Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA


Whitehurst Sailor Prepared to Capture the First German Prisoner of WWII

By GM1 "Ernie" Mlynek, as told to max crow 


Ernie Mlynek ca 1953

Ernie Mlynek, 2007


November 1941, I was serving aboard USS Omaha CL-4, a light cruiser.  While heading to Recife to refuel, we spotted a ship flying the American flag.  Upon orders to stop, the vessel tried to escape.  A shot across the bow caused her to reverse engines and come to a stop.  When asked where his ship was built, the reply from the Captain of the suspicious ship named a city in Florida.  Since this was obviously false, a boarding party of gunners mates was assembled.  I was carrying a rifle, a 45 caliber pistol and a navy knife.  The ship proved to be the German blockade-runner, Odenwald.  As we  prepared to board her, we discovered the ship was being scuttled and our Captain quickly sent a damage control party aboard to prevent it sinking.  They were successful and we escorted the Odenwald into San Juan.

Note... see the story below to identify the first German POW

In 1944  we were patrolling the neutrality zone in the South Atlantic.  Working with destroyers Jouett and Somers, we  sank the German blockade runners, Burgenland, Rio Grande, and Weserland, as they were carrying cargo from Japan to Europe.  Their holds were filled with rubber tires.  I can remember seeing tires all the way to the horizon.  Thousands of them.*

*The sinkings and capture are documented in a newspaper clip dated Feb 4 (year not given but an Internet story on Omaha give the years as 1944) which Ernie has saved.  See the story at  http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-o/cl4.htm 

Ernie Mlynek came aboard Whitehurst in April, 1952 and served there over six years, many as Master at Arms... mc

The following items were taken from the Internet.

Reader Provided Stories
Early World War II -- the early years

On 6 November 1941, USS Omaha CL-4 took the German blockade-runner Odenwald as a prize off the coast of Brazil.  After months of looking for German commerce raiders in the neutrality zone, Omaha and Somers were enroute to Recife for fuel when they encountered a darkened ship flying the American flag.  Suspicious, the Omaha sent a boarding party by boat.  Odenwald's crew attempted to scuttle her, but the damage from the scuttling attempt was controlled by men from Omaha, and with a prize crew in control, she was escorted to San Juan.

    ODENWALD Radioman
    I enjoyed reviewing your web page. One related item to your listing of the November 6, 1941 capture of the German freighter ODENWALD.

    An interesting footnote is a summary conclusion reached in a report of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. They concluded that one of the 45 OLDENWALD crewmen captured was actually an active duty member of the German Navy. As such Helmut Ruge was proclaimed as the "first German prisoner of war captured by the United States" in a classified Navy report published March 12, 1942 and since declassified by the National Archives.

    Helmut Claus Hinrich Ruge, 24 years old, was serving as the 2nd Radio Operator when the ODENWALD was captured by the USS OMAHA CL-4 and USS SOMERS DD-381. It was later discovered that Ruge had been one of the crew of the German pocket battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE which was scuttled off Montevideo on December 17, 1939. He was able to make his way from Argentina to Chile and then, in the summer of 1941, to Japan. He had worked briefly in the German Embassy radio station in Tokyo when he was ordered to return to Germany on the ODENWALD. The ODENWALD left Yokohama, JAPAN on August 21 and began its attempt to reach France with materials for the German war effort. They had reached the South Atlantic and were near the equator when stopped on November 6. Mike Nash

 WWII Era | Korea War & '50s | Viet Nam & 60s |  Reunions | All Links Page | Search & Rescue
Memorial | Poetry  | Enemy Below | Taps List | Photos/Armament | History | Crews Index | Home