Thursday, November 10, 2011

The German Village at Norfolk Naval Shipyard

This is a 1916 picture of the German auxiliary cruisers Prinz Fredrich and Prinz Wilhelm at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. In front of the two ship are buildings known informally by the locals as the "German Village." After being told that the United States Government interned their vessels for the duration of World War I, sailors from the two cruisers fabricated the village from scrap metal provided by the shipyard.

As the United States was not officially at war with Germany, the sailors were not considered prisoners-of-war. At the same, the British and French governments (and their squadron of six cruisers hovering off the coast of Virginia) insisted that the ships and their sailors remain in Hampton Roads.

The two ships were formerly German luxury cruise ships. Like many countries, the German Empire subsidized the construction of fast, passenger cruise ships (seventeen in all) with the idea that the ships could be turned into either troop transports or commerce raiders during times of war. From August 1914 to March 1915, Prinz Fredrich and Prinz Wilhem raided Allied shipping in the South Pacific and then the Atlantic before seeking shelter in Hampton Roads.

When the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, the sailors were officially made prisoners and their two ships war prizes. Taken to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, workers converted the two ships into troop transports USS Von Steuben and USS DeKalb.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My 4th grader is very much into this. He will take great joy out of checking this out. Thank you so much for sharing this today!
Tori and Finnegan