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More Maritime Disasters of World War II - page 4 of 4 - which occurred during 1944 and 1945, plus Notes on WWII Shipping.

This last page covers the years 1944 and 1945 and continues with the smaller ships, the destroyers and merchantmen, all with heavy casualties.

At the bottom of this page, you will find a few Notes on WWII Shipping that I feel sure will be of interest. I hope that it is of some help to your interests and to your own research.

This 4 page series features stories of the losses of some of the less-well known, "smaller ships":

  1. during 1939, 1940, 1941
  2. during 1942
  3. during 1943
  4. during 1944, 1945, and Notes on WWII Shipping.


USS TURNER (January 3, 1944)

Returning to the USA after completing her third Atlantic convoy duty, the destroyer Turner anchored in the Ambrose Channel off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, awaiting to enter the Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs. At about 6.30am next morning, the destroyer was shaken by a series of internal explosions in her ammunition storage areas while the crew was preparing for breakfast. The explosion ignited the fuel tanks turning the ship into a raging inferno. Another explosion blew the bottom out of the vessel and the blazing ship began to sink by the stern. It is not known what caused the explosions which took the lives of 15 officers and 138 ratings. There were 165 survivors who were rescued by nearby ships and taken to the hospital at Sandy Hook. Many lives were saved when several cases of blood plasma were flown in from Brooklyn, New York, in a U.S. Coast Guard Hoverfly helicopter. This was the first recorded lifesaving flight conducted by a rotary-wing aircraft.

USS ST. AUGUSTINE (January 6, 1944)

Built as a luxury steel hulled yacht in 1929 and once owned by Barbara Hutton the Woolworth heiress. It was sold to the US Navy in 1940 and converted to a naval patrol vessel for coastal defence and convoy escort duties. While on escort duty during a full westerly gale off the coast of Delaware she was in collision with the Trinidad bound oil tanker the SS Camas Meadows which struck the Augustine on her starboard side when off Cape May, New Jersey. The vessel sank within four minutes taking to the bottom 115 men of her 145 man crew.


Two Japanese freighters transporting 611 men of an 'Independent Brigade' were heading for New Guinea when in the early evening of the 20th they were sighted by the USS Seahorse (Cdr. Slade Cutter) Three torpedoes were fired from the Seahorse, aimed at the nearest ship. One torpedo missed the target but carried on, hitting the second transport. From a spread of three torpedoes, the Seahorse had scored hits on two ships. The Yasukuni Maru sank with the loss of 68 men. The Ikoma was attacked again by four torpedoes, all of which missed. On a third attack the torpedo hit the number three hold which contained gasoline. The vessel erupted in a brilliant sheet of flame and within minutes went down stern first taking with her forty-three of her crew. Also killed or drowned were 418 of the Indian soldiers on board.

HMS JANUS (January 23, 1944)

After taking part in the Anzio landings, the destroyer Janus commissioned in August, 1939, (Lt. Cdr. W. Morrison) was hit by an arial torpedo from a German bomber and when her magazine exploded sank off Nettuno with the loss of seven officers and 155 ratings. HMS Jervis rescued five officers and seventy-seven ratings. She was hit by a 'glider' bomb but managed to reach Naples.

H.M.H.S. ST. DAVID (January 25, 1944)

British hospital ship with 226 medical staff and patients on board was bombed and sunk by Luftwaffe planes while evacuating the wounded from the Anzio beachhead. There were 130 lives saved but unfortunately 96 souls were lost. Of the two planes that attacked the St David, one was shot down by gunners on the liberty ship Bret Harte. Britain lost ten hospital ships during the war.

LST-422 (January 26, 1944)

Landing Ship Tank-422 was a Lend-Lease vessel operating with an all British crew under the command of Lieutenant Commander Broadhurst, Royal Navy. The ship had left Naples as part of a convoy of 13 other LSTs carrying troops and supplies to the Anzio beachhead. On board the 422 were American personnel of the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion. About twelve miles off shore the ships set anchor 'to wait in queue'. A storm blew up with Force-8 gale winds and waves 20ft high. The gale blew the 422 onto a German laid underwater mine the explosion of which blew a 50ft hole in her bottom and starboard side and caused the fuel oil supply to ignite. This in turn ignited the gasoline tanks of the vehicles on the tank deck. With the whole upper deck a sheet of flame the order was given to 'abandon ship'. Rushing to assist in the picking up of survivors, LCI-32 (Landing Craft-Infantry) hit a mine herself and sank with 30 members of her crew.

Casualties on the LST-422 were 454 American soldiers and 29 British sailors killed. The minesweepers USS Pilot and USS Strive, together with other small craft, rescued 171 survivors from the stormy sea. At 2.30pm the 422 broke in two and went under. Dead bodies were recovered from the water, identified, placed in canvas bags, weighed down with 5.40mm shells and returned to the sea.The names of those dead or missing are engraved on the walls of the US Military Cemetery at Nettuno, Italy.

I.J.N. OITE (February 18, 1944)

On the eve of the American carrier-borne air strike on the Japanese naval base at Truk Lagoon, the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Oite (1,270 tons) sailed for Japan escorting the light cruiser Agano. Both ships were due for a refit. When about 200 miles from the island, the Agano was torpedoed and had to be abandoned by her crew. The 523 crewmembers were taken on board the Oite which was ordered to proceed back to Truk. The air attack against ships anchored in the Lagoon was by now taking place (Code-named Operation Hailstorm). As the Oite approached the entrance to the Lagoon she came under heavy attack by Avenger torpedo carrying planes from the carrier USS Yorktown. With her back broken, and within minutes, the Oite plunged 240ft. to the bottom. Almost all the 523 rescued crew of the Agano perished together with the Oite's own complement of 150 officers and ratings.

TANGO MARU, RYUSEI MARU (February 24, 1944)

After the sinking of the Suez Maru it was decided to replace those sick prisoners who had drowned with more prisoners from Java. Around 3,500 Javanese labourers, (romusha), plus a few hundred Allied P.O.W.s, were assembled in Surabaya to board the 6,200-ton transport TANGO MARU Accompanying the Tango was the 4,805-ton transport RYUSEI MARU carrying 6,600 Japanese soldiers from various units. When about forty miles north of Lombok Island the two ships were spotted by the American submarine USS Rasher commanded by Lt. Cdr. Willard Laughon. Four torpedoes were fired from the Rasher, three of which found their mark on the Tango. Within minutes the Tango Maru was gone, drowning over 3,000 romusha and P.O.W's. Rasher's sights were now lined up on the Ryusei Maru. Four more torpedoes were fired and again three hits were recorded. It took only six minutes for the Ryusei Maru to sink. In the process 4,998 Japanese soldiers and crewmen were either killed or drowned.

HMS MAHRATTA (February 25, 1944)

The 1,920 ton destroyer was torpedoed and sunk by an acoustic homing torpedo from the U-956 (or the U-950) in the Barents Sea while escorting the forty-three merchant ship convoy JW-57 to Russia. The convoy had set sail from Loch Ewe in Scotland on the 20th of February. Eleven officers and 209 ratings lost their lives. There were only seventeen survivors.

