The tragedy of the five Sullivan brothers

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The five Sullivan brothers were World War II sailors who, serving together on the USS Juneau (CL-52), were all killed in action on its sinking around November 13, 1942.

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The five brothers, the sons of Thomas (1883–1965) and Alleta Sullivan (1895–1972) of Waterloo, Iowa, were:

  • George Thomas Sullivan, 27 (born December 14, 1914), Gunner’s Mate Second Class (George had been previously discharged in May 1941 as Gunner’s Mate Third Class.)
  • Francis “Frank” Henry Sullivan, 26 (born February 18, 1916), Coxswain (Frank had been previously discharged in May 1941 as Seaman First Class.)
  • Joseph “Joe” Eugene Sullivan, 24 (born August 28, 1918), Seaman Second Class
  • Madison “Matt” Abel Sullivan, 23 (born November 8, 1919), Seaman Second Class
  • Albert “Al” Leo Sullivan, 20 (born July 8, 1922), Seaman Second Class

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The Sullivans enlisted on January 3, 1942 with the stipulation that they serve together. The Navy had a policy of separating siblings, but this was not strictly enforced. George and Frank had served in the Navy before but their brothers had not.

Leaving behind their family and friends in Waterloo, including Albert saying goodbye to his wife and baby, James, the brothers: George-Gunner’s Mate Second Class, Francis-Coxswain, Joseph-Seaman Second Class, Madison-Seaman Second Class, and Albert-Seaman Second Class, were assigned to the U.S.S. Juneau.

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The Juneau participated in a number of naval engagements during the months-long Guadalcanal Campaign beginning in August 1942. Early in the morning of November 13, 1942, during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the Juneau was struck by a Japanese torpedo and forced to withdraw. Later that day, as it was leaving the Solomon Islands’ area for the Allied rear-area base at Espiritu Santo with other surviving US warships from battle, the Juneau was struck again, this time by a torpedo from Japanese submarine I-26.

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The torpedo likely hit the thinly armored light cruiser at or near the ammunition magazines and the ship exploded and quickly sank.

Captain Gilbert C. Hoover, commanding officer of the USS Helena

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and senior officer present in the battle-damaged US task force, was skeptical that anyone had survived the sinking of the Juneau and believed it would be reckless to look for survivors, thereby exposing his wounded ships to a still-lurking Japanese submarine. Therefore, he ordered his ships to continue on towards Espiritu Santo. Helena signaled a nearby US B-17 bomber on patrol to notify Allied headquarters to send aircraft or ships to search for survivors.

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But in fact, approximately 100 of Juneaus crew had survived the torpedo attack and the sinking of their ship and were left in the water. The B-17 bomber crew, under orders not to break radio silence, did not pass the message about searching for survivors to their headquarters until they had landed several hours later. The crew’s report of the location of possible survivors was mixed in with other pending paperwork actions and went unnoticed for several days. It was not until days later that headquarters staff realized that a search had never been mounted and belatedly ordered aircraft to begin searching the area. In the meantime, Juneau’s survivors, many of whom were seriously wounded, were exposed to the elements, hunger, thirst, and repeated shark attacks.

Eight days after the sinking, ten survivors were found by a PBY Catalina search aircraft and retrieved from the water.

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The survivors reported that Frank, Joe and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days, before suffering from delirium as a result of hypernatremia (though some sources describe him being “driven insane with grief” at the loss of his brothers), he went over the side of the raft he occupied. He was never seen or heard from again.

Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of Juneau or the other ships so as not to provide information to the enemy. Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried, which prompted Alleta Sullivan to write to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in January 1943, citing rumors that survivors of the task force claimed that all five brothers were killed in action.

This letter was answered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 13, 1943, who acknowledged that the Sullivans were missing in action,but by then the parents were already informed of their fate, having learned of their deaths on January 12.

That morning, the boys’ father, Thomas, was preparing for work when three men in uniform – a lieutenant commander, a doctor and a chief petty officer – approached his door. “I have some news for you about your boys,” the naval officer said. “Which one?” asked Thomas. “I’m sorry,” the officer replied. “All five.”

The brothers left a sister, Genevieve (1917–1975).Genevieve served in the WAVES. She was the girlfriend of Bill Ball whose death at Pearl Harbor prompted her brothers to join the Navy to avenge him.

