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Bernard Bio


 Introduction


Bernard Edward Conners

 

Date of Birth:             June 6, 1909     

Place of Birth:            Washington, D.C.

Date of Death:           June 15, 1942

Place of Death:        Off Grenada, Caribbean sea          

 

Initially, I was able to find the least amount of information on Bernard. It was actually much easier getting information on the German U-boat commander (Bauer) that sunk Bernard’s ship, and his second in command (Hans-Adolf Schweichel) who executed the attack.

Eventually I was able to find some more information on Bernard, including a partial work history from The National Archives, and some family members have come forward with some missing documentation, including his certificate from the nautical academy he trained at in the early '30's.

If any family member has a more recent picture of Bernard than the pictures I've included (latest was from 1937), I would like to add it to the site here, and move the picture above to the Education section below.

Likewise, if anyone has some old documentation or correspondence from or about Bernard tucked away in a drawer, a closet or an attic I'd love the opportunity to review it to see if it adds to the story.
Please let me know.

 Education

1923:                              

Saint Mary’s Parochial School.

 

1927:                         

Graduated Salem High School. The picture at the top is his graduation photo.


April 7th, 1931:                                 

Graduated the Massachusetts Nautical School with service aboard the School Ship Nantucket.



The USS Nantucket was
an iron gunboat, barkentine rigged, laid down in 1873; launched in 1876 by Harlan and Hollingsworth, Wilmington, DE, originally commissioned as USS Ranger (IV) at League Island Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, PA, 27 November 1876. For a more complete history, see here.

During the winter term of 1928 - 1929 the decision was made to paint the outside hull of the Nantucket black, instead of the usual white as in the past. Her four boilers were also updated.

Schooling actually occurred aboard ship. The very definition of "hands-on training". His first summer term ran from June through September of 1929 and would have been at sea aboard the Nantucket.

Per Bernard's transcripts, which I was able to obtain from the school, his curriculum included the following;

June: Seamanship and Practical Seamanship. 

July: Navigation, Practical Seamanship, Mathematics and Practical Engineering.

August: Seamanship, Navigation, Practical Seamanship, Electricity, Engineering and Mathematics.

September: Seamanship, Navigation, Practical Seamanship and Electricity.

Officers and Instructors included:
  • Armistead Rust, Captain USN, Retired, Superintendent of Schoolship
  • Norman E. Merrill (graduate MNS 1912), Schoolship Executive Officer
  • William W. Storey (graduate MNS 1917), Schoolship Navigator
  • Richard T. Rounds (graduate MNS 1926), Schoolship Watch Officer
  • Nicolai S. Sivertsen, Schoolship Watch Officer
  • Ervin L. Kelley, Lieutenant, USNR (graduate MNS 1909), Chief Marine Engineer
  • Norman L. Queen (graduate MNS 1926), Assistant Marine Engineer
  • Arthur L. Wheeler, Schoolship Instructor in Mathematics
  • Robert S. Palmer, M. D., Schoolship Surgeon
  • Charles Parker, Schoolship Paymaster

Captain Armistead Rust became Superintendent on July 24th, 1919. According to the school's annual report for that year; "
He is an officer of experience in the United States Navy, having served in the Naval Training Service on the U. S. S. "Saratoga,"  "Constellation" and "Jamestown," full-rigged sailing vessels without steam power. He is a recognized expert in theoretical and practical navigation, and through his efforts many improvements have occurred in the art. He has invented a number of instruments designed to benefit the naval service, among the most important of which is a range finder. He is the author of 'Practical Tables for Navigators and Aviators.' used by the United States Navy and the United States Shipping Board."


Thanks to some info George Duffy located for me and the school's Annual Report I learned that Bernard's first summer cruise (1929) was as follows:

The Nantucket sailed from Provincetown on May 25th, 1929, and arrived at Ponta Delgada, Azores, on June 7th; during the passage 1,200 miles were made under sail, 610 miles under sail and steam, and 384 miles under steam.

The ship left Ponta Delgada on June 11th, arriving at Seville, Spain, on June 17th. The Ibero-American Exposition was being held in Seville and the cadets had every opportunity to visit it. A full size model of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus, was anchored in the river not far from the Nantucket.

The Nantucket sailed from Seville on June 21st and arrived at Gibraltar on June 22nd. Off Cape Trafalgar, three battleships from the United States Naval Academy, the Arkansas, Florida and Utah, passed bound for Barcelona.


