William L. Marcy



 Introduction


The William L. Marcy was a standard Liberty ship type EC2-S-C1 built by California Ship Building Corporation (aka CalShip) in Los Angeles, CA.

The Marcy was the twenty-sixth Liberty ship delivered to American-Hawaiian, which occurred on January 10th, 1943. She took only 46 days to build (33 days on way and 13 days on dock) at a cost of $992,997.00.

She was named after the New York statesman, William Learned Marcy (1786-1857) who served as U.S. Senator and 11th Governor of New York, as the U.S. Secretary of War under President James K. Polk and as U.S. Secretary of State under President Franklin Pierce.

Unlike her namesake, the SS William L. Marcy would have a very brief career.

Not much is known from the time of her launching until the following fall, including who her first Master was. There is some evidence she took part in at least one convoy to Murmansk. The one known photo of her was taken off the North Carolina or Virginia coast on June 23rd, 1943 while she was in convoy (Possibly GN-65 which had departed Guantanamo, Cuba on the 15th).

In November of 1943 Allied reports noted that the Marcy had undergone repairs in Belfast, Northern Ireland; “The S.S. WILLIAM L. MARCY had been previously reported in Belfast for repairs to a crack in a deck plate. This plate was repaired and the ship sailed on 13 November. Cracks in other deck plates developed and the ship arrived back in Belfast on 15 November. These additional cracks were repaired and the ship left for Lock Ewe on 18 November.

The yard in Belfast advanced the theory that; “This ship was built last summer in a Florida shipyard [wrong on both counts: she was built between November and January in California]. The opinion has been advanced locally here that the shipyard turned out a very tightly built ship without allowing, as by “ripples” in the plates, for the contraction produced by very cold waters and that this is the reason for the cracking of the plates.

The Marcy was also known to have been part of Convoy ON 219 which departed the Clyde estuary on January 8th, 1944 bound for New York, but had to return due to "Hull Defects". The Marcy eventually made it back to New York carrying chrome ore as part of Convoy ON 225, which departed Liverpool on February 22nd, 1944. This made it the third time the Marcy's hull had to be repaired.

Hull and deck cracks were actually a common issue for the earlier Liberty ships like the Marcy. They were the first mass-produced welded vessels, which combined with the tendency of the grade of steel being used to become brittle (Belfast did get that part right), caused stress fractures that would continue along a weld, that may have otherwise been stopped by a riveted seam.

This would exacerbate the amount of damage the Marcy would incur, and ultimately impact the decision of whether to salvage her or write her off.

At this time her Navy Armed Guard complement was commanded by Lt. S.A. Watts, and consisted of one Bosun Mate 2nd Class, two Coxswains, two Seaman 3rd Class, one radioman 3rd Class “striker”, two Gunners Mate 3rd Class, and nineteen gunners.

In March of 1944, 32-year-old Graham Griffiths took over as Master. He had transferred from the George K. Fitch where he was Chief Mate. Despite it being his first command, Griffiths was an experienced officer and had previously survived the sinkings of the Texan in 1942 and Montanan in 1943.

The Marcy was routed to New York to join a convoy heading for the U.K. This was convoy HX 286 that departed New York on April 5th, rendezvoused with additional vessels at Halifax, NS on the 7th, and arrived in Liverpool, England without incident on April 20th, 1944. The convoy included 87 vessels, the vast majority of which were new liberty ships like the Marcy.

Master Graham Griffiths would soon find himself in the middle of the largest amphibious landing in history, Operation Neptune, the sea-borne phase of the Normandy D-Day landings.

According to officer’s messman Richard G Astrauckas, on June 5th; “William L Marcy departed from the Tilbury Docks loaded with Canadian troops bound for Juno Beachead only to seek anchorage in the Isle of Wight due to the storm that delayed D-day to the 6th of June.


Griffiths commanded the Marcy on seven trips to the beachhead, transporting men and supplies. On June 13th, 1944 they were hit by shell fragments from German long-range coastal batteries while in the Straits of Dover. No serious damage or casualties were reported.

On land, by the end of July, allied invasion forces had finally secured the strategic village of Saint-Lô and with the capture of the village of Avranches on August 1st, the rest of the Cotentin peninsula, and were in the process of breaking out into Brittany. The Germans counter-attacked on August 7th, which was known as the Mortain counter-offensive, or Operation Lüttich.

On the sea and from the air the German's were also throwing everything they had at the beachheads and the convoys supplying them.


 The Attack


On August 6th, The Marcy had finished unloading after their seventh trip to the beachhead, and was lying at anchor about 5 miles off “Juno” beach, Courseulles, France. She was awaiting a convoy back to England for more supplies and was loaded with 1200 tons of sand ballast. Her complement was 44 merchant crew, 30 naval Armed Guard, and one passenger.

In the early morning hours of August 7th, 1944, the Marcy was wracked by an explosion. The exact cause of the explosion according to most sources was a torpedo, but the exact source of the torpedo was somewhat of a mystery. There were many theories as to the source, from aircraft to U-Boats, to midget submarines, to S-Boats.

I believe aircraft can be ruled out as the attack occurred in the middle of the night, and typically an aircraft torpedo run was low and slow which would have been problematic under normal circumstances, let alone a well-protected anchorage. The torpedoes carried by Luftwaffe aircraft at this time did not include the more sophisticated pattern running gear of their naval cousins and the aircraft would have to line up on their target and fly over them after release.

As far as U-Boats or midget submarines, records indicate that while over the course of the invasion these platforms were used, neither were known to be in action in this area on this date.

S-Boat, short for Schnellboot (fast attack boat) were also known as E-Boat (Enemy Boat) to the British. They were pretty amazing craft, and roughly the German equivalent to our PT boats and the British MTBs (Motor Torpedo Boats). I say roughly because although they filled a similar role, they were unique in their own way, and in many ways better. They were quite a bit larger, heavily armed, had excellent speed and range and handled heavier seas better.


As the name suggests, they were designed as fast attack boats, meant to use their low profile and impressive speed (over 40 knots) to charge at the flank of a convoy and peel away after firing their two torpedoes. They were quite versatile and were used for reconnaissance, mine-laying and a number of other tasks.

This option also seemed problematic as this attack did not fit the Modus Operandi of the S-Boats, or at least my limited knowledge of them. There were multiple rings of protection around the anchorage that would prevent a classic S-Boat attack. They routinely harassed the convoys running back and forth in the English Channel though.

To try and determine what happened, I first turned to Captain Arthur R. Moore’s monumental work; 'A careless word...A NEEDLESS SINKING'. Eighth Printing - 2006. Always an excellent source, but made even more relevant since Master Graham Griffiths himself contributed his personal input and is credited.

According to Moore and Griffiths: “At 0245, a torpedo struck on the starboard side at #5 hold, blowing the hatch covers and strongbacks around the deck. The explosion tore a huge hole in the starboard quarter of the hull and caused a number of holes in the deck around #5 hatch. There was a crack 2-4” wide abreast of #3 hatch, running across the deck and down the port side to the waterline. The troop quarters in #5 tween deck and the Armed Guard quarters aft were demolished. Number 5 hold was flooded to the tween deck as was the shaft alley. The ship settled by the stern.

The ship was abandoned at 0300 on the Captain’s orders. Four lifeboats were safely launched and they were towed to the US Navy depot ship, USS GEORGE W. WOODWARD where the survivors were taken aboard. At 0500 the Captain and a skeleton crew re-boarded the Marcy for the tow back to England.


