SMS Cormoran II: Two Crew Member Profiles
Ernest Max Adolph
My father’s name was Ernest Max Adolf, perhaps he had already changed his last name to Adolph. He was born in 1891 and died in 1988, still being of sound mind at the age of 97.
My father joined the German Navy, before World War I, because he wanted to see the World. He was not particularly fond of the military, but it gave him the opportunity to travel. The cruiser, Cormoran, was used to travel to the German colonies in Southeast Asia. These colonies raised coconuts for the oil and the oil was exported. The military was in charge of seeing to it that appropriate taxation was applied and that the natives of these colonies were compliant. My father didn’t like the way the natives were treated by the Germans and was outspoken about what he had observed. His comments did not serve him well with his superiors.
There were German colonies in the Marianas, Carolines, Samoa, and some parts of China and New Guinea. My father was a rebellious sailor; however, having the ability to translate for even some of his superiors brought him special privileges, especially at the POW camps in the US. My father was often used as an interpreter, because he was fluent in English, having had lessons from the first grade through high school.The POW’s, for the most part (a few stayed in the United States) were sent back to Germany in 1920. He returned to the US in 1926 with his first wife. She was not happy in the US and decided to return to Germany in 1931. He did not go with her. I’m sure that if he had, he would not have lived through the Nazi regime, as he was extremely against them and would have been sent to a camp for extermination. Around 1936, he met my mother in New York and they married at a later date.
My father was an excellent swimmer and he often commented on the beautiful fish that he saw while in Guam, e.g., a yellow fish in the shape of a brick. As a child, I was fascinated by his tales. I do believe, had I been a boy, I probably would have listened more carefully about his military experiences. Fortunately, before he died, he and I typed out his memories of the time he was in the South Seas—probably the most interesting time for a young man, and his life.
I spent quite a bit of time gathering literature on the Cormoran, the POW experience, German route through the colonies, the route of travel by train across the US to Atlanta, and photographs of the ship and what German sailors wore at that time… but, unfortunately, not as many as I would like. My father regretted that most of the wonderful native art he had acquired during the journey of the SMS Cormoran to the German colonies, went down with the ship in Apra Harbor, Guam.
I have two sons and now two grandsons who I wanted to leave more extensive research, so that they would have a better understanding for what their grandfather, and great grandfather experienced as a young man.
By Dorit Adolf Mathers
Emil Bischoff was born on 5 August 1889 in Unterschefflenz, Germany, to Wilhelm and Katharina Bischoff. His sisters were Anna, Minna, Luise and Maria Bischoff. In 1909 he joined the German Navy, serving on the vessels SMS Augsburg, SMS Planet and the SMS Cormoran. While a machinist on the SMS Cormoran II in 1914, Germany entered World War I and made its perilous journey across the Pacific. Bischoff, along with the rest of the Cormoran crew, was interned in Guam until April 1917 when he was transported to Fort Douglas, Utah as a prisoner of war. He returned to Germany in October 1919 and became a customs officer, moving frequently because of his job.
On 18 January 1922, Bischoff married his wife Elisabeth, a widow with two children. The couple together had three children: Wilhelm, Artur and Manfred. Wilhelm died during World War II, and Bischoff’s wife, Elisabeth, died after the war in 1948.
In the early 1960s, Bischoff moved to Biebesheim, bringing with him his “treasure”—an attaché case with albums, papers, pictures and postcards from Guam. According to his granddaughter, Elisabeth Heim (daughter of Manfred and Elli Bischoff), Emil Bischoff loved to go the annual meetings held by other former Cormoran crew members and share stories and friendship with his former comrades. He passed away on 15 May 1967.
Elisabeth Heim was compelled to learn more about her grandfather’s past in 2010 when her own mother was near dying. Together, they looked through a wooden box which contained her grandfather’s things. Among the items they found a paper from 1966 mentioning Herbert Ward and his efforts to write a book about the Cormoran.
Heim looked up the book, The Flight of the Cormoran, which had been reprinted by Ward’s daughter. Heim was so excited about the book, she read it twice and recommended it to her relatives in the United States. Learning about Guampedia’s project, she connected with us to share her grandfather’s story and add to the information we currently have about the Cormoran and its crew.
Heim’s American relatives descended from Emil Bischoff’s sister, Anna, who had emigrated in 1910 from Germany to North Dakota. Interestingly, Heim’s cousin, Leslie Krogh–the grandson of Anna–was stationed in Guam in 1976 to 1978 with the US Navy. His wife, Juanita, worked as a kindergarten teacher at a local school. According to Heim, the couple were fond of the island where they lived with their young sons, and even learned to cook a few Guamanian recipes they picked up during their stay.