The ship that would become the Coloradan was one of four vessels built on contract for the United States Shipping Board (USSB) per a standard design for a 10,000 deadweight ton freighter by Osaka Iron Works, Sakurajima, Japan. She was built in Yard 955 and completed in 1920 as Eastern Admiral (O/N 219989).
Some readers may be surprised that the US government bought ships from Japan, but keep in mind that was initiated back in the 1918 shortly before our entry into World War I, when Japan was our ally. As I explain on my 'Arkansan Info' page, British and American shipbuilders were already at maximum capacity and so we turned to alternative markets in Asia. Arkansan and her three sisters were the most unique, being the only four built in China, but Japan's industrialization was much further along and the US would end up purchasing fifteen vessels that were already underway at four different yards and contracting another thirty vessels from twelve yards.
Ironically, out of those forty-five vessels, none seem to have been delivered in time to serve in World War I, but would in World War II when Japan was our foe. Fifteen were broken up or wrecked in the 1930's, thirteen would be lost in action in WWII (one under Japanese ownership, the rest allied), two were intentionally scuttled as Normandy blockships, one wrecked during the war, and nineteen survived the war and were later broken up in the late 1940's, 50's and perhaps later.
EFC Design No. 1127 Eastern Admiral Specifications
D.W.T. (Dead Weight Tons): 10,500
Gross Tonnage: 6,668
Net Tonnage: 4,210
Number of Decks: 2
Length Between Perpendiculars: 415'
Beam: 55' - 6"
Depth: 34' - 8"
Draft, Loaded - Summer: 27' - 6 3/4"
Number of Boilers (Scotch): 3
Boiler Pressure (psi): N/A
Boiler Heating Surface (Sq. Ft.): N/A
Engine Type: Triple Expansion
Indicated Horsepower: 3,200
Diameter of Cylinders & Stroke: N/A
Cylinder Stroke: N/A
Bale Cargo (Cu. Ft.): 524,918
Grain Cargo (Cu. Ft.): 574,349
Permanent Bunkers - Coal (Tons)*: 390
Reserve Bunkers - Coal (Tons)*: 1,058.20
Approx. Normal Sea Speed (Knots): 10.5
Est. Daily Fuel Consumption (Tons): 60
Permanent Bunkers Steaming Radius (NM): 1,612
Total Bunkers Steaming Radius (NM): 6,047
Number of Holds: 5
Number of Hatches: 6
Largest Hatch: 36' x 18'
Number of Booms: 13
Number of Winches: 12
Heaviest Lift (Tons): 25
Type of Construction: Isherwood
*Vessel converted from Coal to Oil upon delivery.
Specifications per 'Register of Ships Owned by United States Shipping Board, August 1, 1920'. Courtesy of Captain Stephen S, Roberts at www.shipscribe.com
According to historian Norman L. McKellar, the Emergency Fleet Corporation (EFC) assigned Design Number, 1127. In addition to Eastern Admiral, the other three vessels were:
Eastern Knight – Built in Yard 953, completed November 1919 as O/N 219648. The USSB retained possession until 1922, when she was operated by Columbia Pacific Steamship Company as agent for the USSB on oriental routes. In 1930 she was purchased by Pacific and Atlantic Steamship Company (a subsidiary of W.R. Grace) and renamed San Lucas. In 1940 she was sold to the British shipping firm Atlantic Transportation Co. Ltd. (Likely under lend-lease) and renamed R.J. Cullen. In January of 1942 she was wrecked off the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides while on ballast passage from Liverpool, England to Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Eastern Mariner - Built in Yard 954, completed December 1919 as O/N 219684. The USSB retained possession until 1926, when she was purchased by American Merchant Marine Steamship Corporation (Williams joint liability) and renamed Willzipo. In 1928 she was taken over by Williams Steamship Corporation. In 1937, when American-Hawaiian bought the Williams Line she was renamed Washingtonian. In June of 1942 she was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese submarine I-4. See my dedicated page on the Washingtonian here.
Eastern Sailor - Built in Yard 956, completed in 1920 as O/N 220276. The USSB retained possession until 1922, when she was operated by Columbia Pacific Steamship Company as agent for the USSB on oriental routes and renamed Peter Kerr. In 1929 she was purchased by Pacific and Atlantic Steamship Company (a subsidiary of W.R. Grace) but retained her name. On July 5th, 1942 she was bombed and sunk by the Luftwaffe after scattering from the disastrous convoy PQ-17.
S.S. Eastern Admiral (Design 1127) after completion by the Osaka Iron Works, Osaka, Japan in 1920. This photograph was used in a 1925 EFC sales catalog to represent this class. (NHC: S-528-A) Courtesy of Captain Stephen S, Roberts at www.shipscribe.com
Quite amazingly, Ancestry.com appears to have Eastern Admiral's first crew list, when she was delivered from Yokohama, Japan, to Tacoma, Washington on March 29th, 1920 with a full Japanese crew (52 men) under the command of Master Kiyoshi Okubo. The Master and 30 of his crew returned to Japan on the Africa Maru on April 15th, 1920, and the other 22 men left the vessel in Seattle.
Portion of Eastern Admiral's first crew list with complete Japanese complement courtesy of Ancestry.com.
The only other crew lists I was also able to locate at this time are for the Eastern Admiral arriving in New York in March and December of 1921 when she was briefly managed by Barber Steamship Lines, Inc. The former, a voyage from Rotterdam, Holland under Master Joseph A. Gaidsick, and the latter, from Hamburg, Germany under Master J.W. Nicholson. Interestingly, Gaidsick’s younger brother Fred would later command the Coloradan and you can see a picture of him in the sighting photo included in ‘The Attack’ section below.
Nicholson's voyage did not go very well according to an article in the Kansas City Star newspaper:
"A SHIP'S CREW DRANK CARGO
The Eastern Admiral Reaches Shanghai after a Voyage of Terror.
SHANGHAI, July 13th  - The arrival here of the American shipping board steamer Eastern Admiral unfolded a tale of broached rum kegs and a crew that did little from San Francisco to this port but drink the consigned liquor and fight - to the terror of the ship's officers.
Three sailors were brought to trail here on charges of assaulting Charles H. Thorpe, assistant engineer, and Capt. John W. Nicholson of the Eastern Admiral testified that the rum-filled crew was 'the most terrible I ever sailed with'.
