German POW story stranger than fiction, 08/28/06 -- One war story, stranger than fiction, involved the first German prisoners captured even before the United States entered the war with Germany.
A book titled interned by James J. McBride tells and shows with excellent photos how and why this unusual story took place. War broke out in Europe on Sept. 1, 1939, when Adolf Hitler and Germany attacked Poland. The attack was so secretive, many German merchant ships were caught en route to various ports around the world. In instant retaliation to the attack, the Allies blockaded the Atlantic against ocean traffic to Germany. The SS Columbus from Germany, the largest luxury cruise ship in the Atlantic, was making a West Indies cruise when the war began. Berlin ordered Captain Wilhelm Dachne to off-load his passengers at the nearest port and take shelter at the neutral port at Veracruz, Mexico. After four months of escalating war, the captain was ordered to run the blockade and return to Germany to join the war effort. His orders also stated that if caught during the escape, he should scuttle the ship and set it on fire to prevent Allied use of the vessel.