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World War II U.S. Navy Armed Guard
World War II U.S. Merchant Marine

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© 2009 Dale E. Carlson

Clyde A. Shomper
Merchant Seaman and Officer, U.S. Navy Officer


My father, Clyde Shomper, was born in Lykens, Pennsylvania, on December 9, 1913. Following graduation from high school he attended the Pennsylvania State Nautical School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. His PSNS schooling included three cruises on the schoolship USS ANNAPOLIS to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and North Seas. He graduated in 1935 and began sailing for Isthmian Steamship Company, first as a seaman and working his way up to second mate.

On April 6, 1942, my father, now 28 years old, was sailing as the second officer on the Isthmian freighter SS SELMA CITY off the east coast of India in the Bay of Bengal, enroute from Colombo, Ceylon, to Calcutta, India. At 0630, two Japanese carrier-based bombers approached and attacked the ship. My father and the rest of the crew abandoned the heavily damaged and burning ship at 1120 and made the 25 miles to shore in four towed lifeboats. They landed at Vizagapatam (now Vishakhapatnam) at 1930. The ship finally sank the next day.

For the next month, he made his way cross-country to Bombay, India. Then, on May 3, 1942, he boarded the American-South African Lines freighter, SS POLYBIUS, intending to return to the United States to resume his employment with Isthmian Lines.

On June 27, 1942, SS POLYBIUS, with my father aboard, was torpedoed by U-128 about 250 miles east of Trinidad. Within ten minutes, ten crewmembers (including one from SELMA CITY) were dead and the ship was on the bottom. My father managed to pilot one of the lifeboats westward for four days and land at Maqueripe Bay near Port of Spain, Trinidad.

After sailing on Isthmian's SS STEEL MARINER (without incident) for the next year, my father decided it was time to join the U.S. Navy and fight back. Due to his maritime experience, he was immediately commissioned as a Lieutenant (s.g.) on June 28, 1943, a year and a day after the POLYBIUS sinking.

Six weeks before he received his commission, on May 16, 1943, U.S. Navy aircraft and the destroyers USS JOUETT and USS MOFFETT sighted U-128 off the coast near Recife, Brazil. After considerable shelling and aerial bombing that rendered her dead in the water, the crew of U-128 scuttled her the next day. When she finally went down, she had been responsible for sinking 13 Allied ships totaling 90,000 tons.

On February 1946, my father, now 32, was discharged with the rank of Lieutenant Commander, having participated in the invasions of Kwajalien, Saipan, Guam, Leyte and Okinawa, while serving aboard USS BOLIVAR (APA-34) and USS NEW HANOVER (AKA-73).

He returned to the merchant marine until 1951, sailing mostly for Alcoa in the Caribbean on the SS ALCOA CAVALIER. In 1951 he accepted a shore job with Alcoa in San Juan, Puerto Rico, retiring in 1964 as District Manager.

He returned to the maritime field from 1965 through 1970, sailing for Maritime Overseas Company (SS GLOBE PROGRESS), American Bulk Carriers (SS SPITFIRE) and Valentine Chemical Carriers (MV PETROCHEM).

Clyde Shomper passed away on October 1, 1980 in Wayne, Pennsylvania, aged 66, having held a Master's license for 27 years.

Submitted June 2011 by his son, David Shomper


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