The first Washingtonian was launched in 1913, but was lost in a collision with the schooner Elizabeth Palmer off the Delaware coast in 1915.

The ship that would become the Washingtonian of our story 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 954 and completed in December of 1919 as Eastern Mariner (O/N 219684).

Some readers may be surprised that the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

Courtesy of Captain Stephen S, Roberts at www.shipscribe.com

EFC Design No. 1127 Eastern Mariner Specifications

      • D.W.T. (Dead Weight Tons): 10,000

      • Gross Tonnage: 6,659

      • Net Tonnage: 4,205

      • 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: 3,000

      • Diameter of Cylinders & Stroke: N/A

      • Cylinder Stroke: N/A

      • Bale Cargo (Cu. Ft.): 526,354

      • Grain Cargo (Cu. Ft.): 575,884

Fuel Capacity:

  • Permanent Bunkers - Coal (Tons)*: 401.9

  • 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): 1,685

  • Total Bunkers Steaming Radius (NM): 6,120

  • 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 Mariner, 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 Admiral - Built in Yard 955, completed in 1920 as O/N 219989 . The USSB retained possession until 1926, when she was purchased by American Merchant Marine Steamship Corporation (Williams joint liability) and renamed Willboro. In 1928 she was taken over by Williams Steamship Corporation. In 1937, when American-Hawaiian bought the Williams Line she was renamed Coloradan. In October of 1942 she was torpedoed by the German U-boat U-159. See my dedicated page on the Coloradan 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 Mariner. Original Caption: "Made in Japan. Seattle to Antwerp, 1920-1921, November to March via Panama Canal. Passed through the equator. In Belgium on Christmas Day 1920." Howard E. Buswell Collection. ID Number: 677. Courtesy of the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Western Washington University. http://west.wwu.edu/cpnws/images/webimages/bus0677.jpg

Like sistership Eastern Admiral, the USSB retained possession until 1926, when she was purchased by American Merchant Marine Steamship Corporation (Williams Steamship Corporation joint liability). She was renamed Willzipo. 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.

Panoramic view of Osaka Iron Works, with Eastern Sailor (keel on left), Eastern Mariner (nearing completion at center) and Eastern Admiral (right).

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 Mariner 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 the U.S. 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 U.S.S.R. 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.

Willzipo's maiden voyages were summarized in the April 26th, 1927 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle as such:

"Willzipo in Port

On her maiden westbound trip in the service of the Williams Line the steamer Willzipo is in port here from the East Coast under command of Captain Jay Overton.

The Willzipo, formerly the Eastern Mariner, was taken from the Emergency Fleet Corporation's layup grounds at Portland, OR., last November, and was reconditioned and entirely overhauled at Portland. Modern cargo gear was installed, including new winches and booms. Fifteen days after being turned over to her new owners, she went on berth for a full cargo of lumber for the East Coast. After discharging at New York the vessel went on the drydock and was converted from coal to an oil burner.

Captain Overton, master of the steamer, has been a mate in the Williams Line since the company entered the intercoastal trade. It is his first command in the company's service and he said yesterday the Willzipo is the best and finest ship in the company's fleet, which is composed of seven steamers."

I found it interesting her first voyage from the West Coast to the East Coast was in her original configuration as a coal burner, and then she was converted to an oil burner before her return trip. It it also interesting that despite the premium the government bought her for, Williams still had to invest quite a bit in upgrades after she sat idle for six years or so.

The next decade seem pretty uneventful according to newspaper articles, and Willzipo quietly plugged away week after week in the intercoastal trade.

Towards the end of her Williams Line service, in the March 30th, 1936 edition of the Oakland Tribune, they described one of her more challenging voyages:


Willzipo Gets Her Plates Dented; 1936 Will Be Boom Year for Travel

SAN DIEGO, March 30. - (AP) -

Dented plates and scraped paint told their own tale at Pier 1 today as the Williams Line freighter Willzipo came alongside yesterday. Ending a voyage during which she had to smash her way through the heaviest ice in the memory of old-timers along the Chesapeake shores.

Captain Jay Overton of the Willzipo was born and raised around Baltimore - and he said today that neither he nor any of the old-timers to whom he talked , ever had seen anything like it.

"It took us three days to go from Baltimore to Norfolk, and it's only 770 miles," said Captain Overton yesterday. "Ice-breakers kept the dredged channel up to Baltimore open, that is, until the ice shifted and filled up the channel again. When the ice is broken it's all right; but when you can't steer, you just sheer off, or the ship goes wherever the ice happens to split."

The Willzipo left last night for San Francisco, Seattle and way ports."

Jay Overton

Master Mariner John Jay Overton was born in the small coastal community of Swan Quarter, NC on March 2nd, 1887. His parents were farmer John William Overton (1858-1923) and homemaker Britta Ann Jarvis (1860-1922). Jay was the fifth of their eight children.

He enlisted in the U.S. Navy March 11th, 1908 at the age of 21. Not much of his military career is currently known, but he is on the muster roll of the USS Montana (Armored Cruiser No. 13 ) in the 1910 census, and the Minesweeper USS Ortolan (AM-45) in the 1920 census.

He left the Navy after twelve years on November 16th, 1920. He soon joined the Merchant Marine and started with the New York & Puerto Rico Steamship Company as a junior Mate, mainly aboard the Isabela.

Also in 1920 he married Selina Elizabeth McCormack (1887-1976). They had two children; son Jay Edward Overton (1922-1944), who was killed in action on September 10th, 1944 while serving as a Private with the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division (same unit as Audie Murphy), and daughter Jean Overton (1923-2008).

Master Mariner Jay Overton circa 1920

Jay Overton circa 1927

He switched to Williams Steamship Corporation in 1923 and served on the Willsolo as 3rd Mate from April 16th, 1923 to August 23rd, 1923 and 2nd Mate from August 23rd, 1923 to December 28th, 1923. He next served on Willpolo from December 28th, 1923 to June 24th, 1925 as 1st Mate.

When Williams bought the Eastern Mariner and re-christened her as the Willzipo he became her first, and as far as I can tell, her only Master. Robert H. Murphy of Texan and Coloradan fame served as his Chief Mate from April 6th, 1928 to July 14th, 1929.

It it assumed that Overton left Williams shortly after American-Hawaiian took them over. Not much is known about Overton until he re-enlisted in the Navy on July 24th, 1941 at the age of 54. He is believed to have served as a Warrant Officer during the war. He left the Navy on October 15th, 1944, shortly after his son's loss.

Jay eventually retired to Bradenton, FL. His wife passed in 1976, and Jay Overton passed away on February 9th, 1980 at the age of 92.

I was only able to piece together a brief summary of his merchant mariner career below. Hopefully his family will find this one day and be able to fill in some of the missing pieces.

Jay Overton Sailings

As previously noted, American-Hawaiian acquired Willzipo in 1937 when they took over the Williams Line and renamed her Washingtonian.

On September 21st, 1938 Washingtonian was involved in a collision, as described the following day in the Pomona Progress Bulletin newspaper:

"Warship, Freighter Collide in Harbor

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 22 (U.P.) -- A collision off the entrance to San Diego harbor last night sent the American-Hawaiian freighter Washingtonian and the destroyer U.S.S. Henly back to dock today with stove in bows.

The Henley, flagship of the destroyer division 11, lost a motorboat and one anchor by the crash which occurred near the Point Loma entrance to the harbor.

The Washingtonian had several plates stove in. Both returned to dock under their own power and reported no injuries.

It was reported the Washingtonian, outbound for San Pedro, had just cleared the sea buoy, when the Henley, heading into the channel, collided with it.

Lt. Comdr. Rutledge B. Tompkins radioed that no assistance was required. Capt. David W. Hassell of the Washingtonian did likewise.

Authorities said an official inquiry as to the nature of the crash would be held immediately."

Henley's commander, Rutledge Barker Tompkins (USNA 1921-A) appears to have stayed in command until January 14th, 1941. The U.S.S. Henley (DD-391) had just been commissioned the previous year on August 14 1937. She would be torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Submarine RO-108 (Arai) off Finschafen, New Guinea, on October 3rd, 1943, under the command of Cdr. Carlton R. Adams, with the loss of 17 of her crew.

SS Washingtonian November 1st, 1939. Note men painting hull under name and neutrality flag behind barge. Francis Palmer photographer. From the private collection of artist Dave Boone, Copyright (c), All Rights Reserved. www.tugboatpainter.net

By late 1939 Fred C Siebert was Master of the Washingtonian. Colman Raphael was his Chief Mate. They had arrived back in New York on April 7th, 1940, after a voyage that took them to the Hawaiian islands.

Washingtonian, now under the command of Colman Raphael, had arrived in New York from her previous voyage on November 24th, 1941, and was lying at Pier 10 on Staten Island, just two weeks before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

According to her Chief Engineer, Thomas F. Morgan:

"We sailed from New York Jan. 3, 1942, bound for Suez with weapons of war including several medium tanks, 18 fighter and bombing planes, a large number of machineguns and ammunition. Since we had not yet been in the war a month, there had been no time to arm the ship. Urgent necessity for these much-needed supplies didn’t permit the delay which would have been necessary.

The SS Washingtonian of the American-Hawaiian Steamship Co. sailed without arms or convoy and hoped for the best. Of course we maintained strict blackout. That is, we painted all the glass ports in the quarters black and kept them dogged down tight so that no glimmer of light could be seen from outside.

No navigation lights were used, and all radio receivers had been removed from the ship. Our course was erratic instead of the usual great circle courses followed in normal times.

The first port of call for our medium type freighter was Cape Town. Now the shortest route to South Africa from New York is approximately 6,800 nautical miles, but we actually traveled 7,500. We arrived safely after 33 days at an average speed of 9 ½ knots. We stayed only 24 hours at Cape Town to take on fresh vegetables and refill our fuel and fresh water tanks.

Around the Cape of Good Hope we proceeded northward along the African east coast, again steering a zig-zag course, and finally arrived at Aden at the entrance to the Red Sea. There we anchored a few hours while British naval authorities examined our papers and checked the crew.

At Port Sudan we lay two days, discharging our deck load of planes, and then proceeded to Suez to discharge the remainder of our cargo. Due to the heavy congestion of shipping at Suez we were nearly three weeks discharging, but at last we were empty and ready to sail.

It was then decided to load eight captured German and Italian tanks aboard, which we were to bring back to New York for exhibition. There were also some cases of captured 3-inch shell loaded [ES: possibly German Afrika Korps 7.5cm anti-tank rounds]. We then received orders to sail for Ceylon [present day Sri Lanka] —for further orders."

Image carousel photos courtesy of the Mariners' Museum at https://catalogs.marinersmuseum.org/search?query=Washingtonian

The Attack

Unknown to Raphael and Morgan, they were sailing right smack into a significant Japanese offensive in the area. Just a few weeks earlier, around the middle of March, at their Penang, Malaya Headquarters, Japanese Combined Fleet ordered that the western coasts of India and Ceylon be reconnoitered before the commencement of “Operation C" - raids in the Indian Ocean.

The Imperial Japanese Submarine I-4, commanded by 40 year old Hajime Nakagawa (Class 50, 1922) had arrived in Penang on March 8th, and departed on March 28th to reconnoiter the Eight Degree Channel and Colombo areas on her third war patrol.

Nakagawa had taken over command of I-4 less than 5 months before on October 31st, 1941, and was part of the fleet that had attacked Pearl Harbor. He had two successes prior to this, the Norwegian freighter M/S Hoegh Merchant, and the small Dutch merchant steamer SS Ban Ho Guan. Note that the latter's loss is the topic of some debate. According to historian Peter Cundall; "Given her slow speed it seems unlikely the ship was able to make the location the attack allegedly took place. Lloyds War Losses has ship sunk cause unknown (presumed by air attack) off Benkuelen 1 March 1942."

On April 5th Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo's Carrier Striking Force ("Kido Butai") attacked the British naval base on Columbo, Ceylon. They wrecked the base's facilities, destroyed 27 aircraft and sank several ships. A floatplane found British Vice Admiral James Somerville's Eastern Fleet's cruisers HMS Cornwall and HMS Dorsetshire at sea. Nagumo's airmen sank both ships, but were unsuccessful in their search for the rest of Somerville's fleet.

SS Washingtonian by artist Richard C. Moore. All Rights Reserved. www.ship-paintings.com

Chief Engineer Morgan described the attacks as follows:

"On March 24 we started zig-zagging southward toward Ceylon. Everything went well until April 6.

At 3:55 p.m. that day we were steaming through the Maldive islands about 500 miles west and a little south of Ceylon. I was sitting in my room when a terrific explosion shook the ship and knocked me out of my chair onto the deck. Before I could get to my feet a second explosion flattened me."

The I-4 was known to have fired two Type 95 torpedoes (each with a 893 lb. explosive charge) which impacted on the port side of the Washingtonian, abreast of the No. 2 and No. 3 holds. The approximate coordinates of the attack were 7° 15' N, 73° 3' E.

Morgan continued:

"Well, I had never been torpedoed before, but I didn’t need to be told what had happened. My first thought was that the torpedoes had hit the engine room. I ran to the engine room door and was relieved to see all six men who had been below coming up the ladders.

The first assistant, who’d been below when the torpedoes hit, reported that he had tried to stop the engine but couldn’t shut it properly because the throttle had jammed. The engine was still turning over slowly.

I realized at once that with the ship underway there might be some difficulty in launching the boats and thought of going below myself to make further attempts to stop the engine. Then I remembered that all hands were safely on deck and thought better of it. After all, there was the possibility of a third torpedo’s being sent into that compartment, in which case it would be just too bad for me if I were below when it came.

Besides, immediately after the explosions the ship took a heavy list to port, giving rise to fears that she might capsize. So I ran to my room, grabbed my license, citizenship papers, hat and overcoat, put on my life preserver and went to my boat station.

The heavy list made launching of the port boats comparatively easy—and that of the starboard boat correspondingly more difficult. Before I’d reached my station at the starboard boat some of the men had cut the boat falls in panic-stricken anxiety to get it launched.

As a consequence, this boat fell about 25 feet to the water, striking the ship’s side while falling. A big hole was punched in the boat. When we saw that it was of no use to us, we abandoned it and made for the port boat, already in the water. Capt. Raphael had ordered some of the men to throw overboard a couple of the life rafts we’d made of empty oil drums lashed together.

About 10 minutes after the explosion we were all safely in the boat and fortunately, except for minor bruises and scratches, no one was injured. At once we got out the oars and pulled away from the ship. It was not until then that I saw the ship was on fire.

