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The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous campaign of World War 2, as it spanned the full six-year conflict. Nazi Germany dominated western Europe throughout much of the war, as Britain stood alone in opposition to Adolf Hitler after the fall of France. The German war machine seemed unstoppable after Dunkirk, when British forces were heroically rescued from the beaches of northern France.
Hitler assumed Britain would lobby for peace ‒ but Sir Winston Churchill was having none of it, vowing to “never surrender”.
After the RAF defiantly fought off the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain, the war changed dynamic slightly as Hitler attempted to strangle UK supplies by cutting off the Atlantic.
German U-Boats flooded the English Channel and wreaked havoc ‒ sinking military and merchant vessels at will, regardless of whether or not civilians were on board.
This only got worse after Operation Barbarossa ‒ the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1942 ‒ as the Allies desperately tried to send supplies to Russia.
German U-Boats, knowing full-well that ships in these waters were sending supplies to Moscow from London and Washington, desperately and very effectively picked them off.
Iceland, then, became a key checkpoint during the war, as its strategic position was vital for any vessel making the journey east.
Hitler was all too aware and directed his U-Boats, often stationed in Nazi-occupied Norway, to target vessels coming in and out of Reykjavik.
One such vessel was the SS Godafoss ‒ carrying cargo and civilians from New York.
It was sunk on November 10, 1944, as the net closed in on Nazi Germany with the Soviets advancing in the east and the Allies advancing in the west after the D-Day landings.
The Godafoss was hit by a German U-Boat torpedo and sank in seven minutes. Everyone on board was killed.
Also on board was a car that has now become the talk of legend, intended to be a gift from US President Franklin D Roosevelt to the President of Iceland, Sveinn Björnsson.
The car, which is undoubtedly priceless, was said to be a thing of beauty and even boasted a golden wheel.
Speaking on the History Hit World Wars podcast, presenter James Rogers was joined by Icelandic film producer Jon Arsaell.
Addressing the Godafoss, Mr Rogers asked: “Is it perhaps right to say this is Iceland’s Titanic or Iceland’s Lusitania? How has it gone down in Icelandic memory?”
Mr Arsaell replied: “Yeah, that’s a good point. It’s our Titanic accident, somehow.
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“There are books written about it. I did a television programme on it a few years ago and people are also eager to find the shipwreck.
“There have been many, many attempts to find the Godafoss on the bottom of the sea.
“Because this is our Titanic, so to speak, but also it was full of valuable things.”
Mr Arsaell then detailed what was on board the lost ship.
He added: “Among the cargo was a car that was a gift from the US President to the Icelandic President ‒ a beautiful car, it had a golden wheel.
“A lot of people are interested in finding the car and also there was a lot of copper on board the ship so the cargo was valuable.
“There was also a lot of whisky ‒ many people are interested in the liquor that was on board.
“Now it’s 75-year-old whisky!”
Mr Rogers concluded: “Wow! So the history of the Godafoss might not be over yet, especially with treasure hunters across the world looking for lucrative bounties.”
However, Mr Arsaell had a word of warning for any would-be treasure hunters.
He said: “I took part in trips trying to find the wreckage because that was part of the film I was doing.
“We searched and searched with the newest equipment but we didn’t find anything.
“The current is hard where the ship went down and another problem is that it isn’t very deep ‒ it’s something like 40 or 50 metres deep.
“So the wind, the waves and the current are enemies in that way.”
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