William L. Marcy


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

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

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

Unlike her namesake, the SS William L. Marcy would have a very brief career, only a year and a half, but an action-packed career it was.

William L. Marcy departed San Francisco January 25th, 1943. The ship departed Havana Harbor (near Port Vila) May 25th and arrived back at Balboa June 1st, 1943. She sailed soon after for Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Originally, not much was known from the time of the Marcy’s launching until the following fall, including who her first Master was. In April of 2017, however, I was contacted through my comments page by the son and daughter-in-law of Albert Bamforth. I began assisting them in acquiring their father’s merchant mariner records, which they subsequently shared with me, and researching Albert with the various tools I use. This resulted in the addition of a new page on Albert about his remarkable life on my Masters, Mates and Pilots section.

His records, combined with the information I was able to find on Ancestry.com, points to Albert Bamforth as the William L. Marcy’s first Master. The earliest direct proof is a crew list from Ancestry that shows he signed on as Master in Baltimore on July 9th. 1943. This of course leaves a 6 month gap from the time the Marcy was launched, but the research also indicates he left the Montanan as Chief Mate on December 7th, 1942, and I believe this was to take command of the Marcy in January. According to historian Peter Cundall; "William H Marcy departed San Francisco 25 Jan 1943. The ship departed Havannah Harbour (near Port Vila) 25 May and arrived back at Balboa 1 June 1943. She sailed soon after for Cienfuegos." It fits nicely, however there is still an outside chance the Marcy had another Master her first six months. If nothing else, we now know that Albert commanded the Marcy at least from July of 1943 until he handed over command to his friend Graham “Gray” Griffiths in March of 1944.

In addition to Albert’s information, in the years since I first published the Marcy’s story in 2014, additional information on her whereabouts had come to light on the Fold3.com service in the form of war diaries, plus the convoy information concerning the Marcy on convoyweb had expanded. All of these sources combined have allowed me update the Marcy’s interesting early history here, prompted of course by the Bamforth’s inquiry.

According to British Admiralty War Diaries, the first activity I see is that the Marcy was intended to sail the latter half of January with the Jerimiah S. Black, but this was canceled. This was under the heading of 'Foreign Stations, America & West Indies, U.S. Troop Movements' for January 16th, 1943.

The war diary of the USS Mackinac (AVP-13) indicates the William L Marcy was at anchor with her on February 16th, 1943 in the Segund Channel, Espiritu Santo, and remained there at least through March 2nd, 1943. Previous indications were that the Marcy had exclusively served in the Atlantic theater, but obviously her first voyage was across the Pacific.

The next couple months are still a mystery, but they eventually completed their tasks in the Pacific and were shown departing Espiritu Santo on April 25th then making their way back to California before heading to the East Coast through the Panama Canal.

The war diary of the Gulf Sea Frontier for June 6th, 1943 shows the Marcy traveled from Cristobal, the Gulf port of the Panama Canal, to Cienfuegos, Cuba, arriving 0200.

The Marcy next appears in the war diary of the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On the June 12th entry she is shown arriving unescorted at 1020Q from Cienfuegos, Cuba and then the following day departing the port between 0756 and 0909 Q as part of ConvoyGN-65 bound for New York. Besides the Marcy, this small convoy included the merchants SS Egton and Louis Joliet escorted by the small patrol craft USS PC-565, PC-554, Fury and Brisk. They also noted that PC-1192 and USS Biddle departed ahead of the convoy to perform a sweep and then returned to base. Other merchants including Trojan Star, Ogna, John Pillsbury, American Packer, Laguna and Fort Caribou joined at sea. Ultimately the convoy was comprised of 25 vessels plus the 4 escorts.

The diary also noted that air cover was provided to GN-65 by PBY’s from squadron VP-81 from 1805Q on the 13th throughout the day. Though not able to commit destroyers or destroyer escorts to the escort mission, just the fact that some patrol craft were provided as well as air cover showed the allies had made considerable improvements over the previous summer when Arkansan and so many others were lost, left to fend for themselves. Ironically, there were not nearly as many U-boats operating in the Caribbean at this time as there were in the bloody summer of ’42.

The one known photo of the William L. Marcy (see Attack section below) was taken off the North Carolina or Virginia coast on June 23rd, 1943 while she was in convoy GN-65. The convoy arrived safely in New York on June 20th.

