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Guam commemorates the SMS Cormoran II


The Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) concluded a two-week series of commemoration to honor the 100th anniversary of the scuttling of the SMS Cormoran II. The German ship spent two and a half years in Guam in 1917, before the United States was part of World War I. On April 6, 1917, the US officially entered WWI and became enemies with Germany.

Ironically, the crew of the Cormoran and the people of Guam, including the US Navy, had developed a friendly relationship. Duty still required the US Naval Governor demand the German captain surrender his ship and crew. The captain messaged back that he could surrender his crew, but not his ship. On April 7, 1917, the SMS Cormoran was scuttled and sank to the bottom of Guam’s Apra Harbor.

Sadly, despite his efforts to evacuate the ship, seven sailors perished during the scuttling of the Cormoran. Six bodies were recovered and given burials with full military honors in the US Naval Cemetery in Hagåtña. Two special events were held on Friday, April 7, 2017 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the scuttling. The first was set at sea, directly above the location where the SMS Cormoran II lies 110 feet (34 meters) below. The second took place in the afternoon at the U.S. Navy Cemetery where the six sailors are interred and a monument to the Cormoran was rededicated with a commemoration plaque.

During the anniversary period, the GVB coordinated a series of historical lectures at the U.S. National Park Services T. Stell Newman Visitors Center in Piti. Several of Guam’s best-known historians of the Cormoran and island history participated as guest lecturers. Dr. Bill Jeffery gave a lecture about a marine archaeology program on Wednesday, April 5th and repeated on April 11th. The lecture focused specifically on the SMS Cormoran II. Dr. Jeffrey is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Guam and an avid diver. On April 6th historians Rufus Hasplur of Lamotrek in Yap, Federated States of Micronesia and Toni Ramirez of the Guam Historic Preservation Office gave a lecture based on the oral history accounts from people who lived with the sailors of the SMS Cormoran II during her short stay in Micronesia.

Michael Musto, a professional dive tour operator and educator, presented historical accounts of the SMS Cormoran II’s arrival in Guam, scuttling, and eventual location as one of the world’s most rare dive sites on April 10th. Musto shared the tale of the Cormoran’s fate and how twenty-six years later, the Tokai Maru joined her during World War II. The two shipwrecks lay touching beneath the sea and create the only place in the world a dive can touch two ships from different World Wars at the same time.

On Tuesday, April 11, National Park Service historian Dave Lotz lectured on “The German East-Asia Squadron, the origin of the Cormoran story of World War I”. In addition to being a historian, Mr. Lotz is a published author and expert hiker of Guam’s natural terrain.

Divers were also able to participate in special dive excursions to the SMS Cormoran II and the Tokai Maru during the two weeks of events. The GVB was successful in working with several local dive operators to arrange for exciting dive packages to the shipwrecks. They were, Axe Murder Tours, Blue Persuasion Dive Boutique, and Micronesian Divers Association.

The Guam Visitors Bureau acknowledges the tremendous support it received from the government and private sector in coordinating the 100th commemoration of the scuttling of the SMS Cormoran II. The local community and friends from Lamotrek, Yap, and Germany were also invaluable partners in paying tribute to a ship that shared its history with them.

GVB would like to extend a warm Dangkulo na Si Yu’os Ma’åse’ and deep felt thank you to the following individuals, agencies, companies and organizations for their support that made these series of events possible: The Honorable Governor of Guam, Eddie Baza Calvo; Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo and her staff; Speaker Benjamin J. Cruz, 34th Guam Legislature; Senator Dennis G. Rodriguez, 34th Guam Legislature; Senator Joe S. San Agustin, 34th Guam Legislature ; Mr. Peter Wittig, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, German Embassy, Washington D.C.; Mr. Michael Hasper, Chargé d’Affaires, German Embassy in Manila; Mayor’s Council of Guam; Mr. Robert Hofmann, Mayor of Sinajana; Mr. John A. Cruz, Mayor of Hagåtña; and Mr. Jesse L.G. Alig, Mayor of Piti.

GVB was also very grateful for the contributions and support from Father Eric Forbe, Mr. Ray Gibson, Ms. Cindy Hanson, Mr. Walter Runck, and Ms. Marie Uhl. Thank you for the special dive tours to the Cormoran organized by Axe Murderer Tours, Blue Persuasion Diving, Micronesian Divers Association (MDA), and GMI Scuba Wholesale.

The 100th Commemoration of the SMS Cormoran was a successful series of events thanks to Mr. Jim Pinson, Mr. Luis Cabral, Mr. Frank Gradyan, Mr. Mitch Singler, Mr. Chase Weir, Mr. Michael Musto, Dr. Bill Jeffrey, Mr. Rufus Hasplur, Mr. Toni Ramirez, Mr. Michael Genereaux, and Mr. David Laguaña. The bureau would also like to express its gratitude to the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam, U.S. Navy, Joint Region Marianas, Guam Army National Guard – Color Guard, Port Authority of Guam, Department of Parks & Recreation, Department of Public Works, Guam Police Department, Guam Fire Department, U.S. War in the Pacific National Park Services (Guam), Guam Public Library System,, Guam Veterans Affairs, T-Galleria by DFS, Cebu Pacific Airlines, Resorts World Manila, American Printing Corp., MARES, Leopalace Guam, The Westin Resort Guam, Guam Premier Outlets, National Office Supply, Red Door Productions, Choice Broadcasting Company, LLC, Department of Education – Chamorro Studies & Special Project Division, University of Guam – Micronesia Area Research Center, Baba Corporation – Atlantis Submarine, Dr. Thomas Schuarz – Rikkyo University, Pacific Star Resort & Spa, Guam Auto Spot, Triple J, Guam Territorial Band, Pa’a Taotao Tano, Lamotrek Community of Guam, German Community of Guam and the GVB hardworking marketing department team.

PHOTO: Divers touching two shipwrecks at the same time in one dive, from WWI and WWII in Apra Harbor, Guam. On the left is the Tokai Maru from WWII and on the right is the SMS Cormoran II from WWI. Divers are, from left to right: Pilar Laguana, Jim Pinson, Luis Cabral, Frank Gradyan, and Mitch Singler. Photo by Mr. Chase Weir

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