U-BOAT 156, THE ATTACK ON LAGO REFINERY
The attack on the Lago Refinery by the German U-Boat 156 began at 0121 hours on February 16, 1942 when Captain Hartenstein order: "Fire Torpedo" and 48 seconds later the lake tanker Pedernales (LINK TO PHOTO OF PEDERNALES) was hit in the side and exploded into a fire ball.
Two minutes later Captain Hartenstein ordered a second torpedo launched. The second torpedo hit the lake tanker Oranjestad and it to became an inferno.
The German High Command had changed the original orders under which Captain Hartenstein had sailed. The original orders were to the surface and shell the refinery with its 10.5 cm deck cannon. On February 15, 1942 new orders were radioed to U-156 which read as follows:
1. The principal assignment is to attack shipping targets.
2. If attack on shipping were successful, then the U-Boat could commence with artillery attack against the land target.
After sinking the two lake tankers the U-Boat surfaced, it was now three-quarters of a mile off the reef in front of the Lago Refinery. The artillery attack on the well lit refinery would be over in minutes. The Captain and crew wee ecstatic, the U-Boat had made its first kills and now they were to destroy the world s largest refinery.
Hatches were opened, men were on deck, the cannon was loaded and the order was givne to fire. As soon as the order was given there was an explosion on deck, the dick gunner was killed instantly, the seaman assisting the gunner was thrown against the conning tower, his leg shredded by the explosion. In the excitement, the over eager gunner had failed to remove the plug from the end of the cannon barrel, and the muzzle of the 10.5 cm deck cannon had exploded when the shell was fired.
Without the dick cannon there could be no artillery attack on the refinery.
This attack caused the complete blackout of the refinery and the Colony for the duration of the war.
In 1941 at the time of the attack the Lago Refinery employed forty-seven hundred men and refined two hundred twenty eight thousand barrels of crude a day. By the end of World War II the Lago Refinery employment had reached over seven thousand and the refinery was processing three hundred thousand barrels of crude a day. This works out to half a million gallons of fuel an hour, twenty-four hours a day. The Lago Refinery maintained this production without any down time for over five years.
Had the deck gunner not made an error the refinery could have been destroyed and this production lost.
SEE THE STORY OF THE DEFENSE OF ARUBA IN WORLD WAR II.