November 7, 1941 – Soviet hospital ship Armenia is sunk by German planes while evacuating refugees and wounded military and staff of several Crimean hospitals. It is estimated that over 5,000 people died in the sinking. Armenia was a transport ship operated by the Soviet Union during World War II to carry both wounded soldiers and military cargo. It had originally been built as a passenger ship for operations on the Black Sea. On the night of 6/7 November 1941 the Armenia took on thousands of passengers at Sevastopol, amid scenes of chaos; although the city would end up withstanding the German siege for nine months, at the time, enemy seizure appeared imminent. Entire Soviet hospital staffs and civilian officials and their families were taken aboard alongside the thousands of wounded, bound for the town of Tuapse, 250 miles away on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea. After leaving port in the early morning hours of the 7th, Armenia’s captain, Vladimir Plaushevsky, received orders to put in at Yalta, a few miles east of Sevastopol, where the already overloaded ship was to pick up yet more passengers. Here, no attempt was made at registering the embarkees; wounded soldiers and civilians were simply crammed onto the decks. Plaushevsky was eager to get underway while darkness still provided some protection, but was ordered to wait for escorts to arrive. At 7am Armenia finally departed Yalta, accompanied by two armed boats and two fighter planes. The Germans and their Romanian and Italian allies had only a few surface vessels on the Black Sea; as such, it remained essentially under Soviet control throughout the Second World War. However, in the earlier part of the war the Axis had complete air superiority. Over a hundred Soviet merchant ships were sunk, as were dozens of naval vessels. Only the most heavily armed and escorted ships could travel in daylight with reasonable hope of safety; ships caught alone or in port in the western part of the Black Sea were almost guaranteed to be attacked. Armenia’s status as a hospital ship was uncertain. Though her sides and top were painted with large red cross symbols, she had light anti-aircraft armament, had previously transported troops and military stores, and, on the morning of 7 November, was traveling with military escort, inadequate though it was. In any event, Hague Convention norms regarding the status of medical facilities were often ignored in the bitter conflict between Germany and the Soviet Union. At 11:30am, about 25 miles from Yalta, the Armenia was attacked by a Heinkel He 111 medium bomber of 1.Staffel (Lufttorpedo)/KG 28,[ which dropped two torpedoes. One torpedo missed; the other scored a direct hit. The ship broke in two and sank within four minutes. Only eight people were rescued. Even by the lowest estimate of about 5,000 dead, the sinking of the Armenia remains the deadliest maritime disaster in Russian history. In terms of loss of life in the sinking of a single ship, it is often listed as third worst in world history, after the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff and the Goya, German refugee ships which were torpedoed by Russian submarines in the Baltic Sea in 1945.