Friday 22 September 2023

Remembering the 23 Limón residents that a Nazi submarine killed in Costa Rica

July 2 marked the 79th anniversary of the tragedy

TODAY COSTA RICA – A Nazi army submarine killed 23 residents of Limón and an American who were on a merchant ship in Costa Rica 79 years ago and the historian of Limón, Axel Alvarado continues to fights that tragic event will never sink into oblivion.

On Friday, July 2, 1942 – 79 years ago – occurred the unfortunate event in the country’s Caribbean coast.

As every year, relatives of some of the victims pay tribute.

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This year, the event was held at 7:30 pm at the Japdeva facilities that included Sandra Sinclair and her nephew Sander Sinclair, granddaughter and great-nephew, respectively, of Ernest Sinclair, one of the victims.

Stephannie, Michael, Francisco, Sonia and Abel Grant, granddaughters and sons of Sandy Grant White, who brought the San Pablo back to the United States. Photo: Karen Fernández

“The effort that don Axel (Alvarado) is making to remember our families is very nice. My grandmother did not speak much about what happened, we only knew that he (don Ernest) was a dock driver,” said Doña Sandra.

She spoke a few words on behalf of all those who fell in the tragedy and recalled that her grandfather, don Ernest, founded what is considered one of the first funeral homes in Limón, because due to his knowledge of cabinetmaking, he made coffins and sometimes did not even get paid for them.

Also present at the activity was Dr. Javier Walter Brown, grandson of Gerard Brown McDaniel, another of those who died at that time.

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Other assistants were Francisco, Abel and Sonia Grant, the children, and Stephanie and Michael Grant, granddaughters of don Sandy Grant White, one of the four residents of Limon who were responsible for taking the San Pablo to the Pensacola dock, in the United States, where it was repaired and used as an experiment to sink enemy ships in World War II, but was sunk before it was put into use.

Sander Sinclair and Sandra Sinclair, the great-nephew and granddaughter of Ernest Sinclair, who died in the attack. Photo: Karen Fernández

Great fight

Alvarado has spent 12 years of his life investigating how the events occurred that affected not only the lives of the families who lost a loved one, but also that of other residents of Limon who depended on the businesses of foreigners (Germans, Italians and Japanese). those who were arrested and expelled from the country in retaliation for what happened.

His curiosity arose because it was previously unknown if the ship had really been sunk by a Nazi submarine or if the explosion was simply a maneuver by the government of Dr. Calderón Guardia to justify the persecution of his political enemies.

However, the log written by Albrech Achilles, German captain of the Nazi submarine, clarified the doubt that for many years floated in the country’s history.

“The San Pablo was the only ship that was on the dock in unloading work and with perfect lighting,” he says in the log, written in German.

But what was a Nazi submarine doing in Costa Rica and why was it attacking a harmless Costa Rican ship?

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In December 1941, the Government of Costa Rica declared war on the axis made up of Germany, Italy and Japan, so from a military point of view the attack, which occurred seven months later, was the result of that declaration.

On July 2, 1942, at 8:01 pm, the first torpedo was launched from the Nazi submarine U-161 and hit the ship that was docked at the national dock, today known as German dock, in the very center of lemon.

A minute later the second torpedo was launched, so that there would be no doubt about the might of the German army.

At that time the workers of the small and harmless ship San Pablo were unloading the sacks of flour, rolls of newspaper and khaki cloth that they brought to market in Limón and the rest of Tiquicia.

The torpedos were fired from a distance of 1,650 meters, approximately from the back of the famous Uvita island, where Christopher Columbus arrived in our country some 440 years earlier.

The 23 residents of Limón and the American whose lives were taken were in the hold, in the lower part of the boat and after the impacts on the bow, were trapped and could not get out.

The 24 bodies were rescued 15 days later because they had to dynamite the ship in order to free them.

As a curious detail, Alvarado says that at the time it was very common to see many people wearing khaki long pants and shorts that were made with the fabric that fell into the sea during the tragedy and that they managed to rescue.

All 24 remembered

Here is the complete list of the 24 people who lost their lives in the tragic mishap.

  1. Antonio Mora Chavez (39 years old),
  2. Miguel Méndez Vargas (67),
  3. Samuel Jones De Cushine (32),
  4. Leslie Herman Clarke Wright (41),
  5. Gerard Brown McDaniel (44),
  6. William Lapsley Martin (50),
  7. Ernest Sinclair Wade (57 ),
  8. Alfonso Notice Williams (31),
  9. Thomas Evans (30),
  10. Alfredo Colville Lunan (59),
  11. Clifford Powell Smith (45),
  12. Gonzalo Quesada Quesada (54),
  13. Albert Hay Carr (24), Edwin Diamond Lafuente (56),
  14. Edwin Charles Lewis Pinckney (24),
  15. Carlos Pearson Sawyers (27),
  16. David Banton Mullins (49),
  17. Félix Sebe Lewis (34),
  18. Augusto Holmes Mathew (49),
  19. Stanford Morris Sewell (30),
  20. Jacob Robinson Greenage (61),
  21. Egbert Henry Gordon (24),
  22. Percibal Heslop Saunders and
  23. Clem Burns both aged 47, the American national


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Q Costa Rica
Reports by QCR staff

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