Hospital Ship MV Wilhelm Gustloff and MV Steuben

Hospital Ship MV Wilhelm Gustloff
The sinking of Germanys huge luxury passenger liner, the Hospital Ship MV Wilhelm Gustloff, remains the worse ever maritime disaster. It occurred in the final stages of World War II on January 30 1945. She was consequently re-painted in internationally recognized hospital color scheme. Wilhelm Gustloff′s final voyage was during Operation Hannibal while participating in the evacuation of civilian refugees who were surrounded by the Red Army in East Prussia. The Red Army had stormed into East Prussia and German Pomerania. Urged on by Stalin the Red Army would embark on an orgy of rape and destruction. Operation Hannibal was a Kriegsmarine operation involving the evacuation by sea of civilian refugees who were surrounded by the Red Army in Courland, East Prussia and the Polish Corridor from January 33 – May 8 1945. This is not to forget the depleted Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS trying to hold the Soviets back while civilians evacuated.
The Hospital Ship Wilhelm Gustloff was sighted by the Soviet submarine S-13, under the command of Captain Alexander Marinesko. Marinesko launched three torpedoes at the Wilhelm Gustloff. Soon after that, captain Marinesko fired at torpedo boat Löwe that had come to the aid of the Hospital Ship.  Despite Löwe being overloaded with 564 survivors. Heinz Schön, who carried out extensive research into the sinking during the 1990s, concluded that the Hospital Ship Wilhelm Gustloff was carrying some military personnel and 8,956 civilian refugees, among them an estimated 4,000 children, for a total of 10,582 passengers and crew. The figures from the research of Schön make the total lost in the sinking to be about 9,343 men, women, and children. This would make it the largest loss of life in a single sinking in maritime history. Image: Public domain.

MV Steuben
On February 9 1945, the German luxury passenger liner MV Steuben sailed from Pillau in the bay of Danzig for Swinemünde. East Prussian refugees headed west, away from the city of Königsberg and ahead of the Soviet Red Army's advance into the Baltic states and East Prussia. The Steuben was in the fleet of ships sent for the purpose. On board were 2,800 wounded soldiers, 800 civilian refugees and 270 navy medical personnel. Just after midnight, Captain Alexander Marinesko launched two torpedoes from his Soviet submarine S-13. Between three and four thousand people died in the sinking. About 300 survivors were saved by torpedo boat T-196 and brought to Kolberg. Soviet Captain Alexander Marinesko was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously, in May 1990.
The worlds second worst maritime tragedy was the Soviet sinking of the German transport ship MV Goya. The sinking of this vessel shares many similarities with the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff and Steuben. Image: Public domain. 

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