Leaving Gibraltar on June 29th, the Nantucket arrived at Naples on July 5th, where the battleships Arkansas, Florida and Utah were found at anchor. The Nantucket sailed from Naples on July 9th and arrived at Corfu, Greece, on July 12th. On July 10th a moderate gale with a rough choppy sea was experienced, which occasioned much seasickness among the new cadets and some of the others.


Sailing from Corfu on July 14th, the Nantucket arrived at Venice, Italy, on July 17th. At Venice, arrangements were made with the Manager of the British Institute for Seamen for the cadets to visit a number of places of historic interest. The ship sailed from Venice on July 23rd and arrived at Pola, Italy (present day Pula, Croatia)
on the same day.

Left Pola on July 27th and arrived at Spalato, Dalmatia (present day Split, Croatia) on July 28th. At Spalato a committee visited the ship with an interpreter to inspect the school and obtain information regarding its work preliminary to purchasing a schoolship. Sailing from Spalato on July 31st, Ragusa, Dalmatia (present day Dubrovnik, Croatia) was reached on August 1st.


The Nantucket sailed from Ragusa
on August 4th and arrived at Cattaro, Dalmatia (present day Kotor, Montenegro) the same day. Topla, Teodo, and Cattaro Bays, surrounded by mountains from 3,000 to 5,000 feet high, afforded excellent opportunities for boat work. Cattaro was left behind on August 7th and Valetta, Malta, was reached on August 10th.

Sailing from Malta on August 14th, Gibraltar was sighted on August 20th. At Gibraltar it was necessary to remove a growth of barnacles which had accumulated on the ship's hull by listing the ship first to one side and then to the other. Coal was also replenished. The Nantucket sailed from Gibraltar August 24th and arrived at Funchal
, Madeira on August 28th.

The Nantucket sailed from Funchal on September 1st and arrived at St. Georges, Bermuda, on September 17th. The wind in the trades was very light, making it necessary to call at Bermuda for coal. The distances made good from Funchal to Bermuda: under steam, 854 miles; under steam and sail, 1,536 miles; and under sail, 449 miles.


Sailed from St. Georges on September 17th and arrived at Provincetown on September 21st, via the Cape Cod Canal. Distances made good from Bermuda to Provincetown: under steam, 166 miles; under steam and sail, 524 miles.


The voyage covered a total of 11,418 miles, of which 4,553 miles were transited under steam,  4,772 miles under steam and sail, and 2,093 miles under sail alone. They expended 806.6 tons of coal.

I have included an interactive map below with all the ports of call noted for this cruise.

MNS 1929 Cruise


His first winter term ran from November, 1929 through March, 1930 and would have been held in port in Boston. Each of the five months included every course mentioned in his first summer term, plus English. They would erect a prefabricated tar-paper enclosure over the weather deck to act as a classroom, as you can see from the picture below.



Officers and Instructors changed slightly with Wright replacing Wheeler as Instructor in Mathematics:
  • Armistead Rust, Captain USN, Retired, Superintendent of Schoolship
  • Norman E. Merrill (graduate MNS 1912), Schoolship Executive Officer
  • William W. Storey, Lieutenant, USNR (graduate MNS 1917), Schoolship Navigator
  • Richard T. Rounds (graduate MNS 1926), Schoolship Watch Officer
  • Nicolai S. Sivertsen, Schoolship Watch Officer
  • Ervin L. Kelley, Lieutenant, USNR (graduate MNS 1909), Chief Marine Engineer
  • Norman L. Queen (graduate MNS 1926), Assistant Marine Engineer
  • John E. Wright, Schoolship Instructor in Mathematics
  • Robert S. Palmer, M. D., Schoolship Surgeon
  • Charles Parker, Schoolship Paymaster

His second summer term ran from June through September 1930, and concentrated on Seamanship, Navigation and Practical Seamanship all four months.
According to the School's Annual Report, Bernard's second summer cruise (1930) was as follows:

The Nantucket sailed from Provincetown on May 31st and arrived at Ponta Delgada, Azores, on June 12th. During this passage the ship steamed 862 miles, was under steam and sail 739 miles, and under sail alone 551 miles.

The ship left Ponta Delgada on June 16th and arrived at Cardiff, Wales, on June 24th.

Leaving Cardiff on June 29th, the Nantucket arrived at Kingstown, near Dublin, Ireland, on June 30th. On July 4th, the ship was full dressed, and in the forenoon the cadets had boat races under oars and sail, tug of war, and a race over the masthead, all between the starboard and port watches.

The ship sailed from Kingstown, Ireland, on July 5th, and arrived at the Albert Dock, Liverpool, on July 6th. At this port the officers and cadets had an opportunity to visit the HMS Conway, the British Schoolship, anchored off Birkenhead.