Dense clouds of smoke were coming out of No. 2 hold, and less than 15 minutes later No. 3 was afire.

As we pulled away we looked around anxiously for the submarine, fearing she might surface and open fire on us with machineguns. I’m not ashamed to admit that from the time of the first explosion until about 30 minutes later I feared I was about to die. But after that a strange calm came over me. I realized that if the sub did open fire, there was nothing we could do to protect ourselves. I was no longer afraid to die—afraid only that I might be badly wounded instead of suddenly wiped out.

However, the submarine commander apparently was satisfied with his work and went on his way. At least we never saw him."

Despite their misfortune, they were lucky to run into Nakagawa at this stage of his career as I will detail later. Another survivor, Peter Gorey, described his experience as follows:

"The discipline and courage of our crew was really magnificent. It was my first deep sea trip, and the first time I have been torpedoed. And it happened on my twenty-first birthday.

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. We were moving along serenely in the Indian Ocean. I had signed on as a wiper and was down in the engine room on duty. My brother John was asleep in his bunk.

Suddenly, there was a terrific roar and the ship began to roll.

The bridge sounded the alarm to abandon ship and, in perfect order, the crew trotted to their boat stations.

None of us saw the submarine as it apparently fired on us without rising to the surface.

All of us - 39 crew members, two passengers and two dogs - got safely into the lifeboats and set our course for the Maldive Islands, off the southwest tip of India."

Their ordeal was not quite over yet, however, and Chief Engineer Morgan continued:

"Half an hour after we left the ship we had another scare. We thought we heard the sub shelling the ship. Sure enough, holes began appearing in her side. The ship was being shelled, all right; but it was from the inside. The fire had reached and was exploding the captured ammunition stored in No. 2 hold. We were far enough away to be out of danger, so we stopped rowing to get ourselves organized.

Forty-one of us in one boat were too crowded to move around much. Then we saw the abandoned lifeboat, still floating, so we pulled over to it and transferred a dozen men to the other boat. Although it was badly damaged, the air tanks with which all lifeboats are equipped kept it afloat even though it was half full of water. The men inside were up to their knees in water, but since the sea temperature was about 90 degrees, it was no great hardship.

Meanwhile, fire was spreading rapidly throughout the ship. Already, less than a hour after we’d left her, the whole midship section was ablaze. The propeller was still turning over, pushing the burning vessel through the water at slow speed.

Since there was no one to steer her and the rudder was over slightly to port, she was moving in a big circle. It almost seemed as if the old ship resented being abandoned and was actually trying to follow us. However, by heading in the opposite direction, we managed to get a safe distance away.

At last we were properly organized and asked our captain about our position and our chances of being picked up. He said if we steered due south, we couldn’t possibly miss one of the numerous islands only 25 miles away. So, steering by a small compass, we started rowing.

It was hard work, pulling that boat, particularly since we were towing the waterlogged one. Progress was slow, indeed, probably not more than 1 ½ miles per hour. The men in the trailing boat couldn’t row because the boat was too low in the water for them to use their oars effectively.

As darkness came the stars shone brightly and the Southern Cross was clear as a beacon for us to steer by. The sea was calm as a mill pond. We didn’t have to worry about being swamped. But our boat was heavily laden and leaking a little, so we did have to keep bailing continuously in order to remain afloat.

So we settled down to a night of rowing and bailing. We wanted if possible to reach one of the islands before the sun came up to make things hot and uncomfortable.

It was a beautiful night, with no moon. The Southern Cross encouraged us to keep on rowing, tired as we were, for we knew that under that cross was the island we were seeking."

Image of the survivors rowing away from the burning Washingtonian from her Chief Engineer Thomas F. Morgan's article 'STRANGE LANDFALL' from the February 8th 1948 Sunday Polynesian edition of The Honolulu Advertiser newspaper. Artwork by Jerry Chong, Honolulu Advertiser Illustrator. Courtesy of Newspapers.com.

Morgan continued:

"Often we looked back at the ship, which was on fire from stem to stern. The entire hull appeared to be red hot, but the stack was still standing and the entire ship was outlined in fiery red, for all the world like a picture ship outlined with fireworks at some fair or beach display.

She must have been visible for many miles and likely as not was seen by other ships. But they would keep clear of her, since the old tradition of the sea to go to the aid of a distressed ship is not followed in wartime. Some enemy sub might be waiting to sink the ship that came to offer aid. So we neither expected nor looked for others to come to our assistance.

About midnight, when we were maybe 10 miles from the ship, a terrific burst of flame shot up from midships. Either a boiler or an oil tank had exploded. The flames seemed to shoot a mile high in the air, and as we watched we expected to see her disintegrate and sink. But no! The flame died down again, and the ship continued afloat, burning fiercely. A truly magnificent—but a tragic—sight. We continued rowing, each taking his turn at the oars or bailing, until about 3 a.m., when the captain decided we’d gone far enough south and told us to rest and sleep as well as we could until daylight, when he hoped to be in sight of land. So, except for the bailing which had to be kept up, we rested and dozed."


Google satellite image of Berinmadhoo


Chief Engineer Morgan described making landfall as follows:

"At daylight [April 7th] we looked around eagerly for the “promised land.” There was nothing but sky and water. We rigged up the small sail which was part of the boat’s equipment, but there was no breeze. So we got out the oars again and started pulling. As the sun got higher we began to suffer from heat and thirst, and each of us had a cup of water and a biscuit.

The captain, though he was fairly certain we’d reach an island that day, wisely decided to conserve water and provisions until land was actually in sight. We had a pair of binoculars aboard, and you may be sure that someone was looking through them all the time, trying to pick up land.

At last, about 8 a.m., someone shouted, “Land!” The binoculars were passed from hand to hand, the discovery verified. We celebrated with a veritable orgy of drinking (water) now that the necessity for rationing was over. Then we went back to work on the oars.

We estimated the land to be about 10 miles distant and figured it would be late afternoon before we could make it. We were very tired, and only the thought of the cool shade of the coconut trees, which we could now see plainly, kept us going.

Then, about noon, when we were some two miles from the beach, we saw small sailing craft. We waved and shouted to attract attention, but the natives ignored us. And when we were within a mile of the beach we discovered there were coral reefs close in, over which breakers were piling, and we realized with sinking hearts that we would have to go around the island until we could find an opening."

You can see the reefs surrounding the island, especially on the north and east sides, in the satellite image above.

This was the island of Berinmadhoo, on the eastern side of the northernmost Haa Alif Atoll. It is quite small, only 0.4 mile long by .20 mile wide. Fortunately, it was populated at the time. Morgan continued:

"But about this time a native craft came close to investigate. For a while we couldn’t make them understand. They seemed to be frightened of us, scared that we meant to harm them. Finally someone on the native vessel seemed to get the idea that we were in distress and motioned us to follow.

We yelled our heads off trying to make him understand that we wanted him to tow us in, but without success. We saw him head into a narrow channel and, wearily, we went back to rowing. We found ourselves in a current which tried to carry us past the channel and out to sea but pulled frantically and at last got inside the barrier reef. Soon our boat grounded on a gently-sloping white sand beach.

Eagerly we jumped out, pulled the boat farther on the beach and ran about 100 yards to those coconut trees and threw ourselves under their shade. About 100 men and boys gathered and watched us with wondering eyes, chattering among themselves.

An anchored small fishing boat (vadu doìni). These smaller boats were used to fish around the reef or within the lagoon. They were also used for transport within the same atoll. Courtesy of Maldives-ethnography Part 4 (Fishing & Travel) by Xavier Romero-Frias

After a while a man of about 30 years came along and started giving orders to the natives. They departed but soon returned, some of them carrying water, others canvas sails which they set up on sticks to make an awning for us. We reached eagerly for the water, only to find it quite brackish. But since it was the only water available, we drank it.

Presently the awning was up and coconut mats spread on the sand. We lay down in what seemed luxurious comfort. Then the natives brought coconuts and cut off the tops so that we might drink the liquid. Others made a fire and started cooking rice. When it was ready we ate it and washed it down with tomato juice we’d brought with us in the boats.

Later, we sat around under the awning, smoking (we had also brought a few cartons of cigarettes with us) and doing our best to explain to our hosts, by drawing pictures on the sand, what had happened. It was difficult to make them understand that we were not victims of aerial attack. Planes they seemed to understand, but submarines were definitely beyond their comprehension.

Shortly after we landed on the island we unwittingly gave natives a bad case of jitters. Our chief officer noticed a ship passing about five miles out and, hoping to attract her attention and maybe persuade her to send a boat for us, fired a distress signal into the air.

This signal is fired from a special handgun which looks like an oversized pistol and sends a projectile about 200 feet into the air to explode and release a bright red light kept aloft for several minutes by a small parachute. Well, when the mate fired this signal, the natives fled.

It was half an hour before any of them could be persuaded to return, and then, with gestures, we reassured them that we didn’t mean to destroy them. They made us understand that the women had been particularly frightened, so we promised we wouldn’t fire the gun again.

As far as we were concerned the female population was non-existent, for they were kept away from us. We soon discovered that we were not permitted to wander too far away from the immediate vicinity of our camp. When it was necessary to seek privacy in the woods, a native would always follow at courteous distance but near enough to see that we didn’t wander afield. And when any of us took a notion to stray from camp, a respectful but insistent native motioned us to return.

I awakened at daylight [April 8th] feeling stiff and sore, with several unsightly bumps where mosquitoes had bitten. After I straightened out the kinks I went down to the water and enjoyed a swim in the delightfully warm, clear sea. This, of course, didn’t remove the grime collected on me, but it did freshen me up a little.

Travel to the closest coasts was ever a necessity for Maldivians. The batteli shown in the picture was a medium-sized trading vessel type used mainly in the Northern Atolls. Courtesy of Maldives-ethnography Part 4 (Fishing & Travel) by Xavier Romero-Frias

Our cook them mixed some condensed milk (from the lifeboat supplies) with water and heated it. That and some biscuits constituted breakfast. Later he boiled rice and put the last of the tomato juice in it.

After this meal the head man of the village came along with a bolt of cloth, tore it into two-yard lengths and distributed it among us. He showed us how to fasten it around our waists as sarongs. Then we washed in sea water as well as we could.

About 11 a.m. two small sailing boats were brought close, and after much talking and arm waving we finally understood that they wished to transport us to another island. So we divided ourselves between the two vessels and set sail. We’d wanted to leave the lifeboats behind, but the natives insisted on taking them along, towed behind the sailing craft.

As we left the harbor we saw, for the first time, some of the female population. They came from wherever they’d been hiding down to the water’s edge in force to bid us “bon voyage.” They waved and shouted as long as we were in sight."

Google satellite image of Nolhivaranfaru


Nolhivaranfaru Island is part of the northern Thiladhummathi Atoll and has a long cape extending from its southern end. This stretches it's length to 2.4 miles, but it's width is still only .56 miles, so about twice as large as Berinmadhoo, and with a much larger population and developed village. It is a little over 175 miles north of Malé. Once gain, the Maldivians took excellent care of their guests. "Royally" according to Peter Gorey.

Chief Engineer Morgan described their next stop as follows:

"About 6 we arrived at our destination. We learned from the natives that the first island was Barimba-Du (that’s the way it sounded to me) and the second was Nolywong Garu. At the latter a large group of natives met us and showed their kindly intentions by promptly clearing out a large tin-roofed brick boathouse and covered the floor with coconut matting. They produced a pillow for each of us.

They brought water, not entirely fresh but better than that on the first island, and coconuts opened for us to drink the liquid. Then they cooked us a meal. Yes, you guessed it—curry and rice. After super we sat around and smoked cigarettes, the last of our supply.

When our cigarettes were gone the natives produced a hubble-bubble pipe. This is a contraption consisting of a bottle of water, tightly corked, with two glass tubes through the cork. On the outer end of the longer tube is a little brazier on which is placed a piece of lighted charcoal. The smoker draws the charcoal smoke through the water into his mouth.

The natives got this pipe going and each, after a few draws, passed it on to his neighbor. Some of our men tried it, but I noticed they were satisfied after one or two puffs.

On the 9th [the survivor's first full day on Nolhivaranfaro] the Japanese Striking Force attacked the British naval base at Trincomalee, Ceylon. They wrecked the base's facilities and shot down nine planes. A floatplane spotted the old light carrier HMS Hermes and the Australian destroyer HMAS Vampire at sea, and the Striking Force soon sank both. Nagumo's aircraft also found and sank several smaller ships.

Morgan continued:

We stayed on Nolywong Garu five days, during which we lived entirely on curry and rice, supplemented by fish which might have been quite palatable prepared according to American ideas. But the native method was to cut it into small pieces and put it all, including heads and tails, with the curry. We pushed the parts that didn’t appeal to us aside and ate the remainder.

On the fifth day [April 13th] four medium-sized sailing vessels were assembled in the harbor, and we were told that they would take us to Male, capital island of the group, 150 miles away [ES: actually just over 175 miles].

As we prepared to go aboard we paused to say goodbye to our hosts and shake hands with the young headman. Then the fun commenced.

We had to shake hands with the 100-odd men that had been our constant companions during our stay. Evidently this hand-shaking business was something new to them, and they liked it. They lined up and shook hands with us and then went to the end of the line to wait their turn to shake hands again. This went on for fully an hour before, at last, we broke away and boarded the vessels.

The boats were about 25 feet long and 6 abeam. In the center of each was a small house covered by a corrugated tin roof. There were four vessels and 41 of us, which meant 10 men to a ship with an extra man on one.

Each ship carried eight crew, so there were 18 mean in all—a large number for such a small vessel. In order to give the crew space to work and rig the sails we passengers had to crowd into the house amidships."

Google satellite image of Malé


Chief Engineer Morgan described their stay at the Maldivian capital as follows:

"We sailed all day and arrived at 6, three hours behind the other three boats. As soon as we dropped anchor in Malé harbor a small boat came out and a young native greeted us in perfect English. He even had an Oxford accent!

He introduced himself as “official interpreter and assistant to the deputy prime minister,” conveyed his sympathy on our misfortunes, congratulated us on our escape from injury and was “most happy to welcome us in the name of the Maldivian government to the island of Male.” We shook hands and followed him into his boat and were rowed ashore.

Upstairs in a nearby building we were served tea, bread and fruit. Afterward we were conducted to a washroom where we bathed by drawing water from a well. There were plenty of soap and towels, and the experience was thoroughly refreshing. With safety razors we at last got rid of our whiskers, and clean underwear made us happy and comfortable.

