Pictures in connection with death of James C Muldrow by Louis Cafiero


MID - 1941


Henry Elrod, Chief Engineer Of Ill-Fated Vessel, Visiting Sister In Cramerton;
Plans To Return To Sea In Two Weeks; Was Last Man To Leave Ship Before It Went


To drift In a lifeboat for 13 days in the open sea, with a tin of  hardtack
and 10 gallons of water for 12 people, baking under the  tropic sun by day and
drenched by freezing equatorial rains by  night-and always facing the
possibility that tomorrow might be  your last day of earthly existence-is, to
put it mildly, a harrowing experience It is, undoubted1y, an experience that
would make most  people. determine never to get their feet off dry ground
again  as long as they lived. But Henry Elrod, chief englneer of the torpedoed
Robin Moor, who had just such  an experience, was not discouraged by it and
his love for the sea has not waned  because of it.

In fact, Chief Engineer Elrod, who is now visiting his sister; Mrs. Ella
Stevens, at  Cramerton is going back to sea again in about two weeks.

"It will take more than the little man with the mustache in Berlin to keep me
off  the sea," the chief engineer of the torpedoed American ship declared in
an  interview yesterday, as he sat comfortably perched in a rocker on the
front porch of the home of another sister, Mrs. Metta Evatt, who lives near
Cramerton behind  Hoffman's Pines, just off Wilkinson boulevard.

"I'm figuring on shipping out again in a couple of weeks from now."

"I've followed the sea all my adult life," declared Engineer Elrod, pointing
out he has been at sea the past 24 years, since shipping aboard his first
vessel as a coal- passer at the age of 20.

"I'm too old to change now," he commented. "The sea is all I know. And if it 
wasn't, I don't think I'd want to change, anyhow. It gets you. Once you go
to  sea, you never want to do anything else."


There was no doubt whatever that the submarine which torpedoed the Robin Moor 
about 1,200 miles off the coast of South America early on the morning of May
21st  was a German underseas craft, Mr. Elrod said.

The sinking of the Robin Moor, as you recall, created an interntional incident
and is even believed by some quarters in Washington to have been the  turning
point in the shaping of American foreign policy climaxed in the recent 
anti-Japanese measures as the U. S. government began an apparent all-out 
economic campaign against the Axis.

Mr. Elrod himself talked to the captain of the submarine. He was beyond  doubt
a German, the veteran seaman said, and though he talked excellent English  he
had a heavy German accent. Conclusive evidence that the U-boat that sank the 
Robin Moor was a German craft was contained in pictures of the submarine taken
by members of the crew of the Robin Moor (without the knowledge of' the 
German submarine crew, of course.)

"Some of the members of our crew had excellent cameras", Mr. Elrod  disclosed.
They took several pictures of the submarine, which was on the surface  when it
launched its torpedo and stayed on the surface all the time it was at the 
scene, about two hours in all. They left before daylight, apparently trying to
get  away before dawn to avoid us getting a good look at the submarine. But
several of  our boys got pictures of it. These were turned over to the United
States Navy  Department, and Navy technicians familiar with sea construction
were able  immediately to identify the raider from these pictures as a German.

As is always the case, the submarine flew no flag and had no name painted on 
it, being painted black all over, Mr. Elrod disclosed. `The only thing painted
over  its dark color at all was a mascot's Insignia, a bull's head, he. said.


Only about 20 minutes elapsed from the time the Robin Moor's commanding 
officer. Captain W. E. Myers, received notification he would be sunk, and the
time  the torpedo was launched, crippling his ship and starting it toward Davy
Jones  locker, Chief Engineer Elrod said.

"I was asleep when the submarine first sighted us," Engineer Elrod recalled. 
"The first I knew about it I learned the officer on the bridge had received
the signal  to stop.

"We stopped, and the submarine signaled us to send a boat over. Our 
commanding officer went over to them in a boat. He was told by the submarine 
captain: `You are carrying motors for the enemy of my country.' Our captain
told  him we were carrying no motors except what motors were in several trucks
and  tractors which were a part of our cargo, and this was correct. We were
carrying a  general cargo- trucks, tractors, tin plate, rails, refrigerators
and other commercial  items-and we didn't have any airplane motors, and no
munitions or armament  supplies of any kind aboard.

"But the submarine captain told Captain Myers he was going to sink us
nevertheless. He told Captain Myers he would give us 20 minutes to get over
the side and into our lifeboats.  We had not been allowed to use our radio to
send out any distress signals at  all. The first message we got from the
submarine was: Don't touch your  wireless.'

"If our radio operator had tried to send out an SOS, they would have blown  us
out of the water immediately, giving us no time to get off. So naturally we 
had to obey the order to leave our wireless alone.