On July 10th, the Nantucket sailed from Liverpool and arrived at the Queen's Dock, Glasgow, on July 11th. The Lord Provost invited the cadets to visit the municipal building and provided a guide.

The Nantucket sailed from Glasgow on July 17th and arrived at Bergen, Norway, on July 21st. Strong head winds, increasing at times to a moderate gale with a heavy head sea were experienced, and the speed of the ship was reduced to less than two knots at times.

The ship sailed out of the port of Bergen on July 26th and arrived at Amsterdam on July 29th. The Harbormaster at Amsterdam placed a tug at the disposal of the ship and took the cadets around the harbor.

On August 4th the Nantucket sailed from Amsterdam and arrived at Gibraltar on August 13th.

The ship sailed from Gibraltar on August 16th and arrived at Casablanca, Morocco, on the 17th. The Nantucket sailed from Casablanca on August 19th and arrived at Funchal, Madeira, on August 21st.

The ship sailed from Funchal on August 24th, and arrived at Orient Harbor, Long Island, New York, on September 13th
to clean and paint the ship before returning to Boston.. The weather was generally good during the passage home, affording excellent opportunity for work in practical navigation. Only five vessels were sighted during the passage of twenty days.

The coal stops were at Cardiff, Amsterdam and Gibraltar. The voyage covered 10,786 miles, of which 4,256 miles were transited under steam,  4,963 miles under steam and sail, and 1,567 miles under sail alone. They expended 754 tons of coal.

I have included another interactive map below with all the ports of call noted for this cruise.


MNS 1930 Cruise


Bernard's final winter term ran from November, 1930 through March, 1931, which included a fairly full curriculum again, with the exception of English and Practical Engineering.

The school added Marine Law November and December, and Ship Construction November through January.

His standing improved from 11th to 8th in his class over this time.





His graduating class of 1931 (April & October) consisted of 57 men. His specific class in April is noted in bold below, with Engineering division men noted with and "(e)":

Paul J. Allman  Springfield  Warren E. Jarman  Haverhill 
Kenneth B. Balch (e) Springfield Alwin C. Jones (e) Middleboro 
Thaddeus A. Banach  Holyoke Paul J. Kenney (e) Somerville 
Anthony J. Barkowsky  Brockton Robert T. Kiely (e) Lynn 
Ralph L. Barry (e) Brockton Herbert W. Knowlton (e) Arlington 
William F. Bentley  Winthrop John S. Little  Melrose 
Hilary J. Berry  Melrose Clifford G. McKeon (e) Hull 
Paul L. Berry (e) Maiden Harold R. McPhee  Gloucester 
Walter J. Bienia  New Bedford Joseph H. Mundy, Jr. (e) Revere 
Edward B. Burrage  Reading Adelbert G. Munro  Somerville 
John O. Bushey  Woburn Nels P. Nelson (e) Walpole 
Daniel F. Callaghan  Roslindale Malburne J. Peabody (e) Georgetown 
W. Evans DeW. Case (e) Cheshire George F. J. Peck  Braintree 
Richard J. Casilli  Roslindale William R. Pendergast  Everett 
Stanley W. Cederberg  Woburn Leroy F. Phipps  Waltham 
Alden R. Chambers  Boston George W. Playdon  Reading 
William S. Charlton  Jamaica Plain  Pasquale M. Polletta  Amesbury 
Bernard E. Conners  Salem  Bailey Poor (e) Medfield 
Robert J. Connors  Prides Crossing  Eugene C. Raymond  Springfield 
James D. Crosby (e) Belmont  John B. Regan  Bradford 
Joseph J. Dimock, Jr.  Longmeadow  Robert L. Rowe  Worcester 
William G. Driscoll  Belmont  Walter L. Scott (e) Fall River 
Joseph F. Fortunati, Jr.  Somerville  Robert B. Shockley  Bridgewater 
Raymond R. Freeman, Jr.(e) Wellfleet  Philip M. Smith, Jr.  Milford 
John E. Green, Jr.  Medford  James L. Sullivan  Fall River 
Arthur J. Hammer  West Roxbury  Stanley A. Thombs Palmer
Everett E. Holt (e) Georgetown  Joseph Tuliszewski Norwood 
Charles R. Hunter (e) East Boston  Gordon P. Whitney Leominster
Richard W. Irving  (e)
West Roxbury 


Of these 57 young men, at least 50 had jobs lined up upon graduation. Pretty remarkable considering the country was in the midst of the Great Depression with massive unemployment.

