NEWPORT, R.I. - The Naval War College German student and some of his colleagues conducted a memorial ceremony at the Newport Cemetery to honor fallen German sailors who died in World War II, on Nov. 14. The ceremony included a wreath laying.
Since 1952 Germany remembers the victims of war, violence and suppression in public ceremonies every year on the second Sunday before Advent on the German memorial holiday, Volkstrauertag, the Day of National Mourning. On this day, the German people pause to remember and commemorate those in arms who died in World Wars I and II, those who lost their lives because of their race, religion, ideology, or political convictions, and those who died while fleeing their homeland.
Cmdr. Axel Ristau from Germany and colleagues in the current Naval Command College class joined together in the Newport commemoration. The German naval officer attending the Naval Command College conducts this annual ceremony on behalf of his nation at the Newport Van Zandt (Island) cemetery, where two German sailors were buried after World War II.
Guenther Heder was a machinery petty officer on the German submarine "U 550", which was sunk after having attacked a U.S. convoy on April 16, 1944, off Long Island by USS Peterson, USS Joyce and USS Gandy. The submarine managed to surface after depth charges damaged the boat, but sank after successive damage by artillery and ramming. Only 12 crew members survived. Guenther Heder was initially taken care of by the local population before he died because of his severe injuries only weeks later.
An unknown sailor, who died in the submarine "U 853," rests in the other grave site. The submarine did not receive the broadcast message ordering termination of hostilities at sea on May 4, 1945, and continued to conduct anti-merchant traffic operations. "U 853" was sunk off the coast of Block Island with its complete crew on May 6, 1945, by USS Moberly and USS Atherton after hedgehog and depth charge attacks. The submarine was found in 1960 by divers, who brought ashore the remains of one of the crew members. According to the wishes of the German Government, it was decided to leave the boat on the bottom of the sea and not to disturb the grave of the rest of the crew.
From NWC Public Affairs