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Albert was survived by a wife and son. The “Fighting Sullivan Brothers” became national heroes. President Roosevelt sent a letter of condolence to their parents. Pope Pius XII sent a silver religious medal and rosary with his message of regret.

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The Iowa Senate and House adopted a formal resolution of tribute to the Sullivan brothers.

Thomas and Alleta Sullivan made speaking appearances at war plants and shipyards on behalf of the war effort. Later, Alleta participated in the launching of a destroyer USS The Sullivans, named after her sons.

USS_The_Sullivans_(DD-537)_off_Ponape_1944As a direct result of the Sullivans’ deaths (and the deaths of four of the Borgstrom brothers within a few months of each other two years later),

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the U.S. War Department adopted the Sole Survivor Policy.The policy was enacted as law in 1948. No nominally peacetime restriction was in place until 1964 during the Vietnam War; in 1971, Congress amended the law to include not only the sole surviving son or daughter but also any son or daughter who had a combat-related death in the family. Since then, each branch of the military has made its own policies with regard to separating immediate family members.

The brothers’ story was filmed as the 1944 movie The Sullivans (later renamed The Fighting Sullivans) and inspired, at least in part, the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.The Sullivans were also briefly mentioned in Saving Private Ryan.

Wartime poster featuring the Sullivan brothers

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The Raid on the Medway-ending the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

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The Medway raid of 9-14/19-24 June 1667 saw a Dutch fleet sail into the Thames and attack the British fleet in its anchorage in the Medway, causing a panic in London and winning a victory that helped bring the Second Anglo-Dutch War to an end.

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At the end of the summer of 1666 the British controlled the Channel, after the victory on St James’s Day and the devastating raid on Dutch shipping on 10 August (‘Holmes’s Bonfire’), but this was a short-lived success. The Great Plague of 1665 had already lowered Charles II’s income, and this was followed by the Great Fire of London (2-5 September 1666). Over the winter of 1666-67 the British fleet was laid up in the Medway, and at the start of the campaigning season of 1667 only two small squadrons put out to sea. Peace negotiations had already begun, and to a certain extend Charles’s decision was linked to this, while many in Britain believed that the Dutch would be unable to fund a powerful fleet of their own.

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This was not the case. The Grand Pensionary, Johan de Witt, was opposed to peace on the terms then available, and decided to launch a daring raid into the Thames to attack the British at anchor. The Dutch slowly built up the strength of their fleet at sea. A relatively small fleet sailed north to raid Scotland before returning south, and by 4 June a fleet of 54 ships of the line was off the Thames. This increased to sixty four on 6 June, and finally, on 7 June, Michiel de Ruyter arrived with the rest of the fleet.

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The Medway was very poorly defended in the summer of 1667. A strong iron chain supported by pontoons had been stretched across the river at Gillingham, and thirty pinnaces were available to fend off fireships. Only on 12 June, by which time the Dutch were already in the Medway, was George Monck ordered to build a gun battery at Gillingham.

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De Ruyter decided to send a small squadron up the Thames as far as Northfleet Hope, at Tilbury. This squadron would then turn back and sail into the Medway, where it would attack British shipping and if possible seize the defences of Sheerness. Lieutenant-Admiral Van Ghent was given command of the squadron, which contained seventeen men-of-war of between 60 and 36 guns, most of the ten fireships in the fleet and all of the smaller galliots.

Dutch Attack on the Medway, June 1667

The Dutch attack began in 9 June, when Van Ghent made slow progress up the Thames against a south-westerly wind. The wind prevented the Dutch from attacking some British ships in the Hope and at Gravesend, and on the night of 9-10 June Van Ghent moored just below Gravesend.

On 10 June the Dutch entered the Medway and captured the fort at Sheerness. Charles II responded by sending George Monck, duke of Albemarle, to Kent to organise a defence. Only now was the iron chain put in place at Gillingham, and a small gun battery built at each end while the Unity was posted just below the chain.

The crucial moment of the raid came on 12 June when the Dutch reached the chain. The Vrede, under Captain Jan van Brakel, and with two fireships in support, led the attack.