USS LEOPOLD (March 9, 1944)

Another Coast Guard manned destroyer sunk 637 kilometres miles south southwest of Iceland by an electric acoustic torpedo from the German submarine U-255. The Leopold was escorting the Atlantic convoy CU-16 to the United Kingdom at the time. A total of 171 men were lost through explosion on board or drowning after abandoning. The Leopold remained afloat until early the next morning and then sank. There were 28 survivors who were picked up by her sister ship the USS Joyce. On May 14, 1944, the U-255 surrendered on May 14, 1945 and was transferred to Loch Ryan, Scotland, for Operation DEADLIGHT. She was scuttled on December 13, 1945, about 200 nautical miles (362 kilometres) west southwest of Galway, County Galway, Éire.

HMS LAFOREY (March 29, 1944)

Destroyer of 1,935 tons sunk by the U-233 (Gerlach) while carrying out a routine anti-submarine sweep off Palermo, Sicily. After a twenty hour chase and twenty-two separate depth charge attacks, the U-233 survived by diving to a depth of 772 feet. Surfacing after being submerged for twenty-five hours the U233 made another attempt to escape but before doing so managed to fire three torpedoes at the Laforey. The torpedoes struck with such force that the Laforey blew up. Of her crew, a total of 189 men were killed, only 69 survived.

I.J.N. AKIGUMO (April 11, 1944)

Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer (Lt. Cdr. Iritono Atsao) assisted in the sinking of the American carrier, USS Hornet. The Akigumo was sunk by torpedoes from the American submarine, USS Redfin, thirty miles south of Zamboanga while escorting the troop transport, Kiyokawa Maru. Her commander and 136 crew were lost.

SS FORT STIKINE (April 14, 1944)

British Ministry of War Transport steamship (7,142 tons) loaded with 1,400 tons of munitions and a cargo of 9,000 cotton bales, was berthed in Bombay docks when a fire broke out with such ferocity that it soon reached the ammunition stored in the forward section of the ship. The resulting explosion was almost as great as the blowing up of the ammunition ship Mount Blanc in Halifax Harbour during the First World War. Fires on shore blazed for two days and nights as the flaming bales of cotton were hurled into the air only to drop onto the wooden shacks and shanties of Bombay's slums. In the harbour itself, eighteen merchant ships were either sunk or severely damaged. A total of 336 people died and over 1,000 injured.

SS PAUL HAMILTON (April 20, 1944)

Liberty Ship, part of Convoy UGS-38 which had formed in Norfolk, Virginia, sunk by aerial torpedo from a Junker Ju-88 bomber about thirty miles off the coast of Cape Bengut, Algeria. The plane came in low and launched its torpedo about 150 feet from the Paul Hamilton which also carried a volatile cargo of high explosives and bombs. The ship simply disappeared from the surface of the sea after a violent explosion which threw debris hundreds of feet high into the air. A total of 580 men (47 Merchant Marine crew, 29 Armed Guards and 504 Army Air Force personnel, including 154 men of the 831st Squadron, lost their lives) There were no survivors, only one body was ever recovered, that of 2nd. Lt. Austin Anderle. This was the largest casualty list of any Liberty ship during the war. During the same action, the escort destroyer USS Landsdale was sunk with a loss of 47 lives. Another ship was sunk and two more damaged bringing the total deaths in this disaster to 627. Altogether, 413 merchant ships totalling l,740,250 tons were sunk in the Mediterranean by enemy action. (Forty three American merchant ships were lost with all hands during WWII taking the lives of over 1,600 souls.)

LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) (April, 1944)

Part of the 4th LCI Flotilla on its way to the UK after taking on supplies at Gibraltar, was attacked by three German Condor bombers from their base at Brest. Each plane dropped six bombs which hit the leading Landing Craft. The vessel broke in two, the rear half remaining afloat for some time and had to be sunk by gunfire. Unfortunately, the passengers and crew who had gathered on the forward half of the ship, perished. All 98 passengers and most of the crew died. The passengers were naval officers and ratings who were hitching a ride back to England to prepare for the D-Day invasions.

YOSHIDA MARU (April 26-May 6, 1944)

A Japanese convoy (Operation Take-Ichi) transporting around 20,000 troops, en route from Shanghai to reinforce the Japanese garrison of Halmahera on the Vogelkop Peninsula, was attacked by the American submarine USS Jack. The Yoshida Maru was sunk off Minila Bay. Later on the 6th. May, the American submarine USS Gurnard spotted the convoy and attacked. Her torpedoes sank the transports Tenshizan Maru (6,886 tons), Taijima Maru (6,995 tons) and the Aden Maru (5,824 tons). Nearly half of the troops that embarked at Shanghai were lost.

HMCS ATHABASKAN (April 29, 1944)

Canadian destroyer of the Tribal class sunk north of Ile de Bas, France, by two torpedoes from a German Torpedo Boats T-24 and T-27 while clearing mines in the English Channel prior to the invasion of France. The ships magazine and a boiler blew up sending a plume of flame and smoke into the air that could be seen over twenty miles away. Her Captain, Cdr. John Stubbs and 128 members of his crew went down with the ship. The destroyer HMCS Haida rescued 44 crew members but the rest, 83 men, were picked up from the water by the torpedo boats and taken prisoner. (Athabaskan is a misnomer, there is not an Indian tribe called Athabaskan, this being the name given to a family of Indian languages.)


Canadian 'RiverClass' frigate commissioned in December, 1943 in Quebec City. Accompanied by two other frigates and two corvettes they were escorting a convoy and had just handed the convoy over to another group of escorts. Now on their way back to their home port of St. John's, they were attacked by the U-548. A torpedo from the U-boat struck the Valleyfield on the port side causing a tremendous explosion which broke the ship in two before it sank. One of the other escorts, HMCS Giffard, searched for survivors in the near freezing waters about seventy kilometres south of Cape Race, Newfoundland. A total of 125 crewmen were lost from the Valleyfield, seventeen of them came from Manitoba.

LSTs and LCTs (May 21, 1944)

A gigantic explosion occurred at the West Lock Munitions Facility, Pearl Harbor, the cause of which has never been fully explained. The ammo-loaded ships were spaced in line apart from each other when the first explosion occurred at the dock setting off a series of explosions on the other ships. Some vessels managed to take evasive action thus terminating the domino like chain of explosions. Destroyed were the Landing Ship (Tank) LST-43, LST-69, (a Coastguard LST in which 13 were injured) LST-179, LST-353 on which the initial explosion occurred and LST-480. Also destroyed were the Landing Craft (Tank) LCT(6)-961, LCT(6)-963 and LCT(6)-983. A total of 163 bodies were dragged from the water days after the event.

USS RICH (June 8, 1944)

US destroyer escort sunk during Operation Neptune off Utah Beach, Normandy, after striking a mine. The ship had left Plymouth on June 5 and while off the Normandy coast went to assist the destroyer USS Glennon which had struck a mine earlier. While attempting to give assistance to the Glennon, a mine exploded beneath her keel blowing off about fifty feet of her stern. Two minutes later another mine exploded under her forward section. The USS Rich sank at 9.40 just fifteen minutes after the mine exploded. Of her crew of 12 officers and 203 other ranks, 89 men lost their lives. There were 73 men wounded.