'The trouble started six days out of San Francisco.' Nicholson said. 'The crew broached the cargo of rum and hid great quantities of it. From that time on it was one continuous reign of terror. In the harbor of Miike, Japan, Engineer Thorpe was attacked by two drunken sailors and severely beaten. The fight spread to a wholesale battle among the crew and a sailor named Rice was badly slashed with a razor by one named Swenson. A general riot ensued.
'The officers tried to quell the trouble, but never succeeded because as one part of the crew started to sober off the others got drunker.
'It was a continual state of mutiny and terror.'"
Like sistership Eastern Mariner, the USSB retained possession until 1926, when she was purchased by American Merchant Marine Steamship Corporation (Williams Steamship Corporation joint liability). She was renamed Willboro. In 1928 she was taken over by the parent Williams Steamship Corporation.
The purchase by Williams made the news. In the November 29th, 1926 edition of the Oakland Tribune they stated:
"Williams Line Buys 3 U.S. Boats Cheaply
Newly Formed Corporation May Take Over Inter-coastal Line
The Williams line secured the three steamers Eastern Light, Eastern Admiral and Eastern Mariner from the United States government for $175,000 each, according to T.J. Halcrow, local representative of the line, who received official confirmation of the purchase today. The three vessels are of 10,500 tons deadweight.
The vessels will be placed on dry-dock immediately and will be renamed the Willkeno, Willboro and Willzipo respectively. These three names correspond to he nomenclature adopted by the company in its other vessels, the Willsolo, Willhilo, Willfaro and Willpolo.
The Eastern Mariner is the only one of the three vessels at present on the Pacific coast. She is loading at Portland. Each vessel is capable of handling five million feet of lumber.
At the same time that the three vessels were purchased by the Williams line the officials of the company organized the Merchant Marine Steamship Corporation to operate the fleet. It is thought that the new organization may absorb the Williams line completely [ES: It would turn out to be the other way around}.
The three vessels were built for the United States Shipping Board in Osaka between 1918 and 1920. All are coal burners and will be changed to oil."
"Cheaply" is a bit of an understatement. According to 'Sundry Civil Bill, 1920, Volume 3 by the United States Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, the U.S. government paid $1,837,500 each for Eastern Admiral and Eastern Mariner and $2,408,625 for Eastern Light plus another $23,035.09 for 'Repairs and Equipment' bringing her price up to $2,431,660.09! Keep in mind also that as part of the "deal", the Emergency Fleet Corporation supplied the steel required to build Eastern Admiral and Eastern Mariner (the contract vessels), and as the EFC was three months late supplying the necessary steel, the deliveries were pushed out three months as well. Based on Williams' $175,000 purchase price, that represents a 90.5% discount on Eastern Admiral and Eastern Mariner and a 92.8% discount on Eastern Light.
While researching Arkansan's story I discovered she and her three sisters were purchased at a 85% discount, which I thought was bad enough. It is important to remember that William's deal was only for three vessels, and there were 42 more requisitioned or contracted vessels from Japan, which I suspect were bought "cheaply" as well.
Birdseye View of the Sakurajima Yard of the Osaka Iron Works, Osaka, Japan from the September 1920 edition of Pacific Marine Review magazine.
You'll note that in the newspaper article, Williams bought three steamers, but Eastern Light/Willkeno was not one of the four built under contract at Osaka. It was actually one of three vessels that were already being built by Osaka Iron Works when the US Shipping Board came looking, and they bought them as well. This confirms that the design was Osaka Iron Works' own. Based on images available, they look identical to Eastern Admiral and the three contracted vessels, although the first two were a little smaller (4,385 tons vs 7,200 tons and 344.5 feet vs 415 feet). I believe the overall design was kept, but 'scaled up' starting with Eastern Light. The history of these 'step sisters', if you will, are:
Meigen Maru – Built in Yard 915, completed December 1917 for Nippon Kisen K.K (Kisen means Steamship). The USSB acquired her in June of 1918 and renamed Eastern Star and assigned O/N 216453. In 1921 Eastern Star was sold to Standard SS Co. but in 1923 was returned to US Shipping Board- implying to Peter Cundall that Standard SS Co. defaulted, probably after freight rates collapsed in 1921-22. The ship was sold to Boston Iron and Metals Co., Baltimore and delivered July 29th, 1933 for scrapping.
Eastport - Built in Yard 907, completed August 1918 as O/N 217085. The USSB retained possession until 1930, when she was purchased by the USSR and renamed Itelmen. She was transferred to Dalryba, Vladivostok in the 1930’s. This was a Russian State owned trading company. The ship was withdrawn from service in 1962 and would have either been scrapped, scuttled or converted to a barge at this point. According to one source she was used for crabbing in the far east.
Eastern Light - Built in Yard 951, completed in 1918 as O/N 217292. The USSB retained possession until 1926, when she was purchased by American Merchant Marine Steamship Corporation (Williams joint liability) and renamed Willkeno. In 1928 she was taken over by Williams Steamship Corporation. In 1937, when American-Hawaiian bought the Williams Line, she was renamed Isthmian. In 1939 American-Hawaiian renamed her Illinoian. Illinoian was scuttled off the Normandy beachhead on August 28th, 1944 to reinforced the artificial breakwater.
Back to the focus of this story, Willboro would spend her time with the Williams line in inter-coastal service.
In the summer of 1934 Willboro grounded on Race Rock Light at the entrance to Long Island Sound. In 1990, 56 years later, her Second Mate at the time of the grounding, Larz D. Neilson, the founder of the Wilmington Town Crier newspaper recounted what happened:
“There was a coastal pilot on board, who had embarked at Philadelphia. The writer, a second-mate, was on watch. The accident occurred at 7:36 a.m.
Race Rock Lighthouse had a tyfon (whistle) for a fog signal. The Willboro was being steered by the sound of that tyfon. The idea, of course, was to pass southerly of the rock, which was about a half a mile away.
Until a few seconds before the grounding, the sound of that tyfon had been “broad on the starboard bow”, in other words, free and clear of danger. Then the lighthouse appeared, suddenly, dead ahead. It was impossible to stop the ship, or to steer off.
The Willboro, because of the discharge of cargo in Philadelphia, was drawing only seven feet forward, and 27 feet aft. That refers to the depth of the water which the ship occupied. When the ship hit the rock, it just slid up. The bow was only about 30 feet from the lighthouse when the ship stopped.
About quarter of eight, the lighthouse keeper came out to walk around and take his morning constitutional. His fists were tucked down, inside his belt. Suddenly, he stopped and rubbed his eyes with both fists. The writer has never seen a person who was more surprised.”