Next we were conducted to a dining room where two long tables were laden with food. It was curry and rice, naturally; but it looked and tasted better than any we’d had so far. And there were also really good white bread, bananas and papayas. We were then given a liberal supply of English cigarettes.

The next surprise was a real bed for each of us, with soft mattress and white sheets. I lost no time getting into mine and fell asleep immediately. I woke at 7 a.m. feeling fully rested.

After breakfast (you guess what it was) the official interpreter, etc., etc., invited us to meet his boss, the deputy prime minister. His Excellency’s English was also perfect. We learned that both the deputy and his assistant had been educated in England, which accounted for their command of the language.

The deputy conveyed the prime minister’s regret that, due to illness, he was unable to meet us in person and listened with interest to Capt. Raphael’s account of our misadventure. He then requested the captain to write a brief account of the affair to be placed in the government archives. [ES: I made three attempts to request the records from the archives with no success, but they may be closed or have limited access during the pandemic] Next he told us he was placing a government vessel at our disposal to take us to the Indian mainland.

In answer to our questions we learned that Maldiva [sic] is a sultanate, with the sultan’s palace and the seat of government located on Malé. There are thousands of islands in the group but only a few hundred of them are inhabited. The largest island is five square miles and Malé itself one square mile, with 5,000 inhabitants.

It is a completely independent nation but under the protection of the Ceylon government. Until the outbreak of war with Japan, it had radio communication with Ceylon. Since no such communication was now permitted, news of our plight couldn’t be transmitted to the American consul at Ceylon.

Before parting, the deputy gave the captain a letter officially welcoming us to the islands and expressing his government’s appreciation of the brave fight the United States was making against the forces of oppression. He refused the captain’s offer of a monetary reward for his government’s expense in caring for us, so we shook hands with His Excellency and left him.

At 1 p.m. we went aboard ship. The anchor was hove up, the sails hoisted, and we were on our way. As had happened on each of the other islands, the entire population turned out to wave goodbye. I’m certain every resident, with the possible exception of the sultan and the indisposed prime minister lined up on the beach, for it was literally black with people.

The vessel on which we were passengers was 75 feet long by 18 abeam and drew 7 ½ feet of water. Her crew of 16 and we 41 passengers made a total of 57 on that small craft.

The native captain kindly turned over to our captain quarters under the poop ordinarily occupied by himself and his officers. This was a very small cubbyhole, only four feet from deck to roof, so that one must either bend over or crawl on hands and knees to enter. There was a floor space of about four square feet.

When squalls came the unfortunate sleeping on deck, wherever they could find space, had to crowd into a small cargo hold, and the hatches were pulled over them. Each time they took to the hold they disturbed about a million of those gigantic cockroaches, which then invaded our cabin and ran all over the place with unbelievable speed.

When the weather was fine and the ship sailing along smoothly, the man at the wheel just over our heads would start chanting some weird song or hymn at the top of his voice. On several occasions I heard some of the less polite members of our crew request him in rather forcible language to “pipe down.” This would have only a temporary effect, however. A few minutes later he would start up again.

The Baghlahs were heavy dhows used mainly by the Borah traders, Ismaili Shia’ merchants from Bombay who settled in Male and had shops along the waterfront. Courtesy of Maldives-ethnography Part 4 (Fishing & Travel) by Xavier Romero-Frias

In the middle of the ship was the galley, which was not exactly modern. An iron plate sat on the deck, and on that stood a set of grate bars where wood was burned. A windbreak of wood lined with metal was built around it.

About 7 a.m. the cook made tea which was served to us with a piece of rather hard but very good tasting roll. Tea and rolls were always the high spot of the day for me, for the tea had that same delicious flavor of which I’ve already spoken. The native captain handed Capt. Raphael several packs of English cigarettes for distribution, and then the ship’s cook started the first meal of the day.

The native captain acted as head waiter and saw that we were well served. While preparation of the food might have been opened to criticism; certainly the service was all that could be desired under the circumstances. After the meal we were again given cigarettes. There were tea and rolls again in mid-afternoon, and dinner at 6 was a repetition of the morning meal.

After we had eaten, the native crew gathered around a large tin of rice, and each drew a good portion of it with his fingers to one side of the bowl and conveyed it to his mouth in the same manner. I suppose to them our idea of using individual plates and spoons seemed pretty silly.

We were six days on the ship. In that time we became very friendly with the crew. The first and second officers were intelligent young men and efficient navigators. Both had sextants, and in our cubbyhole was an English-made chronometer. Our own officers helped them with the navigation, showing them newer and shorter methods of working out the problems.

As far as I could observe, the captain relied entirely on his young officers to keep him advised as to his position. I’m inclined to think the skipper wasn’t very well-versed in navigation, but there was no question about his ability as a seaman. He handled his vessel expertly.

The two young officers spoke a few words of English and were eager to learn more. They were surprisingly quick to pick it up, although occasionally they did mix phrases in an amusing manner.

One morning as I came out on deck the second mate greeted me, “Good night.” When I laughed, he at once realized he’d made a mistake and changed it to, “Good morning.” When he properly understood the greetings and times appropriate to use them, he used them frequently and most of the time correctly.

One afternoon we were sitting on the cabin deck, studying English, when one of our fellows asleep alongside was disturbed by the flies. From time to time he’d brush them off his face; and of course they’d promptly return.

At last he burst out, “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ these blasted flies!” Quick as a flash our young student repeated the phrase with equal fervor. Of course we laughed, so he repeated it several times, evidently thinking it was a very funny thing to say.

Well, it did sound funny, coming from him, but we went to great length to explain that it wasn’t polite language. Nevertheless, he liked it and repeated it frequently during the voyage.

Time dragged until the morning of the sixth day, when we were only about 25 miles from our destination, British Cochin, and were elated that our tiresome trip soon would be over. But about 9 our spirits sank.

The wind left us, and we stopped dead. We threw sticks over the side to see if we were moving at all, but they floated right alongside. We were becalmed. We asked the captain how long the calm might last, but he shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Who knows?” but about 11 the wind started, filled our sails and we got underway again."

This was a substantial journey of some 450 miles to the northeast across the Laccadive Sea where Japanese submarines and aircraft were still operating with relative impunity.

Even the local vessels were not safe, and on April 10th off Colombo I-4 battle-surfaced on a 200-ton Indian dhow in the area and fired 14 rounds from her deck guns, reporting the target as heavily damaged.

Interestingly, the British had a secret base they were building at Addu Atoll, at the extreme southern end of the Maldives, but which was actually closer at 335 miles. There was no mention of this in Morgan's account and the American's may not have been aware of it, but the Maldivians made the decision to bring them to Cochin. At the time. none of the men were ill, and it was probably more efficient to get them to Cochin rather than Addu, then Cochin.

Cochin, India

Cochin Port Trust in 1948. Photo via Wikipedia from oldindianphotos.in, images contributed by Mr. Faizaltk Faizal.

Cochin (present day Kochi) is a port city in southwest India's coastal Kerala state, which at the time was still part of the British Empire.

Chief Engineer Morgan described their time in Cochin as follows:

"Before long we picked up land and soon afterward sighted the buoy at the entrance to Cochin harbor. We entered the channel and sailed slowly through it, past the fort to the inner harbor. We were surprised that we were permitted to sail right into port without being challenged.

At the flagstaff was flying the Maldivian ensign, indicating plainly to observers that we were a foreign vessel. But nobody came out to investigate. Finally, when we were well inside the harbor, about 500 yards from a landing, someone hailed us, “What’s your number?”

“We haven’t a number,” we yelled back. “We’re shipwrecked Americans.” We later learned that all local craft have a number which they’re supposed to display on entering, and we were mistaken for one of the local vessels. The flag at our staff should certainly have indicated that the ship was foreign.

Presently someone spoke through a megaphone, ordering us to drop anchor, and soon a boat came alongside carrying the harbor commandant, a British navy commander. Our captain explained who we were and what had happened.

Then the commander asked if any of our crew needed hospital treatment. About 10 of the mean were suffering from bruises and cuts which, for some reason, wouldn’t heal. So they were put in a boat and taken to a hospital. The rest of us went to the army barracks and were taken in charge by a Capt. Towler.

After he assigned us supplies and sleeping quarters, Capt. Towler invited the skipper and me to go with him to his home, about a mile from the barracks. We rode in rickshaws.

Please remember that we were dressed only in sarongs and underwear and were dirty and unshaven. The captain was a little better-dressed than I was. He had shoes.

When Capt. Towler introduced us to his wife [Kathleen] as “Capt.” Raphael and “Mr.” Morgan, I’m sure that good lady must have found it difficult not to laugh at our appearance. But with true British hospitality, she served us first whiskey-and-soda and then some of her husband’s clothes.

After bathing in real tubs filled with hot water and dressing in our borrowed clothes, we felt civilized once more. Later we sat down to hot roast chicken and fresh vegetables. No curry and rice! --- and you can take my word for it, we didn’t mourn their absence.

It was wonderful to sleep in a real bed once more and look forward to a bacon-and-egg breakfast. In the morning we met the Towler children, Mark, 10, and Maureen, 3.

That day our captain contacted the ship’s agent and got funds for us to buy clothing. The marketplace wasn’t large, and clothing supplies were neither varied nor plentiful, but we were able to buy materials from which native tailors made clothing for us. I bought a fairly decent pair of shoes.

The day after we arrived at Cochin, 20 of our crew were put aboard an American steamer leaving for Bombay. The following day 10 more left on a small Norwegian vessel, leaving only 11 of us in Cochin. All these except the captain and me and we were in the hospital, and when we visited them we found them all suffering from malaria. Some of the cases were quite serious.

A couple of days later Capt. Raphael came down with it, leaving me alone of the whole crew on my feet. It was fortunate indeed that we arrived in Cochin before the fever attacked us.

I escaped with a very mild attack, recovering the day after a doctor at the hospital prescribed Quinine, but it was nearly two weeks before the hospitalized men were fit to travel. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the hospitality of the Towler home.

Captain Leonard Arthur Towler circa 1940's. Photo courtesy of his granddaughter Caroline.

The day after our arrival, the captain and I met the two young officers from the ship which had brought us to port. We tried to show our appreciation by getting them some small gift, but they would not accept nothing.

All they asked was a letter of our appreciation that they could take back with them to prove to their government that we were satisfied with the treatment during the voyage! Some of the so-called civilized nations could learn from these people the true meaning of the words “charity” and “humanity.”

Our friends sailed a day or two later, back to their islands. The captain and I waved goodbye to them from the beach – as their countrymen had done for us when we sailed from their shores."

The Washingtonian survivors had the good fortune of not running into I-4 again or any of the other Japanese forces in the area and after recuperating in Cochin, as noted by Morgan, they were transported 675 miles north to Bombay via ship and train, where they caught their ride home.


Washingtonian's Chief Engineer Thomas F. Morgan described their repatriation as follows:

"When our patients were fully recovered we bade the Towler family goodbye and took the train for Bombay, arriving after 48 hours of uncomfortable travel in a “first class” compartment we had expected to occupy by ourselves but wound up by sharing with six or eight strangers. We found that our men who had preceded us to Bombay had all had malaria, but they had recovered by the time we arrived.

It was three weeks before transportation could be arranged for us. We finally obtained passage on the SS Brazil and after an uneventful passage arrived five weeks later in New York.

Oh, yes. About my overcoat . . .

When we were torpedoed, it was one of the few things I saved. It later proved truly useful. In cool weather it kept me warm, and in warm weather it kept me from getting sunburned. When I slept, it came in handy as a pillow.

I treasured that coat and intended to bring it home with me, get it cleaned and have it good as new. Many times the captain had suggested that I throw it away, but I wouldn’t part with it. All through my travels I carried that coat – sometimes at no little inconvenience.

I had it with me when I got off the train in Bombay and entered a taxi to go to the hotel. At the hotel I gave a porter the job of carrying my luggage to my room. It was all delivered safely – except the overcoat.

I had carried it 2,000 miles, only to lose it on a two-mile journey from the railroad station to the hotel!"

USAT Brazil. Original Caption: ""GHOST SHIP" -- The S.S. Brazil as she appeared on Christmas Day in 1941 after being painted grey in Buenos Aires, Argentina." Courtesy of http://moore-mccormack.com/

The USAT Brazil, operated by Moore McCormack Lines departed Bombay on May 31st under the command of Master Harry N. Sadler. The liner had a crew of 266, and 864 passengers comprised of 3 Filipino musicians, 177 Chinese Army Cadets and officers, and 684 civilians, mostly Missionaries and their families leaving the war zone, but also including the survivors of the Washingtonian.

According to the May 4th issue of Life Magazine, the Chinese cadets may have been part of a larger force of Army cadets;

that started arriving months before Pearl Harbor to train as pilots at Thunderbird Field in Arizona. They had received their ground training under American tutelage at Hangchow (present day Hangzhou). After that flying school was bombed by the Japanese, they marched 1,000 weary miles to Chungking (present day Chongqing) then to Kunming. From there they came to the U.S. and then to Thunderbird Field” which was a private airfield. The article goes on to say “How many more will follow them is a problem of wartime transportation”.

It is important to keep in mind that the American Volunteer Group, also known as ‘The Flying Tigers’ were based in Kunming China at the time providing what little air power the Chinese Nationalists had to counter the Japanese offensive there.

I was fortunate to find the passenger list for this voyage on Ancestry.com, but unfortunately all passengers were efficiently listed together alphabetically and no effort was made to differentiate the Washingtonian survivors. Comparing Washingtonian’s crew list from her previous voyage to that of the Brazil there were only four men that stayed on board, plus four known to have signed on:

  • Colman Raphael – Master

  • Rolland A. Penner – Radio Operator

  • Thomas F. Morgan – Chief Engineer

  • John Francis Gorey - Oiler

  • Peter John Gorey - Wiper

  • George E. Morrison – 2nd Cook

  • Gonzalo N. Dacaney - Unknown, likely Steward's staff

  • Rupert Clarence McFarlane - Unknown, likely Steward's staff

Radio Operator Rolland Penner would later be killed February 26th, 1944, when his vessel, the liberty ship William H. Welch, was driven into the Scottish coast during a winter gale with a high loss of life.

Gonzalo Dacaney and Rupert McFarlane actually worked their way back as crew of the Brazil.

