Bernard Edward Conners
Date of Birth: June 6, 1909
Place of Birth: Washington, D.C.
Date of Death: June 15, 1942
Place of Death: Off Grenada, Caribbean sea
Initially, I was able to find the least amount of information on Bernard. It was actually much easier getting information on the German U-boat commander (Bauer) that sunk Bernard’s ship, and his second in command (Hans-Adolf Schweichel) who executed the attack.
Eventually I was able to find some more information on Bernard, including a partial work history from The National Archives, and some family members have come forward with some missing documentation, including his certificate from the nautical academy he trained at in the early '30's. If any family member has a more recent picture of Bernard than the pictures I've included (latest was from 1937), I would like to add it to the site here, and move the picture above to the Education section below.
Likewise, if anyone has some old documentation or correspondence from or about Bernard tucked away in a drawer, a closet or an attic I'd love the opportunity to review it to see if it adds to the story. Please let me know.
Bernard Conners 1927
Saint Mary’s Parochial School
Graduated Salem High School. The picture at the top is his graduation photo.
Fall of 1927 through Winter of 1929:
Attended Northeastern University in Boston, MA in their Chemical Engineering program. Appears to have dropped out just prior to the completion of his sophomore year.
Bernard is located in the center of the zoomed image in the dark suit. Freshman class photo is from the 1928 Northeastern University yearbook - the 'Cauldron'.
March 30th, 1929:
Bernard entered the Massachusetts Nautical School which took place on the schoolship USS Nantucket. The spring entrance examinations took place March 28th, 29th and 30th.
According to the school's annual report:
"In his inaugural message on January 3, 1929, His Excellency the Governor, Frank G. Allen, said: "The continued prosperity and well-being of Massachusetts depends largely upon the ability of our young people to meet the demands of an advancing and progressive age. Educational standards must keep pace with the times. I believe every student should have as good an educational groundwork as possible, suited so far as feasible in each case to his special interests and capabilities.
The function of the Massachusetts Nautical School is to provide an education for the young men of the State whose special interests and capabilities are on the sea. It is providing a vocational education for qualified young men who cannot otherwise afford a technical training. The course includes two years of practical and theoretical instruction in seamanship, navigation, and marine engineering. The regulations require candidates to be between seventeen and twenty years of age and sons of citizens of Massachusetts. Classes are admitted semi-annually by competitive examination in April and October. The school is conducted onboard the U.S.S. "Nantucket," a steam vessel with sail power, which cruises at sea from May until September, and in the winter is moored at the North End Park, Boston.
Applicants entering the school make a clothing fund deposit of $150, a graduation deposit of $50,and pay a tuition fee of $50. The graduation deposit is returned to the cadet upon graduation; if he fails to graduate for any reason, it is forfeited to the State. At the beginning of the second year of the course, there is required a clothing fund deposit of $50 and a tuition fee of $50.
Since its establishment thirty-eight years ago, the school has been remarkably successful. It has been filled to its capacity,with a waiting list from which to fill any vacancies occurring during the first weeks of the course. It is providing officers for the merchant marine and a naval reserve ready for instant use whenever needed. Few if any State technical schools have so large a percent of graduates engaged in the special work for which they were educated and trained. The record of the graduates as operating managers, marine superintendents, superintending engineers, port captains, captains, chief engineers, and in other important positions is given at the end of this report. [in the original]"
The USS Nantucket (or the "Nancy", as she was affectionately called) was an iron gunboat, barkentine rigged, laid down in 1873; launched in 1876 by Harlan and Hollingsworth, Wilmington, DE, originally commissioned as USS Ranger (IV) at League Island Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, PA, 27 November 1876. For a more complete history, see here.
During the winter term of 1928 - 1929, just prior to Bernard's arrival, the decision was made to paint the outside hull of the Nantucket black, instead of the usual white as in the past. Her four boilers were also updated.
Schooling actually occurred aboard ship. The very definition of "on-the-job-training".
His first summer term, as a 4th Classman, ran from June through September of 1929 and would have been at sea aboard the Nantucket.
Wonderful photo of the Nantucket heeling over to starboard at sea in the 1920’s as the cadets are busy setting the sails. This rare image shows her barkentine configuration quite well (square sails on the foremast, fore-and-aft sails on the main and mizzen masts), which was still in place when Bernard trained on her a few years later. Note the group of cadets on the foredeck looking toward the camera. From the Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. All rights reserved. https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/cn69m8565
Per Bernard's transcripts, which I was able to obtain from the school, his curriculum included the following;
June: Seamanship and Practical Seamanship.
July: Navigation, Practical Seamanship, Mathematics and Practical Engineering.
August: Seamanship, Navigation, Practical Seamanship, Electricity, Engineering and Mathematics.
September: Seamanship, Navigation, Practical Seamanship and Electricity.
Officers and Instructors included:
- Armistead Rust, Captain USN, Retired, Superintendent of Schoolship
- Norman E. Merrill (graduate MNS 1912), Schoolship Executive Officer
- William W. Storey (graduate MNS 1917), Schoolship Navigator
- Richard T. Rounds (graduate MNS 1926), Schoolship Watch Officer
- Nicolai S. Sivertsen, Schoolship Watch Officer
- Ervin L. Kelley, Lieutenant, USNR (graduate MNS 1909), Chief Marine Engineer
- Norman L. Queen (graduate MNS 1926), Assistant Marine Engineer
- Arthur L. Wheeler, Schoolship Instructor in Mathematics
- Robert S. Palmer, M. D., Schoolship Surgeon
- Charles Parker, Schoolship Paymaster
Captain Armistead Rust became Superintendent on July 24th, 1919. According to the school's annual report for that year; "He is an officer of experience in the United States Navy, having served in the Naval Training Service on the U. S. S. "Saratoga," "Constellation" and "Jamestown," full-rigged sailing vessels without steam power. He is a recognized expert in theoretical and practical navigation, and through his efforts many improvements have occurred in the art. He has invented a number of instruments designed to benefit the naval service, among the most important of which is a range finder. He is the author of 'Practical Tables for Navigators and Aviators.' used by the United States Navy and the United States Shipping Board."
An article in the Thursday, May 23, 1929 edition of the Boston Herald Newspaper described the departure of the Nantucket on Bernard's first summer cruise as follows:
"TRAINING VESSEL LEAVES ON CRUISE
Nantucket Carries 118 Cadets On Four-Month Voyage
Bound on a foreign cruise, the Massachusetts nautical school ship Nantucket left anchorage off Rowe's wharf yesterday at 1:05 P. M., carrying 118 cadets, instructors and a skeleton crew of experts, both deck and engine divisions.
The barkentine's yards were neatly squared and she was spick and span, rather a picture from some craft dating back to the civil war, sail auxiliary to steam, for the Nantucket can reel off good speed with boilers hot. They hauled the jib to windward to help her fall off when the anchor chain was up and down, and there was none too much room in which to turn into the main channel. It was a pretty manoeuvre by Capt. Armistead Rust, U. S. N., retired, the commander, and the vessel handled beautifully as she moved down harbor, out by Boston light and headed for Provincetown, where it was planned to spend last night."
