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The bombing and sinking of RMS Lancastria popped up in the "on this day" Wikipedia feed.

RMS Lancastria

In the article there is this paragraph:

When German aircraft began strafing survivors in the water[citation needed], the fuel oil which had leaked into the sea ignited, and was quickly transformed into a flaming inferno[citation needed]. Many drowned; others were choked by the oil, or were shot by strafing German aircraft.[citation needed]

The frequent [citation needed] sets off alarm bells. I couldn't find anything else on this topic. The Wikipedia Talk page makes no mention, nor do the references cited.

One of the sources mention that it was actually flares set off by survivors who ignited the oil, leading to the inferno.

My question: is there any confirmed information that the Luftwaffe went for targeted strafing of survivors?

Note: this excludes "general strafing" by German aircraft against beaches and vessels to hinder the evacuation of BEF and French forces.

Or is this just one of those Wikipedia things - made up out of whole cloth?

  • Farther down you'll find "Those who got away were machine gunned in the water".[14]" You might want to follow footnote 14 (registration required). – Carey Gregory Jun 17 at 4:56
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    I followed a couple of the links to other sources on the sinking, including eyewitness accounts, and found a suspicious absence of "strafing" being mentioned. (The bombers that sunk the ship wouldn't have been able to "strafe" in the first place, and I don't think the Luftwaffe would bother sending fighters to find a shipwreck at sea and shoot at survivors.) I consider that paragraph about strafed survivors to be highly suspect. Perhaps that source [14] mentions it, but you'd think the others would, too, if it actually happened. – DevSolar Jun 17 at 7:21
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    the topic of shooting at survivors comes up in Hanns Scharffs book "the interrogator" and it boils down to the fact there were sociopaths flying on both sides that did this sort of thing, but it was not the policy of either to actively engage in this. – ed.hank Jun 17 at 13:07
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    I had never heard of Hans Scharff and am quite intrigued, based on the Wiki article! Going to see if I can get my hands on that. Thanks! – Marakai Jun 17 at 23:10
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    @Marakai - its is a fascinating book, i highly recommend it. it is primarily about the methods Scharff used to get allied pilots to talk (without knowing they "talked") but near the end of the book he is investigating the case of an American pilot that strafed a hospital. his conclusions were basically what i mentioned above. – ed.hank Jun 18 at 17:40

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