture series, please contact Kelly Carroll at the T. Stell Newman Visitor Center at 333-4050, or the Guam Visitors Bureau at 646-5278.