Attack on Aruba

What many people don’t realize is that the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is not just the bit of land that 75% is under sea level, but it is also the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean. During World War II, Indonesia and Surinam were also ruled by the Dutch.

For most of World War II, the Americas were spared any battles. However there were attacks on the USA, Pearl Harbour and the Aleutian Islands campaign, but for the majority, the continents of North and South America were spared.

On 16 February 1942, a German U-boat attacked the small Dutch island of Aruba. Other submarines patrolled the area for shipping and they sank or damaged tankers. Aruba was home to two of the largest oil refineries in the world during the war against the Axis powers, the Arend Petroleum Maatschappij, situated near the Oranjestad harbour, and the Lago Oil and Transport Company at the San Nicolas harbour. The attack resulted in the disruption of vital Allied fuel production.

The small island of Aruba played a very important role in the Second World War. At that time, the Lago was one of the largest refineries in the world in terms of production. The gasoline refined at Lago was used for the Allied planes and so the island became a vital point in the Western Hemisphere: for the Americans to defend and for the Germans to attack. Torpedoes were fired on ships and the Aruban coast.

On the night of February 16, a large-scale attack by the German submarine U-156 took place. Several torpedoes hit ships lying off the coast or in port. The Pedernales were the first, the Oranjestad the next to be hit. Both ships caught fire and sank. More followed that night. The number of victims was large. Some Arubans, still unaware of the importance of being darkened during a bombardment in the dark, turned on their lights in the house and drove the car, headlights on, to the coast, hoping to spot the submarine.

At 03:13, U-156 attacked the Texaco-owned tanker SS Arkansas which was berthed at Eagle Beach next to the Arend/Eagle Refinery. Just one of the torpedoes struck Arkansas and partially sank her but the damage was moderate and caused no casualties. Commander Hartenstein then steamed further around Aruba and directed his men to take to the deck guns and prepare for a naval bombardment of the large oil tank in view. The crew of the 105 mm (4.1 in) gun forgot to remove the water cap from the barrel, so when Hartenstein ordered them to fire, the gun blew up in the faces of the two gunners. Gunnery Officer Dietrich von dem Borne was wounded badly, one foot having been severed. His comrade and triggerman Heinrich Büssinger was badly wounded as well and died several hours after the attack. Hartenstein ordered the 37 mm (1.46 in) flak gun to continue the attack.

Sixteen rounds from the 37mm AA gun were fired, but only two hits were found by the Allies: a dent in an oil storage tank and a hole in a house. Hartenstein ordered a cease-fire and set his course toward the other end of the island. En route, U-156 was found and attacked by a Fokker F.XVIII maritime patrol aircraft of the Netherlands West Indies Defense Force which took off from Oranjestad, Aruba at 05.55 hours and dropped several 8 kg (18 lb) or 80 mm improvised anti-submarine bombs without achieving a hit. The U-boat continued towards Oranjestad harbour and at 09.43 hours torpedoed Arkansas lying at the pier of the Eagle Refinery, after missing two torpedoes.

Meanwhile, the six other Axis boats patrolled the area in search of oil tankers. U-502 under Lieutenant Commander Jürgen von Rosenstiel made contact with at least three Allied vessels that day in the Gulf of Venezuela, two British oilers, SS Tia Juana and SS San Nicolas. were sunk along with the Venezuelan steamer Monagas. U-67, under Captain Günther Müller-Stöckheim, attacked two additional tankers off Curaçao that morning. Stockheim fired four torpedoes from his bow tubes at the tankers in Willemstad Harbor. All four failed to hit their targets or failed to explode. Stockheim tried again and fired two more torpedoes from his stern tubes at the Dutch Rafaela; one hit and heavily damaged the ship. U-67 then slipped away, unaware a United States Army Air Corps A-20 Havoc light bomber was in pursuit. The aircraft dropped its payload of both flares and explosives when over the surfaced U-boat but the bombs missed and U-67 submerged and got away. The flames from burning steamers around Aruba were reportedly so large that they could be seen easily from Curaçao.

The four other U-boats and submarines were unsuccessful in engaging Allied ships that morning. The Dutch patrol boats did not engage either.

A day later, a torpedo was found on the beach near the Arend refinery. In an unsuccessful attempt to dismantle it, some soldiers were killed.