Admiralty War Diaries noted the incident under "Enemy Air Activity" for this date. The report also noted the Marcy was “damaged probably by circling torpedo”. It was a very confusing time and the German’s were throwing everything they had, including experimental weapons, into the mix to try and stem the tide of the Allied invasion.

After much searching, an expert named Urs Heßling on the German language Marine Archiv Forum pointed me to the book ‘Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939-1945’ by renowned historians Jürgen Rohwer and Gerhard Hümmelchen. In the book there is a passage for August of 1944 which notes: “The remaining boats of the 2nd and 6th S-flotilla based in Le Havre, S 174, S 176, S 177 and S 97, S 132 and S 135 attacked with the new TIIID "Dackel" long-range torpedoes on the following nights:

August 4th/5th - 24 torpedoes
August 5th/6th - 12 torpedoes
August 6th/7th - 12 torpedoes
August 8th/9th - 10 torpedoes
August 9th/10th - 11 torpedoes
August 14th/15th - 8 torpedoes


"Dackel" in Allied ship anchorage shot in the Seine estuary. In doing so each of the 3 S-boats attacks with "all" and 2 to 3 boats act as torpedo carriers.

On August 7th the freighter William L. Marcy (7176 GRT) and the Hospital Ship Amsterdam (4220 GRT, and possibly also by Mine hit) sunk.



Now I had a solution that made sense. The S-boats were simply used as a launch platform to fire a brand new experimental weapon from a very long distance away, thus bypassing the typical defensive countermeasures.

According to historian Lawrence Patterson’s book ‘Weapons of Desperation: German Frogmen and Midget Submarines of the Second World War (US Naval Institute Press -September 2006, ISBN-10: 1591149290): “The Dackel (TIIId) torpedo had been developed as a coastal-defense weapon, improvised from the standard G7e electric torpedo. It was designed to give an exceptionally long range for use against targets such as concentrated invasion shipping where weapon speed was not important. Equipped with the Lage unabhängiger Torpedo (LUT) pattern-running apparatus that allowed a torpedo to be fired from any angle and run a desired course, the Dackel was able to cover 57km [35.4 miles] at 9 knots [10.4mph] while carrying its 620lb warhead into action [note the standard speed for a G7e torpedo was 30 knots]. The LUT gear installed had been slightly modified to allow a straight run of 34,600m [21.5 miles] before embarking on the first of what could be a maximum of 2,650 long pattern legs. Enlarged to 36ft [a standard G7e was 23ft-7in long] by the addition of an empty battery chamber immediately behind the warhead, into which was fitted compressed air bottles that could provide enough air for the operation of depth gear and steerage during over three hours of travel, the weapon could be fired from S-Boat or rafts thus negating the costly and time consuming exercise of constructing launch bunkers.

It’s unclear if the Dackel, or “Dachshund” was so named because of the physically extended length, the extended range or both.

Patterson continued: “It was estimated that if Dackel were fired from the entrance to Le Havre they would reach the Allied disembarkation area off the Orne River and their bombardment station off Courseulles, 29km and 37km [18 and 23 miles] distant respectively. Allowed to run their patterns under cover of darkness, Marinegruppenkommando West expected great results despite protestations from Schnellbootführer [Kapitän zur See Rudolf Petersen] that with the low profile provided by S-boats, any possible targets at 29km [18 mile] distance would be beyond the visible horizon. He also correctly pointed out that original plans to launch at twilight, giving the entire night in which to run, were untenable due to Allied fighter bombers. The S-boats would be forced to depart at night under cover of darkness. He further reckoned that the only possible method of firing was thus by compass bearing, using two waypoints to triangulate and obtain a true bearing of possible targets, transmitting this information to the S-boats by radio. He also feared that inaccurate firing data, faulty running and the effect of strong tidal movement on the slow running torpedoes might wash one ashore thereby revealing the [top secret] LUT gear to the Allies. He was, however, overruled.

William L Marcy 1944


The S-Boats fired their torpedoes between 01:36 hours and 02:34 hours, which I assume was in German or Central European Time (CET). The Marcy was hit at 02:45 which I assume was Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). There is a 2 hour difference between the two. If the speed and other parameters are correct, that would seem to indicate one of the earlier firings. For instance, the first torpedo fired at 01:36 would have been in the water for three hours and nine minutes and would have been running its pattern for about an hour. The last torpedo fired at 02:34 would have been in the water for only two hours and eleven minutes and may have just begun running it’s pattern and likely hadn’t covered enough distance yet.

As the G7e electric torpedo that the Dackel was derived from was already considered a “wakeless” torpedo (i.e. no foamy bubble trail like its air powered cousin, the G7a), the low speed combined with the likely running depth of 3m (10 feet) and the darkness must have made them virtually undetectable.

It was ingenious, but an absolute Hail Mary, as after the torpedoes were fired it could take several hours for them to eventually hit something. The attacking craft were also too far away to visually identify a hit and were vulnerable to allied radar equipped aircraft and warships, especially British MTB’s hunting them. Unfortunately, with all the variables involved it is virtually impossible to trace the hit on the Marcy back to a specific S-Boat or crew.


 Aftermath


The lone casualty from the attack was the passenger, a British sergeant. He was reportedly killed by the explosion.

Thanks to Richard G. Astrauckas, who served as officer’s messman on the Marcy, the British sergeant was identified as 34-year-old John Lee from Walsall, a Colour Sergeant of the South Staffordshire Regiment. He was the son of Mr. & Mrs. H. Lee; Husband of Clara Edith Lee of Fullbrook, Walsall, Staffordshire.

According to Admiralty War Diaries, salvage authorities from RFA Sea Salvor boarded the ship on August 8th to inspect the damage. The Marcy was referred to as “M.T. 26” or Military Transport 26. They noted the following damage, temporary repairs and transport plans: “M.T. (26) torpedoed in No. 5 hold, starboard hard. Bulkhead holding, other compartments dry. Leakage into engine room through shaft gland. SEA SALVOR in attendance tugs standing by. Present anchorage one. 7 miles 153° from L.8 buoy, may decide to shift to inner M.T. anchorage. (S.S.V.O. FROBISHER 071225 to F.O.B.A.A.)

Further inspection shows M.T. 26 left crack across upper deck from No. 3 hatch coaming and for 10 feet down ship side on (?port) side. 3 heavy girders have been bolted and left to weld alongside deck to reinforce same. Ship side sealed and reinforced with concrete. Will complete 0700 Tuesday, intend sailing ship 0900. Essential she proceed during this fine weather.

Urgently request that 2 tugs be made available for this duty. Understand suitable Pinnace Tug now at Arro [Arromanches-les-Bains]. (S.S.V.O. FROBISHER 072205 to F.O.B.A.A.)


FROBISHER” refers to the old British heavy cruiser HMS Frobisher (D81) which was being used as a depot ship. Coincidentally, she too was damaged by a Dackel torpedo later that same day during the evening of the 8th. She was hit forward, and the damage caused the anchors to be released which in turn damaged the cradle of B Gun mounting.

Moore continued: “On August 9, the ship left in tow of two tugs and arrived in St. Helen’s Roads, Southampton, England on August 10. On August 21, she was beached near the Mumbles Light [on Oyster Mouth Sands in Swansea Bay]. On August 27 she was refloated and towed to Swansea, Wales, where she was declared a constructive total loss on September 25, 1944.” The Marcy was then towed to River Blackwater, Essex and laid up

According to an article in a 1984 edition of ‘The Lookout’, an alumni publication of the Pennsylvania Nautical School (PNS), the location where the Marcy was beached “was five miles from where Gray had been born and raised. When the "natives" came down to "salvage" the ship they found the gangway guarded by a Welshman - Capt. Graham GRIFFITHS. Notoriety came to him, as a result, and a legend was born, carried by newscasts and in the news both in Wales and at home, in the Philadelphia Bulletin.