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While the Vrede attacked and captured the Unity, the fireships attacked and broke the chain. One then destroyed the British guardship Matthias. Van Brakel then went on to capture the Charles V, and used her guns against the British coastal batteries.

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The rest of the British fleet in the Medway was now virtually defenceless. The Royal Charles was quickly captured, and began Van Ghent’s flagship for the day, before being towed across the Channel (as was the Unity). The Monmouth was also burnt during the day.

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On 13 June the Dutch pushed further up the Medway. Although Upnor Castle and a battery on the opposite bank offered more resistance, the Dutch were still able to burn the Royal Oak, the  Loyal London and the Old James, while a larger number of ships were forced to run aground to save themselves.

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On 14 June, with most of his fireships gone, De Ruyter withdrew from the Medway and moored close to Queenborough, before moved into the mouth of the Thames. For a short period London was blockaded, and everything that normally arrived by sea was quickly in short supply (the price of coal rose from 15s to 140s per ton). De Ruyter considered mounting an attack up the Thames towards London, but a combination of improving British defences and the non-appearance of a French fleet forced him to abandon that plan. Finally, at the start of July, de Ruyter left the Thames and entered the Channel. An attack on Landguard Fort (2 July 1667) failed, ending a plan to attack Harwich.

The Dutch victory in the Medway forced Charles II to take the peace negotiations more seriously, and within a few weeks the war came to an end (Treaty of Breda, 31 July 1667).

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The Navigation Acts were modified to allow Dutch and German goods to enter Britain in Dutch ships, and most colonies taken during the war were returned, although the Dutch kept Surinam and Britain kept New York and New Jersey.

The peace was short-lived. After a brief period in which Holland, Britain and Sweden allied together to oppose Louis XIV, the French king managed to bribe Charles II to change sides, only five years after the Peace of Breda, in 1672, the Third Anglo-Dutch War broke out.

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The sinking of HMS Mashona

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HMS Mashona was a Tribal-class destroyer of the Royal Navy that saw service in the Second World War.

She was built by Vickers Armstrong, with her machinery supplied by Parsons. She was authorised in the program year 1936. Mashona was laid down on 5 August 1936, launched on 3 September 1937 and completed by 30 March 1939.

Mashona HMS, under command of Cdr. Selby, was one of those taking part in the pursuit of the German battleship Bismarck.

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On May 28th, 1941, the day following the Bismarck´s destruction, the British forces were heavily bombed by German aircraft and HMS Mashona was hit and sunk  off the coast of Galway with the loss of 48 men.

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The destroyer Tartar took the survivors to Greenock.

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LIFE VEST FROM JAPANESE ‘HELL SHIP’

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The Nitimei Maru, a Japanese troop ship with around 1,000 Dutch prisoners of war and 1562 Japanese soldiers aboard, departed from Singapore on 29 December 1942.

The prisoners of war were being taken to work on the Burma Railway.

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The Nitimei Maru was just one of many ‘hell ships’, given this name because of the deplorable conditions on board and the frequent beatings by the guards. American planes bombed the ship on 15 January 1943.

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Thirty-eight Dutch prisoners of war were killed. This Japanese life vest, a tangible reminder of that disaster, saved the life of a Mr A.B. Kresmer.

Below is the list of the victims.

