Cyril Conway

Cyril Kohl Conway


Cyril Kohl Conway was born in Durango, Colorado on 4/30/1926 to Cyril S.Conway and Mary Jane Kohl. Cyril was the oldest of the three children born before his father's death on 4/12/36. Cyril's mother later remarried and had two more children. Cyril grew up and attended schools in Durango and was very good in sports. Cyril K. married a Durango girl Wadene Folsom in Durango, Colorado before enlisting in the US Navy.

Cyril enlisted in the US. Navy as an Apprentice Seamen USNR, in Durango, Colorado on 6/20/44 at the age of 18 years old and was sent to Farragut, Idaho on 6/24/44. After boot camp he was sent to Armed Guard School at the Naval Repair Base San Diego, California. Reporting on 10/12/44. After finishing this school Cyril was transferred to the Armed Guard Center (PAC) at Treasure Island, California, reporting on board on 11/10/44. Cyril was promoted to the rate of S1c USNR class SV6 on 11/21/44 and was assigned to the SS. Peter Sylvester {USAT} reporting on board 11/23/44.

Cyril served as one of the 26 Armed guards on the SS. Peter Sylvester until it was torpedoed by the U-862(Timm) on 2/6/45 at 1540 GCT in the Indian Ocean (34 deg 19 min South / 99 deg 37 min East) while en route alone from Melbourne, Australia to Colombo, Ceylon with a cargo of US. Army supplies and 137 US. Army mules.

The ship was ordered abandoned at 1620 GCT (4:20pm) after taking 6 torpedoes hits. According to family stories Cyril was on a raft for over 30 days before being found. Cyril would only say," They had a very ruff time of it for many days sharks circled and followed trying to get to them. The one thing that saved many of us was a school of dolphins finally came by and drove the sharks off and stayed around playing and pushing the raft until the day before the ship found us."

I have recently found the story of the sinking of the SS. Peter Sylvester thanks to Mr. Tom Bowerman, I now know that he was in the last group of survivors to be picked up.

This happened on March 9, 1945 when the submarine USS. Rock (SS-274) found the raft at 2235 (10:35pm). The men in this last raft had been in the water for 38 days, 6 hrs and 10 mins. The USS. Rock took the 15 survivors and landed at Exmouth Gulf. The next thing that is known is Cyril was sent to the US. Naval Receiving Station # 137. Cyril served overseas from 11/22/44 until 9/25/45.

Cyril later reported aboard the USS. Mellette (APA-156) for a very short time before being discharged from active naval service in Shoemaker, California on 3/10/46. Cyril remained in the USNR until his final discharge on 10/23/53

Cyril went on to college on the GI Bill after the war and became a school teacher. Cyril's wife Wadene Folsom died of cancer shortly after the birth of their 5th child on 1/14/55, years later Cyril married Robert Downton of Durango and had 3 more children.

Cyril went on to become The Superintendent of schools in Mancos, Colorado. At the time of his death Cyril and 3 other educators were flying back from a meeting with a Congressman in Denver, Colorado about starting a school for kids that did not finish high school called a VO-TEC school, where they could learn a trade. This was a new concept in education at the time (1964). Their plane went down killing all four men on 10/30/64.

Cyril left behind 8 children ranging in age from 18 years old to 2 months. Several of his children have gone on to become school teachers and educators. I also have known several former students of his in the four corners area that have told me "I became a teacher because of your brother Cyril".

I'm sure that Cyril's experiences in World War II. on the SS. Peter Sylvester and it's sinking had a great influence on the path he chose to take with the life, given back to him by the USS. Rock on 3/9/45, He Loved teaching people about history and sports and helping young people make something of their lives.

Story written by his Youngest Brother
John A. Gardner

An account from "A Careless Word, A Needless Sinking"

SS Peter Sylvester
Company: Pacific Far East Lines, San Francisco, CA
Home Port: Los Angeles, CA
Built: June 1842 at Los Angeles, California
Dimensions: 441 feet by 57 feet by 37 feet
Master: Bernard C. Dennis
Gross Tons: 7176

The Liberty Ship SS Peter Sylvester, was torpedoed by the German submarine U-862 (Timm) at 1540 GCT on February 6, 1945 in the Indian Ocean (34-19 South/99-37 East) while en route alone from Melbourne, Australia to Colombo, Ceylon with a cargo of U.S. Army supplies and 317 Army mules carried in stalls built on the forward and after decks. Her complement was 42 crew members, 26 Naval Armed Guard and 106 U.S. Army personnel. Of this number, 1 crew member, 7 Armed Guard and 24 Army personnel were lost. There was some discrepancy in the number of Army personnel lost.

At 1540 GCT, 2 torpedoes struck the starboard side at # 3 hold. The explosion put all lights and communication systems out of order. The main deck at # 3 hold was ruptured and # 3 hatch covers blown off. The engine room and # 3 hold flooded and the bow settled rapidly. About 1610, 2 more torpedoes struck on the starboard side between # 2 and # 3 holds. About 1630, while the ship was being abandoned, two more torpedoes struck the ship at # 1 hold. Shortly after this, the ship split in two at # 3 hold forward of the midship house. The forward end sank immediately. The after part was still afloat when last seen, but riding very low in the water, at 2230 on February 8, 1945.

The Captain ordered abandon ship at 1620 after the second pair of torpedoes hit. Six rafts were released. Two starboard rafts had been blown overboard. Number 2 and # 4 lifeboats were swamped when they hit the water. All hands got away from the ship in four lifeboats and six rafts. The SS Cape Edmont rescued the 15 survivors in # 2 lifeboat at 2208 on February 8 and landed them at Fremantle, Australia on February 12. On February 13, the USS Corpus Christi (PF-44) picked up 62 survivors from the six rafts and # 4 lifeboat and took them to Fremantle, arriving February 18. Also on February 18, at 0440, another 20 survivors were picked up by HMS Activity, an Escort Carrier, and landed at Fremantle on March 2. Fifteen survivors were picked up at 2235 on March 9 by the USS Rock (SS-274) and landed at Exmouth Gulf.

The U-862 (Timm) was taken over by Japan in May 1945 as I-502 and surrendered at Singapore in August 1945.

The SS Peter Sylvester was attacked by a Japanese submarine in the Southwest Pacific on April 29, 1943 while en route alone from Espirito Santo, New Hebrides to San Francicco, California. The attack was unsuccessful as the two torpedoes passed beneath the ship and exploded harmlessly in the ocean.

14 of the 15 survivors from the Peter Sylvester after 32 days in a lifeboat, 9 Merchant Crew, 4 Army and 2 Armed Guards


Wadene and Cyril Conway - 1944 or 1945


Cyril Conway in September 1964


Robert E Taylor (Bob) - One of the sailors aboard the HMS Activity when the Peter Sylvester crew was rescued


Jean Taylor (Mrs Robert E Taylor) or just Mrs. Bob - wife of Robert E Taylor


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