HMS BOADICEA (June 13, 1944)

British destroyer, 1,360 tons, commissioned in 1931 and sunk off Portland Bill, Dorset, by two torpedoes launched from a German Junker 88 aircraft. The Boadicea was operating ahead of Convoy EBC-8 on its way to Normandy. One torpedo struck near the forward magazine causing it to explode. The other exploded in its wake. Nine officers, including the captain Lt. Cdr. F.W. Hawkins, and 166 ratings died. There were only 12 survivors.


Formerly the Dutch 'SS Van Waerwijck' torpedoed and sunk by HMS Truculent while carrying 720 Prisoners of War from Balewan to Pakanbaroe in Sumatra. A total of 177 prisoners were lost including 48 who were British. (HMS Truculent survived the war but on January 12, 1950, she sank after a collision with the 600 ton Swedish oil tanker 'MV Divina' in the Thames estuary as she was returning to Sheerness after a refit. Sixty-four persons died in the collision, there were ten survivors.)

SS JEAN NICOLET (July 2, 1944)

Liberty ship, torpedoed and then shelled and set on fire off Ceylon by the Japanese submarine I-8. On board were 41 crew plus 28 US Armed Guards and 31 passengers. All were taken on board the submarine and with hands tied behind their backs, were forced to sit on deck while the Japanese sailors systematically killed most of them with bayonets and spanners used as clubs. With the last 30 survivors still on deck the submarine crashed dived when an enemy plane was spotted. The 30 survivors were left struggling in the water. A few managed to swim back to the burning hulk of the Jean Nicolet and launched a raft before the ship sank. Luckily, 23 of them survived to be picked up by the Indian Navy trawler 'Hoxa'. The I-8s captain ordered that three survivors be retained as P.O.W.s. Sadly, only one survived the war.

E. A. BRYAN (July 17, 1944)

A 7,212-ton Liberty ship, was moored at Port Chicago Naval Base, California, taking on ammunition and high explosives. Just before 10.20pm, the ship, loaded with 4,600 tons of munitions and 1,780 tons of explosives, blew up in one gigantic explosion completely wrecking the port and sending smoke and debris 12,000 feet into the air. Windows were shattered some 20 miles away. A second ship, moored nearby, the brand new QUINALT VICTORY was getting ready for its maiden voyage and also loaded with munitions. It had taken three days and nights to load the two ships, the work mostly done by black naval personnel. All on board the two ships, and many on the pier, were killed instantly. (E.A. Bryan, 53 killed, Quinalt Victory, 44 killed) A total of 320 men died including 202 black sailors. A total of 390 military and civilian personnel were injured. A twelve ton locomotive operating on the pier simply vanished, not a single piece was ever found. The 1,200 ft. wooden pier and 16 boxcars loaded with bombs and ammunition disappeared. The damage bill to the Port of Chicago (now the Concord Naval Weapons Station) was estimated at $12 million. The cause of the explosion was never officially established by the Court of Inquiry. (After this disaster, ammunition loading ceased to be a 'blacks only' affair).

Following the Port Chicago explosion, 258 black sailors refused to load explosives on to Pacific bound ships until safety was improved. Fifty were court-martialled, and convicted of mutiny. They were reduced to the lowest rank and sentenced to long prison terms. Ten of them to 15 years, twenty four to 12 years, eleven to 10 years and five got 8 years. The public outcry was such that all were released from prison some months later to spend the rest of their lives under the pall of injustice and deprived of veterans benefits. One black sailor, a Freddy Meeks had his honour restored by President Bill Clinton in 1999 who gave him a pardon. Freddy Meeks died in June 2003 aged 83.

HMS QUORN (August 3, 1944)

British 'Hunt' class escort destroyer, commissioned in September, 1940. While on patrol off the British invasion beaches in Normandy it was attacked and sunk during a heavy assault by German E boats and 'kamikaze' human torpedoes. Around midnight, the torpedo hit near the boiler room breaking the ship in two. The Quorn sank within a few minutes. Many of the survivors died during their time in the water, the others rescued some hours later by an armed trawler. Four officers and 126 ratings lost their lives.

MATSU (August 4, 1944)

Launched on February 3, 1944. Japanese escort destroyer (1,262 tons) leading a convoy returning to Japan was bombed and severely damaged by US aircraft about fifty miles northwest of Chichi-jima. The Matsu was later sunk by shellfire from the destroyers USS Ingersoll, USS Cogswell and USS Knapp. The bombing killed most of her crew. Out of her complement of 150 there were only six survivors one of whom died later aboard the rescue destroyer.

KOSHU MARU (August 4, 1944)

A 2,295-ton cargo vessel, under the control of the Japanese Army, sailed from Batavia (Jakarta) carrying 1,513 Javanese labourers and 540 additional passengers and crew. Its destination was the Celebes islands where the labourers were to work repairing the much bombed Makassar airstrip. The Koshu Maru, along with another freighter and two escorts sailed across the Java Sea, the scene of so many tragic sinking's. The slow moving convoy was spotted by Cdr. William Kinsella of the submarine USS Ray. Four torpedoes were sent on their way, the resulting explosions breaking the back of the ship and sending her to the bottom. The labourers and passengers on board didn't have much of a chance, the ship sinking in a matter of minutes. Lost with the Koshu Maru were 273 passengers and 28 crewmen but the most tragic of all was the deaths of 1,239 Javanese labourers.

MEFKURE (August 5, 1944)

Turkish motor-schooner in company with two other boats the Morina and Bulbul, set sail from the port of Constantsa in Romania bound for Istanbul. On board were around one thousand passengers, mostly refugee Jews from Romania, Poland and Hungary, just over 325 to each boat. Flying the Turkish flag but with no navigation lights, the Mefkure was hit by three torpedoes and shell-fire from the Russian submarine SC-215, twenty-five miles north-east of Igneada, the survivors machine-gunned while struggling in the water to escape. The death toll from the Mefkure was 305 passengers killed including thirty-seven children. There were only eleven survivors, five Jews and six crewmembers who were rescued by the Bulbul.

Built by John Brown & Co. Glasgow, for the London North Eastern Railway in 1930 and converted to a Landing Ship Infantry during Operation Neptune. Later, fitted out as a Hospital Carrier No 64, she sailed for the Normandy coast to pick up war casualties. When one hour out from the Juno Beach area, the vessel struck a mine and sank in just eleven minutes. Fifty-five wounded men were lost as were ten medical staff and thirty crewmembers. Also lost were eleven German prisoners of war who were being transported to P.O.W. camps in England. Total losses, 106 souls. There were 323 survivors.