Feb 16, 1942: Commemorating 80 years of the attack on Aruba during World War II

Forgotten History—Boy Ecury: Dutch Aruban Resistance Fighter

Segundo Jorge Adelberto Ecury, better known as Boy, was born in Oranjestad, Aruba, on 23 April 1922. He was an Aruban-Dutch resistance fighter in the Netherlands during the Second World War.

Ecury Boy Herman Morssink

He was born in Oranjestad, Aruba, an island of the Dutch Antilles.

His given name was Segundo Jorge Adelberto Ecury. But he went by the nickname Boy and it is by that name that he is remembered.


Ecury was born the seventh of thirteen children from a Catholic family as the son of a wealthy businessman Dundun Ecury. He went from high school here to the Netherlands in 1937, where he graduated in trade education at the boarding school St. Louis Institute in Oudenbosch.


Being confronted early with violence, misery, domination and discrimination led him to be active in the resistance at the beginning of the war. Initially, he was with his best friend, Luis de Lannoy, a fellow student from Curaçao and later Delfincio Navarro joined them. Luis was part of a student resistance group and was the one to introduce Boy to the fight for freedom. They communicated through letters written in Papiamento planning out several acts of sabotage.

The group carried out sabotage operations, planting bombs on German trucks and roads. Members of the underground movements also went out of their way to help injured allied troops and civilians who needed help.

Ecury sometimes went along to help on covert operations and later became a member of the Resistance Council in Oisterwijk. Like his resistance colleagues, Ecury had to live a life in hiding, and lived in various places around The Netherlands, working on a many dangerous missions.

Some members betrayed their colleagues, and many of them were captured by the Nazis, including Luis, who was arrested, imprisoned and tortured in Utrecht. Ecury tried but was unsuccessful in his attempts to free his friend. Luis later managed to escape.

In 1942 Tilburg started to be unsafe for someone as dark-skinned as Boy, and hiding was the only option. Boy had travelled to different addresses for instance to Oisterwijk, Delft and Rotterdam and joined a resistance group in Oisterwijk. He kept in contact with Luis by sending letters whenever he was able. Along with his fellow rebels, Boy continued to sabotage the Axis army in any way they could. They would rip up railroad tracks, and make bombs to blow up German vehicles and equipment. The men of the resistance council would also aid and protect any allied pilots and soldiers they encountered, along with victims of the Nazis.

After Boy returned to Oisterwijk, it was clear that his dark skin was drawing too much attention, so he returned to Tilburg in October 1944 as the Allied army approached. Later that month the allied forces fought their way into Oisterwijk regaining control of the city. Boy could have joined his friends in liberation but decided he would rather stay in the occupied territories to aid the struggle for freedom.

On 5 November 1944, after visiting H. Elizabeth Parochie in Rotterdam, Boy  was arrested and taken to the Scheveningen prison. He had been betrayed by his friend, Kees Bitter.


Bitter had also betrayed Frits Ruys and Marijke Zwagerman, two other fellow resistance fighters. He had been working undercover for the SD  probably since August 1942 after he had been arrested by the SD. He was executed by the resistance on the 5th of January 1945. Initially, they used chloroform and a cyanide injection but these didn’t work so they decided to shoot him twice in the head.

On 5 November 1944, Ecury was arrested and taken to the Scheveningen prison. was interrogated and tortured but refused to betray his friends. On the following day, he was executed by a German firing squad at Waalsdorp a field next to the prison.


He was 22 years old.

In 1947 his remains were reburied with military honours in Aruba

His father brought his son’s body back from the Netherlands and in 1947 he was given a funeral with military honours. Two years later a statue of the local hero was erected in the town and still stands today.

He is also the subject of an exhibition in the town’s war museum and his former family home houses the Archaeological Museum.


The Dutch government also awarded Boy with a Resistance Commemorative Cross in 1984 for the way he aided the war effort. (below is a photograph of such a cross, although there are several other versions I am confident this would be the version he received)


Boy Ecury and his father’s quest for the truth about his son’s last years was the subject of the 2003 movie Boy Ecury by Dutch film director Frans Weisz. The movie was with help from Ted Schouten one of Boy Ercury’s nephews.

In 2002 a stamp with an image of Boy Ecury was printed in Aruba


RIP Roy Ecury, a true Hero.