The Zamzam Story - The Rest of the Story

The News Breaks

May 19th was not only the day the Dresden arrived in France. It was also the day of the first public news about the Zamzam's unknown fate.  It had been six weeks since there had been any contact with the Zamzam, as she had left Brazil.  On May 19th radio broadcasts and newspaper headlines announced that the Zamzam was lost, presumed to be sunk, with very little hope of any survivors.

As the news spread, the anxiety of waiting now turned into grief.  A missionary father in Africa learned he had probably lost his wife and six children on the Zamzam. A missionary mother and her ten children in the Midwest were told of the possible death of their husband and dad. Young teen-age sons and daughters, left in the United States when their parents had sailed on the Zamzam, faced the possibility that they were now orphans.  Elderly parents mourned the probable deaths of their missionary sons and daughters. Mission boards and friends gathered to weep and to pray.

Grief Turned to Joy

But, how fortunate the timing was! On the very next day, May 20th, the news went out by radio and newspapers, that Americans from the Zamzam were alive and well and in France.  Grief was suddenly turned to joy!  How good it was that the time of real grieving had been only twenty-four hours. It could have been days and days.

Homeward Bound

But what happened to the Zamzamers after getting to land?  The Americans were detained in Biarritz, France, for nearly two weeks, while passports and visas were re-issued. Then they were taken by bus and train to the border of France and Spain and were officially declared free.  Within a few weeks, ships brought them from Portugal back to the United States.

During this time in 1941, Charles W. Carr, an American Red Cross executive, was in Spain as an accounting director of the Red Cross unit there.  An article about Mr. Carr appeared in the Feb. 22, 1944 issue of his home town newspaper in Mt. Vernon, Indiana.  He was making a speaking tour to several cities in the interest of the Red Cross war fund.  The article stated, "He described the hunger and privation of the Spanish people and declared that when he went into occupied France to assist survivors of the torpedoing of the steamer Zamzam he noted the same conditions although the Germans had been there but a short time".

Interview of Lillian Danielson
and her six children

Mr. Carr took many pictures in San Sebastian, Spain that show passengers of the Zamzam, the arrival of trucks, selecting of clothes and shoes, the hotel and the train.  Scanned images of these pictures from Mr. Carr's personal photo album have been provided by David Ford, a collector of World War II era photographs.

Saved to Serve

Survivors were filled with gratitude, as they reflected on the many miracles they had known.  In response, some survivors felt they had been "saved to serve".  Many succeeded in getting to Africa later, serving as missionaries.  Their life stories are heroic.  Others, also heroic, have served closer to home.


What about the Zamzamers who were taken to internment camps?  Many of the women and children were part of eventual prisoner exchange programs.

Art Barnett
Missionary doctor to Kenya

Men prisoners were less fortunate.  They spent the duration of the War in camps, near starvation, enduring extreme hardships, yet finding ways to be helpful. After the War's end and being set free from internment, many continued to serve mankind.

Here is the story of tobacconist Ned Laughinghouse who was a prisoner aboard the raider for only eleven days before his tragic death.

Another unique prisoner was Frank Vicovari, also severely wounded in the shelling. He attended the first reunion of survivors in 1991.

The next events in the story are summarized in "Internment".

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