To date, no casualties have been reported from the sinking of the American liberty ship, Richard Montgomery (4,380 tons). But what of the future? In August, 1944, the vessel set sail from Hog Island, Philadelphia, in convoy HX-301 bound for the UK and ultimately Cherbourg in Normandy. Her cargo consisted of 6,127 tons of munitions for the United States Air Force. Arriving in the Thames estuary her captain was directed to anchor in the Great Nore anchorage off Sheerness. On August 20 the ship dragged her anchor when the wind turned northerly and ended up across the ridge of a sandbar. Cargo salvage operations were started immediately. This ended when the hull split open and flooding occurred causing the vessel to break in two and subsequently sink with 3,173 tons of explosives still within the holds. The British Admiralty decided to leave the wreck and its dangerous cargo undisturbed. But if this exploded it would generate a wave sixteen feet high and throw a column of debris and water 10,000 feet in the air. The likelihood of a major explosion is considered remote as with the passage of time the fuses on the explosive devices will become less stable. The condition of the wreck is monitored regularly and is under 24-hour radar surveillance. The next major survey will be in 2007. No sea traffic is allowed over or near the wreck, the two seperate sections lie in 7.3 metres of water, the masts of which are clearly seen at all times. A Government decision on the future of the wreck has still to be made.

HMS KITE (August 21, 1944)

Royal Navy sloop of 1,250 tons, built at the Cammell Laird yard at Birkenhead, was escorting the aircraft carriers HMS Vindex and HMS Striker, which in turn were escorting a large 34 ship convoy JW-59 to Northern Russia when the convoy was sighted in the Barents Sea by German aircraft. Soon a pack of U-boats attacked the convoy and one U-boat was sunk by Swordfish aircraft from one of the carriers. Two more were sunk by other destroyers. During the action, HMS Kite was hit by two torpedoes from the U-344 and sank with the loss of ten officers and 207 ratings. Fourteen survivors were picked up by HMS Keppel but five died just minutes after being rescued. Next day, the U-344 was attacked and sunk with all hands (50) by aircraft from the carrier Vindex.

For more on the HMS Kite, see www.mikekemble.com/ww2/kite.html.

HMS BRITOMART and HMS HUSSAR (August 27, 1944)

Three months after the Normandy Invasion, ships of the British 1st Minesweeping Flotilla, operating out of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches, were sweeping a channel through enemy laid magnetic mines off Cap d'Antifer. This was to enable the battleship Warspite to get closer to the French coast to bombard the port of Le Havre still in German hands. The 1st Flotilla, led by HMS Jason and including the Britomart, Hussar, Salamander and the trawler Colsay, began their fifth day of minesweeping on Sunday, 27th of August, 1944. At 1.30pm on this beautiful day, with the sea smooth as a duck pond, sixteen RAF rocket-firing Typhoons, of 263 and 266 Squadrons accompanied by a Polish squadron of Spitfires, swooped out of the sun and attacked the Britomart. On their second attack, the Salamander and Hussar were hit. In just over 10 minutes, two ships were burning and sinking, a third badly damaged and on fire. Men swimming in the water were now subjected to shelling from the German shore batteries. A total of 78 officers and ratings were killed and 149 wounded on these two ships. Twenty two men were killed on the Britomart and fifty-six on Hussar. Counting the dead on the other ships attacked the toll amounted to 117 Royal Navy men killed. Survivors were later told to 'keep their mouths shut about the whole affair'. A court of inquiry, held at Arromanches two days later, found that this appalling blunder was due to "an error in communications" the incompetence of naval shore based staff officers who knew the vessels were there but failed to pass this information on to their RAF counterparts. The RAF was completely exonerated.

JACKSONVILLE (August 30, 1944)

American tanker of 1,345 tons commissioned in 1944 and built to carry 14,300 tons of high octane aviation fuel, was sunk by two torpedoes fired from the U-482 (Matuschka). Part of convoy CU-36 enroute from New York to Loch Ewe in Scotland, the Jacksonville was hit by two torpedoes, the first ignighting the fuel, which exploded in a ball of fire, the second splitting her hull in two. She sank some fifty miles north of Londonderry, Northern Ireland. On board were 49 Merchant Navy crew and 29 Naval Armed Guard. Only one crewmember and one Naval Guard survived. This was one of the highest casualty rates in tanker history.

USS WARRINGTON (DD-383) (September 13, 1944)

Launched in May, 1937, the 1,850 ton destroyer Warrington capsized during a violent storm in the South Atlantic while on her way to Trinidad. With winds of up to 130 knots, the destroyer was brought to a standstill with the heavy seas pounding her hull to pieces. Sea water cascaded through the ducts and flooded the engine room cutting off all power and damaging her steering mechanism. The ship then took a heavy roll to starboard and the order to abandon ship was given. The Warrington then rolled completely over and with her bow pointing straight up at the sky she quickly and silently slid under the raging ocean. A prolonged search by rescue ships failed to save all the crew. Only 5 officers and 68 men were picked up from the sea two days later by the supply ship USS Hyades and the small carrier Croatan. A total of 248 officers and men had drowned.

MAROS MARU (September, 1944)

The small ex Dutch vessel, sunk at Batavia in 1942 and refloated again by the Japanese, set sail from Ambon in the Muluccas on September 17 commanded by Lieutenant Kurishima. Over-crowded with 500 British and Dutch P.O.W.s, who had been working on the building of an airstrip on the island, another 130 prisoners were picked up on the way, making conditions on board horrendous with only two wooden boxes slung over the ship's sides to act as toilets. Her destination was Surabaya in Java but half way there the ships engine broke down and the vessel had to enter the port of Macassar, South Celebes, for repairs. The repairs took longer than anticipated and after 40 days in harbour the prisoners, who were not allowed to leave the ship, began dying in increasing numbers. Cramped conditions, lack of fresh air and no proper food caused the deaths of 159 prisoners during its time in dock. Eventually, sixty-seven days after she had sailed from Ambon, the 'Maros Maru' reached Surabaya. Of the 630 prisoners who had originally been on board only 325men, half-dead, diseased and crawling with vermin, survived.

USS JOHNSTON (DD-557) (October 25, 1944)

American destroyer sunk by gunfire from the Japanese Centre Force battleships and cruisers during the 48 hour Battle off Samar. The Johnston and other destroyers, part of the thirteen ship Task Force, Taffy 111, were screening the American escort carriers when the attack came. After launching her full complement of 10 torpedoes at the Japanese heavy cruiser 'Kumano' she was hit repeatedly by gunfire from the other ships including the Kongo. Ammunition stores on the Johnston started to explode and fifteen minutes later she rolled over and sank. A total of 183 men were lost from the crew of 326. Forty-six died from enemy gunfire, 45 died on rafts from their injuries and 92 were struggling in the water after the ship sank. They were never seen again. There were 143 survivors. Her captain, Comdr. Ernest E. Evans was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. A survivor later reported that he saw the Japanese captain salute the Johnston as she went down.

USS HOEL (DD-533) USS SAMUEL B ROBERTS (October 25, 1944)

American destroyer sunk by the Japanese Centre Force battleships while patrolling the entrance to Leyte Gulf. After taking over 40 hits from the Japanese ships including the battleship Kongo, the destroyer, brought to a standstill after a shell exploded in the engine room, rolled over and sank by the stern taking 252 crewmen to their deaths,15 died while awaiting rescue on rafts. Only 85 survived. During the same battle, the escort destroyer USS Samuel B. Roberts was also sunk with the loss of three officers and 86 ratings. The Roberts (Lt. Cdr. R. W. Copeland) was hit by a 14-inch salvo from the enemy battleship, tearing a hole 40 ft long and 10 ft wide on her port side. The 126 survivors spent 18 hours in the oil-covered water before rescue. Memorials to the Hoel, Johnston and Roberts are located at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego.