Last Names First Names Date of Birth Place of Birth Place of Death
van den Berg Wilhelmus 09-12-1914 Utrecht Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Berkeveld Willem 20-03-1919 Djombang Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
van den Biesheuvel Anthony Adrianus 04-05-1914 Rotterdam Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Bouquet Jacob 27-06-1915 Amsterdam Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Bouter Albert 25-05-1911 Den Haag Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Brouwer Eugčne George 26-02-1916 Soerabaja Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Brunet de Rochebrune Alphonse George 29-11-1895 Batavia Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Burg Herman 13-09-1905 Semarang Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Consemulder Adrianus Gerardus 24-09-1912 Amsterdam Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Correlje André 28-03-1918 Rotterdam Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Crugten Henri Hubert André 17-09-1907 Maastricht Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Dumas Rudi 25-03-1920 Batavia Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Evertse Jan Pieter 03-03-1903 Haamstede Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Fleuren Johannes Petrus 06-03-1917 Oeffelt Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
van der Gaag Reijer Wijnandus Willem Theodoor 14-09-1915 Utrecht Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
de Haas Adrianus 22-05-1914 Rotterdam Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
van den Heuvel Johannes 12-10-1913 Edam Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Hoeberechts Louis Joseph Marie 12-08-1902 Maastricht Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
van der Hoeven Johannes Hendrikus 25-01-1914 Rotterdam Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Houthuijzen Evert 08-05-1910 Hilversum Gulf of Martaban o/bb Nitimei Maru
Huismans Marinus 11-04-1907 Oss Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Huizinga Wilhelmus Johannes 01-12-1913 Wildervank Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Jansen Johannes 22-02-1912 Zutphen Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Konings Adriaan 06-03-1905 Alkmaar Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
van Kooij Jan Thijs 22-01-1922 Cheribon, NOI Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
van der Meer Hendrik 24-08-1915 Haulerwijk Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Meijer Jan Frederik 05-02-1907 Utrecht Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Olivier Hendrik 07-05-1915 Deventer Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
van Oorschot Petrus Adrianus Joseph 11-03-1914 Sint-Oedenrode Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Peelen Theodorus Johannes 18-08-1915 Elst Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Snijders Theodorus Marinus 15-05-1909 Haarlem Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Soetens Hendricus 22-04-1919 Vessem Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
von Stockhausen Hans Waldemar Adalbert 11-12-1902 Salatiga Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Tergouw Otto 20-10-1914 Sittard Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Verhoeven Johan Willem 14-09-1912 Paramaribo, Sur. Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Vos Klaas 03-08-1918 Strijen Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Walda Roelof Hendrik 04-05-1922 Bolsward Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru
Zegers Veeckens George Frederik 01-01-1911 Amsterdam Gulf of Martaban o/b Nitimei Maru

 

The Sinking of the HLNMS Van Nes

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HNLMS Van Nes was a Admiralen-class destroyer of the Royal Netherlands Navy. The Admiralen class were eight destroyers built for the Royal Netherlands Navy between 1926 and 1931. All ships fought in World War II and were scuttled or sunk..

The Van Nes was laid down on 15 August 1928 at the Burgerhout’s Scheepswerf en Machinefabriek in Rotterdam and launched on 20 March 1930. The ship was commissioned on 12 March 1931

Van Nes escorted the submarine K XIII back to Surabaya to be repaired there after the vessel was damaged as a result of a battery explosion in Singapore harbor on 21 December 1941. Three men were killed in the explosion. They arrived at Surabaya on 6 January 1942

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The HLMNS Van Nes was under command of Captain Charles Lagaay.

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17 February 1942 Van Nes was sunk south of Bangka Island while escorting the troop transport ship Sloet van Beele. Both ships were sunk by aircraft from the Japanese aircraft carrier Ryūjō.

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Many survivors were rescued by seaplanes of the Marine Luchtvaartdienst. However, 68 men ,including the Captain, of Van Nes died

 

 

 

Action of 9 February 1945

 

u-864_mapThe Action of 9 February 1945 refers to the sinking of the U-boat U-864 in the North Sea off the Norwegian coast during the Second World War by the Royal Navy submarine HMS Venturer.

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This action is the first and so far only incident of its kind in history where one submarine has intentionally sunk another submarine in combat while both were fully submerged.

U-864 was a Type IX U-boat, designed for ocean-going voyages far from home ports with limited re-supply. She was on a long-range, covert mission codenamed Operation Caesar to deliver highly sensitive technology to Germany’s wartime ally, the Empire of Japan.

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Commanded throughout her entire career by Korvettenkapitän Ralf-Reimar Wolfram,she served with the 4th U-boat Flotilla undergoing crew training from her commissioning until 31 October 1944. She was then reassigned to the 33rd U-boat Flotilla.

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On 6 February 1945, U-864 passed through the Fedje area without being detected, but on 9 February  the HMS Venturer ,under the command of 25-year-old Jimmy Launders, heard U-864s engine noise. Launders had decided not to use ASDIC since it would betray his position and spotted the U-boat’s periscope as her captain looked for his escort.

