Sigurd Bentsen

It was difficult to track down information on Sigurd Bentsen. There were several men with this name that were Merchant Mariners around the same time. The breakthrough occurred when Elizabeth Allee-Grissom contacted me in the fall of 2010 with the info on the Arkansan’s survivor list from, which prompted me to join. Through the service I was able to find Sigurd listed in the 'U.S. Rosters of World War II Dead, 1939-1945', which provided his service number. With this I was able to acquire his Merchant Mariner service record from the United States Coast Guard National Maritime Center, which confirmed my primary candidate was the correct person. I was thrilled to receive his records and even more thrilled to find his photo from his 1937 Application for Seaman's Certificate of Service, and finally put a face to the name. The photo unfortunately was a poor copy of copy, but the Maritime Center worked with me and provided a great contact at the National Archives Textual Services Branch who provided the wonderful photo you see to the right. 

Sigurd Bentsen was born on September 1st, 1888 in Haugesund, Rogaland, Norway and was 53 years old at the time of his loss on the Arkansan. He was 5’ – 6” tall and weighed around 156 lbs. His eyes were blue, hair “grayish” at this stage and he had a “ruddy” complexion, likely from decades at sea. He served as an A.B. or Able-Bodied Seaman, and had extensive experience at sea with over 30 years of service. 

He had immigrated to Portland, OR in 1924 as an A.B. aboard the Columbia Pacific Steamship Company vessel Pawlet via Kobe Japan, Shanghai & Hong Kong China, and Manila & Cebu Philippines. He eventually became a US Citizen in April of 1929. The Pacific Northwest would be his home base for the rest of his career, although since he appears to have spent most of his time at sea, he likely never had a place of his own and stayed with family. His older sister Martha and her husband Nic Hansen lived in Chinook Washington at the time and this was given as Sigurd’s home address.

Sigurd Bentsen circa 1937 from his Application for Seaman's Certificate of Service. Photo courtesy of The National Archives - Textual Services Branch.

I am still trying to piece together his early career, but Sigurd had most recently served the last couple years as an A.B. aboard a series of other American-Hawaiian ships: 

Sigurd Bentsen from his 1929 U.S. Application for Seaman's Protection Certificate. Courtesy of

Puerto Rican had arrived in New York from the Canal Zone 11 days before Arkansan left New York and Sigurd joined the crew of the Arkansan on 12/27. As with Bernard and the others there are few clues where Arkansan went from the time she departed New York at the end of December to her departure from Trinidad and subsequent loss in June of 1942. 

His sister and brother-in-law were the first to learn that Sigurd was missing, receiving the Coast Guard’s dreaded Western Union telegraph on June 26th. Tragically, Nic Hansen appears to have passed away on July 18th, 1942. How Martha was able to cope with the loss of her brother and her husband within weeks of each other is not known. They did have quite a large family, their youngest son having been named after Sigurd, and he was 18 at the time of his uncle’s loss. 

Sigurd’s older half brother Victor Johansen was serving as a cook aboard Relief Lightship No. 92 in Seattle at the time. He wrote the Coast Guard on July 26th, 1942 requesting that all information concerning his missing brother be sent to him from that point on since his brother-in-law had passed away. On September 23rd the Coast Guard acknowledged the change and informed him that Sigurd’s status had been updated from ‘Missing’ to ‘Presumed Lost’. 

Many years later, in January of 1951 The Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Brooklyn, NY sent a letter to the Coast Guard stating that they had been requested to investigate the whereabouts of Sigurd. The Coast Guard promptly responded, letting them know about his brother and brother-in-law and that Sigurd was missing, presumed lost. 

Like Bernard, none of the reports reference Sigurd specifically, or provide answers to his specific fate.

Bernard E. Conners

 So far, Bernard’s final moments remain a mystery. To date there are three known written accounts of the sinking plus the family’s oral history, which conflict on key points:

1. The first known report is that filed aboard the rescue ship, USS Pastores (AF-16) dated June 16th. The report appears to be written by the Captain of the Pastores, as related by Captain Jones immediately upon rescue. There are many interesting details which I used to flesh out the account on ‘The Attack’ page, but no specifics on the casualties. The only reference is the sentence “The captain ordered his men to row around among the wreckage to attempt to locate the four missing men, and while they were thus engaged, the submarine approached within a half mile of them.” This would seem to indicate that the four casualties might have survived the initial attack.

2. The next written source was recently discovered in the summer of 2010. Jeanette Desmarais, the niece of one of the other men lost, Deck Engineer Leo Marchesseault, wrote to Captain Jones’ home address in Gloucester, MA a little over a month after the sinking seeking information on her uncle’s fate, who at that stage was still listed as missing. Jones promptly replied on July 23rd from New York and provided information on Leo’s fate as well as Don Lambert, but unfortunately nothing on Bernard or Sig Bentsen. It too mentions rowing about looking for the four missing men. I will provide the details on Leo and Don in the next section of this page, but for now simply state they survived the initial torpedo explosions and their likely fate was drowning. This would otherwise seem insignificant for Bernard and Sig’s stories if not for the next report.

Bernard E. Conners circa late 1930's or early 1940's. Photo courtesy of Jay Bunaskavich

3. The War Action Casualty Report Captain Jones filed on August 8th, 1944 (over 2 years after the incident) does differentiate on Line 50 “Persons lost by (Specify)”:

Jones frustratingly neglects to identify who was who. Based on the information in the Marchesseault letter, it would appear that simply by default, Bernard and Sig were killed in the torpedo explosions. If this was known, however, it doesn’t explain why the two previous sources agree about the survivors searching for four missing men, unless some new information had come to light in the two plus years between the initial reports and the formal report. Despite a few inquiries, I have still not heard a reasonable explanation for why it took so long to file the formal report.

4. Finally, we have our family’s oral history, which was passed down from Bernard’s sister Eleanor to her children. Bernard's nephew and niece remember variations of stories that Bernard was able to make it to the lifeboat, but went back to his cabin either to retrieve some papers for his men (according to his nephew) or a wedding gift from India for his fiancée, Ann (according to his niece). This would indicate he survived the initial explosions. To date I have not been able to find any documentation to support this story, but perhaps Captain Jones, a member of the crew, or even the shipping company provided the information directly to the family. The Marchesseault family indicated Jones was from Gloucester, and upon further investigation found that the address is only about 15 miles from Bernard’s parent’s house in Salem, so a visit to his former First Mate’s family isn’t out of the question either. Bernard's niece Nancy, who was only twelve at the time recalls being at Bernard's parents house when men came to give them the news, and how upset everyone was. Such personal communication wouldn't have made it into the official records, and is now perhaps lost.

One of the revelations that came out of my meeting with Rodman Dickie was the location of the Chief Mate's cabin aboard the Arkansan. According to Rodman it was on the main deck in the port forward quarter. This is significant because Bernard's cabin would have been the closest to the first torpedo hit. There is no hard evidence that this cabin was damaged during the attack but we do know that the port side of the Deck House was badly damaged, including the lifeboat on that side. A recently discovered newspaper interview given by the Purser, Robert Trost indicated that his cabin on the port side was damaged. According to the article, this cabin had also been badly damaged during the Suez bombing, and Trost, who was preparing to go back to sea once again, half jokingly stated he would ask for a cabin in another part of his next ship. I have included a close up of the Deck House below (a mirrored version of the AP image) showing the relative positions of Bernard's cabin and the first torpedo hit.