There is a one month gap, and then the Marcy appears in the war diary of the US Naval Ammunition Depot, St. Julien’s Creek, Portsmouth, Virginia on July 19th, 1943, which noted they “Loaded gun ammunition, small arms ammunition and pyrotechnics”.

This was in preparation on joining Convoy UGS-13, which convoyweb shows departed Hampton Roads, Virginia on July 27th, 1943 bound for Port Said, Egypt. The convoy consisted of 110 merchants, though some of those may have joined in the Med. Escorts numbered nine plus the escort carrier USS Card (CVE-11) and her three vessel screen.

By the summer of 1943 both the Americans and Germans had rolled out new weapon systems, cutting edge technology and revised tactics to try and counter each other’s moves. After the German’s disastrous spring which saw a quarter of the U-Boats at sea lost in May and forced them to temporarily withdraw from the Atlantic, they came back with heavily upgraded anti-aircraft weaponry and specially trained crewmembers to man them, started eliminating their large caliber deck guns which they seldom had the opportunity to use at this stage and which only slowed their crash dives in an emergency, what they thought was better radar detection gear (Metox), a radar decoy called Aphrodite (which ultimately proved ineffective) and finally a new acoustic torpedo called the T4 Falke and better availability of the FAT pattern running torpedoes.

The Americans had a greater number of escorts to use, all equipped with the latest radar, direction finding and sonar technology, radar equipped single engine carrier aircraft operating off smaller escort carriers (like the USS Card) with their own destroyer screens called ‘Hunter-Killer groups’, and a new air-dropped acoustic torpedo of their own called the Mk. 24 ‘Fido’ which had a devastating effect on U-boats attempting to crash-dive to escape said aircraft. Of course the greatest ace up the Allies sleeve was the cracking of the German enigma code by the British, and the sharing of those intercepts in a secret program called ‘Ultra’.

Despite the picture below which shows the USS Card in the center of the convoy (the "W L Marcy" is in the lower left, fifth row back, second ship in on port side), the USS Card actually had considerable freedom of movement and was only loosely connected with the convoy like the previous convoy UGS-12 and USS Bogue.

Original caption: "SHIPMASTERS AT A PRE-SAILING CONFERENCE FOR CONVOY UGS-13, JULY 1943. The port officer speaking to the shipmasters is standing in front of a chart of convoy ship positions. The masters in the audience are seated in the same relative positions as their ships' assignments. Allied convoys were identified with letters and numbers -- the UGS series sailed from Hampton Roads to Port Said, Egypt. From the book 'Naval Station Norfolk' by the Hampton Roads Naval Historical Foundation (Arcadia Publishing, Feb 24, 2014, ISBN-10: 1531672124, ISBN-13: 978-1531672126).

I thought it would be interesting to plot the positions of the convoy and the USS Card task force (see interactive map below). I used the war diary of the Card from Fold3.com to plot her positions and the war diary from the LST-176 (same row as the Marcy in the picture above, but fifth vessel from starboard side). As the convoy’s main escort vessels frequently moved and occasionally detoured to check out suspicious activity, I felt a navy vessel in the convoy ‘box’ would be a more accurate way to track the convoy.

Note: Green denotes Convoy UGS-13's track, blue denotes the USS Card Task Force Track, Orange denotes possible U-Boat sightings, Red denotes locations U-Boats were attacked and Yellow denotes Allied ports in the Mediterranean Sea.

All the vessels departed Hampton Roads on the morning of July 27th. The convoy initially took a more southerly course. By noon on the 28th both groups were about half-way to Bermuda, with the convoy about 130 miles south of the Card’s task force. By the 29th the Card’s task force had used their superior speed to shoot ahead to Bermuda and refuel while convoy UGS-13 plodded along 180 miles to the northwest. Patrol aircraft from Bermuda covered the convoy, and on the 30th, the Card, now back at sea, investigated a U-boat sighting southwest of Bermuda, but nothing was found.

On August 1st the Card’s task force closed the distance between it and the convoy and the task force’s escorts took turns detaching from the screen and refueling from the oiler USS Chepachet. By the next day the task force had accelerated past the convoy and crossed over to its port side on the north.