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In an unusually long engagement for a submarine, and in a situation for which neither crew had been trained, Launders waited 45 minutes after first contact before going to action stations. Launders was waiting for U-864 to surface and thus present an easier target. Upon realising they were being followed by the British submarine and that their escort had still not arrived, U-864 zig-zagged underwater in attempted evasive manoeuvres, with each submarine occasionally risking raising her periscope.

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Venturer had only eight torpedoes as opposed to the 22 carried by U-864. After three hours Launders decided to make a prediction of U-864s zig-zag, and released a spread of his torpedoes into its predicted course. This manual computation of a firing solution against a three-dimensionally manoeuvring target was the first occasion on which techniques were used and became the basis of modern computer-based torpedo targeting systems. Prior to this attack, no target had been sunk by torpedo where the firing ship had to consider the target’s position in three-dimensional terms, where the depth of the target was variable and not a fixed value. The computation thus differs fundamentally from those performed by analogue torpedo fire-control computers which regarded the target in strictly 2D terms with a constant depth determined by the target’s draught.

The torpedoes were released in 17 second intervals beginning at 12:12, and all taking four minutes to reach their target.(picture below are not the actual torpedoes)

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Launders then dived Venturer suddenly to evade any retaliation. U-864 heard the torpedoes coming, dived deeper, and turned away to avoid them. The first three torpedoes were avoided, but U-864 unknowingly steering into the path of the fourth. Exploding, U-864 split in two, and sank with all hands coming to rest more than 150 metres (490 ft) below the surface. Launders was awarded a bar to his DSO for this action.

During her career she also sank five merchant ships

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The Four Chaplains-Heroic sacrifice

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The Four Chaplains, also sometimes referred to as the “Immortal Chaplains” or the “Dorchester Chaplains”, were four United States Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel as the troop ship SS Dorchester sank on February 3, 1943, during World War II. They helped other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.

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It was the evening of Feb. 2, 1943, and the U.S.A.T. Dorchester was crowded to capacity, carrying 902 service men, merchant seamen and civilian workers.

Once a luxury coastal liner, the 5,649-ton vessel had been converted into an Army transport ship. The Dorchester, one of three ships in the SG-19 convoy, was moving steadily across the icy waters from Newfoundland toward an American base in Greenland. SG-19 was escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche.

Hans J. Danielsen, the ship’s captain, was concerned and cautious. Earlier the Tampa had detected a submarine with its sonar. Danielsen knew he was in dangerous waters even before he got the alarming information. German U-boats were constantly prowling these vital sea lanes, and several ships had already been blasted and sunk.

The Dorchester was now only 150 miles from its destination, but the captain ordered the men to sleep in their clothing and keep life jackets on. Many soldiers sleeping deep in the ship’s hold disregarded the order because of the engine’s heat. Others ignored it because the life jackets were uncomfortable.

On Feb. 3, at 12:55 a.m., a periscope broke the chilly Atlantic waters. Through the cross hairs, an officer aboard the German submarine U-223 spotted the Dorchester.
The U-223 approached the convoy on the surface, and after identifying and targeting the ship, he gave orders to fire the torpedoes, a fan of three were fired. The one that hit was decisive–and deadly–striking the starboard side, amid ship, far below the water line.

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Captain Danielsen, alerted that the Dorchester was taking water rapidly and sinking, gave the order to abandon ship. In less than 20 minutes, the Dorchester would slip beneath the Atlantic’s icy waters.

Tragically, the hit had knocked out power and radio contact with the three escort ships. The CGC Comanche, however, saw the flash of the explosion. It responded and then rescued 97 survivors. The CGC Escanaba circled the Dorchester, rescuing an additional 132 survivors. The third cutter, CGC Tampa, continued on, escorting the remaining two ships.

Aboard the Dorchester, panic and chaos had set in. The blast had killed scores of men, and many more were seriously wounded. Others, stunned by the explosion were groping in the darkness. Those sleeping without clothing rushed topside where they were confronted first by a blast of icy Arctic air and then by the knowledge that death awaited.

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Men jumped from the ship into lifeboats, over-crowding them to the point of capsizing, according to eyewitnesses. Other rafts, tossed into the Atlantic, drifted away before soldiers could get in them.

Through the pandemonium, according to those present, four Army chaplains brought hope in despair and light in darkness. Those chaplains were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed.