Willboro run aground at Race Rock Light in Long Island Sound in 1934, with a small tug, large tug and an unidentified powered lumber schooner on her port bow as they unload a portion of her cargo of lumber to lighten the load to refloat her. Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
“An airplane with a photographer was flown from New York. The next morning, there were pictures on the front page of the Daily News.
Longshoremen were sent out from New London and about 1000 tons of lumber were discharged, so that the Willboro could float free. The ship then went in to New London and off-loaded the cargo for that port.
It then went to Bridgeport, and off-loaded more lumber, and then to Albany, where the last cargo was discharged.”
Starboard side-aft view of Willboro run aground at Race Rock Light in Long Island Sound in 1934. Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
The Willboro had damaged her fuel oil tanks in the grounding and she steamed through Long Island Sound, New York Harbor and up the Hudson River, leaving a trail behind her, to a floating dry dock in Brooklyn where repairs were made.
American-Hawaiian acquired her in 1937 and renamed her Coloradan. Based on the photos and dates supplied by the Neilson family, it appears Fred C. Gaidsick was her earliest American-Hawaiian captain and Coloradan may have been his first command. He had served as Mexican’s Chief Mate in 1929.
Neilson stayed with the vessel for a time as Second Mate, and one of the obsolete Willboro signs from the vessel’s deckhouse would find its way to his father’s garage. It would make a grand reappearance much later, which I will detail later on in this story.
Neilson would befriend a new Able-Bodied seaman, a Mainer who joined named Woodrow Wilson, and the two would remain friends for a long time. Wilson would eventually rise to the position of Chief Mate of Coloradan by the time she was lost. Luckily for Larz, he left the Coloradan before her loss. Luckily for us, Neilson’s affinity for writing and photography would document much of Coloradan’s history as well as that of American-Hawaiian Lines during his long and distinguished career.
All these pieces would eventually come together thanks to Captain Larz’s son, writer Larz F. Neilson, and the telling of the Coloradan’s story and the stories of the remarkable men who served on her has now finally come to light.
Coloradan would spend most of her American-Hawaiian career on the inter-coastal routes like the rest of the fleet, ferrying supplies between the East and West coasts.
The war in Europe changed all this. At the beginning of 1940 Gaidsick left Coloradan to command Georgian, and new Master George Grundy took over. Coloradan sailed for the Persian Gulf, stopped in Aden February 22nd, Port Said, Egypt February 27th, and arrived back in New York on March 25th.
The next voyage was to the Pacific, consigned to Isthmian Steamship Co., leaving New York sometime after June 13th, stopping in Honolulu, Hawaii at the beginning of October, and returning to Boston Massachusetts on November 12th. 1940. Charles Bamforth briefly took over from Grundy when they got back to New York on November 17th, and was planning to sail for Baltimore on November 20th.
Larz Neilson and Woodrow Wilson from early in their friendship aboard the Coloradan, Pictures are from Captain Neilson's scrapbook and you can see his dry wit in the captions; "Woodrow Wilson hisself!!" to the right of Wilson's image, and "Guess" to the left of Second Mate Neilson. Photos courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
Coloradan circa 1937. On the left side is a view from the flying bridge looking aft as she transits the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal, lake Gatun in the background, as she heads north for the Atlantic (Caribbean Sea). Photo on the right is of crew repainting A-H blue band of Coloradan's funnel. The man on the right has four drips to wipe up. Note A-H flags in both images Photos courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
Then it was off across the Atlantic under Grundy again at the end of December to Africa consigned to American South African Line. They made stops in Lourenco Marques Portuguese East Africa (present day Mozambique) January 15th, Durban South Africa February 1st, Port Elizabeth South Africa February 3rd, Cape Town South Africa February 6th, Port-of-Spain Trinidad February 28th, and finally arrived back in New York on March 8th, 1941.
Coloradan left New York sometime after July 13th for Africa and possibly the Persian Gulf based on the length of the voyage. There aren’t as many details on the ports for this voyage, only that they left Cape Town South Africa around the middle of October, stopped at Port-of-Spain Trinidad on the way back, and arrived in Boston on November 20th, 1941.
In December they headed back again. Stops included Durban South Africa February 27th, Port Elizabeth South Africa March 3rd, Cape Town South Africa March 6th, and they finally arrived back in New York on April 12th, 1942.
It was a quick turn-around after this trip and Coloradan left again less than a month later around the middle of May for what would be her final voyage. Robert H. Murphy had taken over at this point. Grundy left for the Floridian (Arkansan’s sister) and served as her Master for most of the remainder of the war. Gaidsick and Grundy would both survive the war.
Coloradan in late 1930's. Note A-H flag on aft mast. Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
Coloradan was en route from Bandar Shahpur, Iran to Port of Spain Trinidad BWI via Durban South Africa (arrived October 5th) and under the command of Master Robert Hugh Murphy. Murphy was already a bit of legend among his junior officers and crew, having survived the sinking of the Texan the preceding March. Bandar Shahpur (presently Bandar Imam Khomeini since the ‘79 revolution) was the southern terminus of a rail line were Soviet personnel would load vital war supplies on freight trains that would run North through the Caucuses to the Russian Motherland.
Coloradan was carrying 2500 tons of manganese ore, 29 tons of general cargo and a ton of gold on her return trip.
While updating the site in 2020 I stumbled upon an image of one of Coloradan's three sisters built in Osaka, the SS Peter Kerr. It is obviously a crop of a larger image, and while I don't have the original details of the photograph, the design certainly appears to match. I decided to include it here as it shows what Coloradan would have looked like at the time of her loss, painted overall gray and armed (note gun tubs on bow and stern and Armed Guard ramp rafts on fore and aft masts). Unfortunately, image is too low resolution to identify anti-aircraft armament surrounding deck house.
The ship was armed with one 4in on the stern, one 3in on the bow, four 20mm and two .30cal guns around the center superstructure, and was traveling unescorted. She was also modified by this stage to include large rafts on either side of her two masts for her Navy Armed Guard complement and she was painted an overall gray.
Even though the ports of Durban and Cape Town were important refueling and supply points for ships traveling back and forth between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the area was largely untouched up to this point in the war.
