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The Goya was a Germanmarker transport ship, carrying more than 6,000 mostly wounded Wehrmacht troops and civilians who were fleeing the Soviet army, which was sunk by a Sovietmarker submarine in 1945. Most of the crew and passengers died, and the sinking of the Goya was one of the biggest single-incident maritime losses of life of the war, and as such one of the largest maritime losses of life in history.

History of the ship

The Goya was originally built as a freighter by the Akers Mekaniske Verksted shipyard in Oslomarker in 1940. The ship was 145 m (475.72 feet) long and 17.4 m (57.08 feet) wide, had a capacity of 5,230 GRT, and a top speed of 18 knots. Following the German occupation of Norway, the ship was seized by Germany and used as a troop transport. In the harbor of Memel (Klaipeda), it was used as a target for torpedo testing.

Fleeing the Red Army

In 1945, the Goya was used as both an evacuation ship and Wehrmacht troop transport, moving them from the eastern Balticmarker to the west. Contrary to popular mythology, the Goya was not a hospital ship while operating during Operation Hannibal. On April 16, 1945, the Goya was sailing from the Hel Peninsulamarker, across the Baltic Seamarker to western Germanymarker, overloaded with German troops and civilians fleeing from the Red Army, including 200 men of the 25th Panzer Regiment. The list of passengers documented 6,100 people on board, but it is possible that hundreds more boarded the ship, using every space available.


As the convoy passed the Hel peninsula at the exit of the Danziger baymarker, it was sighted by the Soviet minelayer submarine L-3 which also carried torpedoes. Even though the Goya was faster than submarines, the convoy was slowed by the engine problems of the Kronenfels, which also required a 20 minute stop for repairs. At around 23:52, the commander of L-3, Captain Vladimir Konovalov, gave the order to fire.

Within seven minutes of being torpedoed, the Goya, a freighter without the precautions of a passenger ship, sank to a depth of approximately 76m, with the loss of more than 6,000 people killed outright, either within the ship, or outside by drowning and hypothermia in the icy waters. The exact number can probably never be determined. The captain of another Kriegsmarine ship mentioned a figure of 7-8,000 in his report. In total, only 183 passengers were saved from the water by M 256 and M 328, of which 9 died soon after. It is probably the second-worst maritime disaster by number of casualties inflicted on Nazi Germany during WWII (after the Wilhelm Gustloffmarker).

Soviet Captain Konovalov was awarded the Soviet Unionmarker's highest military decoration, the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and later promoted to rear admiral.

Discovery of the wreck

On 26 August 2002, the wreck was discovered by Polish Technical diving divers Grzegorz Dominik and Michal Porada, who also salvaged the ship's compass.

Exactly 58 years after the sinking of the Goya, the wreck was located on April 16, 2003 by an international expedition under the direction of Ulrich Restemeyer with the help of 3D-Sonar scanning. The position records of Goya's accompanying ships were found to be incorrect, probably made during a hasty escape. It turned out to be identical with „Wreck No. 88“ on Polish Navy maps. During the rediscovery, another, smaller ship had operated above the wreck, first thought to be fishermen, but when Restemeyer's "Fritz Reuter" came close, the ship, seemingly carrying divers, left.

The wreck lay at a depth of 76m depth below the surface of the Baltic Seamarker and is in remarkably good condition, though covered with nets. Survivors mourned the tragedy in a wreath-laying ceremony.


  • Fritz Brustat-Naval: Unternehmen Rettung, Koehlers Verlagsgesellschaft, Hamburg, 2001, ISBN 3-7822-0829-3
  • Ernst Fredmann: Sie kamen übers Meer - Die größte Rettungsaktion der Geschichte, Pfälzische Verlagsges., ISBN 3-88527-040-4
  • Heinz Schön: Ostsee '45, Motorbuch Verlag Stuttgart, 1995, ISBN 3-87943-856-0


  • Shteinberg, Mark, "Evrei v voinakh tysiachiletii." Moscow, Jerusalem: Gesharim, 2005, p. 302.
  • Williams, David, Wartime Disasters at Sea, Patrick Stephens Limited, Nr. Yeovil, UK, 1997.

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