"Well, it took the greater part of  the 20-minute period of grace for our 
captain's boat to get back from the submarine. But as soon as he got back 
within hailing distance he shouted to the other officers to get everybody over
the side right away, and we immediately began rounding up our crew, 38 men  in
all, and our passengers, of whom we had seven, and getting them over the 

"We barely made it over the side and into our life boats when the submarine 
fired its torpedo. Then it fired a number of shells from its five-inch guns
into  our torpedoed ship, just to make sure they sunk The Nazis certainly do a
thorough job of sinking. After they had made sure they had sunk the ship, they
stayed on the scene and machine-gunned numerous big wooden crates in  which
trucks were packed, to be sure tney sunk all the cargo as well.''


While Elrod will always remember the 13 days they drifted at sea as perhaps 
the longest days of his life, he never gave up hope and figured that at least
he  and Chief Officer Mervin Mundy, who was in command of his lifeboat,  would
make it to shore.

Most of the Robin Moor's seven passengers, all of whom were in Elrod's  boat,
were nearing the point of complete exhaustion and would have died in a  short
time when, on the 13th day, they were rescued by a British freighter, The 
City of Wellington. The British ship took them on to Capetown, South Africa, 
original destination of the Robin Moor when it sailed from New York. We were
15 days out of New York when we got bumped," said Elrod, referring to the

But, though practically all the passengers (except a two-year-old boy) and
some of  the crew members in Elrod's boat were nearing the point of exhaustion
and death  when they were finally picked up, Elrod said he and Chief Officer
Mundy were  still in pretty good condition, though weak, and he believes they
might have made it to the South American coast If they hadn't been picked up.
He didn't think the  rest of the lifeboat's passengers would have made it,


They were still about 600 miles off the coast of South America when the 
British freighter picked them up, having come in some 600 miles with the
wind,  in the 13 days they had drifted.

For the first 24 hours all the Robin Moor's four lifeboats stayed tied
together.  Then, figuring they would have a better chance separately- since
the only chance  they had, if  they weren't picked up, was to ride the wind to
shore-they cut loose  from each other.

They had stayed tied together the first day, hoping to be picked up right
away, since the German submarine captain had promised them he would send  out
a radio message as soon as he left the scene. They  thought some ships might 
have been  nearby in the Brazil-to-Capetown sea lanes and might get the
message  and pick them up within a few hours.

But luck was against them and  the message, if ever sent, produced  no 
immediate results. So at the end of the first day, the boats cut loose from
each  other. Each boat had one small sail-nothing like a regular sailboat
rigging but  enough canvas to catch some wind-and they struck out with the
somewhat  forlorn hope that they might drift; with the wind to South America,
more than a  thousand miles away.

Elrod's boat soon lost sight of some of the other boats, but every day or two 
would see one of the others.

They had a supply of hardtack and 10 gallons of water in each boat and the
only food  they had was a tin of Danish butter which the submarine commander
had ordered issued  to each lifeboat. The butter, of course, soon ran out.

Water was naturally strictly rationed and though some of the lifeboat's
passengers  begged piteously for a little extra water, it cou1dn't be given
them. For the seasoned  seamen in the boat knew that if they had any chance at
all to reach shore, they would have  to conserve their water.

Elrod recalled they managed to catch a little fresh rainwater when it rained
by using  their sail as a water-catcher and pouring rainwater off the sail
into a container. They got  very little extia water this way, of course, but
in their situation every drop counted and it  was worth the effort to catch
all they could.

The trouble was that it usual1y rained when it was freezing cold and this
added to  the hardships of the lifeboat's passengers. It rained frequently,
since they were in waters  very near the equator, but usually at night, and
they dreaded the freezing night rains.  Occasionally it rained in the daytime,
being welcome relief from the burning tropic sun  and a few extra drops of
drinking water, caught in the sail.

Despite their terrible situation most of the lifeboat's passengers remained
fairly cheerful, Elrod said. First to reach the point of exhaustion was an 
elderly couple from the West Indies-a retired West Indies planter and his wife
who  had boarded the Robin Moor to go to Africa to live out the remainder of
their years in peace there. Among the other  passengers were a Mr. and Mrs.
Conti who were in show business and were en  route to Capetown to play a 
theatrical engagement at a Cape town theatre.

Surprisingly,:the most hardy of the passengers proved to be a litt1e boy
scarcely  more than two years old, who was traveling with his parents. For one
thing, he  didn`t have the additional problem of mental worry heaped on top of
physical  fatigue and exhaustion, like the adult passengers had.

"He was the most cheerful of the bunch, and had more staying power than any 
of the others," Elrod recalled. He even ate hardtack, he really liked it, and
could   contlnue to eat it with relish long after most of the rest of us had
gotten to where  the sight of it would almost make us sick."