Unfortunately for Coloradan (and many other ships) she arrived just in time for the first major German U-Boat offensive in the area, scheduled to start on October 10th. This “wolfpack” offensive, officially known as Group "Eisbär" (Polar Bear) consisted of U-68 (Merten), U-159 (Witte), U-172 (Emmermann), U-504 (Poske) & the supply U-boat (aka: milk cow) U-459 (Wilamowitz-Möllendorf) in support with extra fuel, torpedoes, etc…
U-159 commanded by Helmut Witte started things off with the torpedoing of the British motor merchant Boringia at 9:55pm local time the evening of October 7th about 120 miles west-southwest of Cape Town. Boringia had quite a run of bad luck. She had just sailed from Cape Town that day after completion of two months of repairs caused by her collision with another vessel (which sank). Witte had actually let her go earlier in the day because he spotted her before the scheduled start of the coordinated attack, but the schedule was changed soon afterwards and he was able to re-acquire and sink her. Most, if not all her crew survived the initial hit, but 25 were killed when a second torpedo hit near two of the lifeboats that were standing close by. The following morning at 7:07am U-159 hit the British steam merchant Clan Mactavish, which had picked up the survivors of the Boringia that previous evening. 7 more of Boringia’s survivors were lost during that attack, along with 54 from Clan Mactavish. Boringia had been owned by Danish Det Ostasiatiske Kompagni (EAC) line until taken over by the Ministry of War Transport and allocated to the United Baltic Corporation to manage.
Cleaned-up sketch from Witte's Torpedo Report showing Coloradan in lower right moving to the left and U-159 in upper left, with torpedo below that on intercept course.
At dawn the following morning the surfaced U-159 spotted Coloradan’s mast tops on the horizon, and they set an intercept course. By 8:14am U-159 was in position ahead of Coloradan and they dived for their final approach in a submerged daytime attack.
Witte ascended to the conning tower and observed the Coloradan through the attack periscope. He locked in Coloradan’s speed at 10 knots, course 260°, and estimated distance 1,400 meters (1,531 yards or 0.87 miles). At 9:54am local time on October 9th, 1942 Witte gave the command to fire a single G7e torpedo from tube I at the middle of Coloradan. The G7e's were electric and left very little visible wake compared to the older air driven alternative.
The Coloradan was steaming a zigzag course at 9.5 knots about 200 miles southwest of Cape Town. It was a bright, sunny, beautiful spring morning in the Southern Hemisphere and several of Coloradan’s junior officers were out taking their navigational sightings. Third Mate James McCollom was on the starboard bridge wing. Chief Mate Wilson was sharpening his knife in the Chief Engineer’s office.
Coloradan officers 'Shooting the sun', measuring the altitude of the sun using sextants, December 3rd, 1938. Former Captain Fred Gaidsick (far left) and Second Mate Larz Neilson (second from right with pipe). Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
One minute and 42 seconds after firing, the torpedo ripped into the port side of the vessel between the #5 and #6 hatches, destroying the bulkhead between the holds, blowing out the double bottom and damaging the shaft alley.
According to Chief Mate Wilson's report (filed on 10/24/42, two weeks after the sinking):
“I heard a heavy report sounding like that of our four-inch gun, which was located on the poop deck. I immediately got up from the settee and in two steps was able to see that most of the after deck was well awash and that No. 5 booms were broken. I heard the general alarm go for about two seconds, then lights and alarms stopped, then I shouted for all hands to report to their boats as I proceeded forward and got my life preserver from my room, proceeding immediately to the boat deck where I found that the engine had been shut off by the control.”
The watch below secured the main engines as the ship quickly settled and sinks by the stern within eight minutes.
Due to the speed with which the Coloradan sank and the fact that the U-boat was not seen during this period, no defensive fire was returned by the Armed Guard crew. Coloradan’s antenna and/or radio equipment is damaged in the attack as well so no distress signal was sent either.
The torpedo hit 30 meters aft of where Witte was aiming, which meant the port life boat remained intact. This would be crucial for the remainder of the crew’s survival in the coming hours and days. The surviving 9 officers, 30 men and 15 armed guards quickly launched the two lifeboats and all four rafts, but two rafts drifted away before they could be used.
Six crew members were lost in the after house of the ship:
Blake, James Joseph - Able Seaman, Age 40 from Lee, MA
Butler, William Morris - Ordinary Seaman, Age 42 from New York, NY
Hamilton, Fred - Able Seaman, Age 41 from New York, NY
Keller, Edward Robert - Fireman/Wiper, Age 23 from Oakland, CA
Lynch, Francis "Frank" Wesley - Fireman/Wiper, Age 45 from East Hartford, CT
Walters, James Charles – Oiler, Age 26 from San Francisco, CA
Cororadan hold, portside, aft of engine room circa 1938. View is looking forward toward engine room bulkhead, Shaft alley is to the right, and kingpost mount is to the left. Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
Coloradan hold, portside, aft of engine room circa 1938. View is looking aft towards stern. Shaft alley is to the left. Hatch opening is visible at top center. Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
Coloradan crew lowering lifeboat under less stressful circumstances in the late 1930's, probably when previously mentioned photo shoot was taking place. The vessel standing off the port beam is none other than the Arkansan, differentiated from her three sisters by her unique paint scheme, ventilators and the full width bridge at this time. From the various stains on her hull this appears to have been taken at the same time as the International News Photos image I show on the 'Arkansan Info' page. Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
Unfortunately, a full list of survivor's is not currently known, only the 6 casualties from he initial attack, 6 more later lost on Zaandam and 15 survivors that have come to light for a total of 27 to date out of the total of 54 including the Armed Guard.
Chief Mate Wilson described the abandon ship as follows:
“Number 1 boat had been lowered on the forward end but it seemed the after end had not been touched, so I got the assistance of an A.B. and slacked the boat properly into the water, where good cooperation on the Third Mate’s part [James McCollom] got the boat away in a seamanlike manner. Knowing the boat was a safe distance away, I proceeded forward to trip the forward starboard raft, but was hailed by Captain Murphy, who directed us to get to my boat and, if possible, to take the briefcase of papers which he then handed me. As I turned aft, I saw the 2nd Cook on an escape net apparently afraid of going into the water. I told him the preserver would hold him and pushed him into the water; then I went. At that time the water was up to the after end of the boat deck. I had a little difficulty getting clear of the boat fells and man ropes, and the vessel still had headway, but soon I was clear only to find myself among sticks and diesel oil which I got into my mouth several times, making me sick. I saw the Radio Operator and told him not to struggle as he would soon be picked up. I caught ahold of a short piece of lumber and awaited the boat, but I could see the submarine surfaced and my boat being motioned toward it.”
