History's worst maritime disaster in war or peace, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, claimed 7,700 lives. It occurred Jan. 30, 1945--a little more than three months before the end of World War II in Europe--when a Soviet submarine torpedoed the German passenger ship Wilhelm Gustoff, loaded with refugees, off Danzig, Germany (now Gdansk, Poland).
A sinking reported to have cost 6,000 lives occurred in early November, 1948, as Chinese Nationalist troops fled the Communist revolution. A merchant ship evacuating Nationalist troops sank off the Manchurian coast, apparently when ammunition was touched off by an exploding boiler. Nationalist officials in Nanking reported the disaster a month after it occurred without giving its exact date or the name of the vessel.