On August 3rd, with the help of Ultra intercepts, aircraft from the Card surprised the surfaced U-66 at dusk and badly damaged her, killing or wounding most of her command and watch. The U-66 managed to escape. See here and here for more information. This appears to have occurred about 250 miles northeast of convoy UGS-13. The Card stayed in the area as the Ultra intercepts indicated there were several U-boats operating just west of the Azores. The allies next became aware of U-117, and the German’s plans to have her rendezvous with U-66 and provide fuel, medical care and a replacement commander, so the Task Force detoured to the southeast to top off their fuel from the convoy on the 6th of August, before returning to where they hoped to intercept the German rendezvous. They would hit the jackpot, sinking the U-117 on the 7th, though the U-66 managed to escape once again. See here and here. The U-664 (see here and here) was sunk on the 9th, however, and the U-525 followed on the 11th. By that time convoy UGS-13 had passed safely to the south of the Azores and was preparing to enter the Mediterranean.

On the evening of August 12th/13th the convoy performed the tricky maneuver of reorganizing into 4 columns to pass through the narrow passage, not only under the cover of darkness but in heavy fog as well. It must have been quite nerve wracking. Several ships lost their way and pulled into Gibraltar the following day. Once through, the British took over escort duties and the American escorts along with the LST’s made for Oran, Algeria on the 14th. At this time the Allies were just mopping up on the island of Sicily and were making plans for the invasion of the Italian mainland.

Once the convoy entered the Mediterranean, they were still at risk from U-boats as well as air attack from Italian and German forces. The British freighter Empire Kestrel was sunk by aircraft on 16 August 1943. Admiralty war diaries indicate she was a straggler at this point and not part of the main convoy. 40 of her survivors were landed at Philippsville. The diaries also indicate the “Bougie section” was attacked at 0300 by a Heinkel 111 before joining the main convoy. A torpedo fired at Hornpipe, an escort trawler, and the aircraft was shot down. A second aircraft was driven off.

By this point the Card’s task force had arrived in Casablanca, Morocco. Convoy UGS-13 was broken up into smaller elements and made various ports in allied controlled North Africa, including Algiers, Bougie and Philippesville Algeria, Bizerte, Tunisia, the island of Malta, Tripoli, Libya and Alexandria and Port Said, Egypt, the northern terminus of the Suez Canal.

The Marcy returned in convoy GUS-15, which departed Alexandria on September 9th. They picked up their US escorts on September 10th, and later another hunter-killer task force centered around the USS Santee (CVE-29). The return voyage appears to be uneventful and arrived off Hampton Roads on October 4th with no known losses on either side.

Master Bamforth and the Marcy next departed New York as part of Convoy HX-263 on October 24th, 1943. The Germans were well aware of this convoy series and attempted to find the convoy with twenty-three U-boats operating north and east of Newfoundland. Wolfpack Siegfried had been organized on October 22nd to catch the previous HX convoy, 262, which had departed Halifax on October 20th, but they were too late. Having broken the German enigma codes, the allies routed HX-263 to the south of the wolf pack patrol line. By the time the Germans split Siegfried into 3 groups on the 27th and then formed two new wolf packs on the 30th named Koerner and Jahn, it was too late, and HX-263 had slipped by.

Most of the convoy arrived safely in Loch Ewe, Scotland on November 7th. The British freighter Tortuguero and the American liberty ship Eugene Field were damaged in a collision on November 3rd, the Field arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland on the 6th. The first indications that the Marcy had issues with hull cracking also occurred on the 6th when Bamforth had to leave the convoy and pull into Belfast as well. The weather had been quite bad and the ships took a beating.

Allied reports noted that the Marcy had undergone repairs in Belfast, Northern Ireland;

The S.S. WILLIAM L. MARCY had been previously reported in Belfast for repairs to a crack in a deck plate. This plate was repaired and the ship sailed on 13 November. Cracks in other deck plates developed and the ship arrived back in Belfast on 15 November. These additional cracks were repaired and the ship left for Lock Ewe on 18 November.

The yard in Belfast advanced the theory that;

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

They departed Loch Ewe around November 22nd bound for Russia as part of the 15 vessel arctic convoy JW-54b. Fortunately they were not spotted by German air patrols or by a small five U-boat wolf pack and they arrived safely in the Russian port of Archangel on December 3rd, 1943.

The Marcy departed the Kola Inlet in the 23 vessel convoy RA-55a on December 22nd. This convoy was noteworthy because in combination with JW-55b they were the bait for a trap the British had set to lure the German battleship Scharnhorst out of her Norwegian fjord. The ruse worked and the Scharnhorst was lost with high loss of life while convoy RA-55a arrived safely in Loch Ewe on New Year’s Day, 1944. The convoy did have to endure a winter gale during the transit, which likely did not help the Marcy’s hull defects.

