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The sinking of the steamship "Mambi.

By Alberto Gutiérrez Barbero


According to uboat.net the little steamship "Ladakh" with a displacement of approximately 1900 tons , was built at the end of the XIX century in Southampton, the British port located in the English Channel. Cuba Distilling Co Inc of New York bought it in 1920 ,renamed "Mambí' and under Cuban flag was converted to a molasses tanker.

During World War II the German submarine offensive reached the Caribbean region after the US entered the conflict against the Axis -Germany, Italy and Japan - as result of the Japanese attack to the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. However, the US had previously violated its neutrality under the "Lend Lease Program" and other activities that favored Great Britain.

 Cuba, then an ally of the US ,also declared the war to the Axis. Since at first the Cuban Navy was no ready to conduct an antisubmarine campaign, it relied heavily on the US support. That began to change in 1943 with a flotilla of Cuban sub chasers. The convoy system operating between the US and Great Britain as protection of merchant ships against German submarines -not always satisfactory and later on extended to Russia- was also introduced in Cuba.

The listing of Allied convoys across the Atlantic Ocean is extensive. But as for fiction "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat, remains an outstanding novel about a British corvette assigned to convoy duties during those years.

Very early in the morning of May 13 ,1943, the "Mambí" was torpedoed by the German submarine U -176 about 24 miles from Nuevitas, on the north coast of Cuba, while heading to the Windward Passage. Few minutes before the "Nickeliner", a US tanker, was also the target of German torpedoes. Both ships , actually the only two of the slow convoy NC- 18, sunk shortly after , but there is no information regarding any unit of the Cuban Navy present at the time .

However, two days later the submarine U-176 was sunk by the CS-13, a sub chaser of the Cuban Navy under the command of Ensign Mario Ramirez. Casually I met him during the early sixties when he was the captain of the Cuban motor vessel "Camagüey".

As for the "Mambí", only the captain, another nine members of the crew and an armed guard survived the attack. Eventually a simple obelisk honoring those and other gallant Cuban seamen who died opposing the Nazi fascism was erected near La Fuerza Fortress,. at Avenida del Puerto of Havana. Sadly, in spite of those and other sacrifices, Cuba today remains a victim of a Stalinist tyranny ".

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