Enlargement and mirror image of Arkansan AP photo illustrating where Bernard's cabin was in relation to the first torpedo hit.

Initially it was unknown whether Bernard was on watch or in his cabin at the time of the attack. This depends somewhat on the watch schedule. The Merchant Marine is a very structured organization and most of the officers and crew are scheduled to work on a rotating basis. A typical watch schedule for the time would be for the ship to have three Mates, and Bernard as Chief Mate would have stood the 4 to 8 watch, morning and night. So Bernard's watch would have ended at 8:00pm and the torpedoes hit at 8:30pm. All the Merchant Marine veterans I've spoken to so far have said they would usually go right back to their cabin to get some rest. They would have already had dinner around 5:30 or 6:00. We know from the previous voyage, the Suez trip that Mr. Dickie was on that Arkansan had four mates, which was a new standard most ships transitioned to as the war progressed. In these situations the three lower Mates would stand all the watches, and the Chief Mate would perform more of a regular day supervisory function, which would have also placed Bernard in his cabin at the time of the attack. Later when I found the newspaper article from Jones and Martin, it indicate those two officers were on the bridge at the time of the attack. Of course there is no way of knowing for sure, but the odds lean in favor of Bernard being in his cabin. 

Since I have found the plans of the ship, we now also know that the Number 3 Hold where the first torpedo hit extended under the deckhouse quite away. The first torpedo hit around the level of the lower tween deck, so there would have been little structure other than the upper tween deck and whatever cargo was stored back there to help absorb or deflect the explosion beneath Bernard's cabin. 

If Bernard did survive the initial explosion and go back to retrieve something it just makes the story that much more tragic since he was so close to escaping. Perhaps he was in shock from the attack and not thinking that clearly, which wasn't uncommon. I've read stories of crew members and particularly officers that had to be physically forced to abandon ship. If he stayed on the ship his options would have been few. The 17 minutes between the crew abandoning ship and the ship sinking seems like a decent amount of time to retrieve something, but remember that was round trip, the life boat the crew escaped in was one deck up and on the opposite side of the ship, and the external walkway on the port side was heavily damaged. The Arkansan would have continued to move further and further away from the lifeboat, and even assuming he made it off before she went under, he would have had little more than a life vest and maybe a life ring to help keep him afloat. If he cut it too close he ran the risk of getting pulled down with the ship.

To my knowledge Bernard’s body was never recovered. I don’t believe there was ever an individual memorial made for Bernard either, although his name does appear (albeit miss-spelled) on Salem's War Memorial, located on the Salem Common (see photos below). 

Bernard's nephew mentioned that Bernard may have been the first Salem resident to be lost in the war, and that a street had been named after him. I haven’t been able to confirm whether he was the first, but I did find the street, Conners Road, which borders the northern end of Collin’s Cove Park in Salem. Other family members who live in the area thought the timing was right, since this neighborhood was developed soon after the war ended. It is also very close to his parent's home. I tried to confirm through the city planner, but never received a response. 

Miss Ann Louise Fitzpatrick was the Salem High School teacher referred to in the obituary. Unfortunately when I asked the family about Ann, they confirmed that she had passed away (in 2003, at the age of 91). Ann stayed close to the family after Bernard's loss and was known as "Annie Fitz". She became Godmother to Bernard's niece. They also confirmed that Ann did eventually get married, but not until 1950, to a man named Thomas A. Sullivan, a U.S. Army veteran and successful businessman, with whom she raised a family. I contacted the current librarian of Salem High School in the hopes she could provide a picture or details on Ann, but a search of their yearbook archives revealed that the books did not include pictures of faculty during the period she taught there (approximately from 1935 to 1950).

I have often wondered what would have changed if the Arkansan had been the only ship there that night. Bauer had a good track record of offering assistance to his victims. If they hadn’t chased after Kahuku would they have stayed closer to Arkansan and perhaps aided in the search for survivors (as they did with Kahuku)? Would it have been Bernard instead of Archie Gibbs rescued and taken aboard the U-126 for the story of his life? We will never know.

War Memorial to the fallen at Salem Commons on the left and detail of Bernard's name incorrectly inscribed (CONNORS vs CONNERS) on the right.

Donald L. Lambert

Donald Lester Lambert was born in Franklin, OH on May 12th, 1922. He had just turned 20 years old a month before Arkansan’s loss, possibly around the time they would have been in Cape Town. His parents were Otho Vaughan Lambert (1894-1929) who was a Loading Foreman for Greendale Products Co. (Brick-making) and housewife Mary Ellen Bail (1897-1971).

Donald L. Lambert circa 1941, courtesy of 'Young American Patriots', Richmond, VA USA: National Publishing Co., 1946. Note ship's bow over his left shoulder and foredeck rail over his right shoulder.

It was a fairly large family with eight children. Don was the youngest of five brothers, the others being: Marion Franklin (1916-1976), Luther Earl (1917-1971), Cecil Forest (1919-1973), Hubert Vaughn (1920-1942), and he also had three younger sisters: Clara Belle Wyckoff (1924-1992), Velma Irene Spencer (1925-2007), and Mary Jane Burns (1927-2009).

Don’s brief life appears to have been filled with hardship and tragedy.

According to ‘The Athens Messenger’, Athens, OH, when Don was just seven years old, his father was shot and killed Christmas Eve 1929 by a local merchant named Arch Weakley, who claimed self-defense.

The Great Depression had just started with the stock market collapse at the end of October and building suppliers like Greendale Products were hit early. It’s unclear if Otho had yet been laid-off (the plant shut down in 1930), but he showed up at the Weakley’s store while under the influence and had a confrontation with Mr. Weakley and his wife. The situation escalated and Weakley shot Lambert once in the chin with a .38 revolver.

Lambert later died in hospital, but not before being brought to the family home, which must have been traumatic for the children, aged between 2 and 13 at the time.

A grand jury was convened in January 1930, and the case quickly went to trial, but Weakley was acquitted of manslaughter on January 29th, 1930 after the jury deliberated just 4 ½ hours.

Don’s mother Mary, now a widow with eight children remarried that same year to a man named William Dixon (1901-1962). The family lived in a very rural, heavily forested area of Route 1 in the unincorporated township of Gore, Hocking County OH, about 50 miles southeast of Columbus, and only a few miles from their original home in Greendale.

All five Lambert brothers served in WWII. Marion, Hubert and Don served in the Merchant Marine, while Luther and Cecil joined the Army. Although Don was the youngest, he appears to have been the first, joining the Merchant Marine in April of 1940 in New York at the age of 18. Hubert was next on November 11th, 1940 at the age of 20 and both men sailed consistently with Isthmian Steamship Company. Luther joined the Army on February 24th, 1941 at the age of 23. Marion joined the Merchant Marine around September of 1941 at the age of 25 and sailed for a variety of lines in the engineering branch, mainly on tankers. Finally, Cecil joined the Army on March 20th, 1943 at the age of 23.

Tragically, besides Donald, older brother Hubert Lambert (O.S.) was lost with all but one of his crew mates aboard the Isthmian freighter Steel Age when it was sunk off the coast of South America by U-129 (Clausen) on March 7th, 1942, just over 3 months before Donald’s loss. It is not known whether news of his brother’s loss ever reached him. Cecil was wounded in action in the final weeks of the battle of Okinawa on June 11th, 1945 while serving with Dog Company, 63rd Tank Battalion, in support of the 96th Infantry Division, XXIV Corps, but survived the war.