Quickly and quietly, the four chaplains spread out among the soldiers. There they tried to calm the frightened, tend the wounded and guide the disoriented toward safety.

Witnesses of that terrible night remember hearing the four men offer prayers for the dying and encouragement for those who would live,says Wyatt R. Fox, son of Reverend Fox

According to some reports, survivors could hear different languages mixed in the prayers of the chaplains, including Jewish prayers in Hebrew and Catholic prayers in Latin. Only 230 of the 904 men aboard the ship were rescued. Life jackets offered little protection from hypothermia, which killed most men in the water. The water temperature was 34 °F (1 °C) and the air temperature was 36 °F (2 °C). By the time additional rescue ships arrived, hundreds of dead bodies were seen floating on the water, kept up by their life jackets.

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“As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. The flares had lighted everything. The bow came up high and she slid under. The last thing I saw, the Four Chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again. They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets.”

— Grady Clark, survivor
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The USS Mounthood disaster

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USS Mount Hood (AE-11) was the lead ship of her class of ammunition ships for the United States Navy in World War II. She was the first ship named after Mount Hood, a volcano in the Cascade Range in Oregon.

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On 10 November 1944, shortly after 18 men had departed for shore leave, the rest of the crew were killed when the ship exploded in Seeadler Harbor at Manus Island. The ship was obliterated while also sinking or severely damaging 22 smaller craft nearby.

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At 08:30, 10 November 1944, a party consisting of communications officer, Lt. Lester H. Wallace, and 13 men left the ship and headed for shore. At 08:55, while walking on the beach, they saw a flash from the harbor, followed by two quick explosions. Scrambling into their boat, they headed back to the ship, only to turn around again shortly thereafter as there was nothing but debris all around.

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Mount Hood, anchored in about 35 feet (11 m) of water,had exploded with an estimated 3,800 tons of ordnance material on board. The initial explosion caused flame and smoke to shoot up from amidships to more than masthead height. Within seconds, the bulk of her cargo detonated with a more intense explosion. Mushrooming smoke rose to 7,000 feet (2,100 m), obscuring the ship and the surrounding area for a radius of approximately 500 yards (500 m). Mount Hood’s former position was revealed by a trench in the ocean floor 1,000 feet (300 m) long, 200 feet (60 m) wide, and 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 m) deep.

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The largest remaining piece of the hull was found in the trench and measured no bigger than 16 by 10 feet (5 by 3 m). No other remains of Mount Hood were found except fragments of metal which had struck other ships in the harbor and a few tattered pages of a signal notebook found floating in the water several hundred yards away. No human remains were recovered of the 350 men aboard Mount Hood or small boats loading alongside at the time of the explosion.The only other survivors from the Mount Hood crew were a junior officer and five enlisted men who had left the ship a short time before the explosion. Two of the crew were being transferred to the base brig for trial by court martial; and the remainder of the party were picking up mail at the base post office. Charges against the prisoners were dropped following the explosion.

The concussion and metal fragments hurled from the ship also caused casualties and damage to ships and small craft within 2,000 yards (1,800 m). The repair ship Mindanao, which was broadside-on to the blast, was the most seriously damaged.

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All personnel topside on Mindanao were killed outright, and dozens of men were killed or wounded below decks as numerous heavy fragments from Mount Hood penetrated the side plating. Eighty-two of Mindanao’s crew died. The damage to other vessels required more than 100,000 man-hours to repair, while 22 small boats and landing craft were sunk, destroyed, or damaged beyond repair; 371 sailors were injured from all ships in the harbor.

A board convened to examine evidence relating to the disaster was unable to ascertain the exact cause. After only a little over four months’ service, Mount Hood was struck from the Naval Register on 11 December 1944.

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Doris Miller-Cook,Soldier and Hero.

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Today marks the Birthday of Doris Miller.

Doris “Dorie” Miller (October 12, 1919 – November 24, 1943) was a Ship’s cook Third Class that the United States Navy noted for his bravery during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross, the third highest honor awarded by the U.S. Navy at the time, after the Medal of Honor and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. The Navy Cross now precedes the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.Miller’s acts were heavily publicized in the black press, making him the iconic emblem of the war for blacks and was their “Number One Hero” and so energized black support for the war effort against a colored Japanese enemy.[3]Nearly two years after Pearl Harbor, he was killed in action when USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine during the Battle of Makin.

