Mariners and Armed Guard Together at the Guns
SS Antoine Saugraine Crew Downs 7 Japanese Dive Bombers
|Odlin - Maritime 62||
PR 2130 (W)
WAR SHIPPING ADMINISTRATION
|Advance Release For||
Cleared and Released
|Sunday Morning Papers||
Through Facilities of the
|January 14, 1945||
Office of War Information
American merchant seamen, who manned the guns when nearly all members of the Navy armed guard were wounded, successfully defended a war freighter against 35 Japanese dive bombers and shot down seven before an aerial torpedo sent the vessel down in Leyte harbor recently, the War Shipping Administration reported today. A report from Lt. John Macauley, USMS, WSA representative in the Southwest Pacific, showed that after 30 minutes of intense attack, guns were still firing as the ship went to the bottom.
Most of the Navy gunners were wounded when the first Japanese Betty -- fast low-level bomber strafer -- missed the merchantman with a stick of bombs by 20 yards, the explosion also badly strained the vessel's plates. The plane then made a tight turn and strafed the vessel from end to end.
Reserve groups of merchant seamen who then took over shot down two Bettys a few seconds later.
The action started about 8:30 a.m., and within half an hour the seamen and unwounded Navy gunners were fighting off simultaneous and repeated attacks from every angle by fighter bombers. While their attention was thus occupied, a Japanese torpedo plane slipped in low over the water and scored a hit in No. 4 hatch. There was a terrific explosion and the freighter went down in about five minutes.
Lifeboats had been launched before the ship sank but gunners stayed aboard and fought on until the decks were under water and then, weeping with rage, swam off, giving up the fight.
It was a costly victory for the Japanese, Lieutenant Macauley reports, for the ship's guns certainly downed seven attacking planes, got five probables, and scored hits on twelve others. Most amazing of all was the fact that when the merchant seamen and Navy gunners were fished out of the water it was found not one of the ship's company had been lost.
- - - 0 - - -
We were able to determine the ship was SS Antoine Saugraine, Master Anthony Van Cromphaut, date December 5, 1944. During the war, much information about merchant ships was censored.
WSA Press Releases02/26/07
www.USMM.org ©1998 - 2007. You may quote small portions of material on this website as long as you cite American Merchant Marine at War, www.usmm.org as the source. You may not use more than a few paragraphs without permission. If you see substantial portions of any page from this website on the Internet or in published material please notify usmm.org @ comcast.net