1942: SS Virginia sunk in Mississippi River by Germans

Rather odd how this little incident is often never mentioned in our History text books. It demonstrates how unprepared and vulnerable the US was on the Gulf Coast. To be fair, the headline didn’t have enough space to state it happened at the mouth of our famous river by a U-Boat, but it was still pretty damned close to New Orleans. We’re very lucky the German Navy didn’t stick around to create more chaos since they were poking around what’s known as Cancer Ally, aka a stretch of oil refineries running along Louisiana’s southern coast. I have a feeling it was there in some capacity as car culture took over Amerika by the Roaring Twenties.

Why the U-Boat moved on to stupidly attack Brazilian shipping, I’m guessing only the higher-ups in their navy could explain. The Germans sank a series of vessels in Brazil’s own waters and they were a neutral country, probably leaning toward sympathetic before this due to Germany training much of South America’s bureaucracies in the 19th Century; it’s why former Nazis were often found hiding there. Anyway, the U-Boat’s assaults were enough to make Brazil the only Latin/South American country to declare war on the Nazis and join the Allies. They contributed an expeditionary force under US command that saw fighting in Italy.

This whole unusual WWII incident fueled at least two Hollywood flicks by the Seventies. The sinking of the Virginia points to the underrated 1941, a hilarious ensemble comedy Spielberg released in late 1979; believe me, I John Belushi was the Boomers’ Adam Sandler, overrated, vulgar and not funny. I always read the premise to 1941 was based upon a Japanese sub poking around the coast of LA after Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile, we have an actual event involving harm to the US via the Nazis, we can always build another Ferris Wheel. The second and probably stronger inspiration was the mediocre Thriller Victory starring Michael Caine, Stallone and Pélé. Not only was it a desperate attempt to get Americans to like soccer, I’m confident it was part of Pélé’s attempt to break into Hollywood. If you’re not familiar with Victory, here’s a synopsis. The Nazis decide to host a soccer game with their national team playing against a collection of skilled POWs. Meanwhile, the POWs use this opportunity to escape. It’s complete fiction as they choose an American to be their goalie when we all know there’s at least a hundred Europeans a million times more skilled than a shrimp from Hell’s Kitchen. I always thought casting Pélé was wedged in but now knowing Brazil did have skin in the game, it’s not implausible.

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