Bamforth and the Marcy attempted to return to America as part of Convoy ON-219 which departed the Clyde estuary on January 8th, 1944 bound for New York, but had to return due to "Hull Defects" once again. According to Admiralty war diaries, on January 12th, Bamforth was forced to break radio silence and send an S.O.S. at 1824 Greenwich Meantime due to the hull “cracked forward from well deck to below tween deck”. He asked for someone to “stand by if abandon ship".

According to his family the ship nearly broke in two and they used chains somehow to re-inforce the area and keep the crack from spreading further. It must have been terrifying, especially in the North Atlantic in January. The temporary repairs apparently held and they were able to return to the U.K., although it’s unclear if they had an escort back. None of the known escorts report assisting them. This made it the third time the Marcy's hull had to be repaired.

Looking at the convoy ON-219 details, the Liberty's George Gale & Roger Griswald also had hull fractures. The Gale managed to make Halifax, but the Griswald returned to Scotland. Another ship, the British Empire Treasure lost its propeller on the 18th and had to be towed back to Barry Roads. The Liberty Sumner I Kimball (Master Harry Atkins) fell behind (unclear why) and turned back on January 16th, and was sunk by U-960 (Heinrich), with the loss of all aboard. It is noteworthy that the Kimball broke in two during repeated torpedo hits, a possible indication hull cracks were a factor in their dropping from the convoy. The U-960 broke off the attack once the Kimball split, but had to return two days later when command notified them both pieces were still floating. The U-960 then re-acquired the vessel, and after taking several pictures, sunk the forward section with a single torpedo, The stern section was found floating January 18th and sunk by an allied escort. See here and here for more information.

The Marcy eventually made it back to New York carrying chrome ore as part of Convoy ON-225, which departed Liverpool on February 22nd, 1944. The Marcy broke off from Convoy ON-225 with the SS Montevideo March 8th and arrived off Delaware Capes just before midnight. Two other Liberty’s experienced hull defects on the voyage, the Elisha Graves Otis and the Joel R. Poinsett, the latter having to be abandoned when the ship fully split in two.

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

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

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

A report from COMTASK-GROUP 02.5 on March 21st, 1944 corroborates this count, notes the Marcy arrived in Hampton Roads on that date and specifies her armament as one 5"/50, one 3"/50 and eight 20mm.

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

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

Though the main convoy reached Liverpool, England the Marcy appears to have gone to Loch Ewe, Scotland and then departed there on April 21st in convoy WN-573, a roughly 30 merchant convoy, that arrived in Methil on Scotland’s east coast on April 23rd.

Oddly, the information on convoyweb shows the Marcy in Convoy VN-35 from April 24th to the 25th traveling from Augusta to Naples, but I believe this to be in error. It’s possible they traveled to the Mediterranean in May, but definitely not that quickly.

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

According to officer’s messman Richard G Astrauckas, on June 5th;

William L Marcy departed from the Tilbury Docks loaded with Canadian troops bound for Juno Beachead only to seek anchorage in the Isle of Wight due to the storm that delayed D-day to the 6th of June.

IWM Caption: "Troops of 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade disembarking with bicycles from LCI(L)s (Landing Craft Infantry Large) onto Nan White beach, Juno area, at Bernieres-sur-Mer, shortly before midday, 6 June 1944." Catalogue number A 23938. By Canadian Official photographer. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum. https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205193050

Griffiths commanded the Marcy on six round trips to the beachhead, transporting men and supplies:

*On June 13th, 1944 they were hit by shell fragments from German long-range coastal batteries while in the Straits of Dover. No serious damage or casualties were reported.

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

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

On August 3rd, the Marcy departed Southend for the last time, in Convoy ETM.54, and arrived in the Seine Bay that afternoon and began unloading.

The Attack

SS William L. Marcy on June 23rd, 1943 in convoy off the coast of North Carolina/Virginia. Courtesy of the National Archives.