The Third Mate, James McCollom remembers that the water was so clear that he could see U-159’s distinctive conning tower emblem before the U-boat even surfaced about 100 feet away from their lifeboat. The red circular emblem caused him to think it was a Japanese submarine initially. They had feared a Japanese attack while in the Indian Ocean. U-159 maneuvered to within 50 to 75 feet to begin their questioning and it was clear at that point it was a German U-Boat, although Witte spoke excellent English. McCollom was surprised by the condition of the U-159, which looked freshly painted. He answered questions concerning the ship and cargo and Witte gave him the course and distance to land and wished them “a pleasant voyage and good liberty”.
Wilson went on to describe what happened after that:
“After I had been in the water about eight minutes, I was taken aboard No. 2 boat along with the brief case of ship’s papers. When the submarine had disappeared, the two boats came together and I went to my own boat, although sick from the fuel. At that time, it was determined that six members of the crew were lost."
U-159 emblem by Eric Stone
Coloradan lifeboat under oars from previous series of photos taken in the late 1930's during peacetime. Note that there are 12 men in this photo and Coloradan's survivors were split 23 in boat 2 (Master Murphy and 22 men) and 26 in boat 1 (Chief Mate Wilson and 25 men) to give you an idea of how cramped it must have been. Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
"As I assumed charge of No. 2 boat, I directed the 3rd officer [McCollom] to go to two of the life rafts and get the water and food from them. Incidentally, all four rafts were floating and as far as I know only one was tripped by the pelican hook. I believe only the one tripped would have floated unless the changes I made under the direction of Captain Murphy were made, whereby each bridle over the top of the rafts were removed and replaced by a sharp hook at each top corner to merely steady the rafts in heavy weather and would tear out when the bottom end started to float.
The 2nd Officer and I compared compass headings and commenced to get underway by sail. The wind was about [unintelligible] and we headed about [unintelligible] for a while and then in the evening the wind became strong with large seas and rain. About dark I gave the order to take down the sail and put out the sea anchor. I could see the other boat with his jib up but I didn’t think it was the safe thing to do.
At about 1:00 a.m. October 10th was the last I saw of the other boat bearing ENE of me. At about 5:30 the same morning I set my jib and proceeded in an ENE direction but seemed to be making very little headway during the day.”
HMS Active (H-14) underway in the Gibraltar Straits in World War II. Crop of original image by Royal Navy official photographer as part of the MOD Foxhill Collection of Ship Photographs of the Imperial War Museum. Note camouflage paint scheme. © IWM FL 107 https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016509
That day, the Master and 22 men in No. 2 boat were picked up by the British destroyer HMS Active (H 14) (LtCdr M.W. Tomkinson, RN), which searched unsuccessfully for the No.1 boat and then landed the survivors in Cape Town on October 14th at 5:00pm local time.
Wilson’s account continues:
“Monday we sailed all day but at night a heavy SW storm came up which I attempted to run before with the jib but gave up when boat seemed unmanageable, rigging the sea anchor again. The boat seemed to ride nicely and although we carried away the sea anchor there was no danger of swamping. I rigged an empty water breaker as a sea anchor and layed to it all the next day and again sailed on a NNE heading Monday morning only to have the breeze fall light that evening. Tuesday I began to recall that on two previous trips on the Coloradan I had experienced bad weather similar to that which we had been encountering Sunday and Monday during our passage between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and whatever happened I didn’t want to be south of Cape Agulhas and go east into the Indian Ocean, so I changed course to North. It was that morning that I found someone had moved the compass under the lift hook and the compass heading was about 180 degrees out.
At about 11:00 a.m. Tuesday a seaplane approached from the SW and passed about 2 miles away apparently not seeing the boat, disappeared to the NNE. We did very little sailing during Tuesday but Wednesday morning at light we sailed ENE as I figured I was far enough north. At about 10:00 a.m. Wednesday morning a similar seaplane passed about three miles away and evidently didn’t see the parachute flares I sent up, but about 15 minutes later an Army bomber came directly to us, then circled us three times and low, going into the sun, the last time flashing a message which both the 2nd officer and myself were unable to read, then the plane speeded his engine and proceeded in a NNE direction, which gave me to believe I should go more to the northerly. At that time I felt we would be picked up either that day or Thursday, but nothing became of that.
Thursday we sailed NNE and Friday did very little sailing, but Saturday a terrific SW storm came up early in the day with mountainous seas which would cause a large steamer to heave. At about 3:30 p.m. I ordered the sail taken in and rigged the empty water breaker again as a sea anchor. Before I had completed rigging the sea anchor and preparing to secure for the night, I saw a steamer about four miles to the west, heading about north. I sent up four flares, one of which was a miss, but no apparent recognition was made until he was about to disappear when we noticed a great flash. It was either a very powerful light or he was shooting at us. Under the sea conditions at that time, it would have been impossible for him to pick us up.
Sunday the storm was passed and it became very warm with a light E’ly air. During the day we saw flies, butterflies, kelp and dry wood, which gave us reason to believe were near land. In the evening, a moderate W’ly breeze came up and the best sailing conditions so far caused me to carry all sail possible and sail east, which put us in sight of the bold beach of W. Africa at daybreak Monday. As it was impossible to land in that vicinity, I followed south along the shore.
At about 8:00 a.m., I hailed a native fishing vessel of fairly good size and he generously gave us bread, water and hot coffee. After finding that it was 28 miles south to a safe landing place, I asked if he would tow us to that place. Willingly he gave us his line and towed us to Thorn Bay. Then at 11:30 a.m. we were taken from the life boat and landed on the beach by one of the dinghies. I mustered the 17 merchant seamen and eight gun crew, told them not to talk of our experiences to the native people who were down to the beach with food and clothing.
There were several men of the South African Army there to meet us, also the Major who was inspecting that division who took me in his car to the headquarters at Lambert’s Bay. Army trucks were dispatched for the men and although I asked if the crew couldn’t be taken care of for one night at Lambert’s Bay, they said the best they could do would be to give them a hot meal there and a chance to shave and take a bath. I proceeded on with the Major to Cape Town, a matter of about 200 miles, arriving at the city at about 2:00 a.m. The crew arrived at about 8:00 a.m. I reported myself and crew by phone to the American Consul from Lambert’s Bay.
There was no suffering in the lifeboat except from exposure. Ample food and water was rationed. In closing I wish to state that I believe no other lifeboat could possibly have stood up to such sea conditions as the one we had.”
In August of 2022 the granddaughter of one of the survivors reached out to confirm her Grandfather (pop pop), Stephen Koletar, was the Junior Third Assistant Engineer on the Coloradan. Based on the dates in the documentation she provided, Stephen would have been in Woodrow Wilson's lifeboat which reached safety on October 19th, 1942, ten days after the sinking. Stephen was 28 and hailed from Shamokin, PA. I hope to learn more about Stephen in the future.