Originally I had ignored the Gorey Brothers as there were so many families list on the Brazil's passenger list. While searching on newspapers.com for articles about the Maldives during this period during my 2021 update I stumbled upon an article in the Wilmington Delaware News Journal from November 2nd, 1942 titled 'Three Brothers Are Torpedoed Same Week on Two U.S. Ships'. They were from Jackson Heights, Long Island.

The third brother was William Joseph Gorey. He was described as being on an American Merchant vessel that was torpedoed in the Mid-Atlantic, then spotted by an aircraft and picked up by a US Destroyer and taken to a Caribbean port. There were two vessels that matched this description, both attacked by the same U-boat, the U-154 commanded by Korvettenkapitän Walther Kölle, these were:

Both were Hog Islanders converted into molasses tankers. The only part of the story that deviated is the newspaper article stated William spent 23 days in a lifeboat. The Catahoula survivors spent 23 hours and the Como Rico survivors spent 3 days. Both crews were picked up by the U.S. destroyer USS Sturtevant (DD-240) and taken to San Juan Puerto Rico.

In the newspaper article Peter was asked if the trio expected to return to sea soon again and he replied:

"You bet we do. Bill, John, and myself are anxious to do our part in helping Uncle Sam win the war - and sailing his merchant ships is our job, We're sticking to our job."

True to his word, all three Gorey brothers soon returned to sea, served throughout the war, and fortunately survived. John passed in 1987, Bill in 2001 and Peter in 2013.

Coincidently, three of the crew that had left Washingtonian before her last voyage ended up on the Arkansan when she was hit (but survived as well):

  • Robert F. Mundell – A.B.

  • Joseph F. Heuser – A.B. (Bosun on Arkansan)

  • George Tisdale – O.S.

Some of the pages of the Brazil passenger list were very faded and difficult to read, but eliminating the families left 62 individual men between the ages of 20 and 61 that were probable and possible Washingtonian survivors:

Washingtonian Probable Crew

Hopefully one day I will be able to positively identify all of Washingtonian’s crew. The men in the probable table above were either listed as “Repatriated seamen from US Consulate in Bombay” or I was able to find Merchant Seaman work histories on them and so they are most likely from the Washingtonian. Moore noted Washingtonian had a crew of 39 (unclear if the Master was included in that number) and 2 passengers, so with only 8 positively identified and 22 probable there is still some work to do.

Washingtonian Possible Crew

As I was going through the crew list trying to separate out the single men from the civilian families that could possibly have been Washingtonian’s crew, one name jumped out at me: Gregory Boyington from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. At the time Boyington was on his way back to the states after a stint with the Flying Tigers to re-join the Marines. He would later be known as “Pappy” Boyington, of the famous “Black Sheep” squadron (VMF-214), Medal of Honor recipient and one of the best flight leaders and aces of the Pacific theater during WWII.

Dave Warren, who was 18 at the time of the voyage, and a recent graduate of Kodaikanal School (see section below), recalls that Boyington actually lectured to them. That must have been an interesting dynamic, Boyington, known for being quite rough around the edges, lecturing civilians about flying and fighting. One can imagine one or two colorful words sneaking out during the process. Dave thought there may have been other Flying Tigers aboard and I attempted to cross reference their known members with my list of potential Washingtonian survivors, but it doesn't appear so. Boyington had quit the American Volunteer Group (aka Flying Tigers), which triggered a dishonorable discharge and he had to make his own way home by himself.

USAT Brazil arrived in Cape Town, South Africa where they picked up 47 additional passengers and departed on June 21st.

The next stop was Bermuda, where they picked up 252 construction workers and then departed July 10th.

Brazil and the Washingtonian survivors finally arrived in New York on July 13th, 1942.

Colman Raphael

Colman Raphael was a Jewish-American born east of Sacramento in the small gold mining community of Amador City, California in 1897.

His father, Joseph Raphael, worked for a Colman family when he was 28. The Colman's had a clothing and merchandise business with offices in San Francisco and New York. Colman Raphael was probably the son of one of his employer’s daughters, hence his rather unique name. His first name is often incorrectly spelled Coleman, but his Merchant Mariner records and signed crew lists definitively confirm it was spelled Colman.

His mother appears to have had little to do with him after his birth and he was raised by his grandfather, Nathan Raphael, who had emigrated from Prussia to California during the gold rush, and by his Aunt Catherine (father's side) and her husband, Joseph Hermann in San Francisco.

In 1903 when Colman was 6 years old, his father, a promising artist and painter, left home to tour Europe. His trip included France, Italy, and Holland where he married, and he then settled in Uccle, Belgium and raised a family. Joseph Raphael remained in Europe through the First World War, although he returned home for a visit from about 1909 to 1910. He achieved great success as an American artist in the French impressionist genre.

Colman Raphael circa 1921

Master Mariner Colman Raphael circa 1937

Colman Raphael was 21 when he registered for the WWI draft on August 24, 1918. At the time he was working for Gantner & Mattern Co., a swim and sportswear manufacturer. It is not known if he served during the war, but it’s unlikely he was inducted in time.

Colman started out as an Able Bodied Seaman soon thereafter in the 1920’s , and worked his way up through the ranks from there. The photo above/right was from his August 1921 Application for Seaman´s Protection Certificates. It notes he was serving on the West Ira at that time.

His grandfather Nathan passed away in 1923.

The picture to the left is from his 1937 application when all Merchant Mariners seem to have been documented.

His father Joseph Raphael fled Belgium at the beginning of the Holocaust, departing on the Dutch liner Veendam out of Rotterdam on February 25, 1939, and arriving in New York on March 9th. The Nazi's invaded May, 1940, nearly obliterating Rotterdam in the process.

I was able to find a substantial record of Colman Raphael’s sailings, which you can see below:

The "Golden" ships, operated by Oceanic and Oriental Navigation Company, were a joint venture between Matson Navigation Company and the A-H between 1928 and 1938.

As noted previously, when he first joined the Washingtonian as Chief Mate he served under Master Fred C. Seibert.

Colman Raphael was 45 years old when the attack on the Washingtonian occurred. He had to replace his Certificates, which were lost during the sinking and the picture to the right was taken in July of 1942 when he returned to the states. It's not a very good image, but he appears tanned to me and his eyes extra puffy from the exposure to the tropical sun during their ordeal.

Despite his re-certification, the records above would seem to suggest he didn’t return to sea for the remainder of the war, but there is no guarantee that these records are complete. Another possibility is that he served with the Navy or Coast Guard during this period. One thing is clear, Raphael stayed with American-Hawaiian after the war until their decline.

The vessels S.M. Babcock and Amarillo Victory were also American-Hawaiian operated, although these were added to the fleet after the Japanese surrender, and so not listed on my 'American-Hawaiian in WWII' page.

The Panaman is not the original from the start of the war, but a later type VC2-S-AP3 "Victory" replacement delivered in January of 1951. The original Panaman was sold in 1947 and renamed Marcella.

Colman Raphael in July of 1942 shortly after returning home from Washingtonian sinking.

Colman Raphael circa 1948

In 1948 he had to replace his lost papers once more, at which point his picture was taken again (see left). His famous father Joseph passed away in San Francisco in 1950. Sadly, there was no mention of Colman in his obituary.

Colman later left American-Hawaiian in the late '50's when things started going downhill, and went to work for Pacific Far East Lines until his retirement.

What I originally found somewhat puzzling is that despite his experience, Raphael served most of his time at his new company as a Junior 3rd Mate. He apparently never commanded another vessel again, and never rose above the position of 2nd Mate, and only briefly that. Pacific Far East was only formed at the end of World War II, so seniority should not have been a factor. I later learned there was a glut of experienced mariners after the war and the fleets were rapidly down-sized.

Nonetheless, his career as a Merchant Mariner spanned an impressive 40 years. It is not clear whether Colman ever truly knew who his parents were. He often noted his ethnicity as either English or in one case Italian on his crew lists. He did live with his Aunt and Uncle for a time in the late ‘30’s and early ‘50’s. The family went to great lengths to keep the secret, apparently even falsifying the names of his parents on his death certificate.

Colman Raphael passed away from a chronic heart condition at the Public Health Service Marine Hospital in San Francisco on January 28th, 1972 at the age of 74. He is buried at Cyprus Lawn Memorial Park South of the city. He left behind a wife, Grace (Ebling) Raphael, but no children.

Thomas F. Morgan

Thomas Francis Morgan was born in Liverpool, England on October 6th, 1882.

In March of 1906 he emigrated from Barry, Wales to New Orleans, LA aboard the SS Appomattox.

He married Carmine Adolphine Eunice Hutton (1889 - unknown) on November 25th, 1908 and they had one son, John Emile Morgan (1910-1993).

Thomas served as Chief Engineer aboard the SS Sioux in World War I.

He served on American as her Chief Engineer in the 1930's until he switched to the Washingtonian. After he returned he served as the Hawaiian's Chief Engineer into the later 1940's when he wrote the article about his experience on the Washingtonian in 1948.

He was described in various documents as being 5'-10" tall with brown hair and blue eyes.

Thomas F. Morgan passed away on March 27th, 1971 in Burlingame, CA at the age of 88.

I hope to expand his bio once more information becomes available.

Thomas F. Morgan circa 1918 from his U.S., Applications for Seaman's Protection Certificate

I-4 and Hajime Nakagawa

Hajime Nakagawa was born in Shizuoka Prefecture on January 26th, 1902.

Nakagawa and I-4 would go on to take part in Operation "AL"- The Invasion of the Western Aleutians in June of 1942.

Nakagawa left I-4 on August 15th to take command of the new I-177. Lieutenant Commander Michio Kawasaki took over command of the I-4. They would go on to damage the USS Alhena (AK-26) in September.

Lieutenant Commander Toshitake Ueno took over command of I-4 on November 16th, 1942. I-4 made two supply runs to Guadalcanal during November-December. At 0620 on December 21st, 1942 Ueno and the I-4 were spotted on the surface at the southern entrance of St. George's Channel, New Ireland by Lieutenant Commander William E. Ferrall's USS Seadragon (SS-194). At 0637, Ferrall fired three Mark 10 torpedoes at a range of 850 yards, one of which hit the I-4 in the stern in position 05-02S, 152-33E. I-4 was presumed lost with all 90 hands off Rabaul.

Nakagawa eventually departed Truk on April 10th, 1943 in command of I-177 on her first war patrol which involved patrolling off the eastern coast of Australia with I-178 and I-180. On April 26th I-177 sank the British MV Limerick 20 miles SE of Cape Byron, near Brisbane.

Second World War poster featuring the sinking of the Australian hospital ship Centaur in May 1943. http://www.awm.gov.au/database/collection.asp

On May 14th, Nakagawa committed one of the more infamous atrocities of the Pacific campaign when he deliberately torpedoed the clearly marked and lit Australian hospital ship Centaur with 333 persons on board.

On August 30th, 1943 Nakagawa was relieved of Command, but later became CO of the large I-37, which carried an E14Y1 "Glen" floatplane and they patroled the Indian Ocean. Nakagawa went on to sink several more ships in the area including the SS British Chivalry, MV Sutlej and SS Ascot.

In all three cases the majority of the crews survived the initial attack, but then were subsequently machine gunned in their lifeboats, resulting in considerable loss of life. On May 10th, 1944 Nakagawa is relieved of Command of I-37 and appears to have stayed ashore the remainder of the war and survived.

In January 1947, Commander Nakagawa pleaded guilty for his machine gunning of survivors in 1944 before the International Military Tribunal in Tokyo, but was never tried for torpedoing the Centaur. He was sentenced to 8 years of hard labor. Nakagawa actually served six years and was released on probation after the end of the Allied Occupation.

Nakagawa passed away on the 27th of May, 1986 at the age of 84.

I-4 vs. I-5 Claims

Most well known and respected sources, including Arthur R. Moore's 'A careless word......A NEEDLESS SINKING', Robert M. Browning's 'U.S. Merchant Vessel War Casualties of World war II' and Jürgen Rohwer's 'Axis Submarine Successes 1939-1945' credit Washingtonian's loss to the Imperial Japanese Submarine I-5 under the command of Utsugi Shujiro (or Hidejiro Utsuki depending on source). Browning, in fact credits Rohwer. Just about everyone that has come along since has relayed this same information.

When you look at what are called the Tabular Record of Movement (TROMs) for I-4 and I-5, however, they paint a different picture and indicate I-4 was responsible. The TROMs are recreated in english on the combinedfleet.com website created by historians Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp, which is also a highly respected source.

It is easy to see where the confusion would be, as both submarines (as well as I-2, I-3, I-6 & I-7), all the Penang SubRon2 boats with the exception of I-1, were patrolling in the region at the same time. At the beginning of March the Japanese Headquarters, Combined Fleet, ordered the western coasts of India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to be reconnoitered before the commencement of Operation C, the carrier strike force that would attack this area at the beginning of April.

Here is what the TROM's show for activity in April of 1942 for these 6 submarines:

I-2 (LtCdr. Hiroshi Inada) - Blue in Map below

22 March 1942: At 1000 departs Penang to reconnoiter Trincomalee, Ceylon.

31 March 1942: Arrives in the area.

3 April 1942: Off Trincomalee. I-2 acts as a weather report ship. Transmits her first reconnaissance and weather report from that area.

4 April 1942: At 0631 (local), I-2 sends a radio message that says: "Reached a point ten miles off the Bay of Trincomalee at 1100 hours (0800 local), 2 April, but failed to gain entrance into the bay because of hostile patrol boats. No enemy vessels except patrol boats sighted in the vicinity of the mouth of the bay. Have been on lookout in the area since 31 March, but no hostile aircraft have yet been sighted before or after sunset nor during the night (cruised submerged during the day)."

7 April 1942: LtCdr Inada reports the sinking of an unidentified merchant in position 00-48N, 82-18E. [ES Note: Vessel is never identified or confirmed.]

9 April 1942: Operation "C": Early in the morning I-2 transmits a weather report to Nagumo's task force.

10 April 1942: Departs her patrol area for Singapore. Reassigned to the Advanced Force.

15 April 1942: Arrives at Singapore.

I-3 (LtCdr Kinzo Tonozuka) - Purple in Map below

28 March 1942: Departs Penang on her third war patrol in the Indian Ocean.

2 April 1942: Arrives off Colombo, Ceylon and transmits weather reports to Vice Admiral Nagumo’s carriers. The Sixth Fleet receives a message sent by I-3 at 2200 (JST) that reads: "Since a large number of enemy vessels is maintaining vigilance outside Colombo Harbor, we have not yet had an opportunity to reconnoitre inside of the harbour. Other than a lone merchant ship sighted steaming westward 70 nautical miles from Colombo, 220 azimuth from the harbour at 0725 (JST) hours (0425 local) of the 2d, no ships were sighted leaving or entering the harbour. As for aircraft, a land plane was seen 195 miles and 135 azimuth of Colombo at 1600 hours (1300 local) of the 31st. However, since we are remaining submerged during the day, we do not know the subsequent situation regarding enemy an patrols." Sometime later, I-3 departs the area prior to the attack on Columbo.