Gray and his Chief Engineer
[unidentified] remained aboard the vessel, while the rest of the crew were sent home. In January, 1945, these two were also repatriated.

The bulk of the crew appears to have been sent home on the Cunard White Star liner RMS Mauretania, commanded by Captain Cyril Gordon Illingworth, which departed Liverpool on September 5th and arrived back in New York on September 12th, 1944.

Once again, Richard Astrauckas, or more specifically his interesting name, was the key to finding the crew. A search of his last name on Ancestry.com resulted in a hit for the passenger list of the Mauretania. Furthermore, due to his name I discovered most of the Marcy’s survivors/repatriated seamen were incorrectly identified as coming from "William L. Morrissey", which didn’t exist. The name must have gotten lost in translation. Below is a list of 17 men associated with the Marcy I was able to find on Mauretania’s passenger list:

Antonellis, Pasquale Winthrop, MA
Astrauckas, Richard Manchester, CT
Chambers, Wilfred East Hampton, CT
Dickerson, Arthur M. Baltimore, MD
Franklin, (too faded) Mobile, AL
Gibson, James E. Rochester, MN
Graham, Orrin L. Zelienople, PA
Hardin, Charles D. Birmingham, AL
Jenkins, Charles W. St. Louis, IL
Jordan, Charles Baltimore, MD
Keffer, George D. West Orange, NJ
Kennedy, Eugene Brooklyn, NY
Perez, Manuel R. Baltimore, MD
Perry, Louis D. Lynn, MA
Price, Eugene J. Alexandria, VA
Stevens, John O. Cincinnati, OH
Winfrey, Lincoln L. Spokane, WA

Unfortunately the list is incomplete and does not specify what capacity the men served in. Perhaps in time this can be completed and enhanced with help from the families.


In addition to the Marcy’s survivors she was carrying many men from the SS Richard Montgomery which had run aground off the English coast, as well as a large number of British and Commonwealth seamen and laborers heading for the U.S. and Canada.

The Marcy sat and rusted at River Blackwater until 1948, when she was towed to Bremerhaven, Germany, loaded with obsolete ammunition, then towed into the North Sea and scuttled in position 62°59'N, 1°30'E, about 170 miles off the coast of Alesund, Norway. According to some sources, the ‘obsolete’ ammunition may have actually been German chemical weapons and agents.

The other vessel mentioned being hit that morning by Rohwer and Hümmelchen in their book was the HMHC Amsterdam. She was a former passenger liner that had been converted into a troop/hospital ship. They had transported the US Army Rangers that assaulted Pointe du Hoc on D-Day. Tragically, on this morning, Amsterdam was loaded with medical evacuees from the Juno beachhead and went down in 8 minutes. 55 patients, 10 Royal Army Medical Corps personnel, 30 of Amsterdam's crew and 11 German POW’s were lost. The prevailing wisdom is that Amsterdam struck one or two mines, as her explosions occurred much later in the morning and were probably outside the run-time of the Dackel’s.


 Graham Griffiths



Early Life

Graham Griffiths was born on September 11th, 1916 in Neath, County Glamorgan, in southern Wales. He was the only child of machinist William J. Griffiths (1888-19??) and Hannah Griffiths (1886-1971).

According to his cousin, Janet Evans: “As a child in Wales Graham attended Alderman Davies' primary school in Neath, and lived at a street called Mile-end row; the same area as the actors Ray Milland and William Squire.

His father came to America first, to find work during a depression Wales was experiencing at the time, and once established in the Philadelphia area, sent for his wife and son.

Graham immigrated to the United States with his mother when he was 12. They departed Southhampton, England August 27th, 1929 aboard the aptly named American liner Leviathan, and arrived in New York on September 2nd, 1929.

I assume, based on his career choice, the Leviathan made quite an impression on the young man.

Griffiths became a U.S. Citizen in 1934 when his father naturalized, and also graduated from West Philadelphia High School at this time.

Pennsylvania Nautical School

According to an article in a 1984 edition of ‘The Lookout’, an alumni publication of the Pennsylvania Nautical School (PNS); “Gray's Dad [Graham went by the nick-name ‘Gray’] was a tool-maker and worked with a PNS alumnus, Ed ROEDER. It was Ed who filled in Father and Son on the attributes of the Penna. State Schoolship. It was Ray HILLIER, however, who told Gray about the procedures for filing his application and gave him some ideas on what he could expect. Apparently, the discussions didn't discourage him, for Gray took the examinations at the Bourse Bldg. and was one of the 25 who toed a seam on the ANNIE on 21 May, 1934.

He was 17-years-old when he enrolled. He was a cadet on the three-masted school ship Annapolis (aka ‘the Annie’) under the command of John F. Hines.


Capt. John Fore Hines

Captain John Fore Hines (1870-1941) was superintendent of the Pennsylvania State Nautical School and commander of the school ship Annapolis from 1927 to 1937. As such, most of the PNS men that served in World War II were trained under his watch.

He was born in Bowling Green, KY on September 20th, 1870. He was the first born son of Henry Clay Hines Jr. (1841-1895) and Sarah Scott "Sallie" Fore (1844-1875). He had two younger brothers, grocer Arthur Scott Hines (1873-1942) and Henry Clay Hines III (1875-1876). Judging by the date of death for his mother and the date of birth for his youngest brother, his mother may have passed from complications during childbirth. His little brother Henry only lived 20 months. His father re-married in 1878 to Emily Bailey Moore (1851-19??) and they had a remarkable eight more children over a span of fourteen years.

His family had a long military history. His father Henry served in Company E of the 9th Kentucky Cavalry for the Confederate States Army during the Civil War, and according to documents submitted by his brother Arthur to the U.S. Sons of the American Revolution shortly before he died, they were descendants of Henry Hines Sr. (1732-1810). Henry, who was apparently also known as “fighting Henry” served as a private in Lieutenant Horatio Claggett’s Company, 3rd Maryland Regiment commanded by Colonel Mordecai Gist.

Career:
1892 - Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy.
1898 - Served aboard the USS Dorothea during the Spanish-American War.
1900 – Served aboard the USS Hartford.
1905 - Served aboard the cruiser Cincinnati (C-7).
1907
1910 - Graduated from the U.S. Naval War College.
1910 - Executive Officer (XO) on the armored cruiser North Carolina (ACR-12).
1912
1913 – Returned to Naval Academy as an Instructor.
1917
1914 - Temporarily commanded the Battleship Idaho (BB-24)
1917 – Promoted to rank of Captain
1917 - Commanded a series of four cruisers during WWI, including convoy service.
1918 – (September) Chief of Staff to the Commander of the Newport News Division of the Cruiser and Transport Service.
1918 – Earned Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Medal for WWI service.
1919 – (January) Commander of the Newport News Division of the Cruiser and Transport Service.
1919 – (October) Commander of the Battleship Louisiana (BB-19).
1920
1923 – Great Lakes NTC, Commander of Battleship Pennsylvania (BB-38).
1924
1927 – Retired from the U.S. Navy
1927 – Superintendant of the Pennsylvania State Nautical School
1937

His commendation for the Navy Cross shed some light on the cruisers he commanded: “for distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. CLEVELAND [C-19] and the U.S.S. CHARLESTON [C-22], engaged in the important, exacting, and hazardous duty of escorting convoys of troops and supplies to European ports through waters infested with enemy submarines and mines during World War I, also for duty as Chief of Staff to the Commander, Newport News Division, Cruiser and Transport Force and Harbor Floating Equipment.”

