HERO OF SEA FIRE HONORED BY WSA
Second Officer Who Brought in 'Gas' Laden Ship
Gets Merchant Marine DSM
New York Times, September 22, 1945
A 43-year-old, former vaudeville actor, music arranger and theatrical booking agent who answered the call for men for our Merchant Marine received yesterday the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal, highest award for civilian seafarers, in a brief ceremony at local War Shipping Administration headquarters, 45 Broadway. The presentation was made by Capt. Hewlett R. Bishop, WSA Atlantic Coast director.
The medal was pinned on Second Officer Bruno B. Baretich of Indianapolis, Ind. who played the banjo in a vaudeville act in the early thirties under the name of Barney Burnett and later served as an arranger for Irving Berlin. Mr. Baretich won his award, for his action in salvaging the tanker St. Mihiel last April 9, after a collision and fire.
The St. Mihiel was traveling in convoy bound for Europe with 6,000,000 gallons of high octane gasoline aboard when she was struck by another tanker 700 miles out of New York and burst into flames. Mr. Baretich, who was in his bunk at the time of the collision, jumped over the side at the order to abandon ship and spent two hours in the water before being picked up.
The next morning, with the tanker still smoldering, Mr. Baretich, the chief engineer and twelve volunteers boarded her and found her seaworthy. Inasmuch as the ship's master, Capt. Ralph Porter, and the chief mate Leo M. Corkum, were among the twenty-seven who lost their lives in the disaster, Mr. Baretich, the next in command, took charge of the ship.
With all navigational instruments burned out, and 5,000,000 gallons of gasoline still aboard, the ship got up steam, turned around and headed for New York. Traveling in dense log and using the emergency steering gear throughout the voyage, the St. Mihiel's only guide was the whistle of a destroyer escort vessel that was leading her.
Mr. Baretich asserted that those two days of whistle-blowing from the escort and answers from his ship have kept his ears ringing since.
Citations for Distinguished Service Medal
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