7 April 1942: 150 miles SWW of Colombo. Early in the morning Tonozuka sights five Allied merchants fleeing eastward and next one merchant and an oiler on westbound course. After a fruitless chase he battle-surfaces on the 4,872-ton British armed steam merchant ELMDALE en route from Karachi to Colombo (06-52N, 78-50E). After 0240 I-3 fires a total of 39 5.5-in shells and four torpedoes, scoring 14 shell hits, but fails to finish off her target. [1]

8 April 1942: 300 miles W of Colombo. After 0150 I-3 battle-surfaces on the British armed merchant FULTALA independently on the voyage from Calcutta to Karachi with 8,000 tons of coal. After receiving one Type 89 torpedo hit the 5,051-ton merchant sinks in position 06-52N, 76-54E. Her entire crew is rescued.

9 April 1942: I-3 returns to the area SW of Colombo.

15 April 1942: Arrives at Singapore in company of I-7.

I-4 - as detailed above on this site. Red in Map below

I-5 (LtCdr Shujiro Utsugi or Hidejiro Utsuki depending on source) - Gold in Map below

25 March 1942: Departs Staring Bay to patrol off Cape Comorin on her third war patrol.

16 April 1942: Arrives at Singapore.

I-6 (LtCdr Michimune Inaba) - Dark Green in Map below

26 March 1942: Departs Penang to patrol in the Indian Ocean N of Maldive Islands and and W of Bombay on her third war patrol.

31 March 1942: Indian Ocean, off Eight Degree Channel. At 1635, LtCdr Inaba sights an enemy vessel and commences an approach. Just before firing his torpedoes, the target is identified as a hospital ship and the attack called off. I-6's target was most likely HMHS VITA en route from Addu. (Later, VITA picks up the survivors of carrier HMS HERMES).

2 April 1942: Arabian Sea, 300 miles SW of Bombay. In the afternoon, I-6's lookouts spot 5,897-ton British steamer CLAN ROSS sailing independently from Liverpool to Cochin with 3,655 tons of general cargo and 1,027 tons of explosives. The submarine closes at high speed and submerges in a favorable position. LtCdr Inaba fires two torpedoes from 1,640 yards, scoring one hit port amidships. At 1414, CLAN ROSS goes down by the stern at 15-58N, 68-24E. 11 sailors are lost, 3 injured. I-6 surfaces again to question the survivors. Her medical officer provides them with water and biscuits and gives them the bearing to Bombay. Before departure, the off-duty crew lines up on the afterdeck and salutes the survivors, wishing them a "Bon Voyage!" in broken French. The survivors from CLAN ROSS are later rescued by Norwegian armed motor merchant L.A. CHRISTENSEN and a native Indian vessel.

7 April 1942: Arabian Sea, 170 miles NW of Bombay. Around 1600, when I-6 prepares to shift to a different position, her lookouts sight 5,424-ton British merchant BAHADUR, independently on a voyage from Bombay to Basra with 5,100 tons of government stores, including ammunition. LtCdr Inaba dives and fires a spread of torpedos, but their wakes are spotted by the merchant, which evades with a sharp turn to starboard, then opens the range at flank speed. I-6 fires two torpedoes from aft tubes, but misses again. The submarine surfaces and commences a tail chase. At 6,570 yards I-6 opens fire with her 5-inch deck gun, but it jams after the first shot. When the submarine submerges, ready to abandon the hunt, BAHADUR suddenly stops to lower her boats. I-6 closes in and fires two more torpedoes from port beam. At 1920, BAHADUR goes down by the stern at 19-44N, 68-28E. Her crew is later rescued by US ship VOLUNTEER.

10 April 1942: Arabian Sea, 300 miles SW of Bombay. After 0815, I-6 battle-surfaces on two 150-tons dhows and shells them, reporting both as sunk. On that same day, I-6 is reassigned to the Advance Unit.

17 April 1942: Arrives at Seletar, Singapore.

I-7 (Cdr Kiichi Koizumi) - Light Green in Map below

28 March 1942: At 1600 (local), I-7 departs Penang on her third war patrol, carrying an E9W1 floatplane. She is tasked with conducting aerial reconnaissance of Colombo and Trincomalee two days prior to air attacks.

1 April 1942: 180 miles SE of Ceylon. At 0517 (local), the surfaced I-7 is attacked by an RAF PBY "Catalina" which near-misses her with two bombs. Four hours later I-7 encounters several small patrol vessels in the same area. Cdr Koizumi decides to cancel a reconnaissance flight scheduled for the 3 April because the launch area appears to be compromised. I-7 later acts as a weather ship.

3 April 1942: Indian Ocean, 300 miles E of Maldive Islands. At 0340, I-7 attacks the 9,415-ton British motor vessel GLENSHIEL, independently en route from Bombay to Fremantle with 1,000 tons of general cargo and 12 passengers. Cdr Koizumi fires two Type 89 torpedoes; one hits GLENSHIEL's port side and the motor vessel settles by the stern. Master Ramsay Brown orders to transmit a distress signal and abandon ship. Immediately after the boats have cleared the ship, Koizumi fires two more torpedoes and gets another hit. I-7 surfaces and shells the listing vessel with her deck gun. After 20 hits, the blazing GLENSHIEL sinks by the stern at 00-48S, 78-33E. The entire crew is soon rescued by destroyer HMS FORTUNE and landed at Colombo.

10 April 1942: Reassigned to Advance Force.

15 April 1942: I-7 and I-3 arrive at Singapore.

In summary, I went with the detailed TROM records from combinedfleet.com as they appear to be the most comprehensive, and there are too many cross-checks as far as commanders and patrols to confuse one submarine for another. Per the TROM's, I-5 was ordered to patrol off the south tip of India and I-4 was ordered to reconnoiter the Eight Degree Channel and Colombo areas, south and west of I-5's position.

For that reason, I believe it was I-4 under the command of Hajime Nakagawa that sank the Washingtonian. The beauty of this site is that should more information come to light in the future I will update this page accordingly.


Editor’s Note: In October of 2012 I was contacted by a gentlemen named Don Wilder, who had come across my website while searching for information on the USAT Brazil. Don’s big brother Charles (aka Charlie, or Chas to Gale) was one of the civilians on board the Brazil. He was just 16 years old, and one of several classmates who had just completed their high school education at Kodaikanal School, a K-12 Christian boarding school in Kodaikanal, South India, and were on their way to college in the United States. (That school is now Kodaikanal International School--see www.kis.in.).

Two photos of the recent Kodaikanal graduates in Bombay awaiting passage on the USAT Brazil in May of 1942. In the photo on the left (courtesy on Don Wilder), from L to R is Dave Warren, Mary Martin, Charles Wilder, Kenneth "Gale" Potee and Russell Jones. In the photo to the right (courtesy of Eleanor Nichols), from L to R is Russell Jones, Dave Warren, Charles Wilder, Mary Martin and Kenneth "Gale" Potee. All Rights Reserved.

Don put me in touch with other Kodaikanal alumni who helped me eliminate some of the names from the Washingtonian’s crew list. I sent those alumni copies of the Brazil passenger list that I found on Ancestry.com, and they identified names of alumni, parents, and staff associated with Kodaikanal School.

I admit it was a little overwhelming at first. Don then sent me a transcription of his brother Charles' diary from the voyage, along with that of Charles’ best friend and classmate Kenneth “Gale” Potee. This information painted a whole new picture of the Brazil voyage. I had thought the worst was over for the Washingtonian’s crew once they boarded the Brazil, and while I knew it wasn’t a pleasure cruise, I had no idea the ordeal they and the other passengers had gone through. Measles swept through the ship on the first leg from Bombay to Cape Town, and whooping cough hit between Cape Town and Bermuda (more on that later).

At some point it was suggested that I should include this information on the Washingtonian page. At over 20 pages I feared the story of the civilians aboard the Brazil might overshadow that of the Washingtonian survivors (8 pages). Their stories were comprehensive and I thought their own site or perhaps even book would be more appropriate. The Washingtonian page was my first “detailed” page after I had added the American-Hawaiian in WWII page to what I thought at one time would be my little tribute to Bernard and the Arkansan. Of course as you can see the site has snowballed a bit since then.

Finally, I came to my senses and decided to add the information here. It seemed fitting that they should at least have their own section.

First, a little background on why all these civilians were aboard the Brazil for this voyage. In general some were fleeing the war zone, and for others it was simply time to leave. Some aboard were missionaries, such as Charity Carman that had fled Burma ahead of the Japanese advance. Others were students (from Kodaikanal and other schools) that were ready to continue their education in the United States.

A large number of western civilians (estimated at 130,000 but probably higher) had either been captured or trapped behind the lines when the Japanese swept down through what was then known as the Dutch East Indies. They were generally not as abused as military POW’s, but they still suffered appalling losses, equal to that of the military prisoners, or about 33%. This was mainly due to inadequate access to food and medical care which resulted in malnutrition and disease in confined areas.

As mentioned above, the Japanese carrier strike force that steamed into the Indian Ocean in early April and bombed several cities in Ceylon sent the region into a panic. The Japanese seemed unstoppable. British naval and air forces were overwhelmed and, despite many examples of heroic efforts to delay the advance, were criticized for eventually pulling back to live and fight another day.

According to Gale Potee;

"A strong rumor came up the ghat [valley or pass] that the entire Japanese Navy had been sighted off of the Andaman Islands, heading for Madras. It was everyone’s belief that Japan intended to attack South India, cutting the country off from the North, on a line from Madras to the West Coast. Kodai School was clearly below that Red Line. As the situation developed, Papa Phelps [Carl W. Phelps (1894-1984), Principal of the School] gathered a small group of the older boys from Boys’ Block for a special mission: They were to find an escape route for the entire school if the Japanese marched up the ghat road in an outright attack. There were already seen small Japanese surveillance planes flying over the school, so that seemed quite possible."

The Kodaikanal School was less than 150 miles from the northern tip of Ceylon. Air raid procedures were actually written up for the school, and Don Wilder sent me an example:

Women and children were evacuated to the north. Don and Charles Wilder, their siblings John and Dave, and mother had spent the last three weeks in Ahmednagar, just east of Bombay. All four boys had in fact been born in south India. Their parents, Dr. Edward Wheeler Wilder (1892-1965) and Harriet Minerva Wilder née Wyman (1889-1977), had come to India separately in 1921, where they met, married and started a family.

Then news of a passenger liner that would be departing India for New York was spread amongst the western ex-pats. On May 19th, Forbes Forbes Campbell & Co. Ltd., local agents of American President Lines, sent letters to those families that had expressed interest in booking passage to inform them of the conditions they could expect on board the ship. The identity of the ship was kept secret at the time, but we now know they were describing the conversion of the SS Brazil into the troop transport the USAT Brazil:

"Dear Sir, Madam,

With reference to your application for accommodation on the passenger vessel leaving India shortly, we have to advise that the sailing will be from Bombay. You will be advised as soon as possible the date on which you should arrive in Bombay.

It has now been possible to obtain information regarding the accommodation and we must make it quite clear to you that she has been fitted out entirely as a troopship and there are now none of the comforts normally found on a passenger vessel.

Cabins and Public rooms have been completely stripped of all furniture including chairs, fittings, cupboards, carpets etc. and all have been filled to absolute capacity with steel troop bunks. The number of bunks in cabins varies between 6 and 28 and it will be appreciated therefore that married couples cannot be berthed together in cabins. The most baggage that could be taken into the cabins would be one small suit case per person. The bunks consist of oblong steel frames across which canvas is stretched and there are no mattresses. Passengers will be required to provide their own bedding and towels.

Bathing facilities will be severely restricted and in all probability only salt water will be available.

There are very few stewards aboard and therefore no room service can be provided. Dining Room service will be the absolute minimum and any men passengers that may be carried will probably have to obtain their food in "cafeteria" fashion. While every effort will be made to make the menus as attractive as possible, the wide variety of items normally found on passenger vessel menus cannot be provided as all supplies will have to be obtained in India. The Dining Saloon can provide seating accommodation for only 417 passengers and passengers in excess of this number will have to take their meals in the auxiliary dining saloon standing at benches about 4½ feet high. In allotting seats in the regular dining saloon preference will be given to those who are physically incapable of standing in the auxiliary saloon.

Very little deck and recreation space is available at present but efforts are being made to improve this situation before the vessel sails. Passengers who have small deck chairs or small folding chairs of their own are recommended to take them with them. No dogs can be carried on the vessel.

Passengers who are not absolutely physically fit and able bodied will only be carried if the ship's surgeon approves. For the present only American citizens can be booked but it is not yet definite exactly how many passengers can be carried. We hope to advise you on this point in a day or two.

In view of the nature of the accommodation, the fares may be revised and you will [be] advised immediately if there is any change. There are on board a small number of cabins in their original condition and equipped with two beds. Bookings for these cabins must for the present be restricted to passengers whose physical condition does not permit their traveling in the troop accommodation."

Civilians from across India would have likely made the trek to Bombay, for they assumed at the time that this would be the last ship out before the Japanese invasion. As mentioned earlier, women and children had already been evacuated to the north, closer to Bombay. Probably a good thing as the trip from Kodaikanal to Bombay was over 1,100 miles.

It must have been pandemonium on the docks before they could all board. Hundreds of men, women and children, each with their “small” suitcase, and perhaps a mattress and deck chair. People were being examined to make sure they were not sick. In some cases men were sending their spouses and children off to what they hoped would be safety, although the vessel would be under the constant threat of attack by Japanese submarines, German surface raiders and U-boats. Those staying behind faced an uncertain future even though the immediate threat of a Japanese invasion had passed by this point.

Below is a partial list of passengers compiled by my Kodaikanal contacts which shows those associated with Kodai School who traveled on the USAT Brazil. This list includes Kodai School students, their parents and siblings, and staff. The graduation years shown as "KS 'xx" indicate the class the various students were in, but some of those students actually graduated from other schools. Not listed are missionary families that did not have those connections with Kodai School. Some of their children attended another school called Woodstock.

