World Battlefronts: BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC: Shells at Aruba

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One night this week Associated Press Photographer Herbert White was sound asleep on the little Dutch island of Aruba, just off the Venezuelan Coast. At 1:30 a.m. an explosion bowled him out of bed. Photographer White's routine assignment, covering a routine inspection trip by the U.S. Army's Lieut. General Frank Andrews, had turned into an eyewitness view of the first Axis shells to land on the soil of the Americas.

A mile offshore a submarine lay on the surface, pouring shells at the island. Already two tankers in the harbor were on fire; flaming oil spread over the water. Said Photographer White: "The harbor scene was like a raging forest fire right in your own front yard. . . . The blaze was shooting up high over the waterfront. . . . I could see the decks of [one] ship as a mass of flames.

"Then I noticed what appeared to be red flares passing overhead and turned to Captain Robert Bruskin . . . to ask what they were. 'Tracer shells,' he snapped. . . . After daylight we found fragments and saw where one had made a four-to six-inch dent in a [oil] tank before ricocheting off. . . . We found a German torpedo lying on the shore. It was a great big fellow, perhaps 18 ft. long, with a sharp nose.

"I remember Captain Bruskin saying: 'Well, here's your war.' "

The sub got three tankers in all, damaged a fourth later off Curaçao. Its shore-aimed fire, directed at Standard Oil Co.'s big refinery, did no damage.' But the Axis had carried the war into the Caribbean, only 750 miles from the Panama Canal.

It was no token raid. Though Aruba and Curaçao are flyspecks on the map, their refineries are two of the largest in the world. Only last week the State Department announced that U.S. troops had been sent to garrison the islands at the invitation of The Netherlands Government.

On the day of the attack, General Hugh Johnson had written in his Scripps-Howard column:

"Looking about for another point of attack, we see Curaçao and Aruba in South America. . . . To these points have been extended the pipelines draining the great South American oilfields. . . . Great refineries are located there, out in the ocean, where, as it was described to me by a man who had reported it to the President, they stand out like sore thumbs—defenseless, a standing invitation to attack."