|Better late than
April may be the cruelest month, as T.S.
Eliot, wrote, but the first six months of 1942 were
equally heartless in these parts. Unrestricted Axis
submarine activity turned the East Coast into a killing
zone. Along the lightly defended Outer Banks, already
infamous for peacetime hazards to navigation, the toll
was especially horrific.
Today is V-E Day, the
58th anniversary of the Allied victory in the European
Theater. At 8 a.m., in simultaneous services in Nags
Head and Riga, Latvia, we shall finally pay tribute to
one of the many vessels lost during the first half of
1942, when our vulnerability was painfully obvious and
victory was far from certain.
U-123 torpedoed the
Latvian freighter Ciltvaira Jan. 19, 1942, but it took
two days to sink. Like its crew and the country whose
flag it flew, it possessed great tenacity.
then, Latvia had been crushed -- first by the Soviet
Union under the terms of the secret Hitler-Stalin pact,
then by Germany. The seamen rescued from the Cilt and
their compatriots in seven sister ships no longer had a
country. But under pain of death, they continued to ply
the sea lanes for the Allies. Those at home preserved
their language and culture despite unimaginable
oppression. And their government in exile endured 50
years of Realpolitik and Glasnost until Latvia regained
The events leading to this
observance were highly improbable. How Latvia sustained
its long thirst for independance and the story of the
Cilt returned to the headlines are stories in
Please join us on the beach at the
end of Ciltvaira Street in South Nags Head at 8 a.m.
Bring a daisy, Latvia's national flower, to cast upon
And don't forget the British Cemetery
memorial services in honor of those who in the 1942
sinkings of the Sandelfino and HMS Bedfordshire. The
Buxton service will take place at 11 a.m. today; the
Ocracoke service, at 11 a.m. tomorrow.