THOMAS NELSON (November 20, 1944)

US merchant ship, at anchor with twenty other ships in Dulag Bay, was attacked by a Japanese suicide plane that had dived through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire to crash on her deck. On board were hundreds of tons of ammunition. The plane's single bomb exploded on impact, the explosion and fire causing the deaths of some 140 US army enlisted men, navy gunners and merchant navy crewmen.

USS MISSISSINEWA (November 20, 1944)

US Navy fleet oiler (11,316 tons) hit by a Japanese one man suicide submarine (Kaiten) while at anchor in the harbour of Ulithi Atoll, Admiral Halsey's 3rd Fleet anchorage. Two kaitens, launched from their mother submarines I-36 and I-47 had penetrated the safety nets across the mouth of the harbour. One ran ashore but failed to explode and was recovered by the US Navy. The destruction of the Mississinewa proved to be one of the most important sinking's of the Pacific war as this was the first time the US Navy had encountered this type of submarine. The second kaiten found its mark on the starboard side of the Mississinewa which was loaded with 440,000 gallons of aviation fuel which exploded and erupted into a blazing inferno at 5.45am. This was the first ship to fall victim to this new top secret weapon. Casualties were three officers and 47 ratings killed, eleven officers and 81 ratings wounded from the ships complement of 298. Now, 57 years later, oil has started to leak from the hull of the Mississinewa which lies upside down in 120 feet of water. The pollution threatens the livelihood of the 700 residents on the atoll.

URAKAZE (November 21, 1944)

The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Urakaze had an excellent record of Allied tonnage sunk. In company with the destroyers Hamakaze, Yukikazeand Isokaze, the three were escorting the home-bound damaged warships, Kongo, Nagato  and Yamato from Brunei to Kure, Japan, when attacked by the USS Sealion in the Formosa Strait. As the Sealion gradually caught up with the battle fleet her commander, Captain Eli Reich, launched three stern torpedoes at the battleship Nagato. All missed but one carried on and hit the Urakaze on her port side. After a series of explosions the Urakaze simply blew apart and in less than two minutes the vessel sank. Her entire crew of fourteen officers and 293 men were lost.

SS HANSA (November 24, 1944)

Swedish passenger ship of 563 tons, sunk by Soviet submarine L-21. The torpedo struck at 05:57 destroying the bridge and blowing off the forepart of the vessel. Minutes later the Hanse sank about fifteen miles off Stenkyrkehuk on the island of Gotland. The Hansawas well known to the islanders in the ports of Visby and Nynäshamn. On the night of 24th November she departed Nynäshamn with the flag of neutral Sweden painted and lit up on both sides of the ship. Rough seas kept her speed down to 8 knots. Of her 86 persons on board only 2 survived and were rescued by minesweepers Landsort and Arholma next day after clinging to a raft all night. After this disaster, all Swedish passenger vessels to Gotland were escorted by a minesweeper and a destroyer.

HMCS SHAWINIGAN (November 24, 1944)

Canadian corvette, commissioned on September 19, 1941 and then spent two years escorting convoys across the Atlantic. In June 1944 she began escort duties in the domestic waters of the Cabot Strait between Sydney N.S and Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland. Returning from her regular patrol around midnight, the corvette was sighted by the U-1228 which fired a torpedo and sank the Shawinigan in just four minutes. There were no survivors from her crew of ninety-one.

USS COOPER (December 2-3, 1944)

During a US naval attack on Japanese shipping in Ormoc Bay, Leyte, the Cooper, accompanied by USS Allen M Sumner and the USS Moale, engaged two enemy ships, the Matsu class destroyers, Kuwa and Take. A torpedo from the Take hit the Cooper causing an explosion on her starboard side and breaking the ship in two. She sank within minutes taking the lives of 191 crewmen. There were 168 crew rescued by PBY Catalina flying boats and flown to the nearest naval base. This was the only naval engagement of the Pacific War in which US ships were fired upon simultaneously from the air, sea and from shore batteries in one short desperate four hour battle.

USS REID (December 11, 1944)

American destroyer escorting a supply convoy to Ormoc Bay on the island of Leyte. When off the coast of Limasawa Island, the Reid was sunk by two Japanese suicide aircraft. Of her crew, 104 men died. On November 2, 1996 a commemorative ceremony was held over the site of the sunken vessel. Three of the survivors, who had recently died, had requested that their ashes be scattered on the waters over the wreck.

HMS ALDENHAM (December 14, 1944)

British destroyer. After escorting several convoys to the besieged island of Malta, the Aldenham (Cdr. J. G. Farrent) hit a mine in the north-eastern Adriatic and sank with the loss of five officers and 116 ratings.


Three American destroyers sunk during one of the worst typhoons to hit the Pacific ocean. Typhoon ‘Cobra’ struck while the destroyers were escorting the 3rd US Fleet Fuelling Group east of the Philippines. They were on their way to join up with task Force 38 engaged in the invasion of Mindoro, but they never made it. Waves 70 ft high were tossing the ships about like corks. Water pouring down the funnels caused the ships to turn over 60 degrees and finally capsize taking the lives of 765 men. A total of 146 aircraft were lost overboard from the carriers including 86 from the three escort carriers. There were only six survivors from the Monaghan, 23 from the Spence (which lost 294 men) and 63 from Hull. All told, 92 men survived the sinkings, many spending 13 hours in the water before being rescued by the destroyers USS Tabberer, USS Dewey, USS Swearer and USS Gatling. Admiral William 'Bull' Halsey was held responsible for the disaster for failing to sail the Third Fleet ships out of the typhoon's path. (The forces of nature had inflicted a greater loss to the US Navy than it suffered in any battle in the Pacific War.)


MOMI (January 5, 1945)

Japanese destroyer, sunk by an aerial torpedo from a plane of the American Escort Carrier Force during the US invasion of Luzon in the Philippines. The destroyer sank west of Manila Bay with all hands, a death toll of 210 souls.

KYLE V. JOHNSON (January 12, 1945)

En route to Lingayan Gulf as part of a hundred ship convoy, the Johnson was hit by a kamikaze plane which crashed on the starboard side of number three hatch, ploughing through the hull plates and into the deck below. On board the Johnson were 500 US Army troops and 2,500 tons of motor vehicles and gasoline in fifty gallon drums. The resulting explosion blew the steel hatch beams high into the air. Dropping out of the convoy the Johnson's gallant crew fought the fire until the flames were extinguished. She then rejoined the convoy but on board lay the bodies of 129 dead men and many injured. The Kyle V. Johnson survived the war and was scrapped in 1975 at Panama City.