Marion was serving as an Oiler on the tanker Robert E. Hopkins when Don and Hubert were lost. The Hopkins would later be sunk by U-402 (von Forstner) on February 7th, 1943, but luckily Marion had transferred to the James L. Richards in January of 1943.

Don served as one of Arkansan’s Wipers. The Wiper was the most junior crew member in the engine room of a ship. Their role consists of wiping down machinery and performing general maintenance in the engine room.

Don's brothers Hubert Lambert (L) circa 1940 and Cecil Lambert (R) circa 1943, courtesy of 'Young American Patriots', Richmond, VA USA: National Publishing Co., 1946. 

At first that position made sense considering his age and inexperience. Later I found a reference to Don and two of his brothers in  ‘Young American Patriots’, Richmond, VA, USA: National Publishing Co., 1946. The section on Hocking County Ohio notes that Don traveled to Pearl Harbor, India, North Africa, Burma, China and the Philippines during his brief career and noted him (and his brother Hubert) as an S1/c or Seaman First Class, which was really a Navy rating.

Eventually I was able to piece his career together. Although he was noted as joining in April of 1940, the first voyage I located for him was on the Isthmian Steamship Tuscaloosa City (Master William J. Guilfoyle), which Don signed on July 27th, 1940 in New York as an O.S, or Ordinary Seaman. It was an inter-coastal run to Los Angeles and they arrived back on the East Coast, in Boston, on October 7th, 1940. Given the timing of the voyage and when Don joined the Merchant Marine, it is quite possible he made one previous voyage on the vessel. The Tuscaloosa City would later be sunk May 4th, 1942 in the Caribbean by U-125 (Folkers).

On January 23rd, 1941 he signed on Isthmian’s Birmingham City (Master Michael Barry) while she was passing through the Panama Canal on her outbound leg to Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s unclear how Don got to Panama, but perhaps a partial voyage on the Tuscaloosa City. By this time Don was noted as having a tattoo on his left upper arm. They passed back through the canal on April 27th, and arrived in New York on May 7th, 1941. The Birmingham City would later be sunk January 9th, 1943 off the coast of Dutch Guiana by U-124 (Mohr).

On July 27th, 1941 Lambert was reportedly mugged in New Orleans while on liberty from the Isthmian steamship Steel Scientist. According to ‘The Times Picayune’ Wednesday, July 30, 1941 edition, two local youths named Mindack and Pearson, both 17, gave the following account: 

they were riding on Baronne Street about 3:30 p.m. Sunday when they saw Lambert, who appeared to have been drinking. He said they agreed to take Lambert for a ride and they drove into a St. Charles Street service station where the seaman bought three gallons of fuel for the car.

While at the service station Mindack is said to have stated that he put a soft drink bottle in his shirt bosom and then he told Pearson to drive to the outskirts of the city. Arriving at the golf links, police said Lambert got out of the automobile and was followed by Mindack, who struck him on the head [with the soft drink bottle] and robbed him. He told officers that Pearson was not “in” on the robbery and drove off when he struck Lambert.

Mindack stole $25 from Lambert, who had to spend several days recovering from a severe laceration on his head at the United States Marine Hospital.

On November 13th, 1941 Lambert was noted as signing on again with the Steel Scientist (Master Karl O. Bornson) in New York. This is likely the voyage noted in ‘Young American Patriots’ that took him through the Far East. At this point he had risen in position to A.B., or Able-Bodied Seaman. Interestingly enough, another Arkansan crewmember, Herb Schulz, signed on with him, also as an A.B. On February 25th, 1942 both men were discharged from the Steel Scientist while docked in Calcutta, India due to illness.

Crew list from the SS Steel Scientist showing Lambert and Schulz crossed out at the bottom after being discharged at Calcutta on February 25th, 1942 courtesy of

Don appears to have contacted his family while in Calcutta, as the Logan Daily News reported: 

When last heard from he [Don] was ill of malaria and was being transferred by ship to Calcutta, India for treatment.” 

That same article from May 30th, 1946, also erroneously reported: 

The vessel was struck by a Japanese torpedo and sunk. Lambert was transferred to a lifeboat which was later lost. The ship was torpedoed in the Pacific while transporting war materials to the war zone.” The only accurate part of that was that they were transporting war materials.

Both men would have signed on with the Arkansan in Calcutta to make their way home after their hospital stay. Herb was able to get a position as an O.S., but Don had to settle for Wiper. Judging from the two men’s experience on the Steel Scientist, they appear to have been buddies, which may help explain why Herb was upset when I called him for assistance on the Arkansan’s story and he refused.

The Steel Scientist would later be sunk October 12th, 1942 off the coast of French Guiana by U-514 (Auffermann).

Don had an unfortunate penchant for selecting doomed vessels. Every single vessel he was known to have served on was lost during the war.

Captain Jones’ letter to the Marchesseault family (see below) provided details on Donald’s last moments: 

There were two life rafts on the after poop awning. One raft was washed overboard. Another missing man, Lambert, was seen to throw the other raft overboard and jump in after it.

As Arkansan never came to a stop and was still moving at 7 knots, the raft was probably quite out of position when Lambert jumped and the Arkansan would have continued to move away leaving him in a very precarious position in the pitch dark. Based on Jones’ account, I am assuming Lambert was one of the two men who reportedly drowned.

The question remains: why did Lambert choose to abandon ship in the manner he did rather than join the rest of the crew in the life boat? Granted, the one surviving lifeboat was packed, and the prospect of launching the lifeboat while the ship was still moving was fraught with danger. The lifeboat could have easily capsized, spilling the men into the sea.

In an odd coincidence, the lone survivor from his brother Hugh’s ship, Steel Age, A.B. Jose Muniz, survived by jumping overboard (the vessel sank in less than two minutes) and grabbing a float, similar to what Don had attempted. Muniz was picked up by the U-boat and taken back to Germany where he spent the rest of the war as a POW, so it was some time before the authorities knew what happened to the Steel Age and therefore little chance Don would have known this prior to the Arkansan attack.

It took quite a bit of time for the two brothers’ loss to be confirmed. According to ‘The Logan Daily News, October 5, 1942’: 

Both young men have been serving in the Merchant Marine for the past two years and were reported “missing, presumably as a result of enemy action" in an official Navy communique earlier this week.

Hopefully one day a member of the Lambert family will find the site and be able to provide additional information on Don.

Louis L. Marchesseault

Louis Leo Marchesseault was from Killingly CT. He was 44 years old and served as Arkansan’s Deck Engineer, who was a senior crew member responsible for the maintenance of the steam powered winches that were used on deck.

As mentioned earlier, Jeanette Desmarais, the niece of Louis Marchesseault, who was known by “Leo” to his family and friends, contacted me through the site in the summer of 2010. Mrs. Desmarais, provided a letter from Captain Jones, some newspaper clippings and insight into Leo’s life via e-mails and phone conversations. 

Leo was a favorite uncle who stayed with Jeanette’s family (his Brother Sam’s house) between voyages. Jeanette had many fond memories of her Uncle Leo’s sea stories and receiving post cards from all over the world during his 19 year career. He taught them how to play the card game Casino and enjoyed playing the harmonica, keeping one on the door casing of their kitchen. 

