Bedded down somewhere in the Pacific during the mayhem and fierce fighting against the Japanese army during World War II, this American soldier takes time out to show some kindness by feeding a banana to a battle weary goat.
On 19 November, 1941 HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran sank each other off the coast of Western Australia, with the loss of 645 Australians and about 77 German seamen.
The battle was Australia’s all time largest loss of life in its entire naval history and the largest Allied warship lost with all hands in World War II. For conspiracy theorists, what really happened has remained a controversy for over sixty years!
When we think of World War II’s naval battles, we tend to envision German submarines in the Atlantic or the epic battles pitting Japanese and American aircraft carriers against each other in the Pacific. Yes, we might also imagine some of the fierce confrontations between the German battleship Bismarck and its British rivals.
Such a journey occurred in Autumn 1941 when the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran battled the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney for a half-hour long engagement off Dirk Hartog Island, Western Australia.
Kormoran had departed German waters late in 1940, under the command of Fregattenkapitän (Commander) Theodor Detmers for the Atlantic, where she sank seven merchant ships and captured an eighth.
By April 1941, the raider sailed to the Indian Ocean in late April 1941, where she intercepted only three merchantmen. Kormoran encountered Sydney in November 1941 . When the battle raged, each ship fired multiple salvos as well as torpedoes on its opponent’s vessel.
After a fierce fight, the ships separated from each other, being a good 10,000 meters or 30,000 feet apart when they would both sink. 645, including the commanding officer, were lost with Sydney.
Kormoran lost 82 killed. 317 survivors of Kormoran were subsequently captured. Among those captured included Detmers, who unsuccessfully tried to escape Australian captivity with other members of his crew.
Despite being in captivity for the remainder of the war, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross in December 1941 and even promoted in 1943.
One could argue that given these numbers and the fact that Detmers was regarded as something of a hero in Germany that Germany technically won a numeric victory of sorts.
Moreover, Australia did suffer something of a psychological defeat as the loss of so many men did hurt their morale, but again, the combat was mutually destructive in that both ships were lost and both crews were either killed or killed and captured.
As such, with both ships lost and all hands removed from further participation in the war, we could also argue that neither side truly “won”.
Despite the battle having occurred in 1941, the two wrecks were only located in 2008, over sixty years after one the deadliest naval encounters in Australian and even all of Allied history during mankind’s deadliest war.
Soviet soldiers raising the red flag over the Reichstag, May 1945.
Photograph by Yevgeny Khaldei: The David King Collection at Tate
There is an unforgettable photograph of a Soviet soldier raising the red flag over the Reichstag near the end of this momentous exhibition.
The soldier crouches at a terrifying angle to hang his victorious banner above burned-out Berlin in May 1945.
It is a famous shot – the figure high among the parapets beneath a thunderous sky – and known to have been staged, like the marines hoisting the flag at Iwo Jima.
But in this context, one sees it completely new.
The photographer was Jewish. His father and sisters had been murdered by the Nazis.
His uncle made the flag by hand, the hammer and sickle glowing an immaculate white almost at the epicentre of this dark image.
And what has inspired Yevgeny Khaldei is not just the possibility of raising the figure high among the parapets, a worker on the same level as the imperial statues, but the dynamic geometries of Russian abstract art.
His scene is all triangles and heroic diagonals, harking back to El Lissitzky and Malevich.
On May 1, 1915, the ship departed New York City bound for Liverpool. Unknown to her passengers but probably no secret to the Germans, almost all her hidden cargo consisted of munitions and contraband destined for the British war effort.
As the fastest ship afloat, the luxurious liner felt secure in the belief she could easily outdistance any submarine. Nonetheless, the menace of submarine attack reduced her passenger list to only half her capacity.
On May 7, the ship neared the coast of Ireland. At 2:10 in the afternoon a torpedo fired by the German submarine U 20 slammed into her side. A mysterious second explosion ripped the liner apart. Chaos reigned.
The ship listed so badly and quickly that lifeboats crashed into passengers crowded on deck, or dumped their loads into the water. Most passengers never had a chance. Within 18 minutes the giant ship slipped beneath the sea. One thousand one hundred nineteen of the 1,924 aboard died. The dead included 114 Americans.
Walter Schwieger was captain of the U-Boat that sank the Lusitania. He watched through his periscope as the torpedo exploded and noted the result in his log, “The ship stops immediately and heals over to starboard quickly, immersing simultaneously at the bow.
It appears as if the ship were going to capsize very shortly. Great confusion is rife on board; the boats are made ready and some of them lowered into the water. In connection therewith great panic must have reigned; some boats, full to capacity are rushed from above, touch the water with either stem or stern first and founder immediately.”
In the ship’s nursery Alfred Vanderbilt, one of the world’s richest men, and playwright Carl Frohman tied life jackets to wicker “Moses baskets” holding infants in an attempt to save them from going down with the ship.
The rising water carried the baskets off the ship but none survived the turbulence created as the ship sank to the bottom. The sea also claimed Vanderbilt and Frohman.
The sinking enraged American public opinion. The political fallout was immediate. President Wilson protested strongly to the Germans. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a pacifist, resigned.
In September, the Germans announced that passenger ships would be sunk only with prior warning and appropriate safeguards for passengers. However, the seeds of American animosity towards Germany were sown.