Thursday, February 19, 2009

WWI-Era French battleship discovered at bottom of Atlantic with no signs of battle damage

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7898890.stm

Scientists from Fugro GeoConsulting Ltd stumbled upon the nearly mint-condition wreckage of a French battleship while doing routine work on a gas pipeline. The Danton, which saw action in World War I, was last seen in 1917 while on routine patrol in the Mediterranean. French military archives confirm that the vessel had a run-in with a German U-Boot, after which the battleship was never seen its crew never heard from again.

"Our radio transcripts indicate that the Danton was attacked without warning," French Naval Archive Director Adrian Dupont said. "There was no time for the crew to respond before the ship sank."

However, when inspecting the wreckage, it would appear that the warship was in far better condition than such a sea skirmish would allow. Antonio Mazzettia, a sonar expert with Fugro and the first to notice the wreckage, said that the boat looked like it had just simply sunk without taking any sort of critical damage.

"Oh sure, you can see distress on the hull," Mazzettia explained, "but not from torpedoes. This damage came from the ship sliding on the sea floor. I honestly can't tell you what would have brought this behemoth down."

But one man thinks he might have the answer.

James Gifford, a WWI enthusiast and armchair historian, has pieced together a series of French and German communication records that paint a very different picture. The outcome of his research is astounding.

"I took Dupont's transcript of the event and matched it up with the radio transcripts of the U-Boot that supposedly brought down the Danton," Gifford said. "It's amazing how well they line up. I've even printed out a little write-up in conversation form, based on how I feel the events took place. Here! Have a look!"

The events go as follow:


U-754: Our engine is near failing and we are out of food; we have spotted an enemy vessel above and will offer our surrender.

Danton: Enemy submarine spotted off the starboard bow!

U-754: Attempting to communicate with ship captain; white flags raised

Danton: We are under heavy fire! They are using some sort of unique textile weaponry!!

U-754: Crew acting erratically; behaving as if we have open-fired; Captain Schultz is yelling "We surrender" in French

Danton: Their war-cry is terrifying; attempting to outmaneuver the enemy submarine!

U-754: French vessel trying to escape, but have steered themselves in a collision course with us! MEIN GOTT! MEIN GOTT! They hit us!

Danton: WE'RE HIT!! THE GERMANS HAVE HIT US! WE STAND NO CHANCE AGAINST THEIR SUPERIOR NAVAL SKILLS! GOING DOWN!! WE ARE GOING DOWN!!

U-754: French battleship has been scuttled by the crew; attempting to radio Italian fishing boats…


Gifford said his modified transcript may as well be considered historical fact when placed in context. He points out that French military records indicate that such a cowardly response to an enemy combatant so blatantly trying to surrender would have been the norm, especially in that period.

"It's certainly a blemish on the story Dupont is trying to sell to us," Gifford said, shaking his head. "But I don't think it's a shock to the rest of the world that a French battleship was brought down by a bunch of starving Germans waiving white flags."

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