Toward the end of the nightmarish 13 days, though, most of the lifeboat's
passengers were near the end of their rope, some of them almost too weak to

It became necessary to watch some of them closely to keep them from trying to
scoop up salt water and drink it.

"Salt water, of course, said Elrod, "would have killed them.

"When you're nearly dying of thirst and once drink salt you can't quit
drinking It. You'll keep on, for even salt  water will taste so good that
you'll keep on drinking it, even though warned  against it. It will kill you
In less than 24 hours.


Though some of the lifeboat's passengers were nearly dead from  exhaustion and
exposure when they were finally picked up by the British  freighter on the
13th day, all of them recovered. Under the expert care  aboard the British
ship, and with plenty of food and fresh waiter to drlnk  once more, they soon

Incidentally, all of the crew and  passengers of the Robin Moor was  saved as
you probably remember. Elrod and those in his boat were taken on  to Africa,
and passengers in other boats, were picked up by another ship  which took
them on to South America.

However, one of the members of the Robin Moor's crew, evidently still 
unnerved and crazed from the nightmare of drifting so long at sea before 
being rescued, committed suicide later, while en route home on an  American
ship from Africa to the United States. He jumped overboard and  was lost at
sea, Elrod said. He was the only casualty, but there seems little  doubt that
he was  as surely a victim of the Robin Moor's sinking' as though  he had been
struck by a shell from the German submarine, since the ordeal  he went through
so unnerved him that he committed suicide.


The ill-fated trip of the Robin Moor was the most recent of many  voyages for
Henry Elrod. Born and reared near Clemson College in South  Carolina, he went
to sea nearly a quarter of a century ago at the age of 20  and has followed
the sea ever since.  

He first shipped as a lowly coal passer. From this lowest rung on the  ladder
of merchant seamanship he has climbed through the successive  stages of
fireman, oiler, watertender, third engineer and second engineer to  his
present position of chief engineer, which is a good job and one of the most
important positions on any  ship.

"I've got a good Job now" but I had to work plenty hard to get It," Elrod 

A seaman moves through the successive stages of promotion by seniority and, 
each time there is an opening above his position, he has to stand an
examination,  very much like a civil service examination, to get the new and
higher position.

In his 24 years Henry Elrod has seen most of the world and has been in most of
it's ports many times. He has shipped across the Atlantic to Europe, Asia, and
the  Mediterranean ports of Africa, through the Dardanelles to Istanbul and to
the  Rumanian ports (now German-dominated) on the Black Sea. He has shipped
across the Pacific to Japan and China and India, to Australia and the many
islands  of the oceans and the seas all over the world.







Story on death of Jimmie Muldrow


AMMV. St Johns River Chapter
Jacksonville Florida March 2003

In Honor of the Late James Muldrow

James Muldrow, Gunners Mate, Navy Armed Guard

This is a partial story of James Muldrow's Gun Fight
and Capture by the German Raider Stier in 1942

After attending Navy Gunner's School, Jim was assigned to the Fast Tanker
Stanvac Calcutta which flew the Panamanian Flag but the crew of this ship
were all U.S. citizens except one. Sailing the Stanvac Calcutta wound up in
Aruba where she loaded refined products and sailed for Montevideo, Uruguay.

Arriving there and while discharging cargo the crew found that most of the
population were pro German and there may have been a German spy there
who set them up. Upon sailing they did not know their destination but the
stars at night told them they were sailing North. The Story continues. On
Saturday, June 6, 1942 at 10:00 AM some 500 miles off the Coast of Brazil,
out of a hard rain squall and about 2.5 miles off the Starboard a ship
approached. General Quarters were sounded and Gun crews manned their

As the ship drew near the British merchant ensign was seen flying and the
ships blinkers were talking in Morse code. Captain Karlsson ordered hard
left rudder and full speed. Suddenly the British Flag came down and the
Nazi flag went up as the cargo crates on it's deck dropped down revealing
two 6 inch gun turrets. The Nazi ship opened fire on the Stanvac Calcutta
with 4 six inch guns and lots of smaller size including 20 mm's. The
Stanvac Calcutta returned the fire with the aft 4 inch 50 firing
approximately 44 rounds. One of the rounds took the tip off of the mast on
the raider and more rounds were having an effect on the raider but the
Calcutta was hopelessly out gunned. It was later learned that the raider
fired 157 rounds and later two torpedoes. A round had hit the midships deck
house killing the Master, the Radio Operator and the AB at the wheel. The
Stanvac Calcutta being in heavy ballast sank very fast. The raider departed
very fast. Probably knowing that the Calcutta had gotten a radio message
out that it was being attacked, It wanted to be gone if there was a
retaliation. The survivors of the Calcutta were in the water for what
seemed a very long time before the German raider came back after dark and
picked them up. Many of the Calcutta's Gun and Merchant crew were badly
wounded. James had a bad wound on his hand and arm. The Calcutta’s rounds
had injured some of the German crew and they received most of the medical
attention while the Calcutta's crew got very little. James was given rough
brown paper toweling to wrap his wounds in. James was in and out of
consciousness and his hand and arm swelled to twice the size of his
shoulder, In about 7 or 8 weeks the swelling went down and they as
prisoners were on a deck far below. They found out that they were on the
German raider Stier. The same raider that later was sunk by the Liberty
ship SS Stephen Hopkins.