Leo had joined the Navy shortly before our entry into the First World War and served as a Fireman (see picture to the right). He was so young, just 16, that it took a couple attempts before his mother agreed to sign the consent form to let him enter the service. He immediately fell in love with the sea, and upon discharge from the Navy went right into the Merchant Marine service. 

Louis Leo Marchesseault circa 1914-1915, courtesy of Jeanette Desmarais.

On the left is a photo of Leo from his 1921 passport. The was included along with the photo on the right in his March 24th, 1926 U.S. Application for Seaman's Protection Certificate file. Images courtesy of

I was able to locate 29 crew lists Leo was listed on from 1922 to 1938:

Leo Marchesseault with his nephew Jack, circa 1936 in Dayville, CT, courtesy of Jeanette Demarais.

Jeanette recalls Leo bringing back parasols from Japan for her and her sister from a voyage he took there.

After visiting for awhile Leo would invariably start pacing the hallways of the house, and they knew he was about to leave on another adventure. They had last seen him in October of 1941.

According to Jones’ letter “The last report I had of Leo. He stopped our Boatswain on the after deck, and said to him, “Lets build a raft.” The Bos’n replied, “Go to the life boats.” Leo went on back aft.” 

Rather than head forward towards the lifeboat as the Bos’n Joe Heuser directed, Leo continued aft, possibly to build a raft and ran out of time. According to one of the newspaper accounts, Leo was the first Killingly, CT resident lost in the war.

Jones’ two accounts of Lambert and Marchesseault appear to show concern among the crew that the single lifeboat was not adequate. 

It was designed for 40 men and should have been just big enough, but there were several injured men which may have given the impression that there was not enough room for everyone. 

The question of whether the boat would be able to be launched successfully may also still have been in question. 

 Arkansan Survivors

The 36 survivors from the Arkansan spent the remainder of the evening and most of the next day in their single lifeboat. Late in the afternoon a Navy patrol plane spotted the lifeboat and relayed a message at 4:38pm to the 12,650 ton provision stores ship USS Pastores (AF-16) traveling from Curacao to Trinidad. The Pastores was about 8 miles away and plotted a course for the lifeboat, which it reached by 4:55pm. They immediately began taking the survivors aboard and administering aid while they proceeded towards Trinidad.

USS Pastores (AF-16) underway off the U.S. East Coast, 25 April 1943. Photographed from a blimp of squadron ZP-14, #411 based at Naval Air Station Elizabeth, New Jersey. Port side aerial view, taken from well aft. Pastores is painted in horizontal two-tone camouflage.  Position 37° 02' N, 75° 15' W, Course 270°, Time: 0853Q, from altitude of 300'. Courtesy of The National Archives, photo no. 80-G-642275.

The injured included the following:

As you can see, most of the injured crew's wounds were infected by the time they were examined by doctors in Trinidad. The first aid box aboard the lifeboat was described as adequate, but treatment aboard unsuccessful. Further exposure in the lifeboat would have only compounded these issues, so they were lucky to be rescued so soon.

The Marchesseault family’s letter from Captain Jones indicated that an airplane went to search the area they were torpedoed 35 hours after they had been sunk. According to Jones; “It’s search was to no avail”. There were probably two main reasons why this failed:

Arkansan was hit at 8:30pm Monday evening, June 15th, and sank 38 minutes later shortly after 9:00pm. 35 hours would have placed the plane in the vicinity around 7:30 or 8:00am on Wednesday morning, June 17th. A lot can happen in that amount of time.

The location of the search is also in question. Jones noted his location as 12° 54’ N, 63° 47’ W on his War Action Casualty Report. This is approximately 70 miles Northwest of where the Germans located the attack, which I believe to be the more accurate of all the estimates.

After two separate attempts I was not able to get a full crew list from the National Archives or the Coast Guard, so I had resigned myself to the fact that this documentation didn't survive the war or had been misfiled.

That was until September of 2010 when I was pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail from Elizabeth Allee Grissom, the daughter of one of the unknown Arkansan crew, George H. Allee. When I inquired how she was able to tie her father to the Arkansan, I was stunned at the response; 

I found that he was on a list of survivors” and “Should you wish I will find it again and forward the information to you.

Elizabeth is an avid genealogist and found the list through the service. As it turned out, the list was not the official Arkansan crew list, but may actually be something just as good, if not better. It was the passenger manifest from the ship that repatriated the majority of the survivors (34) from internment and hospital care in Trinidad to New Orleans. It was the old German passenger liner SS George Washington (see picture below) which had been seized during WWI. It was currently performing transport duties under Alcoa Steamship Company in the Caribbean before being converted from coal to oil for use as a U.S. Army Transport. See here and here for more information and pictures.

Halftone reproduction of a photo of USAT George Washington taken circa 1943-1945. Copied from the book "Troopships of World War II", by Roland W. Charles. US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 85263. Courtesy of

George Washington, deemed too slow for convoy use in the Atlantic, and rejected by the British after one voyage, left Port of Spain, Trinidad on July 2nd and into the U-boat infested waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico with hundreds of passengers on board. Luckily, they arrived safe and sound in New Orleans on July 13th. The passengers were comprised of:

The thirty-four survivors from the Arkansan included the following:

I thought it was great to see that most of the crew was able to stay together for the voyage home. I found a newspaper account that the Purser, Robert Trost, took an aircraft back home. That leaves only one crewmen, Irwin, that went home a different way. Irwin was one of the more seriously injured as noted above, so perhaps he was evacuated earlier for specialized care in the U.S. or required further hospitalization in Trinidad. Based on the information I had and this new information I have created the following composite crew list for the Arkansan:

Twenty three of crew’s positions are known due to documentation, but the ones listed with question marks are educated guesses based on their work histories prior to and after the sinking that I found, adjusted for the usual crew complement.  In December of 2011 Owen E. Thompson became a candidate for Jr. 3rd Mate when his Great Niece contacted me through the 'Comments' page and let me know he was a graduate of the Massachusetts Nautical School. A quick check confirmed this and that he was in the Deck, not Engineering branch. I provided information on how to order his records from the National Maritime Center, so hopefully one day she will report back with more information.

The two passengers were assumed by the limited or total lack of work history compared to all the other men.

It is currently not known if any of the survivors are still alive, but it is my hope that upon posting this update some additional families will try to contact me.

In 2004 Ken Dunn was able to locate one remaining living survivor, Herb Schulz whom happened to live only about three hours from me. I called Herb in early November, 2004. Unfortunately it was a brief call. He told me he did not remember Bernard and did not want to talk about it. Not at all unusual, most don't want to talk about their experiences. I left Herb alone for a few years, but when I started putting the site together early in 2009 I decided to give it one more try and wrote him a letter with a summary of the attack and a list of questions. His letter was returned as undeliverable with no forwarding address a couple weeks later. As part of the breakthrough on the crew list, I was able to determine that Herb had passed away in July of 2005. Perhaps someday one of his family members will find this site and make contact.

The son of Geoffrey Blackett was the first family member to contact me through the site in March of 2010. Geoffrey Blackett served on Arkansan as 2nd Mate for several voyages including the Suez trip and the following voyage when she was sunk. Unfortunately, as is often the case, his father didn't discuss his experiences much while he was still alive. What he did recall was that the uninjured survivors were interned upon arriving back in Trinidad while authorities verified their identities and determined next steps.