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After a boyhood of farming and football in Waco, Texas, Doris “Dorie” Miller enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1939. He was 19 and wanted to see the world and earn some money to send home.

Miller joined the Navy as a mess attendant, third class, but was soon promoted to second class, then first class, and finally to ship’s cook, third class

On December 7, 1941, Miller awoke at 0600. After serving breakfast mess, he was collecting laundry when at 0757 Lieutenant Commander Shigeharu Murata from the Japanese carrier Akagi launched the first of nine torpedoes that would hit the West Virginia.

When the “Battle Stations” alarm went off, Miller headed for his battle station, an anti-aircraft battery magazine amidship, only to discover that a torpedo had destroyed it.

He went then to Times Square, a central spot where the fore to aft and port to starboard passageways crossed, and reported himself available for other duty. Lieutenant Commander Doir C. Johnson, the ship’s communications officer, spotted Miller and saw the potential of his powerful build, and ordered him to accompany him to the bridge to assist with moving the ship’s captain, Mervyn Bennion, who had a gaping wound in his abdomen, where he had apparently been hit by shrapnel. Miller and another sailor lifted the skipper and, unable to remove him from the bridge, carried him from his exposed position on the damaged bridge to a sheltered spot behind the conning tower. The captain refused to leave his post, questioned his officers about the condition of the ship, and gave orders.

Lieutenant Frederic H. White ordered Miller to help him and Ensign Victor Delano load the unmanned #1 and #2 Browning .50 caliber anti-aircraft machine guns aft of the conning tower. Miller was not familiar with the machine gun, but White and Delano told him what to do. Miller had served both men as a room steward and knew them well. Delano expected Miller to feed ammunition to one gun, but his attention was diverted, and when he looked again, Miller was firing one of the guns. White had loaded ammunition into both guns and assigned Miller the starboard gun.

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Miller fired the gun until he ran out of ammunition, when he was ordered by Lieutenant Claude V. Ricketts, along with Lieutenant White and Chief Signalman A.A. Siewart, to help carry the captain up to the navigation bridge out of the thick oily smoke generated by the many fires on and around the ship.

Bennion was only partially conscious at this point, and died soon afterward. Japanese aircraft eventually dropped two armor-piercing bombs through the deck of the battleship and launched five 18 in (460 mm) aircraft torpedoes into her port side. When the attack finally lessened, Miller helped move injured sailors through oil and water to the quarterdeck, thereby unquestionably saving the lives of a number of people who might otherwise have been lost

The ship was heavily damaged by bombs, torpedoes and resulting explosions and fires, but the crew prevented her from capsizing by counter-flooding a number of compartments. Instead, the West Virginia sank to the harbor bottom as her surviving crew, including Miller, abandoned ship.

“It wasn’t hard,” said Miller shortly after the battle. “I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns. I guess I fired her for about 15 minutes. I think I got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us.”

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Just days after the attack, Miller was transferred to the U.S.S. Indianapolis, on the 15th of December.

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In May 1942 he became the first African American to receive the Navy Cross, presented for courage under fire.

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Miller continued to serve in the Pacific and was reassigned in 1943 to a new escort carrier, the U.S.S.Liscome Bay. Early on November 24, 1943, off Butaritari island, in the South Pacific, a Japanese submarine’s torpedo ripped into the Liscome. The torpedo detonated a bomb magazine, sinking the ship within minutes and eventually killing 646 of its 918 sailors, including Dorie Miller.

Miller’s sacrifices afforded him a reputation far above his rank. In honor of those sacrifices, the U.S. Navy in 1973 commissioned a new frigate–the U.S.S.Miller.

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Doris Miller was played by Cuba Gooding, Jr., in the 2001 ,Michael Bay movie,Pearl Harbor.

 

 

The sinking of the HMS Curacao

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Today marks the 74th anniversary of the sinking HMS Curacao and it wasn’t sunk by the Germans or Japanese or other Axis powers but by one of the most famous cruise liners HMS Queen Mary.