John married Mary Dudley Breckinridge (1869-1939) around 1900, and they had four children; Joseph Breckinridge Hines (15 Feb 1901- 18 Feb 1901), Louise Dudley Kneass (1903-19??), John Fore Hines Jr. (1906-1982) and Mary Breckinridge Hodge (1909-2005).

After a year long illness, John passed away on October 19th, 1941 at his daughter Louise’s house in Daylesford, PA at the age of 71.

According to ‘The Lookout’: “Gray doesn't remember doing anything spectacular in his two years - unless you think that dropping Capt. Hines' dress sword overboard could have been somewhat spectacular! Fortunately for him and Dennis BRODGENSKI, a native diver in Kingston Harbor was able to recover it.

The article continued: “As a First Classman Gray got on the good side of Dr. Taggert and was appointed the latter's assistant, with two stripes to set him above the hoi poloi.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find much more information on Griffith’s time at the school, such as his training cruises.

Most of the information that survives on the school (which operated from 1889 to 1947) is well cataloged at the J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia.

Unlike the Massachusetts Nautical School (MNS) records, however, they are not yet digitized or published. A contact there was kind enough to perform a quick manual search through the most likely cartons, but to no avail.

As the school closed in 1947, Alumni contacts are few and far between.

The school was one of the first three state nautical schools in the country, along with New York and Massachusetts, and the curriculum was very similar.

Like MNS, PNS appears to have had a spring and fall intake of cadets, which were organized into deck and engineering branches, and whom lived and learned aboard ship. Each summer they would also embark on a training cruise across the Atlantic to various European ports of call.

Griffiths graduated from the Pennsylvania Nautical School on Thursday May 21st, 1936. The graduation exercises were conducted aboard the Annapolis at Pier No. 1 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard at 1:30pm.

His class was comprised of:

Deck Officers

Borell, James W. – Reading, PA
Burkhardt, John “Jack” E. – Norristown, PA
Clark, Donald M. – McVeytown, PA
Griffiths, Graham – Philadelphia, PA
Hiller, Thomas E. – Reading, PA
Hottle, Harold E. – Bethlehem, PA
Jones, John R. – Wilkes-Barre, PA
MacMichael, Edward A.O. – Lansdowne, PA
McPhail, Cameron W. – Lansdowne, PA
Maxwell, Lester W. - Philadelphia, PA
Moyer, Vance E. – Pottsville, PA
Perry, LaRoy E. - Norristown, PA
Reckitt, William W. – Highland Park, PA
Rizza, Joseph P. – Johnstown, PA
Scott, Porter L. – Butler, PA
Sedan, Robert S. – Montoursville, PA
Shank, William T. Jr. – Columbia, PA
Troxel, Charles F. – Allentown, PA
Walls, Norman E. – Lester, PA

Engineer Officers

Hunter, John C. – Monessen, PA
King, Harold E. – Greensburg, PA
Swartz, Henry C. Jr. – Gwynedd Valley, PA
Ross, William D. – Linden Hall, PA
Tomlinson, Russell W. – Morrisville, PA

As you can see, like the Massachusetts Nautical School, only residents of the State were able to attend. Graham appears to be the only one of his class to serve with American-Hawaiian.

In fact, he is the only PNS alum that I’ve found to date that I’ve been able to positively link to A-H, but I’m sure there must have been others.

According to ‘The Lookout’: “After graduation, he attended Sperry's Gyro School in Brooklyn.” After that he went right to work.


Early Career

Most Nautical School graduates I’ve profiled to date settled for Quartermaster during this time, rather than Junior Mate position at the start, but Griffiths took it one step further, and at the age of 19, signed on June 10th, 1936 as an Able Bodied Seaman on the United States Lines Passenger/Cargo Liner SS President Roosevelt under Master John Jensen. After a quick trip to Europe including stops in Cobh Ireland, Plymouth England, Le Havre France and Hamburg Germany they returned to New York at the beginning of August.

It is interesting to note that on August 5th, 1936 United States Lines temporarily transferred Griffiths from the President Roosevelt to the SS Leviathan as a Standby Officer, the very ship that brought him and his mother to America seven years before.

In September of 1936 Griffiths transferred to the United States Lines SS Manhattan as a Jr. Third Mate. According to ‘The Lookout’: “His first licensed job was as junior Third Mate on the MANHATTAN, but he walked ashore when the maritime strike of 1936 [which started in October] took place. U.S. Lines blackballed him for that action. It took almost half a year before Gray could get a Job after the strike finally ended.” Griffith’s records do indeed indicate in March of 1937 he briefly joined Isthmian Steamship Co.’s Birmingham City in intercoastal service.

American-Hawaiian Service


On June 29th, 1937 Griffiths began his long career with American-Hawaiian Steamship Company as a Jr. Third mate aboard the Texan. Over the next two years he would also serve briefly on Utahan, American and Nebraskan.

He rejoined the Texan as a Third Mate on April 26th, 1939 and worked his way up to Second Mate in intercoastal service until the time of her loss.

During this time, in 1941, at the age of 24, Graham met and married 41-year-old Miss Kay (aka Katey) Kershaw from Victoria British Columbia.


As noted in the Texan attack section, when the artillery round from the U-126 struck the Texan’s bridge and blew Captain Murphy into the sea, Graham dove in after him and helped support him until help arrived at daybreak.

Graham’s arms and hands were injured during the episode, as can be seen in the souvenir photo below from the famous ‘Sloppy Joe’s Bar’ in Havana.


Montanan

After the Texan ordeal, Griffiths went right back to sea, joining the Montanan (II) on May 19th, 1942 as Second Mate under Master Charles H. McGahan. Montanan’s Chief Mate was Albert E. Bamforth, the younger brother of Charles Bamforth of Honolulan fame.

This was a foreign cruise to India. The crew list notes they departed Bombay September 19th, Cape Town October 13th, and Trinidad November 14th. They arrived safely back in New York on November 25th, 1942. Upon their return, Graham sat for his Masters license, receiving it before the end of the year.

Their next voyage would not go as well. Montanan, with Griffiths now as Chief Mate, was sunk by Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-27 (Toshiaki Fukumura) on June 3rd, 1943 150 miles South of Masirah Island, Oman in the Arabian Sea. Tragically, Master McGahan, four crewmembers and two of the Naval Armed Guard did not survive the attack. You can read about that attack on my Montanan page.

Griffiths was in charge of lifeboat No. 2 which had separated from the rest of the lifeboats which landed at Masirah. They were instead found by the Indian dhow Naranpasha in the Indian Ocean and transferred to the HMIS Baroda before being taken to Bombay. Unfortunately, two of the survivors from this lifeboat did not make it. He and the remaining Montanan survivors departed Bombay June 22nd, 1943 aboard the Union Castle liner Athlone Castle, and arrived in New York on July 25th, 1943.

It must have taken some time to recover physically and emotionally from his second sinking. Griffiths next signed on three months later as Chief Mate on the brand new liberty ship George K. Fitch on November 5th, 1943 for a roundtrip voyage from San Francisco to Brisbane Australia under Master Thomas N. Lewis. Lewis was the injured Chief Mate on Arkansan that Bernard replaced in 1941, and I’ve written a profile on him that you can find here.



