Sinking of the SS Scottsburg

The SS Scottsburg


                     US  NAVAL OPERATING BASE
                          TRINIDAD. B. W. I.
                              17 June 1942
From:           Lt. (jg) Robert B. Berry, TJ$NR.
To:             The Chief of Naval Operations.
Via:            The Commandant, U.S. Naval Operating Base,
                Trinidad, B. W. I.
Subject:        Torpedoing of SS SCOTTSBtJRG - Report of.
                Armed Guard Crew # 312
                Officer in Charge - R. B. Berry, Lt.(Jg)USNR
                           Cox'n    H. Ritter
                                    C. Goodwin A.S.
                                    C. Garnett A. S.
                                    G. Pinson   S/2
                                    A. Goad     A.S.
                                    F. Gallegos A.S.
                                    T. Gilbert A.S.
                                    R. Gaines   A .S.
                                    T.B. Lewis A.S.
1. We boarded SS SCOTTSBURG at upper Bethlehem
Steel works docks, Baltimore, at approximately 1300, 9
May 1942. The vessel,partially loaded, sailed tbrough
inland waterways to Philadelphia (Note #1), 13 May 1942 and
loaded more materials there, then proceeded to New York
where loading was completed. Ship ran DeGaussing range,
New York harbor 24 May 1942 and left New York in Convoy
25 May 1942. We anchored behind breakwater in Delaware
River the night of 25 May 1942 and sailed 26 May l942.
Anchored that night at Lynnhaven Roads in Chesapeake Bay.
2. 29 May 1942 we left in convoy and proceeded
south. Convoy broke up at Barbara Shoals and in company
with 13 ships and two escorts we proceeded south. The
next day the two escorts left us and the convoy proceeded
with the English M/S Arden Vohr acting as convoy commodore.
3. At Serrano Banks the convoy broke up and
each ship proceeded independently according to orders
received fron convoy escort at Key West.
4. Saturday afternoon 13 June 1942 at 1520
we sighted a large French tanker painted white and with
flags very prominently displayed.
5. Sunday 14 June 1942 at 1903-04 we were
struck by two torpedos. The first hit apparently amid-
ships and on the port side. The second hit just forward
of the bridge about 10-20 seconds after the first.
3. There was little confusion. I went to
the bridge which I had left to check the lights and
watch, On the Bridge I looked for the submarine but
could see nothing. I attempted to use teiephonss to
get to the Gun Crew on the Gundeck but phones were dead.
I could see the gun was manned. The Gun Crew had attem-
pted to load the 5" gun but it had been torn loose from
its base and was in no condition to be fired.
7. It became evident that the ship was
sinking rapidly, so I ordered the bridge watch to go to
boat stations (the ship's whistle did not work). I got
my life belt and went to my station. On the way I met
the Captain who seemed to be dazed. I told hin to get
a life belt and come along. I waited for him to get his
belt, then led him across the deck to the midships house.
We waded water about knee deep on the main deck. The
boats on the Port side were both smashed by the exp1osion.
I saw Chief Mate Barris launching a raft on which he had 7
men. Then I went for my boat station. The Captain and I
were the last men on the boat deck and I tried to hand
him a line, He missed and it swung out carrying me. As
I swung back, I tried to grab the Captain by the belt,
but he resisted and someone pulled me down with the boat
just as the ship slid under. We were riding practically
on top the boat deck and thought the funne1 was going
to hit us as it toppled. Boat # 3, in charge of the 3rd
Mate, rammed us and we had quite a time warding it off,
but finally they pulled away. We searched the wreckage
and pulled in two or three men, then met the other boat
and told them to search one direction for survivors while
we search the lights in another direction.
8. The first torpedo struck at approximately
1903 - 1904 and when we pulled away from the ship and
had picked up the second survivor, I looked at my watch
and it was just 1915.
9. We found the raft and tied onto it, then
rested oars and floated the rest of the night. There
was no disorder in the boat and Mr. Telford held con-
trol very well. The men rowed when told with no grumbling.
There was no sign of hysteria at all (Note #2). At
about 0330, 15 June 1942 we sighted the Navy air patrol.
We took the men off the raft and cast it loose. By
this time the other boat had come up and we tied to-
gether. (Note #3)