DEJATELNYJ (January 16, 1945)

Former British lend-lease destroyer HMS Churchill loaned to the Soviet Union in July, 1944 and renamed Dejatelnyj. While escorting Convoy KB-1 east of Cape Tereberski in the Kara Sea, the destroyer suffered an explosion which blew away her stern and sinking her within minutes. As the U-boat U-956 (Hans Dieter-Mohs) was the only U-boat in the area at the time, it was given credit for the sinking but this has never been proved from documentation. It is possible that the Dejatelnyj struck a mine or more probable that one of her depth charges exploded during launching. The destroyer (1,180 tons) was lost with her captain, Kptlt. K. Kravchenko and 116 crewmen. There were only seven survivors.

USS SERPENS (AK-97) (January 29, 1945)

A 14,250 ton US Liberty ship launched on April 5, 1943 and transferred to the Navy on the 19th. After serving seventeen months in the Pacific region, the holds of the Serpens were converted for the storage of ammunition. While loading depth charges at her berth in Lunga Roads, Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, the Serpens blew up with such force that only the bow of the ship remained afloat. The US Coast Guard manned vessel took 196 crewmen men to their deaths. Also on board were 57 men of an army stevedore unit. All died. Only 2 men survived the explosion which has never been officially explained. The ships captain and 7 others were ashore at the time of the disaster. This was the greatest loss suffered by the US Coast Guard during the war. In all, the US Coast Guard manned a total of 351 naval vessels in the course of World War II.

The Serpens Commemorative Website is at http://www.uss-serpens.org.

HMS BLUEBELL (February 17, 1945)

Royal Navy corvette of 925 tons, enroute from Loch Ewe in Scotland to the Kola Inlet in Russia, when sunk by the U-711 (Lange). One torpedo hit the ammunition magazine which exploded blowing the ship apart. The Bluebell (Lt. G. Walker) was scouting ahead of Convoy RA-64 on the lookout for enemy submarines when at 5.30pm the torpedo hit. The corvette sank in about four minutes. There was only one survivor from her 86 man crew. (The U-711 was sunk on May 4, 1945, near Harstad, Norway, by depth charges dropped from aircraft of the escort carriers HMS Trumpeter, HMS Queen and HMS Searcher. Forty of her crew died and twelve survived.)

HMS LAPWING (March 20, 1945)

British sloop of 1,350 tons torpedoed and sunk in the Kola Inlet in Northern Russia while on escort duty with outward bound convoy JW-65. It was her ninth voyage to Russia. The Lapwing was hit amidships by a torpedo from the U-968 (Westphalen) and sank shortly afterwards. After giving support to the Normandy landings the Lapwing joined the 7th Escort Group based on the Clyde in Scotland. She sank with the loss of 158 of her complement of 219. There were 61 survivors rescued from the freezing seas by HMS Savage.

USS HALLIGAN (March 26, 1945)

Under orders to proceed to the island of Okinawa to bombard the enemy shore prior to the American landings scheduled for April 1, the Halligan sank after striking a mine which exploded beneath her forward magazine and completely disintegrated the forward section of the ship. The explosion took the lives of 162 men including her captain, Lt. Cmdr. E. Grace. Only two of her twenty-one officers survived. The abandoned wreck drifted for twelve miles before piling up on a reef near the Okinawan shore.

USS BUSH (April 6, 1945)

American 'Fletcher' class destroyer (2,800 tons fully armed) commissioned May, 1943, sunk by three Japanese suicide planes off the coast of Okinawa during the landings (1 to 6 April). The destroyer was on Radar picket duty when attacked. This was the second ship to be so named. (Nineteen of Fletcher class destroyers were lost during the war) Commanded by Cmdr. W.F. Peterson who, surrounded fire and exploding ammunition managed to get most of the crew off before the vessel caved in amidships and sank. Eighty-seven officers and crew died during the sinking and thirty-two were wounded. A total of 227 men were rescued.

USS EAGLE 56 (April 23, 1945)

About noon on April 23 the American submarine chaser Eagle 56, built by the Ford Motor Company and launched in August 1919, sank after a violent explosion when off Portland on the coast of Maine. Classified by the US Navy as sunk due to a boiler explosion, it was not until 2001 that the true story of this long forgotten sinking came to light. When the few surviving members of the crew were interviewed they all mentioned seeing the dark outline of a submarines conning tower a short distance away. German records revealed that the U-853, part of 'Group Seewolf', was operating in the area of the sinking at the time. The US Navy then re-classified the sinking as a combat loss and in June, 2001, posthumously awarded the Purple Heart to the 49 men lost and to the 12 survivors (or their next of kin) who were rescued by the destroyer USS Selfridge. The U-853, commanded by 24 year old Oberleutnant Helmut Frömsdorf, was sunk on May 6, 1945, by the destroyers USS Artherton and USS Moberly. There were no survivors.

USS FREDERICK C. DAVIS (April 24, 1945)

The 1,490 ton destroyer escort was commissioned on July 14, 1943. Nine months later the destroyer was sunk by the U-546 in the Western Atlantic. The vessel was participating in a search for snorkel-equipped U-boats when she sighted the U-546 preparing to attack the American aircraft carrier USS Bogue. The Davis attacked the U-boat but while doing so was herself hit by a torpedo from the U-546 the explosion of which split the Davis in two causing her to sink within a few minutes. Other destroyers in the group then attacked the U-boat which was eventually destroyed. They then proceeding to rescue the 77 survivors of the Davis. Unfortunately, 115 of her crew perished.

USS LAGARTO SS-371 (May 4, 1945)

In May, 2005, the wreck of the American submarine USS Lagarto (1,526 tons) captained by Commander F D Latta, and missing for over sixty years, was finally discovered by a British diving team based in Thailand. The submarine left Subic Bay in the Philippines on its second war patrol for a rendezvous with her sister submarine the USS Baya already on patrol in the Siam Gulf (now Gulf Of Thailand) Contact was made between the two ships to discuss plans to attack a Japanese convoy ploughing its way through the Gulf. Approaching the convoy on May 3 the Baya was driven off by the escort vessels. Later, when the Baya tried to contact the Lagardo there was no reply. It was never heard of again. It was expected to dock in Australia at the end of the month but it never arrived. The crew of 86 officers and men were reported missing presumed dead. Japanese records discovered after the war state that the mine-layer Hatsutka had sunk a submarine in the area where the Lagarto went missing. The diving team discovered a large rupture on the port side bow area confirming that the cause of the sinking was a depth charge. A memorial to the submarine and its crew was created at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc where the ship was built.

USS LUCE (May 4, 1945)

While on radar picket duty off Kerama Retto, the Luce was attacked by two Japanese kamikaze planes. She managed to shoot down one of the attackers but the second plane struck the after section of the ship. With the engine room flooded and the rudder jammed, the Luce took a heavy list to starboard. The order to abandon ship was given and moments later a violent explosion shook the ship and she slid quietly beneath the surface. Of the ships complement of 312 officers and men, 126 lost their lives.