William L. Marcy

As noted previously, upon their return at the end of February, Griffiths took over as Master of the William L. Marcy in March of 1944. After the attack it was nearly 4 months before he made it back to New York and another 3 to 4 months before his next assignment, which seems like a long time to be out of commission. The reason for the delay is unclear, although he was still apparently responsible for the Marcy through the end of September when she was finally declared a Constructive Total Loss (CTL).

Alabaman

In April of 1945, at the age of 28 Griffiths became Master of Arkansan’s sister ship, the Alabaman, with Chief Mate Dennis Beaumont on which they ended the war in Australia.


Post-war

Griffiths served for a time as Master of the liberty William G. Lee in 1947, and then with the glut of experienced Merchant Marine officers after the war, served a variety of officer positions aboard several American-Hawaiian Liberty, Victory and C-Types. He served under many of the Masters I have already profiled, including Colman Raphael, Edwin E. Greenlaw, Walter M. Strong, Frank H. Roberts and Robert M. Pierce. Many of these men helped Griffiths get his Puget Sound Pilots license by allowing him aboard as a Pilot Observer.

His American-Hawaiian career ended in July of 1955 as Third Mate on Hawaiian (III), a C4-S-A4, when the company failed.

Calmar

During the next phase of his career, which lasted from July of 1955 until December of 1962, he served a variety of officer positions with primarily Calmar Steamship Corporation (a subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel Corporation), but also with Ore Navigation Corporation and Bethlehem Steel Corporation’s Marine Division.

On April 9th, 1963 at the age of 46 he became a Master again, this time of the Calmar Steamship Portmar (EC2-S-C1 Liberty). He would serve as Master on various Calmar vessels until 1971.

His first wife Kay passed away in December of 1968 after a long battle with cancer. They had no children. Alison MacLeod (née Cole), the daughter of David Cole, an engineer on the Texan and a Seattle area friend of Graham, remembered Kay “was a doll”. They had been married 27 years. It must have been a very challenging time for Graham.

Pilot

According to ‘The Lookout’: “After leaving Calmar, Capt. GRIFFITHS roamed a bit, but made preparations to become a harbor pilot. He became a Bar Pilot for Grays Harbor, WA.

On January 8th, 1973 he came to Seattle as a Puget Sound Pilot. He remained with this organization for a full decade before retiring.” I attempted to reach out to the organization, to see if I could learn anymore about his time as a Pilot, but unfortunately they have not responded to date.

He renewed his Master’s license in 1977. It certified him as Master of Ocean Steam or Motor Vessels of any gross tons; also First Class Pilot on:

Los Angeles Harbor and Tributaries;
Puget Sound and connecting inland waters;
New York Harbor above Narrows to Battery, New York Lower Bay, Narrows to Sea;
San Francisco Bay;
Columbia River, Astoria to Sea, Main Ship Channel;
Delaware Bay and River to Philadelphia, PA;
San Pedro Bay and tributaries;
Waters of Chesapeake Bay North Point, MD. to Cape Henry, VA. and the Patapsco River and branches to the head of navigation;
Waters of the Upper Chesapeake Bay, Sandy Point, MD. to Chesapeake City, MD.;
Waters of Staten Island Sound , Robbins Reef to Elizabethport;
East River to Blackwells Island;
Chesapeake and Delaware Canal from Newcastle Channel to Chesapeake City, MD.;
Waters of Newark Bay, Bergan Point to Port Newark;
Grays Harbor from Sea to Cosmopolis;
Willapa Bay and its tributaries;

and finally as a Radar Observer.

 
Below is a list of assignments I found for him on Ancestry.com and through The National Maritime Center:

