Witnessing the sea battle between the German Aux Cruiser "Stier" and the Liberty Ship "Harry Hopkins"

September 11, 2010

Sir, just read your article and decided to add some to it...My Father was returning from the States to his born
country of Germany via Japan route as were we three American born sons and our mother in April 1941 via
Spain. Those return trips are a stories within themselves. My fathers journey went from Japan via the Manchurian oriental express leaving Manzhouli Mongolia.

Three days into Russia Germany declared war on Russia. He was interned with other Germans in Omsk Siberia.
Three months later was exchanged in Japan controlled Manzhouli (Manchuri) on Aug 22 1941. Here came a period
where he disappeared from the Radar Screen until he again appeared entering Japan Dec 12 1941. I have through his passport entries and missing entries made logical connections from Manzhouli back to Mukden to a Chinese port where he may have joined up with the supply ship Kulmerland.

He was a licensed Merchant Marine in the past.All of this is somewhat conjecture on my part but not the tidbits of story he spoke of as far back as 1943-1945 when we sons were 10-15 years of age and before any real stories emerged in writing. All of his stories were of the eyewitness type and just repeated from second hand knowledge.

After he arrived in Japan Dec 12 1941 he resided in Tokyo and Yokohama until he boarded the Tannenfel supply ship back to France but not before witnessing the sea battle between the German Aux Cruiser "Stier" and the Liberty Ship "Harry Hopkins". they returned to france together (That is with the Stiers crew) in the Tannenfels Nov 1942.

He was awarded iron cross 2 as the history shows in todays books having been awarded for the Kormoran. He
migrated to Canada and died there in 1963.

My name is John Knackstadt alias Knackstedt one of three sons and a daughter of his living today in the States and Canada.


I guess you are refering to my piece about the fight with Stier and the Merchant Ship Stephen Hopkins at our URL:
Marauders WW2: 17 Stier

What a fascinating story about your Father.

Thank you for sharing it with me.


October 03, 2010

Thank you for responding to my mail.

Yes I was responding  to your "Stier meeting Hopkins" story. that is one battle I am not sure he witnessed whether directly in the Stier while assigned as paint and scrape crew from the Tannenfels or as a passenger crew of the Tannenfels. His stories to us were related early in time (1943-1945) in Germany before they were even written about in books and were later verified in our minds from books written in the 50's and later. He spoke of a shell hitting the door leading to the hospital section, being sprayed with light weapons fire from the Hopkins, and the last shell that penetrated the Stier at the waterline and that being the death blow for them. To his great surprise was
the tenacity of the Hopkins gun crew. He too felt that they, saved the lives of the Germans by forcing them all to return to Bordeaux in the Tannenfels. After the battle they ran into the the American convoy of troopships heading for the  Africa landing. Unknown to him then was that that convoy included an American citizen his youngest brother Henry (Heinrich) Knackstedt.  

But his stories to us also included that period of Aug 22 1941 - 12 Dec 1941 where he disappears from the radar
after being exchanged at Manzhouli the Russian-Manchurian border. There too he told us before anything was known to the world about the battle with the Kormoran and Sydney. I believe he came aboard the Kormoran at sea from the supplyship the Kulmerland (Oct 1941) which left Kobe Japan (3 Sep1941) with a stop at the Port of Japanese controlled Darian China to pick up fuel or White metal.

His passport showed no exit stamps leaving china after his prisoner exchange at Manzhouli. He described that
battle to a tee to us boys. At the end  he was sitting on the bow with another sailor cut off from the stern
because the midships was ablaze ready to go down with the ship when the other sailor jumped into the ocean
without saying a word. He then also followed. He alone was picked out of the ocean early in the morning by a
non-Allied ship ( German supply ship or Japanese cargo vessel ) thereby escaping the prisoner of war status and
was returned to mainland Japan Dec 12 1941.

Son #2 Johann (John) K.


My thanks for the additional information about your Father John Knackstadt.

What a charmed and interesting life he led in WW2.

Best wishes,

back to letters index


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved