On May 27, 1941, after suffering through combat with an overwhelming British Naval Force, the senior officer of the German Battleship Bismarck ordered scuttling charges set. The ship went down with most of her crew. However, there were some survivors, and a few British ships moved into the wreckage field to save some of them, but they did not linger long because they too might become lost, to German U-Boat attack. British Destroyer HMS Cossack rescued one black survivor that had white on his lower face, chest, and all four paws – a cat.
The cat was wet and scared, but he won the crew’s affection. They did not want to deprive the cat his name, but he bore no tag. They decided to name him for the phonetic letter used for “man overboard,” which is Oscar. But, since he was a German cat, they spelled the cat’s new name as Oskar. Since Oskar was made part of the crew and the crew slept in hammocks, they built Oskar a tiny hammock.
Oskar brought joy to the British crew, but no luck. HMS Cossack was torpedoed almost five months to the day after rescuing Oskar-the-cat. The ship went down while under tow by a rescue tug. About 150 of the crew went down with her. The rest went into the water, including Oskar, whose name had been changed to Oscar after the Cossack crew determined that he had been on their ship longer than on the German ship.
Oscar was found clinging to a piece of wood by rescuers from the British Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal. He was described as being “very angry” about what had happened to him. The crew of the Ark Royal picked up some of the seamen from HMS Cossack too, and they related the history of Oskar Oscar. But, now, he was inducted into the crew of HMS Ark Royal. They decided that he had been born again, so to speak, and required a new name: Sam. Since he had twice before survived drowning, they called him “Unsinkable Sam,” and they believed him to be a very lucky cat to have aboard their ship.
Eighteen days later, on November 14, 1941, HMS Ark Royal was sunk by a torpedo fired by a German U-Boat. For the third time, the cat went into the water. He was rescued again by British seamen (who noted that the wet cat was very angry) from British Destroyer HMS Lightning, which transferred him to Destroyer HMS Legion. Sam had become famous, but considered now to be a jinx to British seamen, and possibly a traitor by German seamen (who seemed to be trying to kill him by torpedo). It was determined to get him off of British ships by making him a permanent resident of the “Home for Sailors” in Belfast, Ireland. There, he survived WWII. By the way, both HMS Lightning and HMS Legion were later sunk by German torpedoes.