Original caption for this image was “Mass. nautical training ship Nantucket, Charlestown Navy Yard”, dated May 14, 1929. Black hull and barkentine configuration supports the date, and so Bernard was quite possibly one of the young cadets climbing the rigging. As noted they were in port in Boston and likely getting some sail drills done in preparation for the 1929 summer cruise. From the Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. All rights reserved. https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/cn69m8786
The article goes on to mention the various ports of call, and then notes "Mail should be addressed to the U. S. S. Nantucket, care postmaster, New York, N. Y., using domestic postage."
Thanks to some info George Duffy located for me and the school's Annual Report I was able to locate on-line, I learned that Bernard's first summer cruise (1929) was as follows:
"The "Nantucket" sailed from Provincetown on May 25, 1929, and arrived at Ponta Delgada, Azores, on June 7; during the passage 1,200 miles were made under sail, 610 miles under sail and steam, and 384 miles under steam"
In December of 2017 Bernard's nephew, John Connelly, surprised me by sending some letters Bernard had written to family while he attended the school, the first of which were while Bernard was on this first training cruise.
Bernard's 1st Letter:
Wed May 30 
700 miles out
Thought I’d write you a little letter to let you know how things are. I’m writing this on top of a locker, alongside a port hole. Although the port hole is about four feet from the surface, it’s buried every time the boat rocks.
This is the first rough day we’ve had so far. I’m not sea sick though. After the first three days I was all right. It’s some life here. One night we sleep from 8 till 12, work from 12 to 4 & sleep from 4 to 7. The next night we work from 8 till 12, sleep from 12 to 4 & work from 4 to 8.
During the day we’re supposed to have every other 4 hours off but we don’t. Every afternoon we get down on our knees & scrub clothes, using salt water & soap. They allow us one quart of fresh water a day for washing ourselves. It’s issued to us in the morning. Then every morning they inspect our bodies and the clothes we wear to make sure we are clean.
We’re traveling pretty fast today. We’re only using sail too. The foremast is square rigged & it certainly looks pretty with all the sail filled out. I don’t know much about the rigging of sails yet but we’re learning fast. They issued us some books yesterday & classes will start pretty soon.
How are all the folks? Have them all write & you write too. Tell Robert to send over his $50 and I’ll buy him a real painting in Italy [Robert is his older brother who was an artist. He was my wife's grandfather]. Tell mom her sea stores were very nice. Especially the fruit cake. When they came aboard, I thought I’d never be able to get them in the locker. As soon as we get back you can come up and see how small it is. But we always find room for more.
We almost went to the bottom last night. Something happened to the engine, they had about fifty # [pounds] pressure in the boiler & then discovered there was only a few inches of water in the bottom. They said afterward we were very lucky to get by, but not many knew about it at the time. I could write for hours telling of everything on the ship. [Not the best way to start a paragraph to your parents, but the danger was real. Without enough water in the boiler it was at risk of exploding like a bomb.]
We have every kind of drill all the time. Like collision, abandon ship & man overboard. Tell Margaret that the pad of paper is pretty low but I’ll be able to get some more in Ponta [Margaret was his oldest sister]. I don’t think I’ll mail this from Ponta. They say the mail boat only calls once a month there & our next stop is Madeira anyway.
I just broke in to Jim’s & Alice’s box of cookies [Jim was his oldest brother and Alice his sister-in-law]. They certainly come in handy. As a mess stocker I get very little to eat. I set the two tables in my section, 10 at each table, put the food out, wait on the fellows during the meal & afterwards wipe the dishes. In my spare time I’m supposed to feed myself. This boat certainly rolls. There are waves behind us, over us & in front of us. Everybody is taking pictures of them. I took a few myself. Tell Aunt Minnie & Uncle Jim I was awfully sorry I couldn’t come in to see them before I left. I’ll write them later [he is referring to Uncle James Welch (on his morther's side) and his wife Mary Ellen, affectionately known as Aunt Minnie].
We went ashore at P’town [Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod], contrary to expectations is not a very lively town. We ate a lot & walked around. We had some corn flakes, pineapple pie & milk then some pastry, then later an ice cream soda. Some change from the ship. We get a little milk each morning but it’s powdered & awfully thick.
Enough for now. Will write some more later.
Don’t forget to write
p.s Please send some stamps
The annual report continued:
"The ship left Ponta Delgada on June 11, arriving at Seville, Spain, on June 17. The Ibero-American Exposition was being held in Seville and the cadets had every opportunity to visit it. A full size model of the "Santa Maria", the flagship of Christopher Columbus, was anchored in the river not far from the "Nantucket."
The "Nantucket" sailed from Seville on June 21 and arrived at Gibraltar on June 22. Off Cape Trafalgar, three battleships from the United States Naval Academy, the Arkansas, Florida and Utah, passed bound for Barcelona.
Leaving Gibraltar on June 29, the "Nantucket" arrived at Naples on July 5, where the battleships "Arkansas", "Florida" and "Utah" were found at anchor. The "Nantucket" sailed from Naples on July 9 and arrived at Corfu, Greece, on July 12. On July 10 a moderate gale with a rough choppy sea was experienced, which occasioned much seasickness among the new cadets and some of the others.
Sailing from Corfu on July 14, the "Nantucket" arrived at Venice, Italy, on July 17. At Venice, arrangements were made with the Manager of the British Institute for Seamen for the cadets to visit a number of places of historic interest. The ship sailed from Venice on July 23 and arrived at Pola, Italy [present day Pula, Croatia] on the same day.
Left Pola on July 27 and arrived at Spalato, Dalmatia [present day Split, Croatia] on July 28. At Spalato a committee visited the ship with an interpreter to inspect the school and obtain information regarding its work preliminary to purchasing a schoolship. Sailing from Spalato on July 31, Ragusa, Dalmatia [present day Dubrovnik, Croatia] was reached on August 1.
The "Nantucket" sailed from Ragusa on August 4 and arrived at Cattaro, Dalmatia [present day Kotor, Montenegro] the same day. Topla, Teodo, and Cattaro Bays, surrounded by mountains from 3,000 to 5,000 feet high, afforded excellent opportunities for boat work. Cattaro was left behind on August 7 and Valetta, Malta, was reached on August 10.
Sailing from Malta on August 14, Gibraltar was sighted on August 20. At Gibraltar it was necessary to remove a growth of barnacles which had accumulated on the ship's hull by listing the ship first to one side and then to the other. [Coal was also replenished]
The "Nantucket" sailed from Gibraltar August 24 and arrived at Funchal on August 28."
Another letter from Bernard discusses this portion of the cruise and includes an image of the original stationary header.
Bernard's 2nd Letter:
Tues. Aug 20
Dear Uncle Jim [James Welch]
I got your mail today, when we arrived and I sure was glad to hear from you. My average was high for this port, as I received seven letters. I felt a little better each time I was handed a letter. As I felt pretty good in the first place, by the time I got thru I felt like a Rotarian at his first weekly meeting.
We came here from Malta, and had quite a run. You see, I’m on orderly duty now and I know everything that is going on. For instance, I know that we haven’t enough coal to steam over to the dock to coal ship. The rest of the fellows know we haven’t got much coal but they don’t know just how bad off we were.
We coaled ship in
Gibral Malta but we didn’t take much aboard because it cost 25 cents a ton more than it does here in Gib. All this is figured out under the direction of Mr. Kelley chief engineer and one of the most unliked men on the ship. On second thought I make that singular [Bernard is referring to Ervin L. Kelley].
