GUAM'S ROLE IN WORLD WAR ONE
The SMS Cormoran
FINDING SHELTER IN GUAM
A German ship, the Cormoran, was sailing in our part of the Pacific, trying to avoid meeting up with Japanese ships. But she was running low on coal, the fuel source enabling the ship to sail. Hiding out near Lamotrek in the Carolines, the captain of the Cormoran, Adalbert Zuckschwerdt, sent a small boat to Guam asking for coal. The Americans interned the Germans. The U.S. was not involved in the war and didn't want to give the Japanese a reason to accuse them of aiding the Germans.
When the small boat did not return to the Cormoran, the Cormoran itself sailed for Guam, arriving in December. The Americans refused to give the Germans coal and gave them one day to leave Guam or be interned. When the ship was still in Apra Harbor the next day, the Cormoran was interned. For more than two years, the Cormoran sat idle in Apra Harbor. During that time, the crew generally was able to come ashore and spend time on the island, at designated places and at designated times. Depending on the governor, the Germans actually became part of the social life of Guam, attending dinners and parties. A German crew member and an American nurse actually fell in love and married on Guam.
German crew members of the Cormoran and a Chamorro boy
On April 7, 1917, the Governor of Guam at the time, Roy Smith, got word from Washington, DC that the U.S. was now at war with Germany. Smith sent a lieutenant to inform Captain Zuckschwerdt of the Cormoran of the fact and that he was being ordered by Smith to turn the ship over to U.S. hands.
Zuckschwerdt refused. As the American party was sailing back to Piti to inform Governor Smith of the German refusal to surrender the ship, the Cormoran exploded. Zuckschwerdt had decided to blow up his own ship rather than let it fall in American hands. A bomb which he had successfully hidden from American inspection (by disassembling it) was used to blow a hole in the hull of the ship. The sick crew members and those who couldn't swim had been let down moments before in the ship's one and only life boat. The rest dove into the water. Seven crew members did not survive.
A U.S. Marine, a Major Ethelbert Talbot, had shot his rifle at the Germans in the midst of all this commotion; the first shot fired by an American at a German target in World War One.
AN UNDERWATER MEMORIAL TO TWO WARS
This is another Guam first and only. Only in Apra Harbor can one find a naval casualty of both world wars resting in the same exact location.
A SMALL REMINDER