Little Bits of History

Goya Sunk

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 16, 2013


April 16, 1945: A German refugee ship, Goya, is sunk by a Russian submarine. The ship was built as a freighter at the Akers Mekunika Verksted shipyard in Oslo, Norway in 1940. She was 476 feet long and 57 feet wide and weighed 5,230 tons. Her top speed was 18 knots. During World War II, Germany occupied Norway and in 1943 the ship was seized by the Germans to be used as a troop transport.

On this date, the Goya was part of a convoy sailing away from the Hel Peninsula and crossing the Baltic Sea on the way to Germany. Operation Hannibal saw many ships sailing across the frigid waters. The Goya was overloaded with passengers who were fleeing from the Red Army. The ship was transporting both refugees and Wehrmacht troops. Records show there were 6,100 passengers listed, but it is thought many more hundreds of people were crammed aboard.

As the convoy was moving out of Danziger Bay, they were tracked by a Soviet minelayer L-3 submarine. Many of the ships were faster than the sub, but there were some ships in the convoy experiencing engine trouble. There was a 20 minute delay while engines were repaired. The Russian captain, Vladimir Konovalov, gave the order to fire on the Goya at 11:52 PM. Sources disagree on the exact time it took for the ship to sink, some giving four minutes while others list the time as seven minutes. But all agree within minutes, the Goya had sunk. She was a freighter, overcrowded, and without any lifeboats.

Nearby ships saved 183 people, but four of them died shortly thereafter. Some sources say as many as 334 people were saved. As the ship sunk in the frigid waters, between 6,000-7,000 passengers drowned or died of hypothermia. Over the next few weeks, thousands of bodies washed up on nearby shores. The Soviet captain was rewarded with the highest military decoration available. He was given the Hero of the Soviet Union award and promoted to rear admiral. The ship’s remains have been discovered resting in the frigid waters and found to be remarkably intact.

“The last great decisive battle of this year will mean the annihilation of (the Soviet Union) …. The enemy is already beaten and will never be in a position to rise again.” – Adolf Hitler, 1941.

“The stakes of war are the existence, the creation, or the elimination of States.” – Raymond Aron

“The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?” – A.J. Muste

“War is death’s feast.” – John Ray

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Vladimir Konovalov was born to a Jewish family in what is now the Ukraine in 1911. The family moved when he was young and he studied at the Donetsk National Technical University before joining the Soviet Navy in 1932. He graduated from the Frunze Military Academy in 1936. He was a submariner serving in the Black Sea Fleet and in 1940 was appointed as second in command of the Soviet submarine L-3. He was promoted to her commander in March 1943. The minelayer was involved in 11 torpedo attacks while under Konovalov’s command. He won a variety of awards for his service during World War II. He was promoted to the rank of rear admiral before his death in 1967.

Also on this day: Little Sure Shot – In 1922, a little old lady performs a remarkable marksmanship feat.
High Flyer – In 1912. Harriet Quimby became the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
Taking Marbles; Leaving – In 1858, the Wernerian Natural History Society ceased to exist.