Well, to go on with the story, We made the trip in one day less than scheduled. In order to get into port they had to cut down one boiler and sweep the bunkers. If we hadn’t had favorable winds we would certainly have been towed in. I haven’t made my point very clear but it all comes down to the fact that Mr. Kelley who admits that his middle name is “efficiency” almost got into a peck of trouble. I can assume that no one would have felt sorry if he had got in wrong.
Everything is fine here and I feel a lot better. There is no doubt in my mind about staying here and I’ve almost made up my mind to take navigation. But I have some time to decide.
The food is just as bad but we are used to it now.
Before I go any further I want to thank you for the money you sent. I managed to get along in a couple of ports and no doubt I could get along here with just enough money to eat on but it seems good to be able to pick up a souvenir once in a while to take home to the folks. Most of my souvenirs are stored in my head and in my camera (I’ll never forget them) but I want to have something for the folks to remember.
This has been a wonderful trip and certainly, I’ll never forget it. As you say I can look back, even now, and laugh at some of the things that have happened to me. One incident that amused me was this. (over)
At the time I was sick I wrote home telling mother about it. Probably I was pretty sick at the time but I have no bitter recollections of it today. Yet, today I received six letters, in every one of which I was sympathized with and told to get well quickly.
Now when I wrote home I thought I entered that just as a side line, but evidently I didn’t.
Discipline isn’t any too well aboard at present. The skipper is restricting about ten upperclassmen , that is they are not allowed to go ashore in any port. Then he told another one that he would be dismissed as soon as we reached Boston. As a result the whole of the fellows class (the second) intend to go before the commissioner and protest against his dismissal.
The other night a set of [illegible] belonging to the captain disappeared.
No one knows anything about it officially but unofficially someone threw them overboard. I think there will be a reckoning when we get home, one for both the cadets’ and the ship’s good.
I was talking about discipline here. We had another interesting incident occur this morning. The seamen (4 of them) receive the same food as the cadets. This morning, for about the fourth time in two weeks we received lima beans for breakfast. The seamen protested and said they wouldn’t work until they had had another breakfast. They had a special mast and the captain promised them better food. They aren’t much reconciled though three of them are leaving when we get to Boston.
We are only going to get one liberty in this port, instead of two, so I won’t be able to do much shopping. Liberty lasts from 1.30 PM to 8.30 PM.
In four ports, so far, they have cut down on our liberty. Well, that’s just the breaks I suppose.
Well, we’ll be home pretty soon now. A three day trip to Madiera, a four day stay there and then we sail for home.
It is a twenty five day run the way we go. We go South West until we hit the trade winds and then we sail North or there abouts. We sail most of the way making sometimes as low as one knot an hour. We stop in Provincetown for three days and then go in to Boston the 30th of September.
The way I understand it, we get one overnight liberty the second or third day in Boston. Then we stay aboard till the graduation, the 8th of October. Then half the ship gets a two weeks vacation. When they come back the other half goes on vacation. I’m going to try to get the first two weeks (over)
Well, Uncle Jim, I don’t think I’ll be able to write again. Give my love to Aunt Minnie and all the folks and be sure to tell Ma that I’m feeling fine. I guess I gave her the impression that I wouldn’t live to get home.
Your loving nephew
The report concluded:
"The "Nantucket" sailed from Funchal on September 1 and arrived at St. Georges, Bermuda, on September 17. The wind in the trades was very light, making it necessary to call at Bermuda for coal. The distances made good from Funchal to Bermuda: under steam, 854 miles; under steam and sail, 1,536 miles; and under sail, 449 miles.
Sailed from St. Georges on September 17 and arrived at Provincetown on September 21, via the Cape Cod Canal. Distances made good from Bermuda to Provincetown: under steam, 166 miles; under steam and sail, 524 miles."
The Nantucket returning to Boston after completion of the 1929 summer cruise. She appears to be anchored (off Rowe's Wharf, according to the article) and one of her whaleboats has been lowered near the port stern with a smaller vessel standing by. Image is from the Saturday, September 28th edition of the Boston Herald Newspaper. Original caption above the image stated: "NANTUCKET BACK IN PORT AFTER 10,000-MILE CRUISE." There was also a caption below the image which stated: "Nautical training ship that took 114 cadets on cruise to foreign ports."
The voyage covered a total of 11,418 miles, of which 4,553 miles were transited under steam, 4,772 miles under steam and sail, and 2,093 miles under sail alone. They expended 806.6 tons of coal.
I have included an interactive map below with all the ports of call noted for this cruise.
Below is Bernard's hand-written itinerary for his first summer cruise, courtesy of John Connelly:
The Lima Bean Mutiny
The issues Bernard mentioned in his second letter, especially about the food and complaints from the seamen turned into quite a serious public relations mess for the school. Before the commission or the education board had received any formal complaints, Governor Allen called for a full inquiry.
The Wednesday, September 25th edition of the Boston Herald stated:
"Capt. Armistead Rust, skipper of the Nantucket, told a newspaperman who called on him on board the vessel that the discussion of complaints by the cadets was 'a tempest in a teapot' and his statements of Monday when he said that a few foolish parents were being silly in listening seriously to the whines of a few trouble makers. He denied that he had been called to Boston by the commissioners of the school.
Capt. Rust called several officers and members of the crew to the stern deck of the Nantucket to testify before the visiting newspaper men on conditions during the cruise.
COMPLAINS OF FOOD
Seaman Herbert Freehold, a native of Wilhemshaven [sic], Germany, who has served three years on the Nantucket, and was a member of the delegation who carried a meal of beans to the skipper from the cadet's mess to make a complaint, said that in his opinion the cadets had not had enough food on the cruise.
The beans, he said, were sour from being soaked in sea water in the flooded store room and were improperly cooked. The food was better than that generally served on commercial vessels, he said, but it was not good food. Seamen of the regular crew were served the same food, but in larger quantities than the cadets, he said.
Paymaster Charles Parker, who has charge of the menus on the Nantucket, said that the daily allowance for meals was 50 cents for each cadet [Equals $7.28 in 2018].
GOOD MEALS - FOR THE PRICE
"And mighty good meals they were, for the price." Capt. Rust interrupted. Parker said the stories of diluted fish chowder served in half teacup-full helpings was "all bunk" and declared that good dairy butter, and not oleomargerine [a butter substitute made from animal fat], was served to the cadets.
Asked whether it was true that a cadet had been confined in the brig five days for breaking into the bread locker, Capt. Rust said that he could not remember the incident, but that if the cadet was so punished, it was just.
"That's burglary", he added.
The Nantucket will leave Provincetown for Boston Friday, at 7 A. M. The annual inspection of the board of commissioners will be held in Boston, Oct. 2, at which time all cadets will have an opportunity to air their grievances."
His first winter term, as a 3rd Classman, ran from November, 1929 through March, 1930 and would have been held in port in Boston. Each of the five months included every course mentioned in his first summer term, plus English. They would erect a prefabricated tar-paper covered enclosure over the weather deck to act as a classroom, as you can see from the picture below.
USS Nantucket during her winter term in port in Boston. Note temporary structure erected over main deck to act as a classroom. Photo courtesy of Capt. George W. Duffy.