By far the largest taker was American-Hawaiian Lines with 24 graduates, followed by Isthmian Lines with six, Luckenbach and United States Lines each with four, United Fruit Company with three, American Republic Lines with two, and finally American Export Line, Boston & Provincetown Line, Dollar Line, Moore & McCormack Co., New York & Puerto Rico Line, Southern Pacific Co., and Standard Trans. Co. each with one.

American-Hawaiian distributed their new graduates as follows:
A-H Ship No.
"At sea" 5
S.S. American 2
S.S. Arizonan  1
S.S. Georgian 1
S.S. Iowan 3
S.S. Kansan 2
S.S. Kentuckian 3
S.S. Missourian  1
S.S. Montanan  1
S.S. Nevadan  1
S.S. Ohioan  1
S.S. Panaman  2
S.S. Pennsylvanian 1

Bernard went to work for American-Hawaiian, on the Kentuckian, along with classmates Kenneth Balch and William Driscoll. This ship would later be scuttled August 4th, 1944 to reinforce Gooseberry 2 after the Normandy invasion.

When Bernard attended the school was located in Boston, but in 1942 it was relocated to Hyannis at the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal. According to their website, "the Academy was founded on June 11, 1891 as the Massachusetts Nautical Training School. It was changed in 1913 to the Massachusetts Nautical School, and then finally became The Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1942, as it remains today. It is the oldest maritime academy in continuous operation in the United States and the largest State maritime academy."

Captain Rust retired the year after Bernard graduated after reaching the compulsory retirement age of 70. He had served as Superintendent and Captain of Nantucket for 12 years. He was succeeded by Clarence A. Abele, USN. For more information on the school check out their site at  '
www.maritime.edu' and click on "About MMA" on the left menu, then "Our History" on the right menu.
 
If you would like to find out what it was like to be a cadet at the Massachusetts Nautical School and train aboard the Nantucket then I would highly recommend George Duffy's book 'Ambushed under the Southern Cross'. Captain Duffy kept a diary of his experiences and several chapters detail them and include photos and sketches.
 
 
 

 Ranks

April 7th, 1931

Issued “Certificate of Efficiency to Lifeboat Man” upon graduation

 

April 15th, 1931

Issued Third Mate License

Issued “Certificate of Service to Able Seaman”

 

December 4th, 1933

Issued Second Mate License

 

May 5th, 1936

Issued Chief Mate License

 

February 24th, 1937

Renewed “Certificate of Efficiency to Lifeboat Man”

Renewed “Certificate of Service to Able Seaman”

 

June 22nd, 1939

Issued Master License


This last one confirms that Bernard had in fact become qualified to be the Captain of a ship, although from the following career info, it appears he never did so. I had originally thought Bernard had his own ship at one point and only took the Chief Mate position on the Arkansan to work his way back to the states. This proved to be false once I received his career information, and he worked as a Chief Mate for nearly three years after getting his Master license. There were simply more Captains than there were available ships during this time period.


When I requested this information from the National Archives I had also asked if they had any record of him holding a commission as a Lieutenant J.G. in the Navy, or what navigation school he was to be assigned to, as mentioned in the obituary. Unfortunately they had no records on this. Not to say it wasn't true, they just couldn't find any records to confirm it. Perhaps because he didn't survive long enough to report for duty.

 Career


Along with his ranks, I was able to get a partial work history from The National Archives in the form of work slips for various ships he was assigned to from 1936 on, with a couple gaps. It's odd that his voyages pick up roughly where his certification ends, so I'm not sure if he was in training from the time he graduated to this first assignment or what was going on.


HAWAIIAN History

Built as the SANTA MALTA by the William Cramp & Sons Shipyard in Philadelphia, PA, Yard 447. She was launched April 12th, 1918 and completed May of 1919, apparently in time to act as a troop transport for soldiers returning from WWI.

Her tonnage was listed as 6,270, length as 420' - 6", beam as 53' - 9", and draft as 26' - 2" so she was only slightly smaller than the Arkansan. She had a single screw aft, with a quadruple-expansion steam engine, capable of about 12 knots.

In 1925 she was purchased by the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company and renamed HAWAIIAN.

In 1949 she was transferred to Panamanian registry and renamed FORTUNE (see picture above). She continued in Italian service until 1958 when she was broken up in Spezia, Italy on April 7th.
September 3rd, 1936 to
September  27th, 1936
 
 
Coastwise voyage on SS Hawaiian. Los Angeles to New York. Went through Balboa, Canal Zone on September 19th. Served as 3rd Officer (Mate).
 