Vessel Position Master Shipping Line From To
Annapolis Cadet J.F. Hines Pennsylvania Nautical School 5/21/1934 5/21/1936
President Roosevelt A.B. John F. Jensen United States Lines 6/10/1936 8/1/1936
Manhattan Jr. 3rd Mate A.B. Randall United States Lines 9/4/1936 10/30/1936
Birmingham City A.B.
Isthmian Steamship Co. 3/23/1937 6/14/1937
Texan Jr. 3rd Mate
American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 6/29/1937 9/23/1937
Utahan Jr. 3rd Mate
American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 1/12/1938 5/19/1938
American Jr. 3rd Mate
American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 7/18/1938 1/2/1939
Texan Jr. 3rd Mate W.C. Brower American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 2/19/1939 3/5/1939
Nebraskan 3rd Mate
American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 4/7/1939 4/25/1939
Texan 3rd Mate
American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 4/26/1939 11/21/1939
Texan 2nd Mate Fred C. Gaidsick American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 7/30/1940 8/12/1940
Texan 3rd Mate Robert M. Pierce American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 8/13/1940 10/18/1940
Texan 3rd Mate Charles T. Gaidsick American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 10/19/1940 10/31/1940
Texan 3rd Mate K. Hansen American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 11/1/1940 11/24/1940
Texan 3rd Mate K. Hansen American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 12/18/1940 1/10/1941
Texan 3rd Mate K. Hansen American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 1/11/1941 1/23/1941
Texan 3rd Mate Robert H. Murphy American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 1/24/1941 3/31/1941
Texan 3rd Mate Robert H. Murphy American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 4/1/1941 4/16/1941
Texan 3rd Mate Robert H. Murphy American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 4/17/1941 6/21/1941
Texan 2nd Mate Robert H. Murphy American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 6/22/1941 7/7/1941
Texan 2nd Mate Robert H. Murphy American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 7/8/1941 9/13/1941
Texan 2nd Mate Robert H. Murphy American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 9/14/1941 9/25/1941
Texan 3rd Mate Robert H. Murphy American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 9/26/1941 10/19/1941
Texan 3rd Mate Robert H. Murphy American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 11/10/1941 12/8/1941
Texan 3rd Mate Robert H. Murphy American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 12/9/1941 12/23/1941
Texan 2nd Mate Robert H. Murphy American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 12/24/1941 2/20/1942
Texan 2nd Mate Robert H. Murphy American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 3/2/1942 3/11/1942
Montanan 2nd Mate
American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 5/10/1942 12/7/1942
Montanan Chief Mate Charles H. McGahan American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 1/6/1943 6/3/1943
George K. Fitch Chief Mate Thomas N. Lewis American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 11/5/1943 3/2/1944
Alabaman Master
American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 11/30/1945 4/16/1946
William G. Lee Master
American-Hawaiian S.S. Co.
12/15/1947
Wesleyan Victory Pilot Ob.
American-Hawaiian S.S. Co.
7/25/1948
Baylor Victory Chief Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 12/8/1948 2/20/1949
Baylor Victory Chief Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 2/21/1949 6/15/1949
Baylor Victory Chief Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 6/16/1949 8/15/1949
Baylor Victory Chief Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 8/16/1949 10/27/1949
Baylor Victory Chief Mate Colman Raphael American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 10/28/1949 12/11/1949
Mount Whitney Pilot Ob. Edwin E. Greenlaw American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 2/21/1950 2/21/1950
Mount Greylock Pilot Ob. W.M. Strong American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 3/6/1950 3/6/1950
Willis Vickery 2nd Mate Frank H. Roberts American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 3/22/1950 5/17/1950
Willis Vickery 2nd Mate Frank H. Roberts American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 5/18/1950 7/26/1950
Willis Vickery 2nd Mate Frank H. Roberts American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 7/27/1950 8/27/1950
Willis Vickery 2nd Mate Frank H. Roberts American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 9/15/1950 10/5/1950
Willis Vickery 2nd Mate Frank H. Roberts American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 10/6/1950 12/15/1950
Willis Vickery 2nd Mate Frank H. Roberts American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 12/16/1950 2/22/1951
M.V. Chinook Pilot Ob. Lyle E. Fowler Puget Sound Navigation Co. 9/1/1950 9/6/1950
Nevadan 2nd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 2/23/1951 5/2/1951
Nevadan 2nd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 5/3/1951 7/16/1951
Nevadan 2nd Mate Frank H. Roberts American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 7/24/1951 12/11/1951
Battle Creek Victory Master N/A American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 6/4/1952 6/16/1952
M.V. Chinook Pilot Ob. Lyle E. Fowler Puget Sound Navigation Co. 6/17/1952 6/18/1952
Hawaiian 2nd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 9/8/1952 10/14/1952
Hawaiian 2nd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 10/15/1952 10/28/1952
Hawaiian 2nd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 10/29/1952 12/29/1952
Hawaiian 2nd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 12/30/1952 1/21/1953
Hawaiian 2nd Mate Robert M. Pierce American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 1/22/1953 3/23/1953
Hawaiian 2nd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 3/24/1953 4/6/1953
Hawaiian 2nd Mate Robert M. Pierce American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 4/7/1953 6/17/1953
Hawaiian 2nd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 6/18/1953 9/6/1953
Hawaiian 3rd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 2/12/1954 7/19/1954
Hawaiian 3rd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 7/2/1954 12/31/1954
Hawaiian 3rd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 1/1/1955 2/14/1955
Hawaiian 3rd Mate redacted American-Hawaiian S.S. Co. 2/15/1955 5/6/1955
Yorkmar 3rd Mate redacted Calmar Steamship Corp. 7/16/1955 9/22/1955
Yorkmar 3rd Mate redacted Calmar Steamship Corp. 9/23/1955 12/1/1955
Yorkmar 2nd Mate Rupert Matthews Jr. Calmar Steamship Corp. 12/9/1955 2/20/1956
Yorkmar 2nd Mate redacted Calmar Steamship Corp. 2/21/1956 3/16/1956
Yorkmar Chief Mate redacted Calmar Steamship Corp. 3/17/1956 4/27/1956
Yorkmar Chief Mate redacted Calmar Steamship Corp. 4/28/1956 5/23/1956
Yorkmar 2nd Mate redacted Calmar Steamship Corp. 5/24/1956 7/12/1956
Alamar Chief Mate R.E. Mahr Calmar Steamship Corp. 7/13/1956 8/9/1956
Losmar Chief Mate Charles E. Frisius Calmar Steamship Corp. 10/8/1956 12/21/1956
Losmar Chief Mate redacted Calmar Steamship Corp. 12/22/1956 3/11/1957
Losmar Chief Mate Charles E. Frisius Calmar Steamship Corp. 3/22/1957 3/22/1957
Marymar Chief Mate
Calmar Steamship Corp. 4/2/1957 9/20/1957
Losmar Chief Mate
Calmar Steamship Corp. 1/27/1958 9/12/1958
Flomar Chief Mate Rupert Matthews Jr. Calmar Steamship Corp. 5/1/1958 5/7/1958
Calmar Chief Mate redacted Calmar Steamship Corp. 5/21/1958 7/30/1958
Marymar Chief Mate
Calmar Steamship Corp. 9/13/1958 6/30/1959
Bethcoaster 2nd Mate Alvin L. Thompson Ore Navigation Corp. 12/1/1959 12/8/1959
Bethcoaster 2nd Mate Alvin L. Thompson Ore Navigation Corp. 2/12/1960 2/25/1960
Bethcoaster 2nd Mate Alvin L. Thompson Ore Navigation Corp. 2/26/1960 3/24/1960
Portmar Chief Mate
Calmar Steamship Corp. 3/29/1960 7/19/1962
Bethcoaster Chief Mate
Ore Navigation Corp. 7/21/1962 8/22/1962
Portmar Chief Mate
Calmar Steamship Corp. 9/25/1962 12/5/1962
Bethcoaster Chief Mate Alvin L. Thompson Bethlehem Steel Corp. M.D. 12/13/1962 12/21/1962
Portmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 4/9/1963 12/3/1964
Portmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 2/6/1964 2/14/1965
Kenmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 2/13/1965 5/24/1965
Yorkmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 6/16/1965 8/10/1965
Calmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 3/31/1966 9/15/1966
Yorkmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 9/16/1966 11/24/1966
Portmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 11/25/1966 2/29/67
Calmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 3/1/1967 4/23/1967
Marymar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 10/19/1967 12/30/1967
Iroquois Chief Mate redacted Black Ball Transport, Inc. 6/1/1968 9/18/1968
Portmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 8/27/1969 10/8/1969
Portmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 10/9/1969 11/27/1969
Portmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 11/28/1969 1/14/1970
Portmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 1/15/1970 2/24/1970
Pennmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 3/1/1970 3/17/1970
Calmar Master
Calmar Steamship Corp. 7/23/1970 9/14/1970
Bethtex Master
Bethlehem Steel Corp. M.D. 9/15/1970 10/18/1970
Bethtex Master
Bethlehem Steel Corp. M.D. 10/19/1970 11/10/1970
Bethflor Master
Bethlehem Steel Corp. M.D. 11/12/1970 1/7/1971
Yorkmar Master
Bethlehem Steel Corp. M.D.


There was not sufficient space to list each and every sailing for his remarkable 50 year career. His records from the Maritime Center are by far the most comprehensive I have received to date, comprised of some 203 pages, about half of which related to his Pilot certifications.

After what was termed a “lengthy courtship”, Griffiths re-married in April of 1979 at the age of 62 to Shirley Ellen Sundt (née Taylor). According to her obituary, her previous husband, “Captain Alfred Sundt, died on Feb. 2, 1967, while piloting a Japanese freighter inbound from the ocean to the port of Grays Harbor”.

According to ‘The Lookout’ article: “Shirley brought him an understanding and cooperative outlook, as well as a ready-made family - two sons, Brandel and Mark, and two granddaughters. Both of the sons are sailing on Washington & Alaska State Ferries. The granddaughters, Kristine and Katie, idolize Gray.

Mark Sundt named his son Alfred Graham Sundt, I assume partially in tribute to Griffiths. Mark is currently the Master of Alaska State Ferry’s M/V Malaspina, although to date I have not been successful in reaching him.

Shirley’s obituary went on to say “They [Shirley and Graham] enjoyed traveling and hosting visits from Graham's Welsh family”.


‘The Lookout’ article from 1984 concluded with; “Gray has never had a major accident, (he got that out of his system after losing three ships due to enemy action.) His character is such as to lend itself to calm and judicial action. He responds to emergencies without hysteria and his stolid outlook on life will certainly carry him to the century mark.” Unfortunately, Graham did not make the century mark and passed ten years after the article was published.

Graham “Gray” Griffiths passed away in Sequim Washington on May 26th, 1994 at the age of 77.

Alison MacLeod recalled “her parents got together with Gray and his second wife Shirley many times”, and remembers Gray as “a darling, wonderful man”.

Rodman Dickie from the Arkansan remembered Griffith’s as a respected officer and met him on a few occasions, but never actually served with him.

Hopefully one day his second family will be able to shed more light on the interesting Mr. Griffiths.



 S-Boats of the 2nd and 6th Flotillas



As mentioned above, with the nature of the S-Boat Dackel attack it’s impossible to know which specific S-Boat and crew launched the torpedo that struck the William L. Marcy. The best I can do at this stage is say it was one of the six boats that participated, and eventually I may be able to cut that in half or better if documentation survived to tell us which of the three boats fired when, and if any of those reported any malfunctions.