New Master Geoffrey H. Blackett officially taking delivery of his first command, the Liberty ship Otis Skinner. The Skinner happened to be the 400th Liberty ship built by the Permanente Metals Corporation. The ladies, from left to right are; Mrs. Paige Monteagle - chairman of the San Francisco Stage Door Canteen Committee & 'Matron of Honor' sponsor, Mrs. Clarence Lindner - Sponsor of the vessel & wife of the publisher of the San Francisco Examiner, and finally Estelle Taylor - 'of stage and screen', representing the theatrical world (and former wife of boxer Jack Dempsey). Photo courtesy of the Blackett family.

Blackett continued to serve as an American-Hawaiian Steamship Co. officer, first as 1st Mate on the James B McPherson, then starting December of 1943 as Master of the brand new liberty ship Otis Skinner. Details of subsequent action in the Pacific where they were struck by a kamikaze can be found on the American-Hawaiian in WWII page for 1945. Fortunately, Blackett did survive the war. He passed away in 1977 in Kahului, HI.

In mid-June 2010 the grand nephew of Leo Marchesseault posted a comment, followed by his aunt Jeanette (Leo’s niece) in July, who over the next several months provided some great breakthroughs, as detailed above. One of those breakthroughs came in the form of a newspaper clipping concerning the following contact:

At the end of June, 2010 I was contacted by the nephew of Robert Trost, per the crew list for the Suez voyage. At the time it was unknown whether Trost stayed with the Arkansan for her final voyage. I checked with Rodman Dickie, who believed that Trost was the Purser, but could not be certain. The Marchesseault’s newspaper clipping helped confirm that Trost was indeed the Purser and was on board when Arkansan was sunk and I was able to relay that information back to his Nephew.

I was contacted by George Allee’s daughter Elizabeth via e-mail at the beginning of October, 2010. As noted above, Elizabeth provided the crew list breakthrough, and the potential for future contacts.

Robert William Conroy's son, Brian, found the site in the summer of 2011 and was able to confirm for me that his father was indeed an Oiler on the Arkansan.

 Paul R. Jones

After much searching, I still have little information on what became of Captain Jones in the years after the sinking or on the remainder of his life and career. It is as if he simply disappeared from the public record. Even reliable sources such as the National Archives in Washington DC, The Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center in West Virginia, and the New England Regional Archives in Waltham, MA have little or no record of him. Quite unusual for a Merchant Marine officer with his experience. I even tried the Masters, Mates & Pilots Union, but they do not keep records that far back on members that are deceased.

It has not been a total loss, however, and small clues continue to surface from time to time, especially concerning his early life and career. For that reason, I suppose it is simply best to start at the beginning.

Right out of the gates, Jones proved to be a challenge. Various documents reflect three different dates of birth between 1902 and 1903. The dates all tied back to him in one way or another, and they do seem to agree on the place at least, Elmira, NY. My working theory is that Paul Jones was an orphan. Elmira, NY is known for a large orphanage that was started there after the Civil War, and he does not appear in any census records from that area for 1910 or 1920. The various dates may be an indication he just did not know his exact birth date, or simply clerical errors throughout the years..

The first time Jones appears in the public record is in the 1920 census for Gloucester, Massachusetts. Here he is noted as a 17-year-old boarder, staying with Edgar Merchant (1855-1928) and Hattie Merchant née Parkhurst (1857-abt 1945), at their home on 29 Commonwealth Avenue. Both Edgar and Hattie were in their early 60’s at this time. Jones is noted as being from New York State, and his “parents” were noted as being from Maine. Jones was working as a secretary/assistant for the local YMCA at the time. Edgar Merchant was retired as the Agent for the old Boston & Gloucester Steamship Co. that ran a ferry service between the two ports for many years with the SS Cape Anne.

Steamboat wharf in Gloucester Harbor circa 1920's. Note the sign: "EDGAR MERCHANT, AGT." and the stern of the SS Cape Anne, just visible on the left with light reflected off the water on her hull. Photo courtesy of the Gloucester Daily Times.

The Merchant’s, acting as Jones’ guardians, provided him a place to live and put him through the Massachusetts Nautical School (The same school Bernard went to), likely because of Merchant’s maritime background. It was the school’s records that finally provided Paul’s middle name.

Paul Reuben Jones started at the Massachusetts Nautical School on April 25th, 1921. He appears to have had quite an aptitude for it and was at or near the top of his class. Like Bernard, he also served on the USS Nantucket under Captain Armistead Rust. Rust would later personally sign Jones’ Certificate of Efficiency to Lifeboat Man in 1927.

For the summer cruise of 1921 they departed Boston on May 9th and made stops in Plymouth England, Brest France, Lisbon Portugal, Cadiz Spain, Gibraltar, Tangier Morocco, Funchal Madeira, Norfolk Virginia, Washington D.C., Essington Pennsylvania, and Nantucket Massachusetts, arriving back in Boston on September 13th. See the map below from the school’s annual report.

Route of the 1921 Summer Training Cruise from the Massachusetts Nautical School's Annual Report.

1921 was the first year the school re-instituted the foreign cruise after World War I. From 1914 through 1920 they limited the cruise to East Coast waters. They would do so again leading up to and through the Second World War.

By the summer term of 1922 Jones would be one of the Deck Petty Officers as well as Cadet Second Officer for Navigation.

For the summer cruise of 1922 they departed Boston on May 6th and made stops in Marblehead Massachusetts, Terceira Azores, Ponta Delgada Azores, Gibraltar, Malaga Spain, Port Mahon Minorca, Civitavecchia (Rome) Italy, Naples Italy, Tunis Morocco, Algiers Algeria, Gibraltar, Santa Cruz Tenerife, Norfolk Virginia, Washington D.C., and Nantucket Massachusetts, arriving back in Boston on September 19th. See the map below from the school’s annual report.

Route of the 1922 Summer Training Cruise from the Massachusetts Nautical School's Annual Report.

Of special note on this cruise they ran into quite a bit of bad weather on the voyage over. At Malaga Spain they were called on by officers from the battleship Alfonso XIII. In Rome, the Catholic cadets and crew were treated to an audience with Pope Pius the XI, who presented them with medals. Jones’ religious denomination is not known. Near Naples they visited the ruins of Pompeii. In Tunis they were given liberty and visited the ruins at Carthage. On their way to Algiers they past thirteen US Destroyers on tour who had just left the port.

Jones graduated on March 27th, 1923. He received a grade of 85%, or over and was entitled to wear gold star on his coat collar. He was also the 1923 recipient of the Wood-Whitman Memorial Prize for the graduate of the year standing highest in seamanship and navigation. Awarded since 1917, it came with a cash prize of $210, decent money in those days, and worth about $2,680 today.

USS Nantucket circa 1922 from the Massachusetts Nautical School's Annual Report.

Edgar Merchant had a daughter, Effie, who was about 45 when Paul graduated, and she was married to a fisherman named Joseph Langsford. They in turn had a daughter named Marion (aka Mary) that was about 12 at the time, and Paul stayed with them as well, at 5 Clifford Terrace (now Court) in Gloucester. This apartment was behind Edgar and Hattie’s house in the same block.

Paul must have been very close to the Merchant’s/Langsford’s and records show he either lived with them or next door to them for the next 20-23 years when he wasn't at sea. I'm still not sure if he was officially adopted by the Merchant's or Langsford's, but there is no doubt he was taken in and given a direction in life by them.