 
September 4th, 1940 to
October  1st, 1940
 
 
Intercoastal voyage on SS Hawaiian. Baltimore to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Officer (Mate) under Master Samuel A. Gates.
 
 
 
Hawaiian had sailed from the Columbia River on July 15th, arriving in Baltimore on September 2nd. She had made a similar voyage from April through June as well.
 
 
 
I assume she reversed the order of stops on her way back to San Francisco. This route was what American-Hawaiian referred to as it's 'South Atlantic Service'.
 
 
 
I have included American-Hawaiian's South Atlantic Service schedule from 1940 which shows the names and dates of the various ports of call for Hawaiian as well as several other American-Hawaiian vessels. This schedule is courtesy of Bjorn Larsson.
 
 
 
 
October 2nd, 1940 to
October  21st, 1940

Coastwise voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as Chief Mate under Master Samuel A. Gates.

 

October 22nd, 1940 to
December  23rd, 1940

Nearby foreign voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as Mate (Reduced to 2nd Mate 10/26/40) under Master J.J. Wochos.

 

December 24th, 1940 to
January  9th, 1941

Coastwise voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Mate under Master Samuel A. Gates.

 

January 10th, 1941 to
March 19th, 1941

Intercoastal voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Mate under Master Samuel A. Gates.

 

March 20th, 1941 to
April  3rd, 1941

Coastwise voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Officer (Mate) under Master Louis B. Lavergy.


April 4th, 1941 to
June 9th, 1941

Intercoastal voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Mate under Master John N. Hansen.

 

June 10th, 1941 to
June  23rd, 1941

Coastwise voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Mate under Master John N. Hansen.

The previous assignments show that Bernard left the East Coast (Baltimore) in the fall of 1940, and after arriving in San Francisco, spent the next nine months running up and down the West Coast aboard another American-Hawaiian ship, the SS Hawaiian.

June 24th, 1941 to
July 26th, 1941
 
Intercoastal voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to New York. Served as Chief Mate under Master John N. Hansen.
 
As mentioned above, Hawaiian had originally reached Baltimore on their 'South Atlantic' route the previous fall. To reach New York, she may have taken a modified 'North Atlantic Service' route, which Bjorn Larsson provided to me as well (see below).
 

Hawaiian is not shown on this schedule, but Arkansan appears twice, once in April-May and again in July-August.
 
At one point I thought Bernard must have joined Arkansan in New York. Then I found a newspaper article that stated Arkansan left New York on July 19th, 1941 (one week before Hawaiian arrived), reached Port Sudan on September 5th and left there for Port Suez on September 8th. Then I thought perhaps he went over to the Near-East on the Hawaiian, or one of the other company's ships. It wasn’t until November of 2010 that I found definitive proof; Hawaiian’s crew list from that voyage (Image below). As you can see, Bernard's name is crossed out, and in the last two columns is a note about Bernard which states: "Transferred to S.S. Arkansan in Calcutta 10/20/41".


There were some other interesting details on the crew list as well, such as other stops they made. Apparently the Hawaiian and Bernard were not caught up in the bombing raid at Suez. Hawaiian had arrived in Calcutta on October 16th, 1941 from Port Sudan, “Anglo Egyptian Sudan” where Arkansan, and perhaps Hawaiian, dropped off her twin-engine bombers for the British. After Bernard left, Hawaiian departed Calcutta November 1st, then Colombo Ceylon November 10th, then Capetown South Africa November 28th, eventually arriving back in New York on December 27th, 1941. The same day Arkansan leaves for her last voyage.


October 30th, 1941 to
December 15th, 1941
 
Foreign voyage on SS Arkansan. Calcutta to New York. Served as Chief Mate under Master Paul R. Jones.
 
Just days before they got back to New York they would have received news about the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the declarations of war with Japan and Germany.
 
December 27th, 1941 to
June 15th, 1942

Un-described voyage on SS Arkansan. New York to unknown locations. Known that vessel was en route from Trinidad to New Orleans when she was sunk. Served as Mate under Master Paul R. Jones.


A six month mystery tour? This voyage is awful long compared to the others. Interesting to note that Bernard had nine months experience with Jones/Arkansan before they were sunk.

June 26th, 1942

Bernard's father, Robert Conners notified by Western Union that Bernard was missing.

 

July 23rd, 1942

Bernard declared deceased by New York District Court. Wages of $2,188.24, plus bonus of $21.78.

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