Count Dohna and His SeaGull ©
Appam Prize Crew
German Prize Officer Lieutenant Hans Berg and the 21 man prize crew from Appam.
Appam, an English passenger liner, was captured by SMS SeaGull on January 15, 1916. A German prize crew of 22 sailed the ship into Hampton Roads, Virginia arriving February 1, 1916. The prize crew remained on the ship until February 9, 1917. The German prize crew was moved to League Island Naval Yard, Philadelphia, where the German ships Kronprinz Wilhelm and Prinz Eitel Friedrich were interned. These interned sailors were not held as prisoners of war. They were interned under the rules of international law intended to prevent belligerents, after having sought refuge in a neutral country, from again taking part in the war. In law there is a large distinction between interned men and prisoners of war. In fact the distinction is very small.
On March 17, 1917 the interned crews were transferred from the custody of the Navy Department to that of the War Department. The Appam prize crew was immediately moved to the War Prison Barracks at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.
The United States declared war with Germany on April 6, 1917. The Appam prize crew, along with other German internees became the first prisoners of war held by the United States. On October 5 the German prize crew was moved to the War Prison Barracks at Fort McPherson, Georgia.
This is a picture of Hans Berg taken during his internment in the US Government War Prison at Fort McPherson. He was in command of the German prize crew on the Appam. Hans is pictured working in the metal shop. Perhaps he was making a shovel. The picture was obtained from NARA.
Hans Berg and nine others escaped from Fort McPherson on October 23, 1917, after digging a 14-yard long tunnel. On November 7, Hans Berg was captured near Laredo, Texas while trying to cross into Mexico. By November 13 all ten escapees were captured and returned to Fort McPherson.
The war ended on November 11, 1918. On September 23, 1919, the German prisoners at Fort McPherson began their trip home. They traveled by train to Hoboken, New Jersey, arriving on September 25. The next day they boarded United States naval transport ship Pocahontas (formerely the North German Lloyd liner Prinzess Irene) and sailed for Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Pocahontas arrived at Rotterdam on October 7, 1919, carrying 1,700 German and Austrian interned prisoners from the Americas. On the following day, they boarded two German trains and traveled to Wesel, Germany. Thus ended the wartime saga of the prize crew from the Appam.
RELATED WEB SITES:
NARA US National Archives Records Administration.
MY FOUR YEARS IN GERMANY, by James W. Gerard.
HOW MY SHIP WAS CAPTURED BY A GERMAN RAIDER, by Henry G. Harrison, 1994.
SILENT BATTLE, by Desmond Morton, 1992.
GHOSTS OF FORT MCPHERSON, by Mitchell Yockelson, 1997.
A GERMAN NAVAL HIGHWAYMAN, Illustrated London News, 1916.
Last Revision: March 4, 2007.
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