None of the S-Boats or their commanders were known to have been officially credited with the Marcy's damage.

As noted below, most of the S-Boats that took part were made by Lürssen, a company that not only survived the war, but has since gone on to build fast attack craft for the post-war German Navy (Bundesmarine) and others, as well as some of the most prestigious yachts in service today.

It is known that the six boats were from two separate S-Boat Flotillas, both based in the port of Le Havre, occupied France at this time;

2nd S-Boat Flotilla

The 2nd S-Boot Flotilla was commanded by Korvettenkapitan Hermann Opdenhoff (Crew 1934). He was 28 years old at the time and was born in Falkenberg. He did not survive the war and was killed on March 21st, 1945.

The 2nd Flotilla S-Boats that took part in the attack were:

S 174

Shipyard: Lürssen, Vegesack, 1943
Launched: 1943
Commissioned: March 3rd, 1944
Commander: Kapitänleutnant Hugo Wendler (June 1944 through February 1945). (Crew 37a)

25-year-old Wendler took over command of the Flotilla when Opdenhoff was killed, and remained in charge until the war ended.

Prior to the attack, S 174 and S 176 were damaged when they collided during an engagement with British Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB's) the evening of August 2nd/3rd, 1944.

S 174 survived the war and was taken over by American forces at the end of hostilities. She was given to Norway in 1947 and renamed to Rapp, but scrapped shortly thereafter in 1950.

S 176

Shipyard: Lürssen, Vegesack, 1943
Launched: 1944
Commissioned: March 17th, 1944
Commander: Oberleutnant zur See Friedrich-Wilhelm Stockfleth, aka “Stocki” (April 1944 to April 7th, 1945)

As mentioned above, prior to the attack, S 174 and S 176 were damaged when they collided during an engagement with British MTBs the evening of August 2nd/3rd, 1944.

S 176 was lost with S 177 during a nighttime engagement with British MTB’s on April 7th, 1945, one month before Germany’s official surrender. I detail their loss in S 177’s section below.

S 177

Shipyard: Lürssen, Vegesack, 1943
Launched: 1944
Commissioned: March 30th, 1944
Commander: Leutnant zur See Karl Boseniuk (April 1944 to April 7th, 1945)

Boseniuk had some previous success with S 177 in a more classic S-Boat role, when he and S 178 (Braune) attacked an Allied convoy on June 10th, 1944 (some sources say the 19th) just south of St. Catherine’s Point en route from the Isle of Wight to the Normandy beachhead. During the engagement, the S-Boats sank three small British coasters; the freighter SS Brackenfield (Master William Galbraith), which was loaded with ammunition and gasoline barrels with the loss of 10 including the Master, the freighter SS Dungrange (Master John Emlyn Herbert) loaded with ammunition and fuel with a loss of 12 including the Master, and the British motorship M/V Ashanti (Master John Robert Smith) loaded with gasoline barrels with loss of all 17.

As mentioned above, both S 176 and S 177 were lost during a nighttime engagement with British MTB’s on April 6th/7th, 1945. I found a remarkable accounting of the incident by one of the British officers that took part, Lieutenant John Lake of MTB 493, which you can find here. What made the story even more interesting is that it started with Lake’s understanding of the events, then his eventual reunion with his former German adversaries and their work together as friends to put all the pieces together from a very confusing engagement.

In summary, S 176 and S177 in company with S 174 (Stohwasser) with Flotilla Commander Wendler aboard (S-174 was his former boat in which he took part in the Dackel attacks), S 209 (Neugebaum), S 210 (Wiesheit),     S 221 (Schneider) had been out on a mine laying operation in the South Knoll area. On their way back they ran into a destroyer and a couple MTB’s, sinking MTB 5001 before they successfully extracted themselves to head for home.

Three British MTB’s (Motor Torpedo Boats) from the 22nd MTB Flotilla based at HMS Mantis, Lowestoft were on anti-E-boat patrol when they received word of the German’s location, and proceed to intercept. These MTB’s were MTB 494 (S.O. Lieut Jack May), MTB 493 (Lieut Alexander Dunlop Foster) and MTB 497 (Lieut A.T.J. Harrington D.S.C.). These particular MTB’s were 3 of 40 vessels (458 thru 497) built by British Power Boat Company, Ltd. at Hythe, Southampton in 1943. They were commissioned between October and November of 1944 and were 71.5 feet long.

The night was described as very dark, with no moon and no phosphorescence. The MTB’s were not using their radar for fear of revealing their position to the Germans, which were being tracked by a radar equipped Wellington patrol bomber.

As the German’s raced at 40 knots back to the relative safety of their base at Den Helder in occupied Holland, the MTB’s were racing at 30 knots on an intercept course and the two groups of combatants literally ran into each other.

It was like a bad marching band routine gone wrong as the two elements approaching each other at high speed in the darkness merged. MTB 494 (May), in the lead, spotted and began firing on the German lead-boat S 174 (Stohwasser & Wendler), but then was immediately rammed by S 176 (Stockfleth), which in turned was rammed by MTB 493 (Foster). MTB 493 opened fire on S 176 at point blank range but then rammed into the overturned hull of MTB 494, lost her bows and could only move astern.

MTB 497 (Harrington) dueled with S 177 (Boseniuk) from only 10 yards away on a parallel course, but eventually Boseniuk managed to pull away using their superior speed and they and the remaining four S-Boats made good their escape. S 177 later had to be abandoned before reaching base and the crew was taken off by the other S-Boats. S 209’s commander Neugebaum was also apparently killed after returning to base when he slipped and fell and a weapon accidentally discharged.

MTB 497 and the heavily damaged MTB 493 opened fire together on the now stationary S 176 until the Germans surrendered. Stockfleth (aka “Stocki”) and his surviving crew were taken prisoner and he was eventually released in 1947. The S 176 sank as the British were attempting to tow it back to port.

The German’s lost S 176 and S 177 and approximately 7 crew between the two, plus Neugebaum. The British lost MTB 494 to sinking, and MTB 493 was so damaged it was written off. It’s not clear exactly what the British casualties were, although only three men apparently survived from MTB 494’s crew. Her commander, Jack May was lost.


As this action occurred just weeks prior to Germany’s unconditional surrender, it is thought to have been the last naval action to occur in British “home waters” of the Second World War.

The three German commanders that took part in the attack which resulted in the Marcy’s loss, as well as the action with the MTB’s; Wendler, Stockfleth and Boseniuk all survived the action and the war and were still alive in the 1990’s when the article was written.

After the attack on the Marcy, the 2nd Flotilla itself did not stay long a Le Havre. As the invasion progressed and the allies advanced on Le Havre the Germans were forced to abandon it or risk getting trapped. During the evening of August 29th/30th, 1944 the 2nd Flotilla was the last S-Boat flotilla to leave Le Havre. They mined the harbor entrance on their way out and retreated to the north to Boulogne. Le Havre fell to the Allies on September 12th, 1944.

On the evening of September 4th/5th, 1944 Boulogne was abandoned. It fell to the Allies soon thereafter.

6th S-Boat Flotilla

The 6th S-Boat Flotilla was commanded by Kapitänleutnant Jens-Ingwer Matzen (Crew 1935). He was 29 years old at the time and was born in Morsum. He survived the war and passed away on February 29th, 1980.

On June 26th, 1944 the 6th Flotilla, which included boats; S 39, S 76, S 90, S 91, S 114, S 132, and S 135 arrived at Ijmuiden, occupied Holland. Shortly after that they transferred down the coast to Boulogne.

