By Peter Hodges
Conflict category Destroyers
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Extra info for Battle Class Destroyers
In a simplified or purely legalistic interpretation. this was a dispute among Frenchmen. In reality. of course. it was nothing of the kind. The only significant opposition came from a foreign government. that of the United States. who had rejected Admiral Muselier's prior request for their concurrence and suggested a Canadian intervention instead. This was not simply because the United States Government then recognized Marshal Petain as the ruler of France: their disapproval would scarcely have been diminished if the situation had been reversed.
But perhaps a trifle less explicit. Captain Viano after all. had not been sent out to look for ALTMARK. but for German iron ore ships. His presence off the Scandinavian coast was coincidental. He did not even know what ALTMARK looked like and. on finding a picture of two ships in an old copy of the ,llfustrated London News. unfortunately chose the wrong one as his intended victim. 8 Curiously enough it was Admiral Diesen's order of the previous evening which helped him to correct 44 GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY this error.
Had received Admiral TankNielsen's initial report. It was brief. but it revealed the reason for his stubborn persistence. Three words of muted brass were enough to mark the first entry of this essentially Wagnerian drama's leitmotiv: 'Antakelig /anger ombord' - probably prisoners aboard. Admiral Tank-Nielsen was more than meticulous, he was alert and farseeing. Over a month earlier he had spotted a story in the Oslo newspaper A/tenposten that the German naval auxiliary ALTMARK was expected to cross the Atlantic with 400 British prisoners en route to Germany.