“The Sinking Of The “SS Gulftrade”
Eighty Years Ago, Today – (Tuesday) March 10th, 1942:
As we discussed earlier, the German Kriegsmarine brings the War close to home – a mere 13 miles offshore from Barnegat Inlet and the famous Barnegat Lighthouse – today when U-588 torpedoes the American tanker “SS Gulftrade.” (Photo 1, sinking, and Photo 2, as built)
Betrayed in the early morning darkness by her running lights, Gulftrade is blown in half by a single torpedo. Her hull and bunkers ripped open, her cargo of 80,000 barrels of Bunker C fuel oil pours out across the hull – and ocean surface. It immediately bursts into flame.
However, heavy seas swamp the ship, and snuff the inferno out, but now the ship, her lifeboats and the crew are covered in a four-inch thick coat of viscous, cold fuel oil.
Sadly, the same ocean waves that extinguish the fire swamp two lifeboats, killing all 18 men onboard. A third lifeboat with 7 men remains afloat… and 9 more men are stuck on the stern section, which is now drifting away!
The US Coast Guard quickly swings into action. The USCGC Antietam (WPC 128; Active-Class, Photo 3) arrives, rescues the men in the lifeboat, and heads for the stern section… where she promptly fouls (tangles) one of her propellers in a loose line (rope) from Gulftrade. The US Navy also rushes to the scene, and the net-tender USS Larch (AN-21, Aloe-Class, Photo 4) gets the remainder of the crew off of the Gulftrade’s stern. Ironically, Larch, as a “net-tender,” is part of the operations of laying and maintaining anti-submarine nets around harbors.
Meanwhile, INSIDE the harbor of Port Castries, on St. Lucia in the Caribbean, U-161 (Type IXC) hits a pair of ships at point blank range with torpedoes, sinking both into the harbor mud. They are the Canadian passenger ship “Lady Nelson” (Photo 5), with 25 people killed, and the British “SS Umtata” (Photo 6) with 41 dead. However, both ships were refloated and repaired.
Just another day in the Battle Of The Atlantic… but a little too close to home for the citizens of the Jersey Shore.
Don’t worry… the Germans will be back in New Jersey’s waters.
Soon. Very Soon.