It is believed American-Hawaiian recruited Jones right after graduation, although since I have not been able to locate his records, it’s not clear what his first assignment was. By the time the school’s 1927 annual report was published it noted him as Second Officer on the Ohioan. This was the first Ohioan that served in the First World War, not the vessel from the Second World War. Years later, in 1936 this vessel would be lost when it ran aground on Seal Rock on the approach to San Francisco. The table below shows Jones’ assignments from the 1930’s up to Arkansan’s loss.

Golden Horn, Golden Wall and Golden Hind were all operated by Oceanic & Oriental Navigation Co., a joint venture between American-Hawaiian and Matson between 1928 and 1938. Golden Horn would be taken over by Matson at the end of that arrangement and would become Kaimoku, lost to U-379 on August 8th, 1942. Golden Wall would become the second Ohioan, which would be sunk bu U-564 a little over a month before the Arkansan. Golden Hind would become the second Honolulan, which would be sunk by U-582 a little over a month after Arkansan. You can read about Ohioan’s and Honolulan’s loss on my dedicated pages by clicking their links.

Jones appears to have become the Master of Arkansan as soon as American-Hawaiian acquired her. His first year was a little more exciting than he had probably hoped for. In July of 1937 he and the Arkansan helped rescue passengers of the excursion steamer City of Baltimore, which had caught fire in Chesapeake Bay. Arkansan suffered some moderate damage.   A few months later, after Arkansan reached the west coast, and before she headed back east, she entered San Pedro harbor and was severely damaged when the Isthmian Line freighter Knoxville City rammed into her. The Blackett family was kind enough to provide several excellent photographs showing the extent of the damage.  I detail both events on the 'Arkansan Info' page.

Original caption: "Out of the Pacific's latest drama of men against the sea came this exclusive picture. The ship in the foreground is the little lumber schooner Stanwood, adrift and helpless. The other vessel is the Coast Guard cutter Shawnee, herself battered by the seas over Humboldt Bar. Four of her lifeboats are gone, her radio mast carried away. Here she is cruising around the Stanwood ready to shoot a tow line to the lumber schooner. The cutter Shoshone eventually arrived to assist the Stanwood, and the Shawnee went on to rescue the ten Coast Guardsmen who were lost at sea for nearly 40 hours. This picture was taken by Radio Operator Vincent J. Healey, 34, from the American-Hawaiian freighter Arkansan. It was taken at 1:30 p.m. Christmas Day about 52 miles south of Blunt's Reef lightship and 20 miles at sea. The Arkansan was the first rescue ship to reach the Stanwood. She stood by through the night. On arrival of the Shawnee she proceeded to San Francisco." Paul R. Jones was Master of the Arkansan at this time. Photo courtesy of the Blackett family.

The next few years seemed to return to a normal pace, but later, in 1940, Jones and the crew of the Arkansan stepped up again and stood by overnight in heavy seas when a small lumber freighter named the Stanwood lost power off the Pacific coast (see photo above). The Coast Guard eventually affected the rescue and towed the Stanwood to port. 

As mentioned previously in the Leo Marchesseault section above, his niece Jeanette, only 24 at the time, wrote a letter to Jones in Gloucester asking for information on her uncle’s fate. The letter was quickly forward to the Hotel New Yorker at 34th Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan where Jones was staying. 

Below is a copy of the reply Jones wrote on July 23rd. Jones had written the letter in his own hand which affects the spacing somewhat, but I retained his paragraphs, grammar and spelling.

This was very helpful in filling in some of the blanks on 'The Attack’ page. It is also clear that about 5 weeks after the sinking the fate of the 4 missing men was still unknown. Jones appears to be conflicted as well, as if he was thinking things through as he composed the letter. At the beginning of the 3rd paragraph he seems to offer some hope that they may have been picked up by another vessel, only to dash those hopes by the end of the paragraph, and in a rather disturbing manner.

I must confess that for all the time I’ve spent trying to uncover Bernard’s final moments I never gave the topic of that paragraph much thought. It shocked and disturbed me the first time I read it. I was actually disappointed and a little perturbed at Captain Jones for even bringing the topic up, especially to a young lady looking for answers about her beloved uncle. It seems so unnecessarily blunt. 

In time I just took it as an indication that Jones was still struggling with his own understanding of the events.

First page of Jones' letter written on Hotel New Yorker stationary. Note hotel image in lower left-hand corner. Courtesy of the Marchessault family.

Jones Letter:

July 23, 1942

In reply to your letter of July 20th. The following are the details in regards to our sinking, in relationship to Mr. Marchesseault, our Deck Engr.

The ship was torpedoed at 8:29 p.m. June 15th. It was pitch black. The general alarm was given approximately one to one and a half minutes before we were struck by the torpedoes. There were no lights. After we were hit the vessel took a very heavy list and shipped a large sea. The last report I had of Leo. He stopped our Boatswain on the after deck, and said to him, “Lets build a raft”. The Bos’n replied, “Go to the life boats”. Leo went on back aft. There were two life rafts on the after poop awning. One raft was washed overboard. Another missing man, Lambert, was seen to throw the other raft overboard and jumped in after it. We stayed alongside the vessel for approximately 20 min. until it was no longer safe to remain. With everyman that could be located, in the lifeboat, we cast off, and the vessel sank a few min. later. We rowed among the wreckage looking for the 4 missing men, the 36 men in the lifeboat took a vote and unanimously agree that it was futile to continue the search longer. At one time during the search the sub was seen about 300 ft. away. Fortunately for us he didn’t machine gun us. Possibly he didn’t see us. We then started our long way to the coast. We were picked up late the following afternoon. Upon landing I notified the Navy Officials. An airplane went to the position where we were torpedoed, 35 hrs after we had been sunk. It’s search was to no avail.

Assuming that they did make a raft or some other drifting object, and were alive, it is possible that some passing steamer picked them up before the airplane arrived. In this event they may have been carried to almost any place in the world. Upon that vessel’s arrival, the men would be reported at once. I should say, if you do not hear anything within the next several weeks, that they had not been picked up. The waters were Baracuda and shark infested. That is why I doubt if any of the men, unless they just accidently bumped into something drifting in the pitch black, survived the night.

I am very sorry to have to tell you this but I believe that you would rather know the facts as I see them.


Paul Jones

Jones would have faced a hearing by the Coast Guard for the loss of the Arkansan. The Maritime Commission, American-Hawaiian, Insurance Company(s) the Unions and the company(s) that owned the goods that went down with the Arkansan would all also want to know if there was any fault on Jones’ part for the loss (Not that any of them would take any responsibility, of course).

I don't believe any documentation from that hearing has survived. The records are not with the Coast Guard’s holdings at the National Maritime Center. I’ve been told the records would have been purged after a period of time. My initial thought is that he appears to have been cleared of any wrong doing since his career continued according to his death certificate.

Just from the research I have done it does not appear that any fault lies with Jones. It would not have been his decision alone to sail, he would have been under instructions from the Authorities to sail. Ultimately it was NOIC (Naval Officer in Command) Port of Spain who had the authority to delay or cancel the sailing. He sailed when it was a new moon. It may have seemed that the lack of moonlight would be the safer bet, the lack of visibility making the vessel harder to spot. The reality is that U-Boat commander’s were more concerned with operating on the surface during full moon periods when they could be easily spotted and surprised by aircraft. The darkness was their ally, not ours. Even in the “pitch black” circumstances of Arkansan’s attack it is never really totally black. There are subtle differences in shades of black and the U-boat crews were experts at exploiting these differences, with specially lit control rooms and red glasses for the upcoming watch to wear to help them acclimate to the darkness quicker. The large hulking freighters were also easier to spot than the small, relatively low conning tower of the U-Boat. Reports often refer to seeing shadows or shapes.

