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 May 11, 2003
Mother's Day
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Latvia Sailors Honored
Latvian Sailors Remembered
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(Outer Banks, NC, May 9th, 2003, 8:21 a.m.) Although they were without a homeland during World War II, although they were without a homeland hundreds of merchant seaman from Latvia helped the allies win victory.

One aspect of this little known story happened at North Carolina's Outer Banks and NewsChannel 3's Nate Custer was on hand for the ceremony Thursday honoring what the sailors from Latvia did. Members of the Coast Guard and people from both Latvia and the Outer Banks held a service on the beach near where the Latvian freighter, Ciltvaira, was sunk in 1942. Until torpedoed, the ship was continuing to haul war supplies, even though the Ciltvaira's homeland had been taken over by the former Soviet Union.

After a recent call from a Latvian reporter, Sandy Semans, Managing Editor of the Outer Banks Sentinel, wrote articles about the loss of the ship, and organized the memorial service. This remarkable story emerged about the eight merchant vessels that flew, or sailed throughout the war under the Latvian flag, and yet, technically, there was no Latvia. It was a remarkable story that needed to be told on both sides of the Atlantic. At the same hour as a commemorative wreath was being placed in the ocean, a ceremony was also being held in Latvia.

Outer Banks historian Joe Schwarzer says residents were often awakened by the explosions of torpedoed ships. He says "we would stand up and watch on the horizon and see the glow of a destroyed tanker. It was an incredible time. School children would be walking to school the next day along the beaches and find the flotsom and jetsom of wrecks, and some of the victims, as well." So many ships were being sunk, in the waters off the Outer Banks, that some feared the war would be lost. It all ended when the Allies agreed to institute merchant ship convoys, and the communities here on the Outer Banks blacked out their lights at night so the ships would not be a silhouette for the U boats.

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