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

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

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

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

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

IWM Caption: "A surrendered E-boat doing 30 knots with two other E-boats (not visible) alongside an accompanying MGB heading to HMS HORNET, the light coastal forces base at Gosport, to be taken over by the Royal Navy." Catalogue number A 29321. By Royal Navy official photographer Pelman, L (Lt). Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum. https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205187616

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

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

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

According to Moore and Griffiths:

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

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

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

After much searching, an expert named Urs Heßling on the German language Marine Archiv Forum pointed me to the book ‘Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939-1945’ by renowned historians Jürgen Rohwer and Gerhard Hümmelchen. In the book there is a passage for August of 1944 which notes:

The remaining boats of the 2nd and 6th S-flotilla based in Le Havre, S 174, S 176, S 177 and S 97, S 132 and S 135 attacked with the new TIIID "Dackel" long-range torpedoes on the following nights:

August 4th/5th - 24 torpedoes

August 5th/6th - 12 torpedoes

August 6th/7th - 12 torpedoes

August 8th/9th - 10 torpedoes

August 9th/10th - 11 torpedoes

August 14th/15th - 8 torpedoes

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

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

The German Dackel Torpedo firing plan for the evening of August 8th/9th (the night following the Marcy's hit) showing the intended spread against the anchorages off the Gold, Juno and Sword beachheads. From 'German S-Boats in Action: In the Second World War' by Hans Frank (October 15, 2007 Naval Institute Press, ISBN-10: 1591143098, ISBN-13: 978-15911430930). As noted on the image, Frank's source was the three volume 'The War At Sea, 1939-1945' by Captain Stephen Wentworth Roskill, CBE, DSC, FBA, DLitt (1954-61; 1994), which in turn used original German wartime documentation, specifically FdS KTB (Fuhrer der Schnellboot Kriegstagebuch), Commander Rudolf Petersen's War Diary.

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

According to historian Lawrence Patterson’s book ‘Weapons of Desperation: German Frogmen and Midget Submarines of the Second World War (US Naval Institute Press -September 2006, ISBN-10: 1591149290):

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

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

Patterson continued:

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

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

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

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


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

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

According to Admiralty War Diaries, salvage authorities from RFA Sea Salvor boarded the ship on August 8th to inspect the damage. The Marcy was referred to as “M.T. 26” or Military Transport 26. They noted the following damage, temporary repairs and transport plans:

M.T. (26) torpedoed in No. 5 hold, starboard hard. Bulkhead holding, other compartments dry. Leakage into engine room through shaft gland. SEA SALVOR in attendance tugs standing by. Present anchorage one. 7 miles 153° from L.8 buoy, may decide to shift to inner M.T. anchorage. (S.S.V.O. FROBISHER 071225 to F.O.B.A.A.)

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

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

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

Moore continued:

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

The Marcy was then towed to River Blackwater, Essex and laid up

According to an article in a 1984 edition of ‘The Lookout’, an alumni publication of the Pennsylvania Nautical School (PNS), the location where the Marcy was beached;

was five miles from where Gray had been born and raised. When the "natives" came down to "salvage" the ship they found the gangway guarded by a Welshman - Capt. Graham GRIFFITHS. Notoriety came to him, as a result, and a legend was born, carried by newscasts and in the news both in Wales and at home, in the Philadelphia Bulletin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graham Griffiths

Early Life

Graham Griffiths was born on September 11th, 1916 in Neath, County Glamorgan, in southern Wales. He was the only child of machinist William J. Griffiths (1888-1948) and Hannah Griffiths (1886-1971).

According to his cousin, Janet Evans:

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

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

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

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

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

Pennsylvania Nautical School

According to an article in a 1984 edition of ‘The Lookout’, an alumni publication of the Pennsylvania Nautical School (PNS);

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

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

Pennsylvania Nautical School Cadet Graham Griffiths wearing his PNS 'Keystone' cap circa 1936. Interesting that he signed the photo "Gray", which means the nickname started much earlier than previously thought. Photo courtesy of Janet Evans.