Officers and Instructors changed slightly with Wright replacing Wheeler as Instructor in Mathematics:
- Armistead Rust, Captain USN, Retired, Superintendent of Schoolship
- Norman E. Merrill (graduate MNS 1912), Schoolship Executive Officer
- William W. Storey, Lieutenant, USNR (graduate MNS 1917), Schoolship Navigator
- Richard T. Rounds (graduate MNS 1926), Schoolship Watch Officer
- Nicolai S. Sivertsen, Schoolship Watch Officer
- Ervin L. Kelley, Lieutenant, USNR (graduate MNS 1909), Chief Marine Engineer
- Norman L. Queen (graduate MNS 1926), Assistant Marine Engineer
- John E. Wright, Schoolship Instructor in Mathematics
- Robert S. Palmer, M. D., Schoolship Surgeon
- Charles Parker, Schoolship Paymaster
Original caption for this image was simply “Training ship Nantucket”, with a broad date range of “ca. 1917–1934”. The cadets appear to be some of the same hauling line and getting engineering instructions on deck from the early 1930’s and I believe are from the same series. If so, then the officer training the cadets on how to use a sextant is likely the Schoolship Navigator, William W. Storey. From the Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. All rights reserved. https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/cn69md225
His second summer term, as a 2nd Classman in Navigation (Bernard had made his decision), ran from June through September 1930, and concentrated on Seamanship, Navigation and Practical Seamanship all four months. According to the School's Annual Report, Bernard's second summer cruise (1930) was as follows:
"The Nantucket sailed from Provincetown on May 31 and arrived at Ponta Delgada, Azores, on June 12. During this passage the ship steamed 862 miles, was under steam and sail 739 miles, and under sail alone 551 miles.
The ship left Ponta Delgada on June 16 and arrived at Cardiff, Wales, on June 24.
Leaving Cardiff on June 29, the Nantucket arrived at Kingstown, near Dublin, Ireland, on June 30. On July 4, the ship was full dressed, and in the forenoon the cadets had boat races under oars and sail, tug of war, and a race over the masthead, all between the starboard and port watches.
The ship sailed from Kingstown, Ireland, on July 5, and arrived at the Albert Dock, Liverpool, on July 6. At this port the officers and cadets had an opportunity to visit the HMS Conway, the British Schoolship, anchored off Birkenhead."
The last of Bernard's letters, which seemed to have captured him in a bit of a grumpy mood, covered the stops mentioned above.
Bernard's 3rd Letter:
CADET BERNARD E. CONNERS
Sunday June 6 
One more port off the list. We arrived here this morning. Picked up a pilot about 5 o’clock and came up the river Mersey about 7.It’s a mammoth river and is lined on both sides with docks. It’s the same here as in Cardiff, only worse. We had to go in through a 2 by 4 gate with the tide pushing us one way and the engine the other. However we are tied up to a dock now. I go on liberty this afternoon but everything is closed and it’s starting to rain. I don’t think much of this weather anyway. You can’t tell when it’s going to rain.
I didn’t think much of Dublin. There is nothing much to see and everything is high. There seems to be a strike going on in every other place with the strikers walking up and down. We went thru Trinity College which is very old and looks it. We went through Guinness’s brewery, the largest in the world. It’s some place. They have storage tanks made of English oak that stand about 54 feet high. All the tanks together are capable of holding 1,000,000 gallons of beer. When we got through they offered free beer, 3 kinds, but I hate the taste of it so just stood around and watched them.
The fourth we decorated the ship with flags. In the morning we had a cutter race in which my watch won. Then we had a relay race over the masthead, one man from each class for each watch. I represented the 2nd class starboard watch and won my heat but the 3rd classman was slow and we lost the race. Then we had a sailboat race which I was in. We beat the port watch by a quarter of a mile.
Our watch had to stay aboard that day because the other watch rated liberty. In the afternoon I went sailing in the dinghy with Gus Hammer [classmate Arthur J. Hammer] & all went well until we returned to the ship. Then we couldn’t bring the boat around and she ran bow on into the ship with Mr. Storey [William W. Storey, Navigator] on the quarterdeck watching us. No damage though. We sailed for Liverpool yesterday afternoon. Oh yes, we had ice cream & cake the 4th (very small).
My wallet disappeared the 3rd. I had two dollars Tom Deering gave me to buy a pipe with, in it and my license and some receipts. I’ve looked all around and asked all the fellows but I guess it’s gone for good. Now I’ve got to dig up $2 for Deering. We’ve been buying fresh strawberry jam (pound jars) for a shilling six pence (.35) here. It’s wonderful jam.
Well, my dear family the mail just came aboard and out of a family of six I got absolutely no letters. So while the rest of the cadets are reading their mail, I shall hastily pen this so that it will go out on the liner which sails this afternoon.
How am I expected to keep up this grim fight against the world in general and the officers in particular if I don’t get any mail from home to cheer me on? So far, according to my memoranda I have received one letter from Pa, one from Margaret and one from Eleanor [His youngest sister and John Connelly's mother]. What’s the matter with the other three members of the family? Just think from May 22 to July 7 just 3 letters. Well after that little pep talk I will continue.
I just sent my dress shoes ashore to be tapped and in the next port I’ll have to send my working shoes. The old [illegible] certainly goes.
We went ashore yesterday but there wasn’t a thing open, it being Sunday. We crossed the Mersey in a steamer and went over to Birkenhead to the beaches. They have no amusements at the beaches, just sand. All the amusement parks are closed on Sunday. In fact everything except the churches is closed (joke).
Hoping (we have better luck next liberty) and that everybody is feeling well & love to the folks.
I remain your darling son,
The annual report continued:
"On July 10, the Nantucket sailed from Liverpool and arrived at the Queen's Dock, Glasgow, on July 11. The Lord Provost invited the cadets to visit the municipal building and provided a guide.
The Nantucket sailed from Glasgow on July 17 and arrived at Bergen, Norway, on July 21. Strong head winds, increasing at times to a moderate gale with a heavy head sea were experienced, and the speed of the ship was reduced to less than two knots at times.
The ship sailed out of the port of Bergen on July 26 and arrived at Amsterdam on July 29. The Harbormaster at Amsterdam placed a tug at the disposal of the ship and took the cadets around the harbor.
On August 4 the Nantucket sailed from Amsterdam and arrived at Gibraltar on August 13.
The ship sailed from Gibraltar on August 16 and arrived at Casablanca, Morocco, on the 17th. The Nantucket sailed from Casablanca on August 19 and arrived at Funchal, Madeira, on August 21.
The ship sailed from Funchal, Madeira on August 24, and arrived at Orient Harbor, Long Island, New York, on September 13 [to clean and paint the ship before returning to Boston]. The weather was generally good during the passage home, affording excellent opportunity for work in practical navigation. Only five vessels were sighted during the passage of twenty days."
The coal stops were at Cardiff, Amsterdam and Gibraltar. The voyage covered 10,786 miles, of which 4,256 miles were transited under steam, 4,963 miles under steam and sail, and 1,567 miles under sail alone. They expended 754 tons of coal.
USS Nantucket probably returning home from her summer cruise in either 1929, 1930 or 1931. Photo courtesy of Capt. George W. Duffy.
I have included another interactive map below with all the ports of call noted for this cruise.