You can zoom in, pan, and click on the icons for more information on the places described in the story in the interactive map below:
Repatriation proved difficult as well due to the number of ships that had recently been lost to the German offensive, and thus the number of survivors needing passage back home.
15 of the survivors were aboard the Dutch motor passenger ship Zaandam, which was sunk by U-174 (Thilo) on November 2nd about 300 miles north of Cape Sao Roque, Brazil. In all 134 died and 165 survived. Six of the casualties were from the Coloradan, including:
Alicea, Puro – Messman, Age unknown from Puerto De Tierra, PR
Barnes, Charles William – Wiper, Age unknown from Denver, CO
Gorlitz, Erhard - Chief Engineer, Age 53 from Baltimore, MD
Mangum, Calvin Howard - Able Seaman, Age unknown from Portland, OR
Payne, Robert Emmett - Radio Operator, Age 39 from Elkridge, MD
Simpson, Frank Albert – Purser, Age unknown from Seattle, WA
Coloradan Chief Engineer Erhard Paul Gorlitz was a German-American who had immigrated to the United States in 1923 aboard the liner President Roosevelt via Bremen, Germany. He was from Petersdorf, Schlesien, or the Silesian region of Germany at the time. Petersdorf would become Piechowice, Poland after the war.
His heavy accent appears to have been a constant source of amusement to the young American junior deck officers like Larz Neilson and Woodrow Wilson. They alternately referred to him as “The Baron” or “Count Von Nutses and Boltses” in correspondence. They respected him as an engineer, however, and so did American-Hawaiian.
Gorlitz quickly worked his way up various assistant engineer ranks until eventually becoming Coloradan’s Chief Engineer in the summer of 1940. Gorlitz left behind a wife, Mildred.
Of the 9 Coloradan survivors from the Zaandam, 4 were picked up five days later by the American tanker SS Gulfstate and landed at Trinidad on November 13th. They were eventually repatriated to New Orleans aboard the SS Yarmouth on November 29th, 1942.
These men were;
Ehret, Elmer C. – 3rd Asst. Engineer, Age 32 from Seattle, WA (Born in Philadelphia, PA)
Grace, Charles – Cook, Age 62 from New York, NY (Born in Cottonwood, CA)
Moore, Henry – Position unknown, Age 73 from New York, NY (Born in Pensacola, FL)
Power, John – 4th Mate, Age 27 from New Rochelle, NY (Born in Ridgefield Park, NJ)
"The Baron", Coloradan's Chief Engineer Erhard Gorlitz circa 1937. Note blue A-H Engineering Officer's hat and civilian 3-piece suit. Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
USAT Yarmouth in Kungnat Bay, Greenland seen from USS Bear (AG29). Photo courtesy of http://www.warcovers.dk/greenland/transport_yarmouth.htm
The remaining 5 were among the 58 Zaandam survivors who reached Barreirinhas, Brazil in a lifeboat on November 11th.
American-Hawaiian’s own Hawaiian (Bernard’s old ship) left Cape Town October 31st with 3 survivors aboard;
Bandelier, Fred J. – 4th Asst. Engineer
Oksanen, Karl – Radio Operator
Wilson, Woodrow – Chief Mate
They arrived in New York December 10th after a stop in Trinidad.
The Robin Doncaster arrived in Philadelphia on December 12th with 48 passengers/survivors, only two of which I have been able to identify to date as a Coloradan survivor;
3rd Mate James McCollom.
Jr. 3rd Assistant Engineer Stephen Koletar.
Of the remaining 27 survivors, some may have also been on the Robin Doncaster, or on other vessels yet to be identified.
Woodrow Wilson was born in Thomaston, ME, September 30, 1912, and named after the former US president, although friends and family just called him Woody.
He lived in Thomaston until September 6, of 1930, when at the age of 18 Woody followed the beckoning of his father's cousin, Ross L. Wilson, Captain of the American-Hawaiian SS Co. SS Kentuckian, and joined that ship's crew as an ordinary seaman. Kentuckian was Bernard’s first assignment upon graduation in the spring of 1931 and the two men served together. He took a photograph of Bernard on the Kentuckian, which his family later shared and I've included that on the Bernard Bio page.
Woody later transferred to the Californian, one of only two diesel-powered motor ships at that time. He studied navigation under the tutelage of that ship's navigation officer, and at that officer's direction, sat for his 3rd Mates License. During that time he continued shipping the East/West Coast route, aboard the Californian.
After spending three months in Philadelphia during a National Seaman's Strike in 1937, he signed on with the SS Coloradan. He continued serving aboard that ship and by 1942, had become the Chief Mate.
Coloradan had left New York on her final voyage on or about May 14th, 1942. While in the port of Philadelphia on May 23, 1942, he married Martha E. Whitehill, his childhood friend and high school sweetheart. After a one-day honeymoon, he returned to sea aboard the Coloradan (ultimately earning his Master's License) and his bride returned to Thomaston by train. It was on the return leg of this voyage that the Coloradan was lost, but luckily Martha’s new husband survived.
After being repatriated on the Hawaiian, Woody returned to his hometown of Thomaston, Maine where about six months later, he received a draft card in the mail. Rather than being drafted, he returned to the Merchant Marine.
He returned to sea as Chief Mate of Kansan in 1943 as his first assignment after the Coloradan sinking, serving under 60 year old Master Orrick M. Rogers. Coincidently, this was another voyage from New York to Bandar Shahpur, Iran, like the last voyage on the Coloradan. Something happened in Iran because 3 crewmen died on June 19th and 3 were hospitalized the following month, but I have not been able to determine why. They stopped at Buenos Aires, Argentina (August 31st) and Port of Spain, Trinidad, BWI before arriving back in New York on October 9th, 1943; the 1st anniversary of Coloradan’s loss.
Woodrow Wilson soon after becoming an officer aboard the Coloradan in Oakland California in 1937. Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
Woodrow Wilson aboard the Coloradan in the late 1930's. Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
His first command was the Colabee (now back in service after it’s close call with U-126) arriving back in New York February 29th, 1944 after stops in Mobile, Alabama and Georgetown, British Guiana.
From there he was Master of the liberty ship Marion McKinley Bovard in 1945 and transported troops from the U.S. to Italy. As the war progressed, he transported troops between Naples and North Africa and also transported German prisoners from Italy to the United States. Ports of call included Casablanca, Morocco September 21st, and Livorno (aka Leghorn), Italy September 29th.
