One of the more challenging areas of research on the SMS Cormoran II has been obtaining a complete list of the crew aboard the vessel at the time of its internment on Guam from December 1914 to April 1917. Cormoran diver and author Herbert Ward and historians Charles Burdick and Robert Rogers wrote that 373 individuals were on board, including 28 or 29 men from German New Guinea, and four men from China. There may be a complete list in the archives of the German Navy or even the US Navy as part of their WWI prisoner of war records, which we have not had access to since starting this project for Guampedia. More work definitely is needed to locate or compile a complete list of Cormoran’s crew from 1914.

The partial list presented here that researcher James Oelke-Farley compiled for Guampedia, indicates only 108 crew members. The list was cross-checked with message traffic from the US State Department and prison records. However, Oelke-Farley explains that when the men arrived in the US they often were no longer referred to by the ship upon which they served as crew members (the crew of the SMS Geier which had been interned in Honolulu was combined with the Comoran’s crew on the way to the prisoner of war camp in Fort Douglas, Utah) but rather simply as “POWs” or “German Navy,” which has made an exact identification of every man difficult.

Another consideration is the fact the Cormoran’s crew was combined with the crew of another German survey ship, the SMS Planet (about five officers and some 90 or so enlisted men) while both vessels were stopped at Yap. Finding information on the Planet’s crew has proved to be even more difficult than the Cormoran’s.

However, another source of names of Cormoran crew members can be found in the newsletters of the annual meeting of former members back in Germany. The men of the Cormoran were meeting fairly regularly since the 1930s, but the onset of World War II prevented further gatherings until at least the early 1950s. Unfortunately, the political division of Germany into the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, and the Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany, hindered some of the East German members from attending the meetings which were usually held in various cities in West Germany. Many addresses were unverifiable and further contact with some members was lost. The Richard A. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC) at the University of Guam has a number of the newsletters spanning from 1953 to 1976 both in German and translated into English, as part of the Herbert Ward Collection. However, cross-checking reunion participants mentioned in a sampling of newsletters with Oelke-Farley’s list show few consistencies. There are also variations or discrepancies in English spellings of some of the crew names–from German, Chinese and New Guinean. A list that combines Oelke-Farley’s list with the names from the newsletters is provided below.

Oelke-Farley’s original list did include some notations on individual ranks, and what may have happened to some of the Cormoran crew members.

In any case, one of the reasons we wanted to include the list of crew members among these entries on the Cormoran was to hopefully find information about any possible ancestors of current Guam families that could be traced back to the Cormoran crew and the time of their internment on the island. In particular, we were interested in pursuing the names Grey and Scharff, two families with known German ancestry on Guam that were long thought to have ties to the Cormoran crew. Further research, indeed, has shown that the ancestors George Scharff and Paul Grey actually were not Cormoran crew members. Scharff, indeed, was already living on Guam by the time the Cormoran arrived. As for Paul Grey, he arrived as an employee of the well known Costenoble family, and likely socialized with the crew as one of the few Germans actually residing on Guam at the time. However, there is one other family that possibly may have an ancestor on the Cormoran—the Roberto family claims a sailor from the Cormoran had a relationship with a woman in Sumay who had a son in 1917 (their father) with hazel eyes and who grew to be about 6’3” tall.

Other than this, we did not find any other names of individuals who have descendants on Guam yet. Nevertheless, we hope readers will find this partial list interesting to read through, despite some of the obvious limitations for researching this information when separated by distance and time.

Partial crew list


Download partial list here.

James Oelke-Farley Cormoran list


Download Oelke-Farley’s list here.