Submarine Reenacts Rescue

Friday, July 14, 2006
Northeast Ohio's Dutch community and the U.S.S. COD Submarine Memorial will honor a strong bond between two nations on July 15, with a reenactment in Northcoast Harbor of the only rescue in history involving submarines from two different nations. The program celebrates the 61st anniversary of COD's rescue of 56 Dutch submariners when their vessel grounded on a reef deep in enemy- controlled waters in the final weeks of World War II. COD crewmen in life rafts will re-stage the last act of the skipper of the Dutch submarine O-19 -- the transfer of his flag to the COD -- before his sub was destroyed to prevent its capture by the Japanese. Gino den Ritter of Mayfield Village will play the role of the Dutch submarine captain. "The Dutch submariners expected to die at any moment at the hands of the Japanese until the COD arrived to save them," said Dr. John Fakan, president of the COD Memorial. Fakan, a resident of Vermilion, forecasts that Saturday's reenactment should go much easier than the 1945 rescue. "The currents in Northcoast Harbor are nothing compared to the powerful reef currents that made the recovery of the O-19 crew so dangerous in 1945," he said. "And we don't have to worry about the enemy shooting at us!"

The Dutch sub ran aground on Ladd Reef in the early hours of July 8. The COD arrived early on July 9 to attempt to pull the Allied sub free. After two days of fruitless efforts, the two sub captains agreed to transfer the Dutch crew to the COD and destroy the O-19. The COD already had 101 souls aboard, including three Japanese prisoners and one volunteer Chinese interpreter, when the 56 Dutch submariners came aboard for the three-day voyage to Manila Harbor.

"Several weeks later, when the COD returned to her base, the crew of the O-19 was waiting at the dock to invite their rescuers to an appreciation party the next night," said Fakan. "It was during the party that news of the Japanese surrender was broadcast. Everyone at the party suddenly realized they were going to survive the war. Ever since then the COD's battle flag has carried a martini glass above the name 'O-19' to symbolize the unique rescue and party." Retired Navy Captain Joseph Adelman, a resident of Akron, will be on deck to receive the O-19 flag from den Ritter when he climbs aboard. Adelman is the last surviving skipper of the COD and decommissioned the sub in 1954.

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