An apology from the past

October 31, 2007

The horrors of war will never be truly witnessed by those that do not actually fight. CNN and rolling news may go some way to portraying the violence and day-to-day occurrences, but they are viewed through a glass box and edited and controlled. The propaganda trail is as long as the bloody history it seeks to document. Books are a better way but word of mouth is the best. Not only can it document the horrors but also the niceties, and there are niceties in war however warped. One thing that there isn’t enough of in war is apologising. Perhaps it shows weakness in the eyes of the enemy, perhaps most are not sorry for the heinous crimes they commit. Governments do not apologise, armies do not apologise, commanding officers do not apologise. Have you ever heard anybody apologise for war? Bob Dylan sang about it, that was probably as close as we ever got.

SS City of Cairo

In October of 1942 the defence ship SS City of Cairo left the port of Bombay and headed home to England, unescorted. Its route was to take it via Durban and Cape Town in South Africa and then Pernambucco in Brazil. During much of the voyage it would be sailing through occupied waters. German U-boats were patrolling. It was on the second leg, 2000 miles from Brazil when tradegy struck. U-68, captained by Karl-Friedrich Merten, struck the SS City of Cairo with a missile and the order to abandon ship was given. Unescorted and thousands of miles from land, any chance of survival was slim to none. After some 20 minutes, U-68 fired again and sank the SS Cairo. The story then takes on a different account.

U-68 surfaced and gave the survivors their location (2000 miles from Brazil, 1000 from Africa and 500 from the island of Helena). He then uttered one of the most famous apologies in memory and wished the survivors a good night. “Goodnight, and sorry for sinking you.” And he meant it. The survivors of SS City of Cairo were picked up some 2 weeks later near the island of Helena.

Read the full article of war bravery here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/77/a4440377.shtml

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