When the war was over, as Captain of the Liberty Ship Samuel Chase, he had the honor of bringing troops home, sailing from Cherbourg, France July 23rd, 1946. He later transported sugar and other supplies back to Germany.
Later in his career he returned to Thomaston and worked for Gulf and Chevron, running a small tanker out of Rockland, delivering oil around the Maine coast.
Larz's son, Larz F. Neilson first met Woody in 1964 when he attended a press convention in Rockport, Maine with his father, Capt. Larz, but then lost touch.
Until Woody’s retirement in 1986, he worked with Maine State Ferry Service, as a Captain of Ferryboats serving coastal Maine islands. He occasionally continued to work part time and in 1992, at age 80, he delivered the new ferry Captain Henry Lee from Rockland to Swan's Island to her new captain, one of his former students.
The Swan's Island Ferry ' M/V Captain Henry Lee'. Photo courtesy of the Maine Department of Transportation.
Woody’s old friend Captain Larz D. Neilson passed away in 2000, and his son starting going through his mountain of photos and documentation trying to organize it. Quite by chance in 2009 Larz was looking though his local Rockland Courier Gazette and found an article on Capt. Wilson celebrating his 96th birthday with his picture. He couldn’t believe his father’s old friend was still alive.
They met several times in the following years, and Larz was able to share his father’s pictures, books, stories and a recording of an interview his father gave to David Boeri in 1991 at WGBH-TV Channel 2 on The Ten O'Clock News. In turn, he was able to learn more about his father’s early career.
And what of that old Willboro sign? Well, it was later moved from his father’s garage to the Town Crier newspaper office where it was nearly lost during a fire in 1988 that destroyed the office. Fortunately the sign survived, albeit a little charred on one end, and was taken to Larz’s son Stu Neilson’s garage, where it sat for another 22 years. Larz was able to present the Willboro sign to Woody as a gift at the beginning of 2011.
Captain Woodrow W. Wilson, 98, died peacefully, Wednesday, May 4, 2011, at The Homestead Nursing Home in Cushing, ME.
Captain Woodrow Wilson in 2011 with the Willboro sign. Photo courtesy of Larz Neilson. © All Rights Reserved.
James C. McCollom
James Cornelius McCollom was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1921 but grew up in Winthrop, Massachusetts. He was a graduate of the Massachusetts Nautical School, a member of the April class of 1941. He was recruited upon graduation by American-Hawaiian Line, Serving as Junior Third Mate on the Columbian under Master Edwin E. Johnson.
Below is a list of sailings I found for him:
As noted above he was serving as Chief Mate on the Liberty Ship William D. Burnham when that vessel was torpedoed off the coast of France in 1944. He has provided more details of that attack as well, which I hope to post at a later date. He was repatriated from that attack on the USAT Brazil.
Jim McCollom now resides with his family in Maryland.
U-159 and Helmut Witte
Kapitänleutnant Helmut Witte after returning from patrol. As he does not have his Knights Cross around his neck, quite possibly after his third patrol when he sank the Coloradan and ten others to earn his award. Photo courtesy of uboat.net
According to Uboat.net, Helmut Friedrich Witte began his naval career in April 1934. Later he served on the light cruiser Köln, on the destroyer Z-22, and on several torpedo boats. He would receive the Spanish Cross on June 6th, 1939 for his part in Germany’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War. By January 12th, 1940 he would receive his Iron Cross, second class.
In July 1940, while Coloradan was on her way to the Pacific, Witte transferred to the U-boat force. After the usual training he became First Watch Officer (IWO, or Executive Officer is US Navy parlance) on the newly commissioned U-107 under Kapitänleutnant Günter Hessler. Before he left the boat in July 1941, he had taken part in the most successful patrol of the war, sinking 86,699 tons in 1941, mostly off the Sierra Leone coast of West Africa. He would receive his Iron Cross, first class for this patrol.
He commissioned U-159 in October 1941 and sailed from Kiel, Germany on April 22nd for what appears to have been an uneventful 12 day maiden voyage North around the U.K. to their new operating base in Lorient, occupied France. There they joined the 10th U-Boat Flottilla as a front boat.
Witte and U-159 left Lorient less than two weeks later on May 14th on their second patrol. They reach the Caribbean by early June and operated off the waters of Panama, sinking 11 ships for a total of 50,505 tons and damaging another at 265 tons in the process. Despite their success, they nearly didn’t make it back.
In the early hours of morning the day they were to return, July 13th they were attacked by a Leigh-Light equipped British Wellington (RAF Squadron 172) in the Bay of Biscay. The three bombs fell close on the port side and caused severe damage, leaving the U-159 unable to dive. Witte managed to reach Lorient after about 12 hours.
Note that this is the same squadron/method that would take out Arkansan’s U-126 less than a year later.
Witte left Lorient August 24th, 1942 and was on his third and longest patrol with U-159 (135 days) when he sank the Coloradan and 10 other ships totaling 63,730 tons. He was 27 years old at the time. The morning after he sank the Coloradan the U-159 attempted another submerged attack on an unknown freighter estimated at 6,000 tons. He fired two G7e torpedoes from the stern tubes V and VI but missed. They surfaced about an hour later to try and catch up to the freighter and get into a firing position again. About 2 ½ hours later as they closed in on their prey they had to crash dive for an approaching aircraft. They were attacked by a Ventura aircraft of the South African Air Force (SAAF) with three depth charges, causing only slight damage. By the time they surfaced three hours later the freighter they were pursuing was long gone. At dawn the following morning they spotted two allied destroyers at 110° approaching them at high speed. Once gain Witte was forced to dive and evade. It would be another day or two before Witte would continue his successful streak. He would be awarded his Knights Cross while on this patrol, on October 22, 1942. They arrived safely back at base on January 5th, 1943.
His fourth and final patrol with U-159 began on March 4th, 1943, and it nearly proved disastrous. By March 19th U-boat Command (BdU) had started to vector a number of U-boats sailing independently, including U-159, and from disbanded groups to the area surrounding the Canary Islands for the full moon period. By the 25th of March the Germans had radio intelligence that Convoy RS 3 would be passing through this area. The U-boat’s would form a Wolfpack named Gruppe Seeräuber (Pirate). This was comprised of U-67 (Müller-Stöckheim), U-105 (Nissen), U-123 (von Schroeter), U-159 (Witte), U-167 (Sturm), U-172 (Emmermann), U-513 (Rüggeberg), U-515 (Henke), and U-524 (von Steinaecker).