As the Master of an unarmed, unescorted Merchant ship, the defensive tools at Jones’ disposal would have been few. There were really three basic tools:

Artist: Seymour R. Goff. Date unknown. Published New York: Seagram-Distillers Corp. Courtesy of

1. Lights Out - This would have been one of the requirements. Arkansan would have been running without navigation lights and was blacked out to make her harder to spot. Curtains would have been placed of the portholes to prevent light from escaping the inside of the ship. Under certain circumstances this would have helped somewhat, but obviously not enough here. As I’ve noted from Bauer’s war diary, U-126 spotted Arkansan before dark. 

2. Zig-Zag - Zig-zagging, or steering an evasive course on a pre-determined pattern can make it more difficult (but not impossible) for a U-boat to determine where you will be, which makes it harder to determine when and where to fire their torpedo(es). Despite their high speed relative to the Merchant ship or even the U-Boat, torpedoes were a low velocity weapon. The U-Boat would have to ‘lead’ the target, or aim for where it thinks its target will be in the next few minutes. One down-side of all this maneuvering is that it reduces the vessels speed somewhat. Jones stopped zig-zagging when it became dark which was common, probably to make better speed, which was also a defensive tactic of sorts. Even if Jones had continued to zig-zag I don’t believe it would have made any difference with an experienced commander and crew like that of the U-126. As we saw in the case of the Kahuku, zig-zagging help her avoid one torpedo, but not the other. U-Boat commanders would often compensate for this maneuvering by firing a spread or fan shot of two or more torpedoes aimed at various points along the projected path. About the best that can be said of this tactic is that it caused U-Boats to use more torpedoes than they would have to without, thus shortening the patrol time and therefore reducing their destructive potential. 

3. Lookouts - Lookouts were men posted in various positions on the ship. Typically on the bow, in the crows nest on the main mast, on the bridge, and sometimes on other high positions on the deck-house or even on the stern. This was not only to look for U-boats and torpedo tracks, but for other dangers inherent with a vessels moving at top speed without navigation lights amongst other vessels doing the same. As mentioned previously, the Germans had the advantage here. In fact the attack may have even been timed to coincide with the watch change that would have occurred at 8:00pm. Another factor would be the electric torpedoes that were used. These left little or no wake, unlike their compressed air cousins that you usually see in the movies.

It’s not clear where the three lookouts Jones mentioned in his report were posted at the time of the attack. From the newspaper article I later located it is known that Jones himself was on the bridge at the time, as well as Third Mate Joe Martin. According to the same article (below), it was Joe that first spotted the U-boat.

Since it was pitch black, my theory is that what caught Joe’s attention was probably the geysers formed around the stern of the U-126 by the compressed air escaping due to the torpedo launches. The Germans had an optional piston they would place in the tube behind the torpedo to trap the air and prevent it from giving away their location on submerged firings. As this was a surface firing, it was not needed.

Also from the Kahuku attack we know that even if Arkansan was armed it was no guarantee. In fact, I’m of the opinion that despite the remarkable bravery of the young Armed Guard crews placed on these vessels, they did little to deter U-Boat attacks, had precious few successes (Stephen Hopkins vs. Stier being the rare example), and resulted in an overall greater loss of life. They would have a greater impact later in the war, especially in anti-aircraft defense in the Pacific theater.

After the attack, when Arkansan's survivors reached New Orleans on July 13th, most took a train to New York. It’s known from the Marchesseault letter written July 23rd that Jones stayed at the Hotel New Yorker for a week or so. At the time, Jones owned a house in Gloucester at 26 Commonwealth Avenue (just down and across from the Merchant’s house). He appears to have sold and moved away from this house shortly after the Arkansan sinking. Jones also had a house in San Francisco at 1090 Eddy Street.

By the end of July, according to newspaper article below, Jones was spending some time with his friend Joe Martin’s family in Portland, OR.

In the July 31st edition of ‘The Oregonian’ Newspaper, Portland, OR, there was an article entitled: “Marine Heroes Describe Ship Sinking by Axis Sub” by Bonnie Wiley, Staff Writer for The Oregonian. Jones and Martin were visiting Martin’s mother in Portland and Bonnie apparently interviewed them there.

Original caption: "Taking over dishwashing duties Thursday morning at the home of Mrs. Lila Martin, 1130 S. W. 19th avenue, are Mrs. Martin's son, Third Mate Joseph L. Martin, right, and Captain Paul R. Jones of the merchant marine, whose ship was sunk recently in the Caribbean." From the Friday July 31st, 1942 edition of 'The Oregonian' newspaper, courtesy of Ken Pinard via

The article read as follows:

A couple of modest merchant marine heroes came to Portland Thursday – Joseph L. Martin, third mate, and captain Paul R. Jones, whose ship was shot out from under them not so many days ago in the Caribbean.

They got all of their crew, save four missing men, off safely in a lifeboat, did the captain and the third mate, and they spent a harrowing time searching the floating wreckage for survivors, until the sub that sank their merchant boat threatened the lives of their 36 remaining crew members, but they answered questions Thursday with: “Aw, it wasn’t anything.”

They rowed their lifeboat for a night and a day in shark and barracuda-infested waters and treated their injured seamen as best they could and felt the sting of the sea in raw cuts they’d suffered when two axis torpedoes turned their merchant boat into a thrashing, broken monster of the deep, but: “Aw, it wasn’t anything.”

Martin, the 22-year-old third mate, is the son of Mrs. Lila L. Martin, 1130 S. W. 19th avenue, a Franklin High School graduate, who put to sea in a raft off Newport at the age of 8 and was picked up soundly paddled by the coast guard before he got to China, his avowed destination.

“I finally got to China, though,” he grinned Thursday. “It was some years later, however, and I didn’t do it on a raft. I’ve seen a lot of the world in the nearly seven years I’ve been at sea.”

Captain Jones, who hails from Gloucester, Mass., was at one time the merchant marine’s youngest captain and Thursday, at 39, declared he’d been sailing the seas for “longer than I can remember.”

First attack upon their ship came last September in Suez when 50 German bombers shot 17 holes in the vessel. Third Mate Martin received a deep scalp wound during that attack but avowed Thursday that “Aw, it wasn’t anything.”

Sub Sighted

Joe and the captain were on the bridge when the torpedo attack came in the Caribbean.

“I could see the sub before the first torpedo hit us,” Martin said. “I yelled to Captain Jones and we warned the men to be ready. It struck with an explosive roar and a burst of fire that knocked us all down.

“We got most of the men safely into the lifeboat except four of them, two of whom jumped overboard. We rowed around for quite a while searching in the inky blackness for the men, but when the sub came up close and flashed lights on us we decided we’d better get our 36 survivors to safety.”

Navy Vessel Arrives

After 20-1/2 hours the boat was sighted by a navy vessel and the crew was rescued. A navy plane sent over the site where the merchant boat sank failed to locate the four missing men.

After a rest in Portland the captain and the third mate will put to sea again in a merchant ship with the memories of axis torpedoes still fresh in their minds, but Thursday they mumbled modestly: “Aw, it isn’t anything.

On Saturday, August 1st, 1942 Jones, Martin and third man that was a Portland native that took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea, where honored guests at the Victory Center war bonds event in Portland.