Pennsylvania Nautical Schoolship Annapolis circa 1934. Photo courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command. www.navsource.org

According to ‘The Lookout’:

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

The article continued:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His class was comprised of:

Deck Officers

Borell, James W. – Reading, PA

Burkhardt, John “Jack” E. – Norristown, PA

Clark, Donald M. – McVeytown, PA

Griffiths, Graham – Philadelphia, PA

Hiller, Thomas E. – Reading, PA

Hottle, Harold E. – Bethlehem, PA

Jones, John R. – Wilkes-Barre, PA

MacMichael, Edward A.O. – Lansdowne, PA

McPhail, Cameron W. – Lansdowne, PA

Maxwell, Lester W. - Philadelphia, PA

Moyer, Vance E. – Pottsville, PA

Perry, LaRoy E. - Norristown, PA

Reckitt, William W. – Highland Park, PA

Rizza, Joseph P. – Johnstown, PA

Scott, Porter L. – Butler, PA

Sedan, Robert S. – Montoursville, PA

Shank, William T. Jr. – Columbia, PA

Troxel, Charles F. – Allentown, PA

Walls, Norman E. – Lester, PA

Engineer Officers

Hunter, John C. – Monessen, PA

King, Harold E. – Greensburg, PA

Swartz, Henry C. Jr. – Gwynedd Valley, PA

Ross, William D. – Linden Hall, PA

Tomlinson, Russell W. – Morrisville, PA

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

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

According to ‘The Lookout’:

After graduation, he attended Sperry's Gyro School in Brooklyn.

After that he went right to work.

Pennsylvania Nautical School graduation aboard the "Annie" circa 1937. Captain John F. Hines is the older officer on the far left with cap in hand looking behind the tall young officer in front holding a package, diploma and cap. He may be talking to the other senior officer (perhaps his replacement, Captain Marin K. Metcalf) hidden behind the civilian in the overcoat. From recruiting/PR materials published by the Board of Commissioners of Navigation, Philadelphia, PA. Courtesy of Mary Ann Conley-Wandell's collection of her father's career related papers; George Renault Conley, Pennsylvania State Nautical Schoolship Annapolis, Class of 1938, who served with Sun Oil during the war.

Early Career

Graham Griffiths circa 1937

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

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

In September of 1936 Griffiths transferred to the United States Lines SS Manhattan as a Jr. Third Mate. According to ‘The Lookout’:

His first licensed job was as junior Third Mate on the MANHATTAN, but he walked ashore when the maritime strike of 1936 [which started in October] took place. U.S. Lines blackballed him for that action. It took almost half a year before Gray could get a Job after the strike finally ended.

Griffith’s records do indeed indicate in March of 1937 he briefly joined Isthmian Steamship Co.’s Birmingham City in intercoastal service.

American-Hawaiian Service

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

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

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

Graham Griffiths reunion with his first wife Kay in New York after the Texan's loss. As noted in the original caption, Captain Robert H. Murphy is on the left. From the New York World Telegram Newspaper dated March 24th, 1942. Courtesy of Stan Oliver.

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

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

Several of Texan's survivors posing at Havana's famous 'Sloppy Joe's Bar' in 1942. From left to right is 2nd Mate Graham Griffiths (note bandages on his arms and hand), Radioman Stanley Oliver, Master Robert H. Murphy, Oiler David Cole, 1st Assistant Engineer John R. Kay, 2nd Assistant Engineer Julian F. Vinson and Purser Francis X. McKeown. Photo courtesy of Stan Oliver, Stanley's son. All Rights Reserved.


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

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

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

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

Graham Griffiths circa 1942

Graham Griffiths circa 1943

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

William L. Marcy

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


In April of 1945, at the age of 28 Griffiths became Master of Arkansan’s sister ship, the Alabaman, with Chief Mate Dennis Beaumont on which they ended the war. According to historian Peter Cundall: "Alabaman arrived in Auckland between June 12th & 16th, 1945 and 0200 on September 29th, 1945, unknown departure. The photo below was taken there (cranes are distinctive) either of these dates."

SS Alabaman in Auckland, New Zealand circa 1945 on which Griffiths, while serving with his Chief Mate Dennis Beaumont ended their wartime experience. The Alabaman was the sister ship of the Arkansan, and is almost unrecognizable with all the wartime modifications that were made. Of course everything was painted gray including her distinctive portholes on the front of her deckhouse and great effort was made to protect her bridge with extra armor and what appears to be a visor or shutter across the top of the bridge windows. Gun tubs clutter her forecastle, stern and deckhouse. Note that the Armed Guard ramp rafts are different fore and aft. Photo courtesy of Walter Beaumont.


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

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


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

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

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


According to ‘The Lookout’:

After leaving Calmar, Capt. GRIFFITHS roamed a bit, but made preparations to become a harbor pilot. He became a Bar Pilot for Grays Harbor, WA.

