History

The time a Nazi submarine captain nominated his enemy for the Victoria Cross

The tale of Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Gerard Roope is quite amazing – particularly given that it was a Nazi, Hullmuth Heye, who recommended Roope for the Victoria Cross, the United Kingdom's highest medal for gallantry in combat. But Heye wasn't the only Nazi to recommend a Victoria Cross for a foe.


The Victoria Cross. (Wikimedia Commons graphic by Anathema)

Oberleutnant Klemens Schamong was commanding the German submarine U-468, a Type VIIC U-boat, during World War II. U-boat.net reports that U-468 displaced about 871 tons submerged, and was armed with five torpedo tubes (four forward, one aft) as well as an 88mm deck gun and other smaller anti-aircraft guns. According to U-boat.net, this sub is credited with sinking one ship — the motor tanker Empire Light, in March of 1943.

The Nazi submarine U-52, a Type VII U-boat similar to U-468. (British government photo)

But an incident off West Africa five months after U-468's lone ship kill would leave Schamong in a unique position. The sub was caught on the surface at about 9:45 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 11, 1943, by a B-24 Liberator provided to the Royal Air Force under Lend-Lease and piloted by Royal New Zealand Air Force Flying Officer Lloyd Allan Trigg. During the war, many B-24s were used as maritime patrol aircraft due to their ability to operate at long range and still carry a heavy payload.

B-24 Liberator in flight. (Photo from San Diego Air and Space Museum)

According to the London Gazette, Trigg began to approach the U-boat and came under heavy fire. The B-24 was damaged and started to catch fire. Trigg could have pulled away to make a water landing, but instead he chose to press the attack. He dropped depth charges that left U-468 in a sinking condition. The B-24 then crashed into the sea. None of the Liberator's crew survived.

Flying Officer Lloyd Allan Trigg, Royal New Zealand Air Force, a B-24 pilot whose attack fatally damaged U-468. (Imperial War Museum photo)

But a rubber dinghy from the crashed aircraft floated on the sea, near where the U-boat went down. Schamong and six of his crew would reach that life raft, where two days later, a Royal Navy Flower-class corvette, HMS Clakia, would find them. As a POW, Schamong reported the actions of the B-24's pilot to the British, who awarded Trigg the Victoria Cross posthumously.