“Torpedo Attack Off Barnegat!”
Eighty Years Ago, Today – (Monday) May 25th, 1942, off Barnegat Inlet, NJ:
The Battle Of The Atlantic continues to rage off the Jersey Shore with no end in sight. The latest victim is the Panamanian tanker “SS Persephone.” (Pic 1), outbound from oil-rich Aruba, and laden with 80,000 barrels of crude oil. Hugging the coast, she is heading for New York. She will never make it.
Lurking in the shallows is U-593 (VIIC). She squares down on Persephone and hits her with a single torpedo. 12 miles offshore, close enough for locals and early beachgoers to see it with the naked eye, the blast snaps the ship in two. The pieces settle to the bottom in only 50 feet of water, and nine men lose their lives in the sinking, but 28 more are rescued.
Lost in such shallow water, the forward half is ultimately refloated and towed to New York where 20,000 barrels of her precious cargo are salvaged. Her stern remains where it sank, demolished by the Coast Guard as a danger to navigation.
Persephone isn’t the day’s only victim. Next is the destroyer USS Blakeley (DD-150, Wickes-Class) In broad day light, a mere 5 miles off shore from the harbor and town of Fort-De-France in Martinique, U-156 (IXC) blows her bow clean off with a single torpedo. The 60-foot long piece of the hull takes six US Navy Sailors with it to the bottom. Blakely shudders under the blast, and her Sailors fight like hell to save her. She refuses to die, and, in fact, after emergency repairs, she steams under her own power to the Philadelphia Navy Yard… 1,900 miles away!
Safe at home, a new bow from a sister ship, USS Taylor (DD-94) is grafted on, and she is back in the fight by September 5th. Pics 2-4 show her damaged, and repaired.
Meanwhile, 62 miles south of Kingston, Jamaica, U-558 (VIIC) sinks the American “SS Beatrice” (Photo 5) and her 4,500 tons of raw sugar. A dud torpedo leads to a surface chase, and one man is killed as Beatrice is finished off with deck guns. 30 men are rescued.
Lastly, the Norwegian tanker “SS Haakon Hauan” (Photo 6) is torpedoed in The Gulf by U-753 (VIIC) 25 miles off Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Damaged, she limps to shore.
Just another day…