During the evening of July 5th/6th, 1944 the 6th Flotilla transferred from Boulogne to Le Havre. It had a fight with destroyers and MTBs. When entering harbor the S-boat-bunker exploded due to the detonation of 41 torpedoes which were stored there. The boats were unharmed, but seven men lost their lives.


The 6th Flotilla S-Boats that took part in the attack were:

S 97

Shipyard: Lürssen, Vegesack, 1942
Launched: 1943
Commissioned: March 25th, 1943
Commander: Oberleutnant zur See Wilhelm Waldhausen (June 15th, 1944 through August 1944)

Waldhausen had some previous success with S 97, when he and S 114 (Hemmer) attacked an Allied convoy on the evening of July 26th/27th, 1944 off Dungeness. During the engagement, the S-Boats fired two FAT pattern running torpedoes and damaged the freighters SS Fort Perrot (Master unknown), with no casualties and SS Empire Beatrice (Master unknown) with the loss of eight men.

During the evening of July 30th/31st, 1944, Waldhausen on S 97, accompanied by S 114 (Hemmer) and S 91 (Nolte) fired six FAT on a convoy and reported multiple hits. They sank the British freighter SS Samwake (Master unknown), and damaged the British freighters SS Fort Dearborn (Master unknown), SS Fort Kaskaskia (Master unknown), and SS Ocean Courier (Master unknown), with no known casualties amongst them.

S 97 survived the war and was taken over by American forces at the end of hostilities. She was given to Denmark in 1947 and renamed to Ravnen, and eventually scrapped in 1963.

S 132

Shipyard: Schlichting, Travemünde, 1943
Launched: November 13th, 1943
Commissioned: December 10th, 1943
Commander: Kapitänleutnant Herbert Witt (December 1943 through September 1944)

During the evening of July 3st/August 1st, 1944, S 132 along with the boats of the 2nd and the 6th S-Boat Flotillas attacked British destroyers and MTBs. All fired Zaunkönig acoustic torpedoes which apparently detonated prematurely. In a fight with the British MTBs S 132 was hit in the starboard engine. Witt got the boat back to base, but there were three wounded.

S 132 survived the war and was taken over by the Soviets on November 5th, 1945. Her chronology from there was:
January 16th, 1946 Taken by Soviet crew
August 12th, 1946 Arrived to Dolgaya-Zapadnaya gulf (by Weissmeer-Ostsee-Kanal)
September 23rd, 1946 Renamed TK-1017
September 28th, 1946 Included into Northern fleet as MTB
January 12th, 1949 Reclassified as large MTB
June 17th, 1952 Disarmed, re-classified and re-configured as a motor launch
July 17th, 1952 Renamed RK-1673
April 16th, 1953 Re-classified as dispatch motor boat and renamed POK-4
May 4th, 1954 Put out of service and laid up
August 28th, 1954 Commissioned again
January 30th, 1956 laid up again, shortly after that sunk in harbor due to hull leakage
July 7th, 1956 Removed from Navy list.

S 135

Shipyard: Schlichting, Travemünde, 1943
Launched: 1943
Commissioned: May 29th, 1943
Commander: Oberleutnant zur See.d.R. August Licht (May 1943 through September 1944)

S 135 survived the war and was taken over by the Soviets on November 5th, 1945. Her chronology from there was:
January 4th, 1946 Taken by Soviet crew
August 12th, 1946 Arrived to Dolgaya-Zapadnaya gulf (by Weissmeer-Ostsee-Kanal)
September 23rd, 1946 Renamed as TK-1018
October 4th, 1946 Included into Northern fleet as MTB
January 12th, 1949 Reclassified as large MTB
March 17th, 1952 Disarmed, removed from the Navy, and transferred for scrapping.

On September 6th, 1944 all harbors in northern France and Belgium were abandoned by the S-Boats and both the 2nd and the 6th Flotillas transferred back to the homeland. The 2nd Flotilla sailed to Wilhelmshaven for shipyard maintenance, and the 6th Flotilla was to turn over its old boats to the S-boats school division.


 Sources


Almeida, Fernando for detailed career information on Hugo Wendler.

Ancestry.com for biographical information on Griffiths, Hines and RMS Mauretania passenger list.

Astrauckas, Richard G. for relating his experiences aboard the William L. Marcy.

Beaumont, Walter for photo of late war Alabaman.

Conley-Wandell, Mary Ann for information from her father George Renault Conley's papers on the Pennsylvania State Nautical Schoolship Annapolis, Class of 1938 which included photo of John F. Hines.

Drabick, Frances for her writings on her partner Jean-Schugart-Schild's collection of her father Gilbert "Gil" S. Schugart's Pennsylvania State Nautical School photos and stories and her help in finding photos of John F. Hines.

Emmerich, Michael for his German Naval History website for details on the S-Boats.

Evans, Janet for information and photos of Graham Griffiths.

Fold3.com for military reports relating to this story.

Forum Marinearchiv for providing access to the expertise that assisted me solving what attacked the William L. Marcy.

Frank, Hans for his book
'German S-Boats In Action In The Second World War' (October 15, 2007, Naval Institute Press, ISBN-10: 1591143098,  ISBN-13: 978-1591143093) which included Dackel torpedo firing plan.

Freetranslation.com for help with initial German to English translations.

Gerhardt, Frank A. - for his website: usmaritimecommission.de for information on William L. Marcy.

Heßling, Urs from the German language Marine Archiv Forum who pointed me to the book ‘Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939-1945’ by renowned historians Jürgen Rohwer and Gerhard Hümmelchen.

Hümmelchen, Gerhard and Rohwer, Jürgen for their book ‘Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939-1945’ (October 2005, Naval Institute Press, ISBN-10: 1591141192, ISBN-13: 978-1591141198) for information on S-Boat Dackel attacks.

Imperial War Museum for various photos and information relating to this story.

Lawson, Siri for her website warsailors.com for information on Marcy convoys.

MacLeod, Alison, Daughter of Dave Cole, for her recollections of Graham, Kay and Shirley Griffiths.

Moore, Captain Arthur R. for "A careless word...A NEEDLESS SINKING". Eighth Printing - 2006. Published and distributed by the Dennis A. Roland Chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans, Midland Park, NJ. Printed by Reed Hann, Williamsport, PA. for damage summary on the
William L. Marcy.

Oliver, Stan for photos of Graham and his first wife Kay and for Sloppy Joe's Bar survivors postcard.

Patterson, Lawrence for his book ‘Weapons of Desperation: German Frogmen and Midget Submarines of the Second World War (US Naval Institute Press -September 2006, ISBN-10: 1591149290) for information on Dackel TIIId torpedoes.

Prinzeugen website for tactics and details on the S-Boats.

Rohwer,
Jürgen  and
Hümmelchen, Gerhard for their book ‘Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939-1945’ (October 2005, Naval Institute Press, ISBN-10: 1591141192, ISBN-13: 978-1591141198) for information on S-Boat Dackel attacks.

Scheuch, Karl for his S-Boot.net website for information on the S-Boats.

Tryniski, Thomas M. for his Old Fulton NY Post Card website which helped provide confirmation of what John F. Hines looked like and information on Graham Griffiths graduating class.

U.S. National Archives for numerous pieces of documentation relating to this story.

U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Center, 100 Forbes Drive, Martinsburg, WV 25404 for Merchant Marine career information on Graham Griffiths.

Weggelaar, Hubertus at the Historisches MarineArchiv site for information on S-Boat commanders.

Wikipedia free on-line encyclopedia for summaries on miscellaneous topics related to this story.

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