Amateur Radio from the Spratly Islands

Failed attempt - DJ3HG, DJ4EI, DF6FK, DJ6SI - The Spratly Tagedy

April 1983

Failed attempt - DJ3HG, DJ4EI, DF6FK, DJ6SI - The Spratly TagedyzoomThe first shot fell short, but the next shot struck the captain and he threw himself on the floor, although bleeding badly, as he tried to keep the ship on course. Baldur was also hit in the arm, and was bleeding, as was Norbert. Gero was in contact with another station on 20 meters, and advised him that they were under attack. As Gero left his position, they noticed that Diethelm was missing. It was not actually known if he was shot or thrown overboard. Their dinghy had fallen into the water, and everyone climbed into it, while the boat burned. The shelling continued, as they drifted farther away from the island. They had hoped that the message Gero had sent out on 20 meters had been received okay, and they would be rescued by U.S. Air Force planes in a few days. They believed that the Vietcong had shelled them, and soon discovered their dinghy had also been hit, but they were able to plug the hole with cloth. The bad news was that they had no water, and nothing to eat, and all were only partially clothed with no shoes. They used a small basket to catch tiny fish, which they ate, along with a few mussels from the bottom of the dinghy, but still no water. After about eight days, Gero tried drinking some sea water during the night, and he was dead by morning. They buried him at sea. Since the Spratly Group consists of so many reefs, sandbars and shallow areas, there is very little shipping nearby, so they had to wait until they got close to the shipping lanes for any hope of rescue. Everyone was suffering terribly from thirst - there was little hunger. The skipper and Norbert were both in bad condition, and everyone’s hope centered on a vision Baldur had had a few nights before, when he believed he heard a voice calling through dense fog: ‘On the tenth day you will be rescued.” (which later became the title of Baldur’s book) After several ships passed, indeed on the tenth day (April 19) they were finally spotted by a Japanese ship, the freighter “Linden” under Captain Inose. On arriving in Hong Kong, they were taken to a hospital, where they recovered from their ordeal at sea.

The GDR exploits the tragedy for Cold War propaganda
Press coverage, particularly in Germany, was heavy (see our documentation), and some hardliners in the German Democratic Republic seized the opportunity to launch an attack against their western counterpart. Baldur Drobnica , officially employed by the German Federal Republic’s Office of the Interior, was indeed working for its Bundesnachrichtendienst, the Intelligence Service's Section IV (Counter Intelligence). His occupational background - and the fact that GDR intelligence was aware of it - was to be “leaked” to selected press and political sources in the GFR, alleging that the Spratly expedition was a spying conspiracy operation under the disguise of an amateur radio activity. For that purpose, the GST (Gesellschaft für Sport und Technik) – the Society for Sports and Technics, (in charge of amateur radio) was ordered to publish a pamphlet “for restricted circulation” listing all accusations and suspicions. The records of this meeting, unfortunately, have not yet been released for public use. But there is no doubt that Harry Radke, a member of the ham magazine’s editorial staff, when ordered to author the brochure, just followed the list of instructions, adding more or less only ham-related terms. (See our reproduction, in German). Everything went as planned – even the renowned “Spiegel” Magazine took the bait: Under the headline "Men from the Rhine" it wrote in its edition of 9 May 1983: "Is it possible that a German intelligence officer survives ten days without water and bread? This miracle happened, purportedly, in the South Chinese Sea." (Read in full length: linkext. Link ) - After the demise of the GDR, Harry was heavily blamed and reproached for his participation in a shoddy propaganda war.

Download [6.9 MB]Radio Austria's feature 10 April 1993 (German, but with many rare air-cuts) 24:00 [MP3 , 6.9 MB]
Download [5.0 MB]Interview, Bürgerradio Köln (German) 20:45 [MP3 , 5.0 MB]
Download [2.4 MB]The expedition in the grip of cold war east-west propaganda (German) [PDF , 2.4 MB]
Download [6.5 MB]Press clippings (German) [PDF , 6.5 MB]
Download [3.1 MB]The DX Magazine about the Disaster at Spratly [PDF , 3.1 MB]

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