On January 8th, 1973 he came to Seattle as a Puget Sound Pilot. He remained with this organization for a full decade before retiring.

I attempted to reach out to the organization, to see if I could learn anymore about his time as a Pilot, but unfortunately they have not responded to date.

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

    • Los Angeles Harbor and Tributaries;

    • Puget Sound and connecting inland waters;

    • New York Harbor above Narrows to Battery, New York Lower Bay, Narrows to Sea;

    • San Francisco Bay;

    • Columbia River, Astoria to Sea, Main Ship Channel;

    • Delaware Bay and River to Philadelphia, PA;

    • San Pedro Bay and tributaries;

    • Waters of Chesapeake Bay North Point, MD. to Cape Henry, VA. and the Patapsco River and branches to the head of navigation;

    • Waters of the Upper Chesapeake Bay, Sandy Point, MD. to Chesapeake City, MD.;

    • Waters of Staten Island Sound , Robbins Reef to Elizabethport;

    • East River to Blackwells Island;

    • Chesapeake and Delaware Canal from Newcastle Channel to Chesapeake City, MD.;

    • Waters of Newark Bay, Bergan Point to Port Newark;

    • Grays Harbor from Sea to Cosmopolis;

    • Willapa Bay and its tributaries;

and finally as a Radar Observer.

Janet Evans' "mum" Margaret and Graham quayside while her parents were on holiday in Seattle during the period Graham was a Puget Sound Pilot in the late 1970's. Photo courtesy of Janet Evans.

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

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

After what was termed a “lengthy courtship”, Griffiths re-married in April of 1979 at the age of 62 to Shirley Ellen Sundt (née Taylor). According to her obituary, her previous husband;

Captain Alfred Sundt, died on Feb. 2, 1967, while piloting a Japanese freighter inbound from the ocean to the port of Grays Harbor”.

According to ‘The Lookout’ article:

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

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

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

Graham and his wife Shirley, and his cousin Doris, taken at Oyster Mouth Beach, Mumbles-Swansea, Wales circa 1983 where Graham beached the William L. Marcy five miles from his birthplace in 1944. Photo courtesy of Janet Evans, Doris' sister.

‘The Lookout’ article from 1984 concluded with;

Gray has never had a major accident, (he got that out of his system after losing three ships due to enemy action.) His character is such as to lend itself to calm and judicial action. He responds to emergencies without hysteria and his stolid outlook on life will certainly carry him to the century mark.

Unfortunately, Graham did not make the century mark and passed ten years after the article was published.

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

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

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

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

S-Boats of the 2nd and 6th Flotillas

IWM Caption: "One of the E-boats wearing a white flag at the coastal forces base HMS BEEHIVE, Felixstowe. The two German E-Boats, the first surface craft to surrender, were escorted in by ten British MTBs. On board one of the E-Boats was Rear Admiral Karl Bruning, who had been in charge of E-Boat operations and who signed the instrument of surrender. Note what appears to be a black panther painted on the side of the E-Boat, the word Long is painted above it. " Catalogue number A 28558. By Royal Navy official photographer Russell, J E (Lt). Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum. https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205187565

Note: The Black Panther was the emblem for the 4th S-Boat Flotilla. The "L" was the symbol for the commander, Oblt.z.S Georg Langheld.

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

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

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

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

2nd S-Boat Flotilla

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

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

S 174

Shipyard: Lürssen, Vegesack, 1943

Launched: 1943

Commissioned: March 3rd, 1944

Commander: Kapitänleutnant Hugo Wendler (June 1944 through February 1945). (Crew 37a)

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

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

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

S 176

Shipyard: Lürssen, Vegesack, 1943

Launched: 1944

Commissioned: March 17th, 1944

Commander: Oberleutnant zur See Friedrich-Wilhelm Stockfleth, aka “Stocki” (April 1944 to April 7th, 1945)

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

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

S 177

Shipyard: Lürssen, Vegesack, 1943

Launched: 1944

Commissioned: March 30th, 1944

Commander: Leutnant zur See Karl Boseniuk (April 1944 to April 7th, 1945)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Striking photo of unidentified Royal Navy MTBs (Motor Torpedo Boats) returning at dawn after an anti-E-boat patrol off Cherbourg, France in June of 1944. Catalogue number A 24045. By Royal Navy official photographer Beadell, S J (Lt) . Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum. https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205187251