USS MORRISON (May 4, 1945)

Sailing south-west of Okinawa, the Morrison was attacked by a force of twenty five Japanese planes. Three of the planes attempted suicide runs but failed. The fourth plane to attack crashed into the bridge knocking out all electric power and causing many casualties. As the destroyer began to list to starboard, the order to abandon ship was given. This was immediately followed by two internal explosions causing her bow to lift into the air before plunging into the depths. There was little time for the men below deck to escape, thus 152 of them died. Among the 179 officers and men who survived, 108 were wounded.

M 612 (May 7 1945) Eleven sailors from the German minesweeper (M 612) were executed aboard their own ship a little north of Sønderborg, Denmark. The day before the ship had been ordered to sail for the Hela Peninsula in the Eastern Baltic to participate in the evacuation of German troops still fighting in pockets in front of the advancing Russians. On receiving this order part of the crew refused. Their leader, Heinrich Glasmacher, telling the captain 'We want to go home, it's no use anymore'. The eleven sailors then committed armed mutiny and took over the ship. They were however detected and boarded by another ship. The sailors were arrested, and a trial was held. Eleven were sentenced to death and they were executed the next evening on the stroke of midnight. Their bodies were dumped at sea, Mafia style, but their bodies drifted ashore some days later. Seven were given a proper burial, four have never been found. (German forces had surrendered May 5, 1945).

USS LONGSHAW (May 18, 1945)

After a four day period of supplying fire-support to the invasion of forces attacking the island of Okinawa, the Longshaw ran aground on a coral reef off the island's south coast. The US tug, 'Jrikara' arrived to attempt to take the destroyer in tow but just then the Japanese gun-batteries on shore opened up and poured a stream of shells into the stricken ship. One shell hit the Longshaw's forward magazine completely blowing off the ships bow. The Langshaw, battered beyond recognition, had to be sunk by gunfire and torpedoes from US ships. The attack on the destroyer took the lives of 78 officers and crewmen. Rescue vessels picked up 11 officers and 225 ratings, seven of whom were to die later from their wounds.

USS DREXLER (May 28, 1945)

While on a radar picket station 60 miles south-west of Okinawa, the destroyer, launched on September 3, 1944, was attacked by two Japanese suicide planes. One crashed into the 3,000 ton Drexler starting large petrol fires. Another three planes then attacked but were shot down. A few minutes later another Kamikaze crashed in flames into the Drexler's superstructure. In less than a minute the ship rolled over on her side and sank stern first. As there was little time for the crew to jump ship, she took 158 sailors to the bottom of the ocean, leaving 52 wounded men to be rescued.

USS TWIGGS (June 16, 1945)

While on radar picket duty off Okinawa, the Twiggs was hit by a torpedo from a low flying Japanese plane. Her number two magazine exploded enveloping the destroyer in flames. The torpedo plane circled and attacked again, this time on a suicide mission crashing into the burning ship. In less than thirty minutes the Twiggs sank beneath the waves, her ammunition exploding as she did so. Her captain, Cmdr. George Phillip and 152 of his crew were killed. Survivors rescued from the oily waters numbered 188. (In all, 13 American destroyers were lost off Okinawa, the 13th was the destroyer USS Callaghan sunk by a kamikaze at 0041 hrs on July 29, 1945 and killing 47 of her crew. The day before, the crew were informed that the Callaghan was to proceed to San Francisco upon being relieved by the USS Laws at 0200 hrs on the 29th).

USS UNDERHILL (July 24, 1945)

American Buckley-class escort destroyer of the Pacific 7th Fleet, escorting a convoy of six Landing Ships (Tank) and one Troopship, the USS Adria. The convoy was carrying the remnants of the 96th Infantry Division on their way from Buckner Bay, Okinawa, to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines for Rest and Recreation. When 150 miles north-east of Luzon, the convoy was attacked by a Japanese two man kaiten suicide submarine launched from the mother ship I-53 (which carried six kaitens) under the command of Commander Saichi Oba. The kaiten, armed with 3,300 pounds of high explosives, was rammed by the Underhill, the kaiten exploding when just forward of the engine room on the starboard side of the destroyer. The forward boilers exploded, resulting in the ship splitting in two, the forward section sinking soon after. The rear section remained afloat to be sunk later by gunfire from the rescuing destroyers. Altogether, 112 men lost their lives, 10 officers and 102 enlisted men in the last destroyer to be lost to enemy action in World War II. There were 122 survivors all of whom were awarded the 'Purple Heart'. Her commander, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Newcomb was posthumously awarded the 'Navy Cross'. A permanent memorial stone to those crewmen who died was erected in the Arlington National Cemetery on July 24, 1997.


This American destroyer saw action off France, convoy duty in the Mediterranean and took part in the assault on the island of Okinawa in the Pacific. The Hobson survived the war but on 26 April 1952, while sailing in formation 700 miles west of the Azores, she was involved in an accident with the new aircraft carrier 'Wasp'. The carrier was carrying out aircraft deck landing exercises and as she turned into the wind the Hobson crossed her bow and was hit amidships causing the destroyer to break in two. A total of 176 men, including her captain, Commanding Officer Lt. Comdr. W. J. Tierney, were lost. The USS Hobson received six battle stars for her service in World War II.

SS BLACK POINT (May 5, 1945)

The last American victim of the German U-boat was the freighter SS Black Point (Capt. Charles Prior) sunk off Judith Point, Rhode Island at 5.40pm on May 5, 1945. The freighter was carrying a cargo of coal to Boston when attacked by the U-853, the submarine that sank the Eagle 56. Twelve crewmen were killed but thirty four survived. In the European theatre, the last vessels sunk were the British freighter Avondale Park and the Norwegian vessel Snelland were both sunk within an hour of the cessation of hostilities on May 7, 1945, by the U-233  off the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland while part of Convoy EN-91.

AMAKUSA (August 9, 1945)

Japanese escort destroyer of 900 tonnes attacked by Corsairs from the carrier HMS Formidable while anchored in Onagawa Bay, northern Honshu. Piloted by Canadian Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, his Corsair flew 50ft above the water to drop its bomb on the Amakusa. The bomb pierced the deck and exploded in the engine room killing 40 of its crew. Robert Grey flew his plane on after its engine caught fire but spun out of control and crashed into the sea killing the pilot. The Amakusa took on a list and started to sink while other Corsairs attacked the burning wreck and strafed survivors in the water. Soon it disappeared under the waves taking with her another 71 crewmembers. Altogether 157 men lost their lives. Lieut. Robert Hampton Gray was later awarded the Victoria Cross the last VC of the war in the east. (A simple granite cairn stands in Sakiyama Peace Park, overlooking Onagawa Bay. This cairn was erected by the Japanese in 1989, it is the only known instance of a monument honouring an Allied serviceman in all of Japan.)

UKISHIMA MARU (August 24, 1945)

Japanese transport vessel of 4,730 tons sank off the port of Maizuru in Koyto just days after the surrender of Japan was signed. The ship was carrying 3,735 Korean nationals, ex slave labourers and so called 'comfort women' being returned to their homeland from the north-eastern state of Aomori on Honshu. The ship had left the port of Ominato in Aomori en route to Pusan in Korea when, as it approached its first stop, Maizuru, it simply blew up killing 524 Koreans and 25 of the Japanese crew of 255. The cause of the explosion has never been established but a sea mine is suspected.