10. At about 1000 we sighted smoke on the
horizon. It hung there for a long time until about 1300
when it began to approach. Then from the opposite direction
we noted a freighter approach. It stopped for us.
11. We boarded the Kahuku, a Matson line freighter,
at about 1400. We checked our survivors and found 5
missing - Captain, 4th Mate, 2nd engineer, 1-oiler, and
Radio operator. Several men were pretty well scratched and
bruised, so we fixed them out the best possible.
(See Note #4)
12. The KAHUKU on examination had 2 boats and 4
rafts of 18 capacity. We had then 116 men aboard. I asked
the Captain if his rafts were secured to the ship in case
an explosion released the hook. He said "no" and refused
to secure them. Lt. (jg) Kammerer, Gunnery Officer on the
KAHUKU and I worked out life stations for the rescued crews
and stationed alert watches all over the ship. These
watches went on duty at l600.
13. The ship was blacked out at 1830 and
proceeded full speed, zig zag accordIng to the zig zag
clock. At 2030 I noticed and reported a white light
astern. The Captain and Lt. Kammerer looked at it with
glasses and said they had noted an explosion and we could
hear a dull thud. We immediately altered course completely
and, continuing to zig zag, went on. At approximately
2102-04 we were struck by a torpedo which seemed to hit
on the starboard midships. The Captain blew 'Abandon
ship'. He ordered all rafts let loose while the ship
seemed sound and was not listing. I checked for my gun
crew and could find none. They had beer. ordered to take
to the rafts. I travelled all over the ship fore to
aft on port and starboard. There was hysteria and confusion
all over the ship. The Gun Crew manned their guns but
on orders from the Captain went overboard in life belts
trying to find a raft. The starboard boat was smashed
so I then went to the port boat and slid down the rope.
The boat was jammed. There was no order. The Mate in
charge had no control. He seemed to be more befuddled
than the rest. (Note #5) We managed to get out oars and
row around, We circled the boat all night and picked up
a few survivors, but many were left in the water because
the Mate could not seem to steer or control the boat.

14. The submarine surfaced and at about 2200
(approximately) fired one or two more torpedoes at the
ship, then shelled it with machine gun and heavy gunfire.
Aprroximately 50-100 rounds of about .20 mm were used and
20-30 rounds of heavier caliber. I would estimate a 5"
gun. The ship finally caught fire and blew up after 0100.
(Note #6)
15. We floated the rest of the night and in the
morning of 16 June, we found another boat and a raft from
the KAHUKU. We tied together, put an old AB seaman in
charge and set sail for the nearest course. At about 1030
we sighted smoke and set up 3 smoke flares. The Opal and
a PC boat came up and took us aboard at 1230. SCOTISBURG
losses on the second torpedoing were 7. 5 of these were
knovn to be gone and two were seen swimming, but have not
been reported.
At Philadelphia T. J. Lewis S/2 was assigned to the
SCOTTSBURG as signalman and to fill in with the gun crew.
As we had only 8 men and one Petty Officer to man a
5" 51 caliber and 4-.20 mm.
At about 2200 we noted flares being shot into the
air and later we saw a light apparently blinking signals.
We didn't answer either flare or signals for fear it was
a submarine and they would open fire on us.

About 0800 - 0900 we net up with another life boat
who told us they were from the COLD HARBOR which had been
torpedoed at about 2200 the day before.
We tied the two boats from the SCOTTSBURG and the
one from the COLD HARBOR on behind the KAHUKU. The two
other boats were poorly lashed and broke away 1eaving
only one. This boat managed to pick up about 27 men
during the night.
Conduct of the seamen in the KAHUKU's boat was
deplorable. They refused to row and argued with the 3rd
Mate who seemed entirely unable to handle either boat
or crew.

We sighted the submarine cruising on the surface
around the ship. I noticed it signalling and. saw answering
lights from out away from the area of ship. One of the crew
who had been swiimning later told me he had seen two
submarInes, one a large one, the other smaller.

Several of the men said officers aboard
the larger submarine had directed them to rafts and had
wished them good luck. They said they spoke very good
English with no accent.
In conclusion, may I state all members of my gun crew
behaved admirably. They attempted to fight the gun on the
SCOTTSBURG and carried out all duties willingly. Aboard
the KAHUKU they showed no signs of fear and carried out
orders and even gave some valuable assistance.
In the KAHUKU's boat the gun crew survivors from the
SCOTTSBURG did most of the rowing.
Comendable conduct and bravery under rather
terrifying conditions was evidenced by all. P.  Gallegos,
A.S. swam to a raft and spent all night rowing and picking
up survivors, He tried to get survivors to help him row,
but they refused. They tried to force their way into
the provisions. He is deserving (in my estimation)of a
word of commendation or some more tangible recognition
of a job well done, 
I have to report one man - Goodwin, Chas. A.S.
missing. He was seen swimming after a raft after the
torpedoing of the KAHUKU, but has not been reported as yet.
LT. (jg) USNR
17 June 1942

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