U-524 was lost en route. Some sources state the Italian submarine Giuseppe Finzi (Rossetto) was in the area as well, but nothing in BdU’s war diary indicates it was part of this Wolfpack.
They attacked RS 3 Southeast of the Canary Islands which was comprised of 5 slow tugs, a valuable cable-layer ship and three merchants. The convoy was escorted by two corvettes and two armed trawlers. In the morning the corvettes left to reinforce the escort of a northbound convoy. U-159 seized the advantage and succeeded in sinking one of three allied merchants, the 5,319 ton British Motor Merchant Silverbeech.
U-159 (left) returning to Lorient, U-107 (right), 12 July 1942. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101II-MW-4386-01 / Meisinger / CC-BY-SA 3.0 https://www.bundesarchiv.de/
Silverbeech had been carrying 5,053 tons of general cargo, including ammunition and high explosives. Witte had fired four torpedoes at her before diving and the primary and secondary explosions must have been massive. They badly shook up one of their comrades, U-172 (Emmermann), which was also in pursuit and 2,000 meters (1.24 miles) away when Silverbeech blew. Only eight of Silverbeech’s 67 crew survived. During the 3 day attack however, four of the U-boats, including U-159, were seriously damaged in an allied counterstrike by radar equipped aircraft. She was hit by aerial depth charges and was so badly damaged Witte had to withdraw to make repairs. U-172, who sank the Belgian motor merchant Moanda, and U-67 were also hit and had to abort. U-167, who had taken out the British steam merchant Lagosian, was so damaged she eventually had to be scuttled on April 6th.
U-159 was then directed to operate off Dakar, but was badly out of trim and had other damage preventing her from operating near the coast, Witte was then sent to operate around the Cape Verde Islands on the 31st. By April 8th the U-159, still too crippled to operate effectively, was tasked with rendezvousing with U-455 (Scheibe), U-154 (Kusch), and U-518 (Wissmann) to pick up the U-167’s escaped crew and return home, which Witte did by April 25th. U-105 was lost on her return voyage, so out of nine U-Boats that participated in Gruppe Seeräuber, two were lost, one scuttled, and three were damaged to the point of cutting their patrols short. U-67 would be lost on its next patrol, as would U-159 and U-513. Interesting note: it was on U-154’s return from this same patrol in July that they witnessed the loss of Arkansan’s U-126.
As you can see, Witte was lucky enough to leave for a shore staff position in June of 1943, just when things were getting bad for the U-boats, and served from then until the end of the war in several staff positions.
Witte was a top 20 Commander. He sank 23 ships for a total of 119,554 GRT, and damaged 1 for a total of 265 GRT, over the course of only 4 patrols (total of 261 days at sea) from October 4th, 1941 through June 6th, 1943.
There were many examples of him questioning survivors, providing course to land, medical supplies, food, water, cigarettes and even helping to search for missing men in one case.
When the war ended he spent two months in British captivity, then worked for a time as a farm hand and factory worker during the difficult years immediately after the war. Later he built up a successful civil career and in the 1960’s became personnel manager of a large German corporation.
Witte passed away in 2005 at the age of 90. His son, Dr. Lothar Witte, would later write a book of his father’s memoirs named “Ursprünglich wollt ich nur die Welt seh'n” (Translation: “Primarily, I wanted to see the world”), ISBN 9783000206450. Unfortunately, the book is only available in German at this time and there are no known plans to offer it in English.
I inquired on the uboat.net forum in the spring of 2011 about U-159’s interesting emblem, one of the more complex ones I’ve seen. The answer was from Georg Högel’s Book "U-Boat Emblems of World War II 1939-1945", from a copy of a letter, the original written to a young Frenchman:
“lt is correct that our emblem on U-159 was meant to represent the constellation of Aries. I was born under this sign on April 6, and in my life I have always had good luck, and in peace as in war fate has always been good to me. All seamen are a little superstitious—what was more natural for me than to paint this emblem on the tower to bring luck!? We did not wear it on our caps for lack of technical capacity, instead I wore the edelweiss there, which was given to me by General Dietl in Narvik. In addition, we brought an old superstition back to life: we wore small emblems made by ourselves, showing three sharks (caught in the South Atlantic), on our caps—an old custom of the early grain ships from Australia to Britain, that had to be at sea over 100 days straight without coming into a harbor."
U-159 was sunk with the loss of all hands (53) in the Caribbean South of Haiti in position 15.57N, 68.30W, by depth charges from an American Mariner aircraft (VP-32, P-1) on July 28th, 1943. You can read the report and see gun camera images from her final moments here. She was just 47 days out on her first patrol under the command of Witte’s replacement, 30 year old Heinz Beckmann.
Click on the following links for more information on Witte and U-159.
Ancestry.com for crew lists and biographical information.
Bundesarchiv for images of U-159 and U-107.
Cundall, Peter for additional details on Meigen Maru, Itelmen, Illinoian, Willboro & Boringia.
Duffy, Captain George W. for contact information for James McCollom.
Freepressonline.com for information from Obituary on Woodrow Wilson.
Imperial War Museum for image of HMS Active (H-14).
Library of Contemporary History in Stuttgart, Germany for U-159/Coloradan Torpedo Report.
Maine Department of Transportation for photo of ferry M/V Captain Henry Lee.
Mason, Jerry and Charla for U-159 KTB and technical/glossary information from their uboatarchive.net site.
McCollom, James for his recollections of the Coloradan sinking.
Moore, Capt. 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 sinking details on the Coloradan.
Neilson, Larz F. for providing numerous articles and photo’s relating to his father, Captain Larz D. Neilson, Captain Woodrow Wilson and the Willboro/Coloradan.
Newspapers.com for articles on Eastern Admiral/Willboro.
Pacific Marine Review Magazine, 1920, for details on Eastern Admiral.
Roberts, Captain Stephen S. USNR (Retired) on his site shipscribe.com for information on Eastern Admiral from the article by Norman L. McKellar - Steel Shipbuilding under the U. S. Shipping Board, 1917-1921, in ‘The Belgian Shiplover, No. 87 May/June 1962.
Uboat.net for information on Witte, U-159, their victims, and for help on the emblem meaning through their user forum. Also for information on other Group Eisbar U-boats.
http://www.warcovers.dk/ for image of USAT Yarmouth.
The Wilson family for sharing Woodrow Wilson’s report of the sinking and subsequent experience in the lifeboat.
Wikipedia free on-line encyclopedia for summaries on miscellaneous topics related to this story.