Bernard's final winter term, as a 1st Classman in Navigation, ran from November, 1930 through March, 1931, which included a fairly full curriculum again, with the exception of English and Practical Engineering. The school added Marine Law November and December, and Ship Construction November through January. His standing improved from 11th to 8th in his class over this time. Breaking with tradition, Bernard's last winter term did not occur on board the Nantucket per the school's annual report:
"The Schoolship Nantucket has been berthed the past year at the Navy Yard, Charlestown, to which place it was necessary to move the ship on January 24 for the annual repairs. Upon the return of the Nantucket from the annual practice cruise in September, it was not possible to use the usual berth at the NorthEnd Park on account of the construction work going on at that place. Through the courtesy of Rear Admiral Louis M. Nulton, U.S.N., Commandant, First NavalDistrict, the third floor of a building at the Navy Yard has been placed at the disposal of the school"
According to the school's annual report, Bernard's graduation ceremony was as follows:
"The seventy-third graduation exercises were held onboard the Nantucket at the Navy Yard, Charlestown, on Tuesday, April 7, 1931, at 11a.m. The program was as follows:
Invocation: Capt. Evan W. Scott, U.S.N., Chaplain, Navy Yard, Charlestown.
Address by Presiding Officer: Capt. William E. McKay, Chairman of the Board.
Address by Rear Admiral Louis M.Nulton, U.S.N., Commandant, First Naval District.
Address by Lieut.-Governor William S.Youngman.
Address by Mr.Maurice D. Gill,a graduate of the school in the class of 1909.
Midshipman Bernard E. Conners 1931 MNS Graduation Photo included in obituary.
Presentation of Alumni Association Prizes by Commissioner Clarence E. Perkins:
To the graduate in the Seamanship Class doing the best all round work: Cadet Walter J. Bienia, New Bedford.
To the graduate in the Engineer Class doing the best all round work: Cadet Richard W. Irving, West Roxbury.
Presentation of Maritime Association Prizes by Wilfred W. Lufkin, Collector oft he Port:
To the graduate in the Seamanship Class standing highest in professional studies: Cadet William R. Pendergast, Everett.
To the graduate in the Engineer Class standing highest in professional studies: Cadet Raymond R.Freeman, Jr., Wellfleet.
Presentation of Prize awarded by the Boston Marine Society by Capt. George E. Eaton, Superintendent, 2nd Lighthouse District:
To the graduate possessing the most qualities making the best shipmaster including aptitude,prompt and cheerful obedience to his superior officers, devotion to duty, integrity, force of character,and ability to attain and maintain leadership: Cadet Walter J. Bienia, New Bedford.
Presentation of Bibles: Chaplain Scott.
Presentation of Diplomas: Mr. Frank P. Morse, Supervisor of Secondary Education,Department of Education."
In addition to Captain/Superintendent Armistead Rust, Bernard's certificate is signed by William H. Dimick, Secretary and the three Commissioners; William E. McKay (Chairman), Clarence E. Perkins and Theodore L. Storer.
One other interesting piece of trivia about Bernard's class is that it was one of those that took part in making several replacement sails for the USS Constitution during her 1927-1931 restoration, as noted in the annual report:
"As will be seen by the following letter from Rear Admiral Louis M. Nulton, U.S.N.,dated May 27, the course of training enabled the cadets to take part in the actual work of reconstructing the Frigate Constitution:—
"Subject: U. S. Frigate Constitution—sails—manufacture of, by Massachusetts Nautical Training Ship Nantucket. 1. There has been brought to my attention the very fine workmanship of the Nantucket in the manufacture of the Main Royal, Mizzen Royal,and Mizzen Topgallant Sails of the Frigate Constitution. The manufacture of these sails as a voluntary contribution has saved several hundred dollars in the cost of restoration. I want the Commanding Officer and the others responsible for the execution of this difficult task to know that we are deeply grateful to them for their extraordinary efforts in behalf of the Constitution."
You can view a framed list of companies and organizations that took part in the sail making, including 'MASSACUSETTS NAUTICAL TRAINING SHIP "NANTUCKET", BOSTON, MASS.' at the bottom of the list here on a blog about the USS Constitution's 'Suit of Sails'.
This image appeared in Volume 1, Number 2 in the Fall-Winter 1987-88 series of 'Massachusetts MARITIME Magazine' with the caption:
"TRIVIA QUIZ: What famous ship housed the Academy's first gymnasium?
Answer: The U.S.S. Constitution. During the early years, the Academy's training ship was the Academy: dormitory, dining hall, classroom, but not its gymnasium. First Enterprise, then Nantucket were berthed with the Constitution at the Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown. The yard's commandant, Commodore Henry L. Howison, established a gymnasium in "Old Ironsides" for the Academy's cadets' physical fitness. The cadets returned the favor from time to time by making sails for the Constitution.
The Massachusetts MARITIME Magazine article that included the photo above continued:
"In this undated photo, the cadets are paraded at quarters with Nantucket and Constitution in the background. Does anyone know when this photo was made (probably, but not necessarily between 1918 and 1941)?
The answer was provided by an anonymous MNS graduate from the class of 1929 in the next issue:
"Dear Sir: In your last issue ["Trivia Quiz," Fall-Winter 1987-1988], you asked if anyone could determine when the photo of Nantucket was taken. It was probably in the early 1920's because, apparently, it was before she lost her bowsprit just after WWI. When I went aboard her in 1927, the steeve was greater than shown in the photo.
An alumnus '29
(Name withheld), Jan. 27"
As noted in the original caption, the image shows the cadets in dress blue uniforms at attention on the pier in front of the Nantucket during the winter term when her deck had the temporary structure installed. Note the bugler in front, just right of center, a position George Duffy would hold some twenty years later. Other clues to the age of the photo being from the 1920's is that you can just make out from the bowsprit Nantucket was painted white at the time and no yards from her mainmast added in 1932 are visible to the right. Another interesting point is that besides the USS Constitution across the way, you can make out the funnels from a "Four Stacker" U.S. Destroyer on the left side of the photo behind Constitution, so in this one shot the photographer captured three eras/centuries of American warships; Full sail (Constitution/18th), Sail & Steam (Nantucket/19th) and Steam (Four Stacker/20th).
As Bernard's class did take part in the Constitutions sailmaking, my assumption for now is that he may have exercised on the Constitution at some point, most likely during the 1929/30 Winter Term, but possibly the 1930-31 Winter term as well.
When Bernard attended the school was located in Boston, but in 1942 it was relocated to Hyannis at the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal. According to their website:
"The Academy was founded on June 11, 1891 as the Massachusetts Nautical Training School. It was changed in 1913 to the Massachusetts Nautical School, and then finally became The Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1942, as it remains today. It is the oldest maritime academy in continuous operation in the United States and the largest State maritime academy."
Captain Rust retired the year after Bernard graduated after reaching the compulsory retirement age of 70. He had served as Superintendent and Captain of Nantucket for 12 years. He was succeeded by Clarence A. Abele, USN. For more information on the school check out their site at 'www.maritime.edu'.
Despite the thousands of cadets that graduated from the Massachusetts Nautical School Ship Nantucket over her thirty-three years of service at the school (technically not all under the name Nantucket, but the same vessel), there are only three accounts that I’m aware of that describe life aboard her that have ever been published.