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On the morning of 2 October 1942, Curacoa rendezvoused north of Ireland with the ocean liner Queen Mary, who was carrying 10,000-odd American troops of the 29th Infantry Division.The liner was steaming an evasive “Zig-Zag Pattern No. 8” course at a speed of 28.5 knots (52.8 km/h; 32.8 mph), an overall rate of advance of 26.5 knots (49.1 km/h; 30.5 mph), to evade submarine attacks. The elderly cruiser remained on a straight course at a top speed of 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph) and would eventually be overtaken by the liner.

Each captain had different interpretations of The Rule of the Road believing their ship had the right of way.Captain John Boutwood of the Curacoa kept to the liner’s mean course to maximize his ability to defend the liner from enemy aircraft, while Captain Charles Illingworth of the Queen Mary continued their zig-zag pattern expecting the escort cruiser to give way.

“We could see our escort zig-zagging in front of us it was common for the ships and cruisers to zig-zag to confuse the U-boats. In this particular case however the escort was very, very close to us.

I said to my mate “You know she’s zig-zigging all over the place in front of us, I’m sure we’re going to hit her.”

And sure enough, the Queen Mary sliced the cruiser in two like a piece of butter, straight through the six-inch armoured plating.

— Alfred Johnson, eye witness, BBC: “HMS Curacao Tragedy
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The RMS Queen Mary was used as a troopship throughout World War II and usually crossed the Atlantic without an escort, relying on her speed to evade the U-Boats. In the WWII conversion, the ship’s hull, superstructure and funnels were painted navy grey. As a result of her new colour, and in combination with her great speed, she became known as the “Grey Ghost.” To protect against magnetic mines, a degaussing coil was fitted around the outside of the hull. Inside, stateroom furniture and decoration were removed and replaced with triple-tiered wooden bunks, which were later replaced by standee bunks.

As she came north of Ireland on the 2nd October 1942 she was joined by HMS Curacoa, providing an anti-aircraft escort for the last leg into Scotland.

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At 13:32, during the zig-zag, it became apparent that Queen Mary would come too close to the cruiser and the liner’s officer of the watch interrupted the turn to avoid Curacoa. Upon hearing this command, Illington told his officer to: “Carry on with the zig-zag. These chaps are used to escorting; they will keep out of your way and won’t interfere with you.”At 14:04, Queen Mary started the starboard turn from a position slightly behind the cruiser and at a distance of two cables (about 200 yards (183 m)). Boutwood perceived the danger, but the distance was too close for either of the hard turns ordered for each ship to make any difference at the speeds that they were travelling. Queen Mary struck Curacoa amidships at full speed, cutting the cruiser in half. The aft end sank almost immediately, but the rest of the ship stayed on the surface a few minutes longer.

Acting under orders not to stop due to the risk of U-boat attacks, Queen Mary steamed onwards with a damaged bow. She radioed the other destroyers of her escort, about 7 nautical miles(13 km; 8.1 mi) away, and reported the collision.Hours later, the convoy’s lead escort, consisting of HMS Bramham and one other ship, returned to rescue approximately 101 survivors.

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Lost with Curacoa were 337 officers and men of her crew, according to the Naval Casualty file released by The National Archives in June 2013.Most of the lost men are commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial and the rest on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. The graves of those who died after rescue, or whose bodies were recovered, were buried in Chatham and in Arisaig Cemetery in Invernesshire.Under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986, Curacoas wrecksite is designated a “protected place”.

Those who witnessed the collision were sworn to secrecy because of national security concerns.The loss was not publicly reported until after the war ended, although the Admiralty filed a writ against the Queen Mary’s owners, Cunard White Star Line, on 22 September 1943 in the Admiralty Court of the High Court of Justice. Little happened until 1945, when the case went to trial in June; it was adjourned to November and then to December 1946. Mr. Justice Pilcher exonerated the Queen Marys crew and her owners from blame on 21 January 1947 and laid all fault on the Curacoas officers. The Admiralty appealed his ruling and the Court of Appeal modified the ruling, assigning two-thirds of the blame to the Admiralty and one third to Cunard White Star. The latter appealed to the House of Lords, but they upheld the decision.

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I am not sure how to qualify this event because it wasn’t even ‘Friendly Fire’ it was purely accidental but a tragedy nonetheless.

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