The list starts with five new graduates from Kodai School:

Ruth Seamands would later write a book about her missionary work including the evacuation on the Brazil called ‘Missionary Mama: The Lighter Side of the Labors of Those Who Serve the Lord in Strange, Exotic Vineyards’ (2011 - Literary Licensing, LLC, ISBN 1258133504, 9781258133504).

Charles Wilder’s diary picks it up from the time he reached their cabin and the Brazil departed Bombay:

Charles Wilder’s Diary

"5/31: Sunday

Small cabin with 12 berths consisting of narrow iron frames with canvas stretched across. I used my own mattress. Very, very hot and stuffy.

6/1: Monday

Gun practice. "Half anti-aircraft" gun at bow fired. Then the machine guns shot at the resulting puff of smoke using tracer bullets. "They seemed to be pretty good shots."

We slept on deck last night but it will be prohibited after this.

Since the ship set sail it has been a little cooler below decks but it is still pretty bad. Our cabin is a terrific mess. There is no room to do anything. No chairs. Can't sit on bunks because you hit your head or neck on the one above. Each row has four tiers of bunks, the lowest 6" from the floor and you can't sit on the top one because of the roof. Our bunks are the farthest from the port hole which makes it worse still.

6/2: Tuesday

Pretty seasick. Didn't bring a deck chair on board like most of the passengers and spent most of my time sitting on the stairs on deck. They say this is just the "edge of the monsoon".

6/5: Friday

Crossed the equator. Those who hadn't been across it before had to be made fools of during the initiation presided over by King Neptune. [Editor’s Note: This was the Navy tradition called the “Crossing the Line” ceremony.]

Because of the blackouts at about 4:30 cabins are absolutely pitch black and if we keep our port hole open we are not allowed to open the door for fear of letting in some of the very dim blue light from the corridors. On deck you can see absolutely no light.

6/6: Saturday

Occasionally we see a ship in the distance and it sometimes signals us with lights. Today a freighter passed quite close to port carrying airplanes on its deck and more presumably military vehicles and supplies below decks. Watched them cleaning the 4 inch guns aft. Some say we are in the Strait of Mozambique. Saw a whale spout several times.

Were told that fresh water would be rationed unless we cut down on our consumption.

6/7: Sunday

A convoy of 4 ships passed.

6/8: Monday

Some fool disobeyed the orders about flashlights or cigarettes and all the port holes were closed last night and will continue to be for some time. The glass is painted black and admits no light. It's very stuffy and you can't tell when it's morning until the sailor comes to open the port holes.

We saw the lights of a mercy ship carrying a lighted red cross and said to be carrying prisoners who had been exchanged.

6/9: Tuesday

The clocks were retarded an hour again last night. It is said that a British cruiser approached us this morning but I was still asleep. Also a ship which we had passed sent us an S.O.S. just before it was sunk by a raider. Of course we could not turn back.

Boat drill at 3:30.

6/10: Wednesday

Slept on deck because of the stuffiness but woke up before midnight and had to go to the cabin for a blanket. Was aroused early in the morning by water spurting from the hose of the deck cleaners. Mattress and dressing gown drenched with salt water and blanket slightly wet.

During chota [breakfast] saw a British airplane which came very close and signaled to us.

6/11: Thursday

Woke up amid terrible creaking and groaning as the ship braved mountainous waves.

Land was seen this morning.

Excerpts from "Notice to passengers -"

Garbage and debris will be disposed of at set hours.

No cigarettes, matches, papers or other articles are to be thrown overboard during daylight hours.

Cameras are not permitted to be used at sea or in any port.

Radios are not allowed aboard, in the event of any person having a radio, it is to be turned in to the Chief Officer.

Any person who willfully disobeys these rules will receive disciplinary action and be held for investigation.

6/12: Friday

After going to bed last night with two blankets I expected to be quite comfortable but the wind blew right through them. Went down to the lounge to sleep the rest of the night. It is getting terribly cold and windy and the sun is never seen. Have no warm clothes so I have to stay inside most of the time.

This is the worst storm we've had. It's too cold to sleep on deck tonight and even the cabin is cold now but it is still as stuffy as ever.

6/13: Saturday

Let out a line with hook and bait for the auks which flew behind us looking for garbage dumped from the ship. No luck.

Haven't begun to study my shorthand or trig.

6/14: Sunday

Arrived in Cape Town this morning. Expected to see some war ships but we've only seen one so far. The town and Table Top Mountain are very impressive. Cape Town has thousands of lights but the harbor is blacked out so our portholes were sealed as usual, much to our disgust.

Wonderful American turkey supper with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, peas, ice cream.

6/15: Monday

Saw three baby sharks in a pail caught by three of the young Chinese men who are coming to America to learn to fly. Have to stay below most of the time. I'll buy a sweater if they ever let us go ashore. [It's the middle of winter in Cape Town.]

Went to the bar just before bedtime. Said I didn't want anything but Gale ordered vanilla soda and I didn't know it till I got it. It was the first time I spent any money on the trip.

"Emergency Drills:

Air Raid Drills, one short, one long ring continued for one minute. Passengers to assist closing deadlights on all port holes so as to reduce danger of flying glass. If it is necessary to abandon ship persons assigned boats are to go to their boat station, persons to rafts, to go to the rafts. Persons assigned rafts are to put over the disembarkation nets for the purpose of getting off of the vessel. After the nets are over, cut away large rafts made fast to the vessel's decks."

6/16: Tuesday

Rotten scrambled eggs. Still cannot go ashore. Drizzling all the time.

Saw several seals and also some grebes and ducks. The machine used to pull up anchor [windlass] is broken and they say that this has caused some of the delay in getting ashore.

6/17: Wednesday

Went ashore at about 2 p.m. Must be back tomorrow at 12 p.m. Saw tanks, trucks, guns and tents.

Wanted sweater but terrifically expensive. Went up and down escalators and boy were we thrilled.

No tram to Table Mountain on account of the weather. Beautiful trees, grass.

6/19: Friday

Woke up late thinking we would be sailing but found that shore leave was again extended to noon. Back to ship but found that leave was again extended to 8 a.m. tomorrow.

6/20: Saturday

Not allowed to go ashore because the gang plank had broken in the bad weather yesterday; in fact when we got on board last night we had to do so on a thin board only about one and a half feet wide.

The diver is working on the screws.

[Editor’s note: Details of their experience in Cape Town will be filled in later by Gale Potee.]

6/21: Sunday

Can't go on deck because of the severe cold and wind. Stormy. Happy to get to bed safely with my dinner still inside me.

6/22: Monday

A notice has been placed on the bulletin board to the effect that fresh water is to be rationed by closing all fresh water faucets except from 7 to 9 in the morning and from 4 to 6 in the evening.

6/25: Thursday

My first laundry day on board ship. We tied our clothes on the ends of a rope and let them dangle in the water behind the ship for half an hour. Then we rinsed them out in fresh water and they were clean.

Another gun practice. First the big 4 inch gun at the very back of the ship fired three shots at an empty tin barrel about a minute after it was thrown overboard. Two of them were very close. Then the 3 inch guns in front shot into the air and the anti-aircraft guns on top aimed at the puffs of smoke they made.

6/29: Monday

Clocks were retarded again last night.

6/30: Tuesday

Crossed the equator again and had to endure another initiation advancing from "pollywog" to "shellback".

7/1: Wednesday

After dinner we went to the library to study but it was blacked out. It's worse than ever now. No lights in cabins and flash lights are confiscated. All ready, etc., must be done during the day. Every day the gunners shoot at flying birds, boxes, balloons, etc., with a rifle.

7/2: Thursday

The anti-aircraft guns have been firing all day and the gunners have been shooting with their rifle again.

7/3: Friday

Anti-aircraft guns and rifle have been firing all day. Got pretty mad at Gale for using my sandals which are useless now because they have stretched so much while wet (Gale's fault).

There has been a raider or some very queer ship behind us. Only riding lights but switches on all lights when it saw us. We beat it.

7/4: Saturday

Independence Day -- various forms of entertainment. The pretty Filipino girls sang and danced. Very good July 4 supper with a "swanky" menu (described in some detail) which was "really a treat" and "each man, woman and child was given a hat, a whistle, and a rattle".

7/5: Sunday

We do not sing "God Save the King" any more at the daily sings on account of the soldiers' aversion to the "Limies". They join wholeheartedly in our own patriotic songs.

Another boat drill.

7/6: Monday

All day we have been seeing floating seaweed and partly submerged ocean turtles.

Tomorrow we will go to New York time (clocks retarded again).

7/7: Tuesday

Late last night a ship stopped us and we were getting signaled to us and a plane flew around us six or seven times. We were getting ready to shoot at it when a plane, seeing the situation, dropped a flare and we saw that it was an allied ship. The whole horizon seemed lighted up by our searchlight or signaling light.

When I got up this morning for breakfast (Gale and the rest were not yet up) a plane was circling around us and very close to us.

7/8: Wednesday

I was rudely awakened at about 5:30 by a very excited Dave [Warren]: “Bermuda, Bermuda! Ships, planes, everything!” he yelled, waking all the occupants of the cabin.

Evidently the ship and plane yesterday ordered us to come to Bermuda because we had already received orders to report for landing cards for New York today. This, of course, was canceled. Bulletin board gives us sun-up and sundown times in Bermuda for a week so we can expect to wait quite awhile. Rumor that we are waiting for a convoy.

Hastily pulling on a shirt, trousers and sandals, I ran out and, sure enough, there was the beautiful green island with light house, some radio towers, a few houses and a factory. No dock in sight and we cannot see the city. Seaplanes hovered low and very close, even running along beside us and just barely clearing us as they passed over. A tug came up and we lowered a rope ladder for two officials who came from it in a tiny rowed boat to come aboard. I went down and dressed and when I came back on deck we had begun to move again and were approaching the other side of the island. We were following a very queer looking aircraft carrier and saw a swiftly moving and very small looking U.S.A. camouflaged destroyer and a small submarine. To our great dismay and anger we stopped very close to the island and tied up to a buoy (anchor not in working order). Then Gale, Harry [McClelland], Whacker and I stood in the doorway from which the rope ladder was suspended and watched the lifeboat which was inspecting the anchor. We were drifting nearer and nearer and soon the cable broke and the buoy was pulled underneath the ship. It took much manipulating to re-secure ourselves.

It’s very disconcerting to be so near and yet have to stay on board ship. Spent much of our time on deck playing bridge or Rook and often glancing longingly at the inviting shore.

7/9: Thursday

Watched the tugs, launches and boats of all kind loading on new passengers from Bermuda. Almost all of them work at the Air Base there and are rough, loud, with big swearing vocabularies. Dave says that they are typical Americans but though some of them talked very nicely with us, I sure hope they are not. They are running out on their jobs breaking their contracts.

Mary Martin has been very excited and impatient. Edwin, her brother, is vice consul here and yet he probably never knew that his sister was so near. Yesterday she managed to get a note to him through the shore officers and today he came out in a launch to see her. Dave sent a telegram through him but of course he can’t mention Bermuda.

7/10: Friday

The big flying boat which met us coming in zoomed low near us again.

Won the finals at shuffleboard and received a prize of a pair of garters.

Today the shore searchlights were practicing keeping a plane in their beams. All of the beams combing through the sky makes quite a spectacle.

7/11: Saturday

Woke up this morning and looked out the port hole to see the ocean speeding past. At last we were leaving Bermuda. We had just started and were going very slowly by the same complicated route by which we had come in [mines?]. Two Vaught-Sikorski OS.2v-1 observation planes followed us showing off by seeing how closely they could miss us. Also quite a new Destroyer 442 Ericson class 37-9 whose top speed is 36 knots.

Soon the two observation planes with a final zoom left us and a large plane, P.B.M.-1 (Patrol Bomber Martin Type) came. It circles around and around us all the time and the destroyer which escorts us is running along beside us and cutting across our path every once in awhile. We are both zigzagging a lot. At about seven the plane went back to Bermuda after flying very close to bid us good-by and another one just like it came for night duty from America.

7/12: Sunday

Packed my suitcase and put it with by bedroll outside as instructed. I was just getting ready to go on deck when we heard dull thudding sounds. Arrived on deck just in time to see the last depth charge released by the destroyer just ahead. Many people were utterly terrified and the bells which called the gun crews to their positions were mistaken by many to be the signal for us to go to our boats with our life belts. The halls and stairs were absolutely impossible because of the crowd.

Once near evening the destroyer left us but presently it came back again.

Many people have been so frightened that they are sleeping in their clothes.

7/13: Monday

Neither plane nor destroyer with us any more.

The first lighthouse of New York was seen at about 2 o’clock this morning and Gale woke me up to see it. There has been a dense fog over the harbor all night and we did not see the skyscrapers till we were right up close when they loomed up sudden and majestic. On the way to our pier we saw many of the new type of freighter loaded with tanks, airplanes, trucks, and other military vehicles, all of them streamlined, new looking and heavily armed. One with 9 guns on her. The Statue of Liberty seemed more imposing than ever, standing haughtily above us through the mist.


As mentioned above, Charles’ best friend, Gale Potee, filled in some of the details of their experience in Cape Town in a letter he wrote to his parents and younger sister (hence "Three Fifths" or three out of the five family members, Gale being the fourth, and his older sister the fifth, perhaps away at college):

Gale Potee's Letter to His Family

"Dearest Faraway Three Fifths: Mid-Atlantic, July 1, 1942.

To tell all that has happened since I wrote you last I’ll quote parts from my diary.

Cape Town – Wed. June 17th:

It is fortunate I started this when I did because things really began popping today. The morning began as usual – a late arising, 9:15 breakfast, and ennui from the start. We were still out in the harbor, which was a disappointment after the anticipation of an early morning advance to the docks. This morning was worse than usual. A steady drizzle swept the deserted deck and rolling grey swells swept past. Towards noon Charles and I went for a bath and then it happened. The anchor chain had been cut because it was impossible to weigh it with a damaged winch. Our engines turned over and with the aid of two tugs we steamed past the grey neighboring ships, through the break water, and along a dock. By the time lunch was over the ......[The name of the ship was redacted for security purposes.] was tied up secure to a Cape Town pier and the gang plank was down. At 2 p.m. we four, Chas, Dave, Harry and I were bundled up for the worst weather, our pockets filled with American money and traveller’s cheques, passports, passes, and handkerchiefs. We were ready for anything, and sincerely expecting and hoping for considerable fun after 18 days of ocean. We stepped off the ship and on to Africa among the first, striding past the crowded bus stop, turned left around a long ware house and paced forward to the city. This mile of ship yards, R. R. lines and canteen sites was our route to town and we walked it many times in the next few days.