Shore-based naval facility, headquarters of the Royal Navy Patrol Service. When war broke out in 1939 a vast number of fishing trawlers were requisitioned, converted and given the name RNPS. Their home base was at Lowestoft on an estate originally owned by the Marchioness of Salisbury and given the name of Pembroke X. The task of the trawlers was mainly minesweeping and protection of coastal convoys. Armed only with small calibre guns they nevertheless fought U-boats and dive bombers, swept channel ports and harbours and acted as anti-submarine escort vessels. In September, 1939 a total of one hundred Patrol Service trawlers were actually in commission. By 1945, some 70,000 officers and men had served on the trawlers. By D-Day 1944, a total of 947 such vessels were operating in home waters and 547 in other theatres overseas. Around 260 of RNPS vessels were lost by various means during WWII. On October 7th 1953, a memorial was unveiled on the site of Pembroke X in remembrance of the 2,385 men of the Royal Navy Patrol Service who gave their lives in defence of their country and whose bodies were never recovered. They have no grave but the sea.


Thousands of seamen of all nationalities owe their lives to the brave men who manned the Deep Sea Rescue Tugs. Introduced in September, 1939, they were manned by volunteers from the Merchant Navy and from the Fishing Fleets. All came under the authority of the Royal Navy. A base facility was set up at Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland and named HMS Minona. As the war progressed, the tugs were based at Loch Ewe, Oban and Londonderry in Northern Ireland and even at a base in Iceland. Later on in the war, the Deep Sea Rescue Tugs were based at ports around the Mediterranean. As more tugs became available, they even accompanied the slower convoys across the Atlantic and were responsible for saving hundreds of ships that were towed to safety after being torpedoed or bombed. On and after D-Day about 160 of these tugs were deployed in the transportation of the Mulberry Harbour across the English Channel to the Normandy beaches. The 59 merchant ships, used to form the breakwater, were also towed across to be sunk. The huge drums containing the Pluto pipeline, which supplied 1.25 million gallons of fuel every day to the Allied armies, were also towed across the Channel by these tugs. In all, 41 Deep Sea Rescue Tugs were lost during WWII. The American equivalent is the N.A.F.T.S. (National Association of Fleet Tug Sailors).


This light anti-aircraft cruiser had the honour of being the first American warship to enter Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrender. During the war she had steamed 300,000 miles without a major overhaul, saw action in most major battles including Guadalcanal,  Rabaul, Okinawa, Santa Cruz Island and Iwo Jima. She also survived the  gigantic typhoon of November 1943. The amazing thing about this ship is that she never took a direct hit, never lost a crewmember in spite of being straddled by bombs and attacked by suicide planes and dodging torpedoes. Her crew of 650 men were jubilant when she earned her 18th battle star. The USS San Diego was decommissioned on November 4, 1946 and  placed on the Reserve Fleet.

Notes on WWII Shipping

Destroyer Losses during World War II:

The first destroyer lost by the Royal Navy was the HMS Blanche which struck a mine off the Thames estuary in 1939. 0ne of the crew was killed and twelve injured. The destroyer was escorting the minelayer HMS Adventure which was badly damaged but later repaired and returned to action. (A total of 50,758 men of the Royal Navy lost their lives in World War II)

A total of 2,751 Liberty ships were built, the first, SS Patrick Henry, was launched September 21, 1941.

Only 531 Victory ships were built. The first was SS United Victory, delivered February 29, 1944.

A total of 52 American submarines were lost during the war. (374 officers and 3,131 men)

A total of 354 cargo ships, each of 10,000 tons, were built in Canada during the war.

The US Distinguished Service Medal was awarded to 140 US mariners during WWII for Service Beyond The Call Of Duty', 604 of them became P.O.W.s.

About 5,000 Chinese seamen were employed on British registered ships at the beginning of the war. In early 1942, after the fall of Hong Kong, this number was doubled. By March, 1943, a total of 831 Chinese seamen had lost their lives on British ships due to enemy action and 254 were missing presumed dead. Some 268 were accounted for as prisoners-of-war. Thousands of these Chinese sailors were hurriedly repatriated after the war, their presence in Britain were no longer as welcome as they had been.

In 1942, the average sinking of Allied merchant ships was thirty three ships each week. In all, 5,150 Allied ships of all types were sunk, total tonnage 21,570,720. (including 2,426 British registered vessels amounting to 11,331,933 tons) 2,828 were sunk by U-boats. This includes 187 warships and 6 aircraft carriers. A total of 56,683 Americans were lost at sea during all US Naval actions.

During the course of the war, the Royal Air Force flew 19,917 mine laying sorties. These mines sank 638 ships of all sizes, the RAF losing 450 aircraft.

Germany lost 754 of the 1,158 U-boats built. A total of 25,871 U-boat men died and and around 5,000 became prisoners of war, 713 U-boats were sunk by British Empire forces, 151 by United States forces and 100 were sunk by mines. A total of 16 foreign submarines were captured by the German Kriegsmarine and commissioned into the German Navy for service under the Swastika. There was 1 British, 2 Norwegian, 5 Dutch, 3 French, 4 Italian and 1 Turkish. The U-Boat casualty list was the highest of all German wartime forces, 72.8% of their crews did not survive. In 36 accidents on board U-boats 42 men were killed and 7 wounded. In 49 other incidents a common cause of death was 'Man overboard'.

As more ships were being built in the USA, crews to man them were urgently needed and Indian seamen (known as Lascars) were recruited mainly from Bombay and Calcutta.

By September, 1940, about 3,000 British merchant ships were armed with guns. To man the guns, the army loaned soldiers to the Royal Navy as complete gun crews. They were called Maritime Regiments within the Royal Artillery. They numbered around 10,000 men.

A total of 2,085 United States Naval Armed Guards were killed during service for their country.

Merchant Shipping Production. Employing around 640,000 workers, construction of merchant ships reached its peak in the USA, in 1943.

Merchant Shipping Production in 1943

Total Merchant Ship Production 1939-1945

Merchant Marine Navy Losses

(In one of the most appalling blunders in naval history, the failure of the Japanese to sail their merchant ships in convoy without adequate protection from submarines, resulted in the destruction of 63 percent of their merchant shipping. This oversight helped them lose the war.)

Of the 5,150 Allied merchant vessels sunk during WWII, 2,828 were sunk by Axis submarines.

Seventy-six merchant ships were lost in Australian waters. Twenty-nine of these were Australian vessels on which 349 seamen died. A further 37 seamen died in P.O.W. camps.

Forty-three US Merchant Ships were lost with all hands. Eight were lost with only one survivor.

A special camp for merchant seamen prisoners of war was set up in 1942 at Westerimke ten miles north of the German port city of Hamburg. Prisoners were made to build their own camp on the site of the former Sandbostel Concentration Camp. Around 5,000 men, including 2,985 from 211 British ships, were interned at this camp commonly known as 'Milag Nord'.

Merchant Navy Day - September 3


"When final victory is ours there is no organization that will share its credit more deservedly than the Merchant Marine." - General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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All text researched and compiled by George Duncan. Website by Columbus.