Two were by men I had the honor of knowing personally and called friends, George Duffy and Rodman Dickie, both now sadly passed, and the third was Charles Bamforth, who Rodman informed me of, and although Bamforth had already passed many years before, I was able to connect with his sons and their wonderful families.
The earliest account was Bamforth’s, who graduated with the October class of 1915 while the vessel was still named Ranger and under the command of Rust’s predecessor, Captain Charles N. Atwater USN(R). Bamforth was also a longtime American-Hawaiian officer and was Master of the Honolulan when it was sunk by a U-boat a month after Bernard’s Arkansan. Bamforth’s book is named; ‘Iron Jaw: A Skipper Tells His Story - Captain Charles N. Bamforth (1895-1975)’, Charles A. Bamforth and Richard A. Bamforth, Editors, Published in 2002, Dorrance Publishing Co. (Pittsburgh, Pa), ISBN 0805954171. The book, written by his family from the Captains personal notes and journals devotes four and half pages to his time at the school in Chapter 2 – ‘TO THE TOPMOST BUNT’.
Next was Rodman Dickie, who graduated with the October class on 1940, after a false start due to illness during the 1938 summer cruise. In his book; ‘Saved By A SERIES OF MIRACLES’ by Rodman L. Dickie, Published in 2012, Infinity Publishing (West Conshohocken, Pa), ISBN 978-0-7414-7850-4 (Paperback). Rodman devoted about seven and half pages to his time onboard.
Finally, there is George Duffy, who graduated with the October class on 1941. George’s book ‘Ambushed under the Southern Cross – The Making of an American Merchant Marine Officer and His Ensuing Saga of Courage and Survival’ by Capt. George W. Duffy, Published in 2008, Xlibris Corporation, ISBN 978-1-4363-0636-2 (Hardcover), ISBN 978-1-4363-0635-5 (Softcover). George devoted four chapters which include many great photographs and sketches from his personal collection.
Both Rodman and George served on Nantucket when she was commanded by Rust’s successor, Captain Clarence A. Abele, USN (R). Interestingly enough, Bernard’s 'favorite' officer, Chief Engineer Erwin R. Kelly was still serving. Another difference is that all three of these men were forced to take modified cruises along the American East Coast and Caribbean waters due to their training taking place on the eve of war when it was not safe to venture into European waters. Bernard may have gotten a little more experience by sailing back and forth across the Atlantic in more varied weather and was able to visit more interesting ports in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.
While George’s book provides the most comprehensive look at life aboard the Nantucket, I encourage you to check out all three books for their amazing stories of life at sea and our merchant mariner’s courage during war. Truly remarkable men, all.
Despite the twenty-eight year span (Bamforth started in 1913), during which Bernard’s time falls smack in the middle, not much appears to have changed in the daily life of the cadets, so I believe we can infer Bernard’s experience from these other men’s experiences.
Original caption for this image was “Cadets hauling line on deck of the training ship Nantucket off Provincetown”, dated circa 1930. From the Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. All rights reserved. https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/cn69m844c
Of course first and foremost there was a lot of hard work to sailing a vessel like this. From never-ending chipping and painting the ship and polishing the brass or “brightwork” that most sailors even today can relate to, to chores from a more by-gone era like holystoning the decks and coaling the ship, which I’ll detail below:
Holystoning the decks – sanding the weathered teakwood decks literally with sand and saltwater while using a brick to move the gritty solution around and grind away the weathered surface, most often while on hands and knees. George has a picture in his book showing the cadets thus engaged. Bamforth described it as such:
“We took a wagonload of bricks and a load of sand. For most of the two weeks, we were on our hands and knees with a half a brick in each hand, sanding the wooden decks to remove the weathered surface which had developed during the winter. This was part of the hardening-up process to make seamen of us. Some of the less determined boys quit right there, forfeiting their down payments.”
Those boys were lucky enough to still be in port, but the process often occurred at sea as well and those involved had no choice but to grin and bear it.
Coaling the ship – As George Duffy wrote:
“The hard life in the Nantucket came as a surprise, I am sure, to most of us. There was nothing, however, more unanticipated than the terrible ordeal of coaling ship. Soft coal was burned in the four Scotch boilers, and it arrived in bulk by barge or rail car, seventy to a hundred tons of it. Storage compartments adjacent to the fire room were called bunkers. Above the bunkers, circular bronze plates fitted to the gun deck and the spar deck [ES: Bamforth’s book shows these on the cover] accommodated portable cast iron pipes of the same diameter as the plates. The coal was dropped down these pipes to the bunkers.
The process began by pairing up third and fourth classmen according to height. Upperclassmen with shovels filled canvas bags with seventy or eighty pounds of coal which each pair of underclassmen swung between them. The queue of struggling cadets lurched up the gangway, thence to the open holes where the bags were deftly flipped and their contents, for the most part, delivered. Then it was back down the other gangway for the next bag. Upperclassmen, manning brooms, tried to keep the decks clean, but the fine, dusty black stuff spread throughout the ship. Eventually, as the level of coal rose in the bunkers, cadets were dropped in to direct the incoming “black diamonds” into the corners. It was no place for the claustrophobic. When the bunkers were chock-a-block full, the canvas bags were filled and stowed on deck, along with whatever number of burlap bags that were needed to hold the last sweepings. At the end, we were black from head to toe. First, though, the ship had to be washed down.”
George went on to tell an amusing story about reporting for duty before he had the opportunity to clean up.
Bernard mentions coaling the ship in his second letter, but does not appear to complain about it other than Mr. Kelly’s apparent mis-calculation.
While all that work was occurring, the Nantucket’s officers would randomly run safety drills. As Bernard mentioned in his first letter “We have every kind of drill all the time. Like collision, abandon ship & man overboard.” Bamforth also mentioned Fire Drill, Signal Drill, and Navigation Drill. George’s book mentioned them throughout his chapters, especially the man overboard drills. According to George the Nantucket’s officers seemed to take great pleasure tossing a buoy over the side at the most inopportune times, often while the cadets were engaged in raising or lowering sails and in all kinds of weather. The designated rescue team would have to immediately stop were they were doing, man and launch the lifeboat and row (of course they were not given one of the motor launches) to retrieve the buoy in the quickest possible time. Sometimes the officers were tricky enough the call the man overboard on say the starboard side, when the buoy was actually tossed on the port side to see how the cadets adapted.
Original caption for the image to the left was “Crew in the rigging of the training ship Nantucket”, dated April 1932. According to George Duffy, “From the waterline to the top of the main mast measured 117 feet.” Original caption for the image to the right was “Lifeboat from training ship Nantucket in Provincetown Harbor”, dated circa 1930. Bernard may very well have been one of the first class cadets on the oars when they stopped in “P-town”. Both images from the Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. All rights reserved. https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/cn69m768r (Left) https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/cn69m842t (Right)
Living conditions onboard the Nantucket could best described as ‘primitive’. As Bernard mentioned in his letters they were given a small locker to stow their clothes and personal effects including ‘stores’, goodies family had sent to help ease the cadets’ 'suffering'.
