Liberty Ship Pierre L’Enfant in Action in the Mediterranean
WAR SHIPPING ADMINISTRATION
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Named in honor of the man who laid out this Nation's Capital, the Liberty ship Pierre L’Enfant shot down three attacking German planes and helped destroy three others, War Shipping Administration reports disclosed today. Since the action in the Mediterranean described, by the man who was her master during the battle - Capt. Seifert W. Rousseau, of Great Neck, Long Island, N. Y. - the war freighter has been carrying on her war job in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean war theaters.
Of the commander of the Navy armed guard on the ship, Ensign (now Lt. j.g.) Victor E. Tomlinson, of Detroit, Mich., Capt. Rousseau says “his energy and quick thinking in the handling of all of our guns while planes were coming in from all sides deserves the highest praise.”
The Pierre L’Enfant and the James G. Blaine were the only vessels in the convoy that were attacked when some 30 Heinkel torpedo bombers roared out of the sun, Captain Rousseau relates. They were flying at masthead height and had all guns blazing as the Pierre L’Enfant's gun crew and others went into action, he reports, adding:
“Our gunners shot down the leading plane almost directly in front of us, we doing a hard right to clear it. The others veered off for the moment and a few minutes later another formation came in. All of our guns which were in the clear were now going full blast, scoring many direct hits. Several torpedoes were launched at this stage, but since their aim was bad and we were zigzagging only two passed close by. One of the planes veered off after dropping his torpedoes and was passing close to our stern when our stern gun made a direct hit. This was a sight to see, one I will never forget -- a great ball of fire with parts of the plane flying in all directions.
“A few minutes later another formation came in on our port beam but several well-placed shots from our battery, which now had the range, caused them to veer off, spoiling their aim. Torpedoes passed near but without damage. We shot down the leader of this formation before he could get clear and also shot the starboard motor out of the second plane, which, after crossing our bow, crashed about two miles away.
“Other ships were firing at this plane and we do not claim it as our own but we do claim an assist. We also claim two more assists, one during the first attack, and a plane sent away with smoke pouring out of it.
“The entire crew deserves highest praise for being on the job 100 per cent. The merchant seamen assisted the armed guard in all possible ways, at gun stations, loading guns, passing ammunition, and acting as lookouts. When it was all over and, stock was taken the results were: Three planes shot down, two assists, one sent away on fire. One torpedo was exploded before it could hit another ship and, best of all, no damage was suffered by the Pierre L’Enfant.”
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