After that Jones basically disappears from the public record until his death from heart failure in 1991 in Riverside, CA at the age of 87 or 88, depending on which date of birth you believe.

Not coincidentally, Marion (aka Mary) Langsford also lived in Riverside and passed away there about ten years before Jones. She was actually listed as his "Mother" on his death certificate. Of course she can't be his biological mother since she was born after Jones, but apparently that is how Jones viewed her.

Jones’ death certificate provided a few more details; such as that his last employer was American-Hawaiian and he had 30 years experience as a Merchant Mariner, which means his career did not end with the Arkansan’s loss. This is a little curious in one regard, however, in that it means he stopped in the early 1950's, which begs the question: what did he do for the next 30 plus years? The certificate also notes that Jones suffered from paralysis on his left side due to a stroke, but it’s unclear when this may have occurred.

The death certificate had one final important clue: Jones’ remains were signed for by a Thomas Paul Taylor, who was Mary Langsford's son. His middle name may, in fact, have been derived from Jones’. Unfortunately, Thomas died in 2009 near Tacoma, WA. I'm sure he could have provided a wealth of info on Jones. I found his obituary and unfortunately his wife and sister have also passed, but it did list a half brother, a son, and 3 daughters. So far this has not resulted in the contacts I had hoped for. Perhaps one day Taylor’s descendants will stumble upon this site and offer some more details.

As noted in my previous draft, I was able to gain a little more insight about Jones as a captain from Rodman L. Dickie, who served with Jones on the Arkansan for several voyages, first as a cadet officer, then as 4th Mate, and finally as 3rd Mate. Just reading Rodman's memoir of his time aboard there are several anecdotal examples of Jones' skill as a Merchant Marine Captain, such as his keen eyesight, spot on navigation, and finesse docking the Arkansan in ports with strong tides without the aid of a tugboat (a point of pride with many ship's Masters of the time). There are also many examples of his concern for his officers and crew, actively mentoring his junior officers, reminding them to write home, tutoring A.B. Joe Martin for his 3rd Mate's license, and signaling ahead to the sick Rodman's father so that he could meet the ship in New York and take care of his son.

From the crew list that Rodman provided me I was also able to glean a few personal details about Jones. He was 38 years old at the time they got back to New York before Arkansan’s final voyage, and had over 20 years of experience. He was 5' - 7" tall, and weighed 150 pounds.

I’m hoping that the National Maritime Center has simply misfiled his records or they are at some other archive and they are not lost forever. The recent discovery of the information and photo of Jones and Martin in Portland after the sinking leaves me hopeful that someday his full story can be told. Digital records are expanding all the time, and with them the chance for a new discovery. There is always the chance that a relative or friend of Jones will stumble upon the site one day as well. The search goes on.

Joseph L. Martin

Joseph Lester Martin was born October 2nd, 1919 in Newport, Oregon. He was the middle child of barber Lester Martin (1879-1931) and Lila Catherine Lewis (1893-1987). His siblings were older sister Clydie (1919-?) and younger brother Preston (1924-1999).

Not much is known of Joe’s early life other than from the newspaper article I located which stated young Joe 

put to sea in a raft off Newport at the age of 8 and was picked up soundly paddled by the coast guard before he got to China, his avowed destination.

“I finally got to China, though,” he grinned Thursday. “It was some years later, however, and I didn’t do it on a raft.

His father passed away in 1931 when he was just 11-years-old. His mother apparently never re-married and raised the three children on her own. Joe graduated from Lincoln High School around 1937. Soon afterwards Joe apparently started his career as a merchant seaman.

The first crew list I was able to find for Joe showed him as an O.S. (Ordinary Seaman) on the Matson freighter SS Lahaina under Master Fred N. Troupe in 1938. He had signed on the vessel on November 4th in San Francisco and they had sailed to the Pacific Northwest, arriving in Olympia, WA on November 13th from Vancouver, B.C. The SS Lahaina would later be sunk by the Imperial Japanese submarine I-9 off Hawaii on December 11th, 1941.

It’s quite possible he served with Oceanic and Oriental Navigation on one of the “Golden” ships prior to Matson’s split with American-Hawaiian, and it was this time with O&O that Joe was referring to when he mentioned he eventually got to China.

By 1940 he was living in San Francisco and serving as an A.B. (Able-bodied Seaman) aboard the Arkansan under Master Paul R. Jones. As noted by Rodman Dickie, Captain Jones was tutoring Martin on preparing for his Third Mate’s exam.

Martin had been on Arkansan when the vessel was Bombed in Suez, Egypt in September of 1941. Martin was lucky to have walked away with scalp wound from that attack. A few inches lower, and the shrapnel may have killed him.

It was unclear for the longest time what capacity Martin served as on Arkansan at the time of her loss. The newspaper article I found in 2014 mentioned previously in Jones’ section confirms that Joe had passed his Third Mate’s exam and was on the bridge with Jones at the time of the attack.

There is a gap in Joe’s records as well after he and Jones visited his mother in Portland. It’s not until August 14th of 1945, three years later, that Martin pops up again, this time as Chief Mate on the SS Sea Ray under Master Murvin E. Shigley. The voyage had returned to San Francisco from Yokohama, Japan on October 22nd, 1945, so they must have been in Japan immediately after the Japanese surrender.

The Sea Ray was a type C3-S-A2 built by Western Pipe and Steel Co., San Pedro, CA. She was built as a multi-role vessel: Cargo, Navy Amphibious Attack Transport, WSA (War Shipping Administration) Troop Transport.

There is another gap until the spring of 1951 when he is shown as Chief Mate on the SS Duke Victory under Master O.W. Carlson. Duke Victory had been transferred from American-Hawaiian to Stockard Steamship Corp. in 1950 under a bare boat charter.

The next five years the records show he jumped from company to company in the following sequence:

Chief Mate - SS H.H. Raymond (American Mail Line)

3rd Mate - SS Transamerican (American Union Transport, Inc.)

2nd Mate - SS Diddo (Firth Steamship Corp.)

2nd Mate - SS Denise (Clifton SS Co.)

Unfortunately, after this I lose track of him. I cannot even find when he may have passed. Joe would be 95-years-old, so he could still be alive as well. The one contact I found through who helped me find the newspaper article did not seem to have anything beyond that. Joe’s mother came from a very large family; she was one of 11 children, so I’m hoping one of their extended family members will find the site one day. It would be wonderful to talk to Joe if he is still alive. If he has passed, without some proof, I am also on hold as far as ordering his records from the National Maritime Center, which could shed more light on his career.

Kahuku Casualties and Survivors

The 91 survivors from the Kahuku in one lifeboat and 3 to 4 life rafts were picked up the following day as well. As Bauer had predicted to the survivors, by the 495 ton patrol craft USS Opal (PYC-8), plus the Yard Patrol Craft YP-63. The Opal was a converted coastal yacht, built, ironically, in Germany. The survivors were brought to Trinidad. 

USS Opal (PYc-8) at the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina, on 23 June 1941 after conversion National Archives photo 19-N-24470. Photo courtesy of Mike Green via

The list of Kahuku's casualties is as follows:

In addition, two of the survivors from Cold Harbor were lost:

Six of the survivors from the Scottsburg (Archie's ship) were also lost, however I don't have a full list of their casualties other than:

I assume the sixth casualty was a member of the Armed Guard.

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