We reached the toll gate well ahead of most of the ships throng, showed our passes and walked on. There was a large camouflaged factory and smoke stack to our left and when we reached a Nash car dealer’s we turned right up the hill to the center of town. We were looking for the American Express but a passer-by pointed out Thomas Cook’s two blocks down the street, so we made for that. A brisk walk and lucky instructions saw us there when there was only a short line; five minutes later it stretched half way down the block. I had four dollars and a $10 cheque on me. Each was changed into British money which was fascinating, but we found that one has little appreciation of foreign money and its value, and I fear the theory was well proven by four prodigal lads in the next three days.

Cape Town is very American and a very modern city. The sidewalks are jammed with throngs of white people, many in uniform, including women, and about as many Negroes and Africans. The streets are filled with cars and buses, are broad and well lined. Transportation consists largely of double story, stream lined glassed-in electric buses which are as modern and efficient as any. Skyscrapers (15-20 storeys) line the streets and the elaborate window displays in the plate glass windows of the shops do ample justice to the complete and cosmopolitan array of goods. The movie theatres (we should know) compare to those of the best in a large U.S.A. city in both size and beauty. Refreshments attracted our particular attention throughout and the range and variety compensated for the high costs. We were to find that the modern beauty of the buildings extended beyond the office buildings, civic centers and churches, and amply included swanky homes, private hotels and symmetrically curving soft colored apartments in the respectable residential districts.

Three blocks from Cook’s we entered the largest building downtown, the post office. An immense room was lined on four sides with windows carrying on the various business of postal communications. The high arched walls were decorated with giant frescoes of industry, travel and shipping. I bought the airmail postage for my letter to you; Dave sent a cable to his Dad in Jamshedpur and another to his mother in Landour.

It cost only 3 shillings and he was given the assurance of its arrival the next day. Dave was marveling over this speed the rest of the day. Chas and Harry each mailed letters and then we were again beating the sidewalks. Next we went in to a modern hair dressing saloon. Chas. and I were racked by momentary compunction for mercenary reasons but soon we had joined our pals in the classiest hair cut I have had since Indianapolis, or perhaps since Los Angeles. The white bibbed sleek barbers were well trained in casual talk and soon had each of us talking about ourselves. Our straight cuts cost 1/6d but Dave got a Shampoo and Eau de Cologne spray which set him back five shillings. It was now about four and we turned into Woolworth’s for a milk shake – banana split snack. A big department store escalator two streets down proved innocent fun. Walking further we passed the Majestic, a 2nd rate theatre where we spent 2½ hours watching a double featured wild westerner – “Along the Rio Grande”, and the “Lone Rider Fights Back”. Both were very kutcha [Hindi for crude—uncooked, etc.] and mediocre, especially the latter, but were typical cow boy thrillers and we loved them.

We were next billed for “Cottage to Let” and a stage show at the Alhambra so we went in and bought our tickets well ahead of the 5 p.m. starting. This was one of the classiest theatres in town. We were always taken for merchantmen which would give us 1/3 seats anywhere in the house at any big show place in town but we never lied or intimated that we held this rank and thus nearly always paid the regular prices.

We ate (drank) chocolate milk shakes next door to the Alhambra after a little encounter with some drunk gunners from our ship. At 8:15 we were in the Alhambra again. The interior decorations showed a star sprinkled sky and the silhouette of an Elizabethan market place. More news reels and shorts.

The stage performance was very good---comic script, singing and piano pantomimes. “Cottage to Let” was British and a mixture of sabotage and love, with a humorous touch. It was out by 12 and we were in bed by 12:30 back on the ship. Dave didn’t sleep a wink that night which was strange because I went to sleep in a minute.

Cape Town-Thurs. June 18:

Our shore leave was to expire at noon so we didn’t wait for breakfast but were off by 7:45.

We roamed the streets in search of food for an hour and finally picked up some chewing gum and candy and crossed the street to an early bird Cafe. Here we all got hot plates of vegetables, meat pie, scones, butter and hot chocolate. The nearby information bureau told us there was no tram up Table Mountain because of the weather, but suggested the Park and Museum. We went back to the Post Office where I wrote cards to Birch and Elinor.

Chas. bought a whole series of South African stamps up to one shilling. Dave and Harry mailed more cards and letters. Next we headed toward the Museum. The Park was beautiful. After many days of ocean the walks, green grass, verdant trees of all descriptions were very pleasing indeed. The little grey squirrels and doves stole the show though. Then a bird cage and greenhouse, and lastly the museum itself. It was 10 o’clock and we had decided to head shipward by ten so could give the museum only a cursory glance. A huge gorilla, a far huger Kodiak bear, (largest species in the world) and albatrosses as well as effigies of South African tribesmen and large deer are most outstanding in my memory. It was smaller than many museums I have seen. Dave had a hard time dragging us away because we were again retarded by the very loveable squirrels. Downtown we met a man who said the leave had been extended. To make sure we returned to the ship, but not before our banana splits, milk shakes and cokes at the escalator place.

The man was right; we had until eight the next morning. We tarried on ship till two p.m., had the first real meal for many hours, a hot bath, Harry, Chas. and I, and a change of clothes.

It had been raining hard and we were soaked. It was more chewing gum and candy and Tarzan’s Secret Treasure at 3 p.m. at the Royal. The same old news reels!

It was now six o’clock--plenty of time before the Coliseum performance so we went up town. Before we knew it we were in another show “When Thief Meets Thief”, with Doug Fairbanks, Jr. and a lot of news reels and slap stick comedy with three stooges. This picture was crumby too, but the “Eat as you Watch” policy was fun. We all had Chocolate Milk Shakes.

Lastly at the swanky Coliseum- “Adam Had Four Sons” with Warner Baxter. We paid 1/10 for seats way up front but they insisted we were merchantmen and the Usheress came back a second time to ask us about it. The picture was very good--the best we saw the whole time and we went to the ship past our chewing gum candy store with a pleasant taste in our mouths. The usual drunks were on the streets and back on board. We were in earlier this evening, by 11:30. What a life!

Cape Town--Friday June 19:

We woke up late this morning, thinking it was all over--to find shore leave extended until noon. At nine we started out again. Sam Richard (Burma) had been sick but joined us this morning. We were forced to change money at Cooks and so my fourth dollar and later a dollar from my $10.00 T. cheque went into shillings and pence and subsequently into thin air. A detour to an uptown milk bar for banana splits and then to the park again with rolls of bread for the squirrels. Sam and I had an interesting discussion of the trees around. The little grey folk were as bold as ever but they scorned our food, seemingly demanding peanuts.

A farewell ride on the Escalator, a showing of passes, a mile of puddles, a turn to the right and we were on board again--only to find leave extended to Saturday. This was becoming rather a habit, and a pleasant one at that! At lunch on board the girls asked us to join them in a show. We met them at the Purser’s office at 1:30 p.m. Our tickets were arranged through Sam and Russ. We four boys rushed up the street to get Dave’s Corona [typewriter] fixed and when we returned we found the whole group had been given seats for 1/3, anywhere in the house. I liked the picture a great deal (Smilin’ Through, with Jeanette McDonald and Brian Aherne.) After the show we went back for Dave’s typewriter. A cheerful middle aged woman on two crutches and one leg took us up in the elevator and left a remarkable impression on my mind. We took an electric bus in front of the Hotel Waldorf to Sea Point, the premeditated place for our evening’s escapades. This evening was the peak of our fun. Sea Point is the swank residential and resort section, a seaside resort with the modernity of any civilization. We located the Adelphi Theatre where we were to see “The Shadow of the ThinMan”, Wm. Powell and Myrna Loy. It was about 7:20. We went into a drug store for sandwiches and then turned our foot steps toward the pounding surf, down a curved boulevard and across the green lawn to the concrete wall that defied the angry seas. Yet the waves tonight broke over the bulwark and the sweeping, drenching salt spray glistened in the glazed street lights. We walked on through this soft mist to “The Smallest Railroad in the World” for the "Biggest Cause in the World”, six inch tracks carrying a train around a several hundred year oval. It was complete with junction, overhead bridge tunnel, crossings, wayside advertisements and all. Dimensions were one inch to one foot and it was run by the Governor’s Ward Fund, a shilling a ride. The beauty of the layout of all we passed as we went on amazed us. Finally a left turn brought us back to the theatre street again. We passed a place advertising ice cream cones and went in. The show was good but the news reel was terrifically stale. A Sea Point bus took us to the end of the line, turned on a circular rampart and brought us nearly home. The conductor overlooked our purchasing tickets and told us to skip it when we informed him of our faux pas.

Thus ended one of the fastest three day periods I’ve ever spent in my life. We saw eight movies at seven theatres, walked six miles daily, ate ice cream in all forms, candy, chewing gum, fruit in great extravagance. The weather was miserable but we employed a vehicle only once. We returned home to find that no passengers could go ashore because of a dangerous gang plank. We had drifted and snapped a cable the day before, and a tug was pushing us against the dock all day and that night. So the rest of the kids, when they got on that night for dinner, found they couldn’t get off again.

Cape Town-June 20-Saturday:

This is the aftermath, lying in dock and unable to leave--watching many new passengers crowd on – new individuals with new and strange pasts, presents and futures. The cafeteria lines are especially crowded. There is no one new in our cabin. I don’t see how there could be.

Sunday – I opened the Port hole to let in the wintry blast at 8 this morning. Already a tug was chugging and men shouting orders. There followed for us the usual half hearted wash-up and putting on of yesterday’s clothes. By breakfast time we were out of the jettied area and steaming by low lying weather scarred freighters and auxiliary cruisers. Even now the swells were long and powerful, holding our ship in low rolls. The cafeteria line was rather short. As the mountains and cliffs of Africa backed away and nestled Cape Town, particularly Sea Point, receded slowly, as we rounded the last jutting land of Africa and ploughed northwestward directly into the Atlantic the choppy weather increased.......

June 22nd. Filled out Baggage declarations this morning.

Tuesday. It is very calm today. It was cloudy all day but this evening the half moon is slowly taking away from the lately set sun the role of light bearer. Its light is milky and clean. The ocean moon fights no dust and gives this lonely, grey, fast moving ship its full radiant power. The weather is gradually warming as we near the equator. Clocks are set back another hour tonight. The war news, Tobruk, Sebastapol, Aleutian Islands are all very discouraging. Even on ship board there is some depression. [Here one short sentence was cut out, the only deletion in his letter-E.P.] More Rook today with the 4 gang.

June 24—

I’ve started studying today – Gregg Shorthand and Latin. Life boat drill this afternoon. An enthusiastic and inspiring singsong this evening with a seven piece orchestra on open promenade deck under the moon and stars. Mr. Hare gave a beautiful cornet solo. Played Rook with the gang in the Library afterwards.

25th Chas. and I washed clothes off the back of the ship. At the same time the four inch gun in the rear practiced at a green barrel target thrown off the back. Singsong this evening commemorating Madame Chiang’s birthday--the Chinese cadets gave some group singing and later parts from Chinese Operas, accompanied by stringed instruments.

27th- Mabel Hamilton and I won at Shuffle Board. Dave and Harry with their partners each won, too. In the evening we went to a rather floppish dance of the young people on the forward deck below the bridge head. Things were rather sluggish until the moon loomed over the bridge head and we improvised a couple of Paul Jones’.

28th—Church on the forward Promenade deck with Rev. Hansen as speaker. The sermon on the Strength of Love was fine. Dr. Kennedy spoke in C.E. on the strength of Christ (Physical). One of the best speakers I have heard and he was even more significant in the Junior Church. I led the service.

Chas. and I decided to stay up all night, as rather being more rational, as long as we could. After an officer’s talk on Astronomy we went up to the library. By eleven the room was deserted and the small print of his book forced Chas. to take to Solitaire. The larger print of my book soon became blurred. At midnight Chas suggested that we get a breath of fresh air on deck. A steady drizzle spoiled my plans of a nocturnal swim.

He went down to bed but I couldn’t get myself to follow, so turned to the Library and read my book, “Crock of Gold” to the end. At three a.m. I closed the book and stumbled down to bed.

Another Neptune which all we kids went through.

July 1st. New blackout regulations. No lights at all in the cabin now. Library closed at night.

July 2nd. Studied shorthand and find it is coming with increasing ease.

July 4th – We speculated at some length this morning as to who would be winning what events at the High Clerc Field meet this morning. Our ocean 4th probably did not compare to one in the U.S. or even at Kodai but it was certainly one of the big days between Cape Town and N.Y. After a morning swim Dave and I played a tournament match of deck tennis and were defeated. After lunch all attended the Crew’s program. It was a brave effort but so crowded and confused that it was a disappointment compared to their evening practices. The big event of the day was the evening meal. Sunday 5th [censored] Latitude of Bermuda. Dr. Dewey’s sermon, “Christian Experience of suffering Together for Him” was most impressive. I washed and began to get things straightened up for New York, repacked trunks. My baby pictures proved the object of great curiosity.

When Jean Dewey got cold feet I read, at the last minute, the Scripture for C.F.

Tuesday-July 7---We will probably get in Thursday or Friday. We are out of the Gulf Stream and there is no more seaweed on the surface. Since this morning the ship has been patrolled by a Catalina Flying boat. The sea has been abnormally blue today--almost ethereal. The sun is bright and warm and many people in bright colored bathing garbs contrast with the grey of the decks. Dr. Kennedy gave us Kodai and Woodstock kids the first of several talks on college life, social relationships, and sex.

July 8-- Touched at Bermuda. Great Surprise! Not able to go ashore. Considerable unmentionable excitement. Dr. Kennedy continued talks. We had a dangerous trip from B. to N.Y. but made it and were very glad to see the Statue, etc. I squeezed through a strict, confused bedlam of customs and censors without any confiscation or duty. Couldn’t believe I was in New York and the U.S.A and still can’t.

July 14th – Prince George Hotel--

Ship arrived yesterday but it was hours before Immigration, Navy Intelligence, customs, etc. were over. It was so near night fall that I came to this place and shared a room with Chas for a day. Dave is at Tenafly, N.J. and has a lot of shipping to do before he goes to Mass. Harry is in the city with friends. It is hard to say goodbye to all the ship board friends we have made. This seems to be a missionary hotel and most of the people we know are staying here.