The cadets slept in hammocks hung from hooks in the beams that formed the ceiling of the gun deck. From the other men’s accounts, the upperclassmen appear to have first choice on the locations they picked, mainly toward the middle of the vessel, while the lowerclassmen had to settle for what was left towards the bow and in other nooks and crannies. For the newest cadets, it appears falling out of the hammock while asleep was not an uncommon event. In some cases this was simply due to getting used to sleeping in a hammock, but in other cases the cadet fell victim to one of the more popular forms of hazing by the upperclassmen, having the foot end of the hammock ropes cut. Apparently they exhibited some compassion by only cutting the foot end so the cadet had a better chance of landing on their feet rather than on their head, although most ended up horizontal. Imagine being sound asleep after an exhausting watch of hard physical work and waking up to the sensation of free-falling seven feet before smacking into to the hardwood deck. A literal example of ‘a rude awakening’.
All the other accounts mention hazing to some degree. It seemed ever present, but varied in intensity from class to class, from mild harassment to quite severe bullying up to and including public humiliation and even physical abuse. Officers appeared to consider it part of the tradition (no doubt they had suffered hazing during their training ‘back in the day’), and rarely seemed to addressed it. Hopefully Bernard was not the victim of anything too severe. I doubt he would have mentioned it to his father, but he may have confided in his Uncle Jim if it had occurred.
Original caption for this image was simply “USS Training ship, Nantucket”, with a broad date range of “ca. 1917–1934”. I believe this image is from the same series as the others from the early 1930’s. Cadets appear to be drilling with rifles with bayonets fixed. Note other cadets watching the show. From the Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. All rights reserved. https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/cn69md64p
Even though this was a civilian school, it was run by retired naval officers, who ran it likely a military academy. Discipline was strict and demerits were freely issued for the slightest infractions, from proper uniform details, to hygiene to performance of duties. Captain's Mast was held on a regular basis and the cadets handed out their sentences. Most often these demerits were simply worked off during the cadet’s limited personal time but could also result in a loss of liberty in port. In the most severe cases, like stealing food, it could result in confinement and being expelled when they returned to Boston.
As Bernard mentioned in his letters there was a lot to adapt to, from odd and ever changing working hours (watches) to inconsistent opportunities to eat, and when you did, questionable portions and quality of food, which boiled over on Bernard’s first cruise. There was no service staff aboard, so cadets did all the work from food preparation, to serving and clean-up.
In addition to the officers and cadets, the school employed four experienced seamen. The 'Lima bean mutiny' story, as I like to call it, from Bernard's first training cruise in 1929 mentioned seaman "Herbert Freehold, a native of Wilhemshaven [sic], Germany". I located a portion of a crew manifest from the same voyage which noted they took on another German named Albert Klabunber, age 27, when they stopped in Venice in July.
Personal hygiene appears to be a priority as disease can spread quickly on a confined ship. As Bernard mentioned the cadets were even responsible for cleaning their own clothes. The others mention daily saltwater baths from a fire hose, ice cold from the sea. Bamforth mentioned that if a rain squall occurred the cadets were ordered to strip where the stood, so they could take “advantage” of a fresh water shower. While the fresh water felt better, “it seemed anything but warm, especially with a fresh breeze blowing”, Bamforth noted.
Of course somewhere in all of that the cadets had challenging classroom work and studying to do.
Original caption for this image was “Class conducted on deck of Mass. training ship Nantucket”, dated circa 1930. Note how the chalk board is propped up by the louvered cover and leaning against the ventilator and the other cadets watching from afar. Instruction, though likely staged, appears to be engineering related with a sketch of a steam engine cylinder on the left and calculations to the right involving a square root. If so, then the officer is likely Chief Engineer Ervin L. Kelley, Lieutenant, USN(R). From the Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. All rights reserved. https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/cn69mc40w
First year was a little bit of everything, both deck and engineering duties, to give the cadets a taste of all the possibilities of a career at sea. By the start of their second year as 2nd Classmen they had to choose between marine engineering or seamanship & navigation.
It was certainly no pleasure cruise, but despite the grueling work and harsh conditions, the young men that survived to graduation seemed to have appreciated the experience, at least in time, and it appears to have prepared them for even rougher times ahead.
Another wonderful photo if the USS Nantucket showing the different eras. Here at home in the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, MA circa 1935 with her yardmates USS Constitution and WWI-era Patrol Craft USS Eagle (PE-19). Nantucket's hull is still painted black and her mainmast has the yards added during the winter of 1930-31, so the date appears accurate. Nantucket appears to be stealing the show somewhat with the huge American flags flying from her three masts. Since this was obviously taken during winter due to the enclosure built over the Nantucket's decks and the warm clothes the people are wearing, I'm going to guess that the vessels are all dressed up for Armistice Day, November 11th. Photo is from the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. All Rights Reserved. https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/5q47rp30n
Bernard's graduating class of April 1931 consisted of thirty young men, seventeen from the Seamanship and Navigation Branch:
All appear to be from working-class families. Interestingly enough, many drifted away from sea service and were not active Merchant Mariner's as noted in the 1940 census, but at the outbreak of World War II, most came back and were involved in the shipping industry in one form or the other:
The only other known wartime loss from his Seamanship & Navigation class was Robert Lyford Rowe, who was a Lieutenant in the US Navy Reserve when his tanker, the USS Mississinewa (AO-59) was hit by a Kaiten Japanese suicide manned torpedo in 1944.
I have reached out to ten of the families above so far, mainly through Ancestry.com, but unfortunately have not received much of a response to date.
The remaining thirteen cadets from the Engineering Branch were:
The combined April and October graduating classes of 1931 included 57 young men, at least 50 of which had jobs lined up upon graduation. Pretty remarkable considering the country was in the midst of the Great Depression with massive unemployment.
By far the largest taker was American-Hawaiian Lines with 24 graduates, followed by Isthmian Lines with six, Luckenbach and United States Lines each with four, United Fruit Company with three, American Republic Lines with two, and finally American Export Line, Boston & Provincetown Line, Dollar Line, Moore & McCormack Co., New York & Puerto Rico Line, Southern Pacific Co., and Standard Trans. Co. each with one.
American-Hawaiian distributed their new graduates as follows:
SS Kentuckian, under tow, is shown in Culebra Cut transiting the Panama Canal. Original caption: "Culebra Cut, looking north between the two highest hills, Panama Canal." Date unknown, but likely between 1910-1920. Library of Congress photo LC-D4-73302 by the Detroit Publishing Company. https://lccn.loc.gov/2016814114
Bernard went to work for American-Hawaiian, on the Kentuckian, along with classmates Kenneth Balch (e) and William Driscoll. This ship would later be scuttled August 4th, 1944 to reinforce Gooseberry 2 blockship breakwater after the Normandy invasion.
A smiling new Jr. 3rd Mate, Bernard E. Conners, posing with a life ring in front of the after house of the SS Kentuckian circa April-November 1931. Photo was recently discovered by Larz Neilson from a collection of Woodrow Wilson's photos provided by Wilson's niece during our collaboration on the Coloradan's story. The photo had the caption "My partner Bernard E. Connors" [sic] and also the word "Bunk", which we believe may have been Bernard's nickname at the time. Wilson served as an O.S. (Ordinary Seaman) on Kentuckian from May 1930 to November 1931. Bernard joined the vessel in April 1931 upon graduation from MNS. Photo courtesy of the Wilson family.