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

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

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

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

6th S-Boat Flotilla

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

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

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

IWM Caption: "A surrendered E-boat tying up alongside a jetty whilst another is about to moor next to her at HMS HORNET, the Light Coastal Forces Base at Gosport, where they are to be taken over by the Royal Navy. German crews are seen on the deck." Catalogue number: A 29322. By Royal Navy official photographer Pelman, L (Lt). Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum. https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205187617

This image shows the business end of the S-Boots of a similar type as those that attacked the beachhead with their distinctive torpedo hatches sculpted into the bow and rounded Kalotte (Skull Cap) armored bridge. On the vessel in the foreground you can see the sunken single 20mm gun position between the two men on the bow, the twin 20mm mount behind the bridge and the armored shield for the 37mm gun mount on the stern. On the vessel in the background you can see the emblem of the 6th Flotilla painted on each side of the bow, which was a play on the coat of arms of Haarlem, the Netherlands with the latin phrase "Vicit vim virtus" (virtue conquered violence), which the 6th Flotilla flipped around to "Virtus Vim Vincet", or "Power will Prevail".

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

S 97

Shipyard: Lürssen, Vegesack, 1942

Launched: 1943

Commissioned: March 25th, 1943

Commander: Oberleutnant zur See Wilhelm Waldhausen (June 15th, 1944 through August 1944)

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

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

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

S 132

Shipyard: Schlichting, Travemünde, 1943

Launched: November 13th, 1943

Commissioned: December 10th, 1943

Commander: Kapitänleutnant Herbert Witt (December 1943 through September 1944)

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

S 132 survived the war and was taken over by the Soviets on November 5th, 1945. Her chronology from there was:

January 16th, 1946 Taken by Soviet crew

August 12th, 1946 Arrived to Dolgaya-Zapadnaya gulf (by Weissmeer-Ostsee-Kanal)

September 23rd, 1946 Renamed TK-1017

September 28th, 1946 Included into Northern fleet as MTB

January 12th, 1949 Reclassified as large MTB

June 17th, 1952 Disarmed, re-classified and re-configured as a motor launch

July 17th, 1952 Renamed RK-1673

April 16th, 1953 Re-classified as dispatch motor boat and renamed POK-4

May 4th, 1954 Put out of service and laid up

August 28th, 1954 Commissioned again

January 30th, 1956 laid up again, shortly after that sunk in harbor due to hull leakage

July 7th, 1956 Removed from Navy list.

S 135

Shipyard: Schlichting, Travemünde, 1943

Launched: 1943

Commissioned: May 29th, 1943

Commander: Oberleutnant zur See.d.R. August Licht (May 1943 through September 1944)

S 135 survived the war and was taken over by the Soviets on November 5th, 1945. Her chronology from there was:

January 4th, 1946 Taken by Soviet crew

August 12th, 1946 Arrived to Dolgaya-Zapadnaya gulf (by Weissmeer-Ostsee-Kanal)

September 23rd, 1946 Renamed as TK-1018

October 4th, 1946 Included into Northern fleet as MTB

January 12th, 1949 Reclassified as large MTB

March 17th, 1952 Disarmed, removed from the Navy, and transferred for scrapping.

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


Almeida, Fernando for detailed career information on Hugo Wendler.

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

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

Beaumont, Walter for photo of late war Alabaman.

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

Cundall, Peter - for information on William L. Marcy and Alabaman's whereabouts.

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

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

Evans, Janet for information and photos of Graham Griffiths.

Fold3.com for military reports relating to this story, including:

  • USS MACKINAC War Diary, 2/1-28/43

  • NAV ADV BASE, ESPIRITU SANTO War Diary, 4/1-30/43

  • COMGULFSEAFRON War Diary, 6/1-30/43

  • NOB GUANTANAMO BAY War Diary, 6/1-30/43

  • NAD PORTSMOUTH War Diary, 7/1-31/43

  • COMNAVEU War Diary, 11/1-30/43

  • COMTASK-GROUP 02.5 War Diary, 3/1-31/44

  • COM 4 War Diary, 3/1-31/44

  • ADMIRALTY WAR DIARIES 1/1/43 to 1/31/43; 10/1/43 to 10/31/43; 11/1/43 to 11/30/43; 7/1/44 to 7/31/44; 8/1/44 to 9/30/44

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

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

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

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

Hampton Roads Naval Historical Foundation for information on Convoy UGS-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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