Chas left for Boston this morning. Each of my friends in turn go their separate ways. I have a date with Dave this morning at 11:30. Although we were on board 44 days there was no extra charge! This hotel is the best I have seen for a long time. After eating on my feet for six weeks and sometimes sleeping on bare floors (night before last) it is heavenly! Later Saw Coney Island with Dave. Wonderful time. It was the hottest day this year in New York, 88 – and about half a million were at Coney.

—Gale Potee

As mentioned, besides seasickness, the passengers had to cope with two waves of contagious illnesses that swept through the ship. Robert Carman, who was 10 years old at the time, was traveling with his mother, father, aunt and four siblings ranging in age from 11 to 3. He describes the illnesses as follows:

Robert Carman's Recollections

"The first of the epidemics was measles, which occurred mostly in the first leg of the voyage, between Bombay and Cape Town. I have heard from some other passengers on the Brazil that it was our family, the Carmans, who brought the measles onto the ship, and indeed it was one of my sisters - Margaret, I believe - who had developed a low fever and slight, but at that point nondescript, rash during the night before we were to board the ship. My father, a doctor, had brought my sister's fever and possible rash to the attention of the ship's medical staff, and our family was held up on the wharf at the base of the gangplank while everyone else boarded as the authorities considered whether or not to let us on board. There was the risk of introducing some infectious disease onto the ship - the actual diagnosis wasn't fully clear yet - but, all our baggage had been loaded, and finding and offloading it from the holds would have meant delaying the ship's departure, and my father was one of the doctors among the passengers whom they were counting on for assistance in caring for the large number of passengers on the ship. It was finally decided to let our family board and sail with the ship, but we were assigned as a family (except for my father and my aunt) to a "private" cabin - which even had its own "private" small deck - as an effort at "quarantine". As it turned out, within days of leaving Bombay, large numbers of children came down with the measles - all five of the children in our family, but also many others - and it was apparent that many kids had been exposed to measles during the couple of weeks we had been waiting in Bombay, staying in crowded guest houses or hostels - for our family it was the Red Shield run by the Salvation Army - waiting for word that the ship was ready to sail. My sister was just the first to show signs and symptoms among the many children who had been exposed and were incubating the disease.

As I recall, the measles epidemic had just about completed its run through the ship by the time we left Cape Town - certainly in our family - but shortly after leaving Cape Town, the whooping cough epidemic started. It, too, affected large numbers of children on the ship, not just my younger three siblings. To my knowledge, there were no fatalities from either epidemic, though for the sick children, and perhaps even more so for their parents, caring for those affected in the midst of the severe "blackout" security controls and with lots of "seasickness" from stormy seas and constant zigzagging of the vessels on its course, the morbidity and hardships were a significant burden during an already long and stressful voyage. Taking care of three small kids with whooping cough in the confines of a small cabin was tough on my mother. This was especially the case at night, when they wanted to keep the porthole open to get some movement of fresh air, but then had to function in total darkness - no flashlights allowed - and many was the time she would awaken after a few winks of sleep to hear one of the kids proceeding from deep coughing to vomiting, only to find that in the dark she was holding the basin or pan to an elbow rather than to a child's chin. The clean-up in the dark was often incomplete, making the need for fresh air - but continued darkness - even more necessary. My elder brother and I, both of us having had whooping cough previously and therefore not getting sick this time, were not able to help much, except that we were recruited to "babysit" in the cabin with our younger siblings for an hour or two in the evenings so that my mother could join my father and huge numbers of other passengers on the promenade deck for the nightly hymn sing - also in the dark."

Of the teenagers on board the Brazil that are mentioned in Charles’ and Gale’s accounts, Charles, Gale, Dave and Harry all went on to become doctors.

Charles and Harry both became doctors rapidly through the Navy V-12 program. Charles went to the Boston University School of Medicine, became a cardiologist in Laconia, NH and passed away in 2011. Harry went to Yale, became an internist and settled in Tracy, CA, passing away in 2006. Gale Potee graduated from the University of Michigan in 1945 and Western Reserve School of Medicine in 1949 and led a long full life. He passed away at his home in Massachusetts in 2014. Dave Warren is retired and living in Virginia Beach.

Mary Martin graduated from Oberlin College in 1946 and worked in Washington, D.C., at the Library of Congress. She married Hans Stern in 1948, raised a family and led a full life involving Church, music and NPR. She passed away in 2010.

Russell Jones

At first it wasn’t clear what became of Russell Jones, other than general agreement amongst the Kodaikanal alumni that he was lost in the war. The Brazil passenger list provided his place and date of birth, and his home address, "1818 Portship Road, Dundalk, MD", which would be key. As he was lost during the war I made the assumption he had joined the military. Searches of Russell D. Jones’ born in 1923, from Maryland and dying between 1942 and 1945, resulted in one firm hit as a bomber crew member, although I still had reservations.

I found some great information on this candidate, but only the year and not the month and day he was born to confirm. There was also no mention of the woman I first assumed was his mother (Ethel Jones), and the fact that Jones was killed as a Staff Sergeant and my first inclination is that he would have been an officer based on the trend of Kodaikanal graduates going on to higher education.

Finally, amongst the Army Air Corps reports I found a list of next of kin of those that perished on his bomber. Next to Russell’s name was that of Sara E. Jones, Russell’s new wife, residing at 1818 Portship Road, Baltimore, MD. Dundalk was a suburb of Baltimore, not far away from the famous Sparrows Point shipyard. Perhaps ace Flying Tiger pilot “Pappy” Boyington’s lecture on board the Brazil made a lasting impression on the young Mr. Jones.

Thanks to a fellow researcher named Janice Kidwell (more on that later), who found my site, I learned that Russell enlisted on March 8th, 1943 in Baltimore, MD, eight months after the Brazil's return to New York. Combat training appears to have taken place in Dyersburg, TN. His father, David was a galvanization foreman at one of Tata's Steel Mills in India, which explains why he went to Kodai. Also, the Ethel Jones noted on the Brazil's passenger list ended up being a coincidence, just another passenger who shared the same common last name. Russ' mother was named Bessie.

Russell was lost on July 8th, 1944, about a month after D-Day and about two years after he returned to America on the Brazil. His Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress was part of the 8th Air Force, 452nd Bombardment Group (Heavy), 729th Bombardment Squadron based at Deopham Green, England about 90 miles northeast of London.

Formation of 452nd Bomb Group B-17's. Original caption read: "CLOUD HOPPING TO DUNKIRK. With breaks in the clouds affording momentary glimpses of the earth, these B-17 "Flying Fortresses" of the 452 Bomb Group winged their way toward Dunkirk, France, to take part in a history-making attack. Bombers of the 8th Air Force continually blasted at every operational enemy factory, oil refinery, and airfield to bring about lasting peace." The French coast can be seen starting in the lower left and going up to the upper right. Note the Group's "L" symbol in the large white square on the tails of the aircraft. You can also just make out the right waist gunner positions on some of the nearer aircraft, just above and behind the Army Air Corps insignia about half-way between the wing and the tail. It is not clear exactly when this photo was taken, but it was received August 8th, 1945. Photo courtesy of the National Archives, Photo A-61657AC.

His Group had only begun combat operations in February of 1944, but already Russ had flown 29 missions. Below is his mission list (Note several missions to Berlin):

The learning curve was steep, and the odds long. Although only at it for a few months, he would have been considered a seasoned veteran by this point.

His 30th and last mission was to bomb V-1 rocket sites near Rouen in occupied France. Jones was the right waist gunner on the B-17. The rest of the crew was:

    • 1st Lt. Everett Gardner Hanson Jr. – Pilot, age 20 from E. Blackstone, MA (died on his birthday)

    • 2nd Lt. James H. Heinzen – Co-pilot, age 25 from MN

    • 2nd Lt. Leonard S. Marcus – Navigator, age 26 from Worcester, MA

    • 1st Lt. Donald James Lyma – Bombardier, age 20 from Sacramento, CA

    • T.Sgt. George Ivan Grissom – Engineer, age 20 from Hammond, IN

    • T.Sgt. Chester L. Pool – Radioman, age 20 from Oklahoma City, OK

    • S.Sgt. Lloyd P. Pohrte – Ball Turret Gunner, age 19 from Berwyn, IL

    • S.Sgt. Arthur Schulze – Left Waist Gunner, age 25 from Chicago, IL

    • S.Sgt. Van Jackson McManus – Tail Gunner, age 19 from York, SC

At 0715 their aircraft, 43-37747, flying at 15,000 feet was seen to receive a direct flak hit over Nucourt, France and immediately fall from the formation. The aircraft impacted about 25-30 miles northwest of Paris.

Photograph of the tail section of Russell's actual bomber (including the tail gunner position of McManus) devastated by flak and fire damage juxtaposed by a young French mother and her two children (unidentified) sitting on the horizontal stabilizer. When I first saw this photo, I at first thought the fire streaming back had burned off all the paint, but you can just make out the Group's large black square with "L" in it and the identification /serial number painted in black. This indicates Russell's plane was left unpainted aluminum, rather than the olive drab over gray paint scheme like the Group's photo above over Dunkirk. Photo courtesy of Dominique Lecomte. All Rights Reserved.

Of the ten crew, only one man survived, Staff Sergeant Arthur Schulze who was likely blown from the aircraft and deployed his parachute. According to his nephew:

"He gave each guy a piece of rope and told them to tie it around their waist and to their parachute. Apparently, no one else heeded his advice. When the plane was hit, he was able to get to the bomb bay doors and jump out. He put his parachute on while he was falling. No one else in that plane was able to escape in time."

He became a POW, but survived the war and eventually passed away in 2009. Ironically Schulze was the left waist gunner and likely only feet if not inches from Jones, and yet he survived and Jones did not.

.50 caliber machine gun waist gunner positions in a Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress". Note insulated clothing and oxygen in use in unpressurized cabin.

All the bodies of the casualties were found in the wreckage, but badly burned.

Only three of the nine were initially identified:

1. Pilot Hanson

2. Engineer Grissom

(This was accomplished from their ID tags.)

3. Russ was identified from a bracelet he wore on his left wrist with his name on it and an inscription that read: “Hands off. This guy is mine. Sara”.

Jones was first buried at the French civilian cemetery in the tiny village of Boubiers a few miles away the day after the incident.

In August of 2014 a researcher named Janice Kidwell reached out to me after coming across my site while searching for information on Russell. She and her husband Charlie are part of a group of people that help arrange memorials for allied service members who were lost in combat in Europe, and they were attempting to locate family members of Russ' bomber crew for a dedication the following year. This started a long, fruitful correspondence during which we both learned a lot about Russell and his sacrifice.

On May 8th, 2015, a new memorial was unveiled in Boubiers where most of the crew were initially buried. According the Janice Kidwell:

"Twenty-four family members attended; 2 of the families were represented by 3 generations. There was a Church service held before the ceremony and it was led by the village Priest as well as the Minister from the American Church in Paris. The service included a choir with some songs in French and others in English and one Jewish song to represent Leonard Marcus. The Church is from the 1100's and is beautiful. There is also a small memorial stone in the church yard to represent where the bodies of the airmen had been temporarily buried after the crash."

Photos of Boubiers memorial to Russ and his B-17 crewmates courtesy of Janice and Charlie Kidwell.

After the war, Russell was moved to the Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial, Neuville-en-Condroz,Liege, Belgium. He was awarded the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.

Photo of Russell's grave at the Ardennes American Cemetery and memorial, Neuville-en-Condroz, Liege, Belgium courtesy of Janice and Charlie Kidwell.

Russell was survived by his wife Sara and unborn child, Four months after Russ' loss, Sara gave birth to a baby girl who years later, married and had a daughter and a son of her own.


452nd Bomb Group Association members for additional details on Russell Jones' career and loss, including:

    • Boatwright, Carolyn 'Cally'

    • Keller, Howard W. Jr.

Ancestry.com for crew lists of USAT Brazil and biographical information on Colman Raphael, Thomas F. Morgan & the Gorey Brothers.

Boone, Dave - (tugboatpainter.net) artist who generously provided many photographs of American-Hawaiian vessels, including the Washingtonian from his private collection from the 1930's originally taken by Francis Palmer.

Cundall, Peter for additional details on Ban Ho Guan, Meigen Maru and Itelmen.

Fisch, Victoria - Genealogist for help finding biographical information on Colman Raphael.

Fold3.com for military reports on the loss of Russell Jones' B-17 and information on his squadron.

Hackett, Bob and Kingsepp Sander for their website: ‘SENSUIKAN! - Stories and Battle Histories of the IJN's Submarines’ for information on I-4 and Hajime Nakagawa, particularly the Tabular Records of Movement (TROMs) for the I-4, I-177 & I-37, as well as information on other Japanese units operating in this area.

Helgason, Gudmundur – (uboat.net) for information on HMS Cornwall, HMS Dorsetshire, HMS Hermes & HMAS Vampire.

Internet Movie Database for links to movies the Kodaikanal graduates saw in Cape Town.

Kidwell, Janice and Charlie - for providing memorial information and photos for Russell Jones

Kodaikanal School Alumni, including:

    • Carman, Robert - KS '48

    • Essebaggers, Theodore C. - KS '59

    • Maloney, Clarence Sr. (Friend of Kodaikanal)

    • Potee, Kenneth (Gale) - KS '42

    • Warren, David - KS '42

    • Wilder, Donald - KS '49

Lawson, Siri – (warsailors.com) for information on the Høegh Merchant.

Lecomte, Dominique - for photo of the tail section of Russell Jones' bomber

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 Washingtonian, subsequent details about how the survivors reached India, and about the Comol Rico and Catahoula.

Moore, Richard C. - (ship-paintings.com) artist for introducing me to Dave Boone and providing painting of Washingtonian. Richard’s father worked for American-Hawaiian for many years out of the Philadelphia office as a "freight solicitor" for the eastern Pennsylvania area. His wonderful painting and the photo from Dave Boone it is based on is what inspired me to create a separate page on the Washingtonian.

moore-mccormack.com for information on the USAT Brazil.

Morris, Caroline for providing the photo of her grandfather Leonard Arthur Towler.

Newspapers.com for Thomas F. Morgan's article in The Honolulu Advertiser

Romero-Frias, Xavier for information on the various types of vessels used in the Maldives.

Wikipedia free on-line encyclopedia for numerous summaries on individuals, places, aircraft and vessels that played a part in this story.

Wrecksite.eu for information on SS Ban Ho Guan, SS British Chivalry, MV Sutlej and SS Ascot.