Somewhere off the coast of Africa the German Raider Stier rendezvoused
with another German ship, a Tanker that had been captured and they all were
put aboard it except for one of their fellow crewman from the Calcutta who
was so badly injured that the Stier did not transfer him to the German
Tanker Supply-Prison ship.

This member was lucky, he eventually recovered enough and was sent to a POW
camp in Germany where the Germans were much more humane than the Japanese.
It was this crewman prisoner in Germany who managed to get a letter out and
passed by the German censors that clued the Americans that there were
possibly other survivors from the Stanvac Calcutta.

With no way of keeping track of time and dates these prisoners estimated
they had been in the hell hole for three and a half months when this
tanker-provision-Prison ship called into Singapore. Some of the prisoners
were taken off there, then a few more ports were made and more of the
prisoners were taken off. The Japanese then took the remaining prisoners
and placed them on another ship in a cargo hold and it sailed for Japan.

Arriving there they were loaded and carried to a prison camp near Yokohama
and from there via train to Osaka. They were marched from the train to the
POW camp. All the Japanese soldier Guards had rifles with fixed bayonets.
The prisoners were all weak from dysentery and possibly in early stages of
scurvy from lack of fresh vegetables. If a prisoner lagged he was probed
with a bayonet to speed up.

The prisoners were forced to work 12 hours a day for the most part and this
was for 7 days a week with no time off. The Japs had them working in Lumber
yards, shipyards, steel mills and foundries. For their pay they were fed one
small bowl of rice in the morning and one small bowl at night. There was
never a time when they were not hungry and tired. If they did not work,
they did not eat.

There is much more to James Muldrow's story, how the prisoners were under
fed, How they survived by catching snakes and throwing them in their
boiling rice pots, by becoming adept at stealing food while being forced to
work unloading ships at the docks. As it was they still all lost weight as
the meager rice rations were not enough to survive on. The living
conditions were terrible, sanitation unknown in the prison camps. Some way
James and other prisoners survived. As the war became progressively worse
for Japan and American planes were seen on Bombing raids by the
prisoners, the Guards let it be known that upon an invasion by the
Americans, all of the prisoners would be killed.

The prisoners were able to tell when the war was over, They Guards silently
slipped away with out letting the prisoners know anything. Jim and some
other prisoners slipped away and found a town with a hotel, Now the shoe
was on the other foot. They were given food and drink, had clean beds by
the Japanese  so they waited. Eventually an American reporter arrived on
the scene, the first liberating American they had seen. From there Jim made
his way to the U.S. Navy where he was taken care of and after some medical
care and preliminary medical check up, new uniform, flown to an American
hospital in Guam and eventually back to the states after three long years
and several months he was home again but there was more surgical and
medical care for his wounded hand, a medical Honorable discharge and he
finally arrived home.

This is a very condensed part of Jim Muldrow's story, Your editor meeting
and getting to know James Muldrow found that he was a fine upstanding man,
a Hero that we can all be proud of It is ironic that Jim was able to
survive those horrible three years and months and finally lost his life
here at home in an automobile accident.

Jim had related to your editor how the forward gun on the Stanvac Calcutta
was completely manned by men of the merchant crew and Jim gave us a list
of merchant crew names. We understand that one of our Northern chapters has
a survivor from the Stanvac Calcutta. It would be interesting to know
how he was treated after the prisoner ordeal.

Below are Mr. and Mrs. Jim Muldrow at a St. Johns Chapter AMMV meeting in Jacksonville, Florida in September 2002.


Captain L Ellison and Jimmie Muldrow


Navy Armed Guard gunner Jimmie Muldrow and Lou Cafiero


Bos'n Stan Gorski, Lou Cafiero and George Duffy


Edwin Joyner, M H Billitz and J E Simms


Our AMMV Brothers


Our AMMV Brothers


Our AMMV Brothers


Our AMMV Brothers


Our AMMV Brothers


Max Condiotti - A great One


Ernie D'Ambrose


SS John Cropper unloading supplies in 1946 in Port Bremerhaven, Germany


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