April 7th, 1931:
Issued “Certificate of Efficiency to Lifeboat Man” upon graduation
April 15th, 1931:
Issued Third Mate License
Issued “Certificate of Service to Able Seaman”
December 4th, 1933:
Issued Second Mate License
May 5th, 1936:
Issued Chief Mate License
February 24th, 1937:
Renewed “Certificate of Efficiency to Lifeboat Man”
Renewed “Certificate of Service to Able Seaman”
June 22nd, 1939:
Issued Master License
Bernard E. Conners circa late 1930's or early 1940's. Photo courtesy of Jay Bunaskavich
This last one confirms that Bernard had in fact become qualified to be the Master of a ship, although from the following career info, it appears he never did so. I had originally thought Bernard had his own ship at one point and only took the Chief Mate position on the Arkansan to work his way back to the states. This proved to be false once I received his career information, and he worked as a Chief Mate for nearly three years after getting his Master license. There were simply more Captains than there were available ships during this time period.
When I requested this information from the National Archives I had also asked if they had any record of him holding a commission as a Lieutenant J.G. in the Navy, or what navigation school he was to be assigned to, as mentioned in the obituary. Unfortunately they had no records on this. Not to say it wasn't true, they just couldn't find any records to confirm it. Perhaps because he didn't survive long enough to report for duty.
Along with his ranks, I was able to get a partial work history from The National Archives in the form of work slips for various ships he was assigned to from 1936 on, with a couple gaps. It's odd that his voyages pick up roughly where his certification ends, so I'm not sure if he was in training from the time he graduated to this first assignment or what was going on.
SS Hawaiian, Philadelphia, December 1st, 1933. Note shadow of other vessel in next berth. Francis Palmer photographer. From the private collection of artist Dave Boone, Copyright (c), All Rights Reserved. www.tugboatpainter.net
September 3rd, 1936 - September 27th, 1936
Coastwise voyage on SS Hawaiian. Los Angeles to New York. Went through Balboa, Canal Zone on September 19th. Served as 3rd Officer (Mate).
September 4th, 1940 - October 1st, 1940
Intercoastal voyage on SS Hawaiian. Baltimore to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Officer (Mate) under Master Samuel A. Gates.
Hawaiian had sailed from the Columbia River on July 15th, arriving in Baltimore on September 2nd. She had made a similar voyage from April through June as well.
I assume she reversed the order of stops on her way back to San Francisco. This route was what American-Hawaiian referred to as it's 'South Atlantic Service'.
October 2nd, 1940 - October 21st, 1940
Coastwise voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as Chief Mate under Master Samuel A. Gates.
October 22nd, 1940 - December 23rd, 1940
Nearby foreign voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as Mate (Reduced to 2nd Mate 10/26/40) under Master J.J. Wochos.
Built as the SANTA MALTA by the William Cramp & Sons Shipyard in Philadelphia, PA, Yard 447. She was launched April 12th, 1918 and completed May of 1919, apparently in time to act as a troop transport for soldiers returning from WWI.
Her tonnage was listed as 6,270, length as 420' - 6", beam as 53' - 9", and draft as 26' - 2" so she was only slightly smaller than the Arkansan. She had a single screw aft, with a quadruple-expansion steam engine, capable of about 12 knots.
In 1925 she was purchased by the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company and renamed HAWAIIAN.
In 1949 she was transferred to Panamanian registry and renamed FORTUNE (see picture above). She continued in Italian service until 1958 when she was broken up in Spezia, Italy on April 7th.
I have included American-Hawaiian's South Atlantic Service schedule from 1940 which shows the names and dates of the various ports of call for Hawaiian as well as several other American-Hawaiian vessels. This schedule is courtesy of Bjorn Larsson.
San Francisco Pier 28, September 23rd, 1935, while owned by American-Hawaiian Steamship Co. The freighter KANSAN is on the left, and an unidentified vessel from another shipping company is on the right. Photo ID AAC-2230. Courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library. http://sflib1sfpl.org:82
December 24th, 1940 - January 9th, 1941
Coastwise voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Mate under Master Samuel A. Gates.
January 10th, 1941 - March 19th, 1941
Intercoastal voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Mate under Master Samuel A. Gates.
March 20th, 1941 - April 3rd, 1941
Coastwise voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Officer (Mate) under Master Louis B. Lavergy.
April 4th, 1941 - June 9th, 1941
Intercoastal voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Mate under Master John N. Hansen.
June 10th, 1941 - June 23rd, 1941
Coastwise voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to San Francisco. Served as 2nd Mate under Master John N. Hansen.
The previous assignments show that Bernard left the East Coast (Baltimore) in the fall of 1940, and after arriving in San Francisco, spent the next nine months running up and down the West Coast aboard another American-Hawaiian ship, the SS Hawaiian.
June 24th, 1941 - July 26th, 1941
Intercoastal voyage on SS Hawaiian. San Francisco to New York. Served as Chief Mate under Master John N. Hansen.
As mentioned above, Hawaiian had originally reached Baltimore on their 'South Atlantic' route the previous fall. To reach New York, she may have taken a modified 'North Atlantic Service' route, which Bjorn Larsson provided to me as well (see below).
Hawaiian is not shown on this schedule, but Arkansan appears twice, once in April-May and again in July-August.
At one point I thought Bernard must have joined Arkansan in New York. Then I found a newspaper article that stated Arkansan left New York on July 19th, 1941 (one week before Hawaiian arrived), reached Port Sudan on September 5th and left there for Port Suez on September 8th. Then I thought perhaps he went over to the Near-East on the Hawaiian, or one of the other company's ships. It wasn’t until November of 2010 that I found definitive proof; Hawaiian’s crew list from that voyage (Image below). As you can see, Bernard's name is crossed out, and in the last two columns is a note about Bernard which states: "Transferred to S.S. Arkansan in Calcutta 10/20/41".
There were some other interesting details on the crew list as well, such as other stops they made. Apparently the Hawaiian and Bernard were not caught up in the bombing raid at Suez. Hawaiian had arrived in Calcutta on October 16th, 1941 from Port Sudan, “Anglo Egyptian Sudan” where Arkansan, and perhaps Hawaiian, dropped off her twin-engine bombers for the British. After Bernard left, Hawaiian departed Calcutta November 1st, then Colombo Ceylon November 10th, then Capetown South Africa November 28th, eventually arriving back in New York on December 27th, 1941. The same day Arkansan leaves for her last voyage.
October 30th, 1941 - December 15th, 1941
Foreign voyage on SS Arkansan. Calcutta to New York. Served as Chief Mate under Master Paul R. Jones.
Just days before they got back to New York they would have received news about the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the declarations of war with Japan and Germany.
December 27th, 1941 - June 15th, 1942
Un-described voyage on SS Arkansan. New York to unknown locations. Known that vessel was en route from Trinidad to New Orleans when she was sunk. Served as Mate under Master Paul R. Jones.
A six month mystery tour? This voyage is awful long compared to the others. Interesting to note that Bernard had nine months experience with Jones/Arkansan before they were sunk.
June 26th, 1942
Bernard's father, Robert Conners notified by Western Union that Bernard was missing.
July 23rd, 1942
Bernard declared deceased by New York District Court. Wages of $2,188.24, plus bonus of $21.78.