Historia y Arqueologia Marítima


Indice Desastres... Indice Accidentes Maritimos

Desastres Maritimos de la 2ª Guerra Mundial

1944 (Esta seccion sera traducida en breve)

Estas Páginas son una traduccion especial del sitio de George Duncan "Maritime Disasters of WWII" y se hacen con el debido permiso del autor.

Traduccion: CF ARA Carlos Villa

Esta página está dedicada a todos aquellos que lucharon en las batallas navales de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. -


USS TURNER(January 3, 1944)   Returning to the USA after completing her third Atlantic convoy duty, the Turner anchored in the Ambrose Channel off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, awaiting to enter the Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs. At about 6.30am next morning, the destroyer was shaken by a series of internal explosions in her ammunition storage areas while the crew was preparing for breakfast. The explosion ignited the fuel tanks turning the ship into a raging inferno. Another explosion blew the bottom out of the vessel and the blazing ship began to sink by the stern. It is not known what caused the explosions which took the lives of 15 officers and 138 ratings. There were 165 survivors who were rescued by nearby ships and taken to the hospital at Sandy Hook. Many lives were saved there when several cases of blood plasma were flown in from New York by a Coast Guard helicopter.

USS ST AUGUSTINE   (January 6, 1944)   Built as a luxury steel hulled yacht in 1929 and once owned by Barbara Hutton the Woolworth heiress. It was sold to the US Navy in 1940 and converted to a naval patrol vessel for coastal defence and convoy escort duties. While on escort duty during a full westerly gale off the coast of Delaware she was in collision with the Trinidad bound oil tanker the SS Camas Meadows which struck the Augustine on her starboard side when off Cape May, New Jersey. The vessel sank within four minutes taking to the bottom 115 men of her 145 man crew.

IKOMA MARU    YASUKUNI MARU   (January 20, 1944)   Two Japanese freighters transporting 611 men of an 'Independent Brigade' were heading for New Guinea when in the early evening of the 20th they were sighted by the USS Seahorse (Cdr. Slade Cutter)  Three torpedoes were fired from the Seahorse aimed at the nearest ship. One torpedo missed the target but carried on, hitting the second transport. From a spread of three torpedoes, the Seahorse had scored hits on two ships. The Yasukuni Maru sank with the loss of 68 men. The Ikoma was attacked again by four torpedoes, all of which missed. On a third attack the torpedo hit the number three hold which contained gasoline. The vessel erupted in a brilliant sheet of flame and within minutes went down stern first taking with her forty-three of her crew. Also killed or drowned were 418 of the Indian soldiers.

HMS JANUS   (January 23, 1944)  After taking part in the Anzio landings, the Janus (Lt.Cdr.W. Morrison) was hit by an arial torpedo from a German bomber and sank off Nettuno with the loss of seven officers and 155 ratings. HMS Jervis rescued five officers and seventy-seven ratings.

HMHS ST. DAVID   (January 25, 1944)   British hospital ship with 226 medical staff and patients on board was bombed and sunk by Luftwaffe planes while evacuating the wounded from the Anzio beachhead. There were 130 lives saved but unfortunately 96 souls were lost. Of the two planes that attacked the St David, one was shot down by gunners on the liberty ship Bret Harte. Britain lost ten hospital ships during the war.

I.J.N.  OITE  (February 18, 1944)   On the eve of the American carrier-borne air strike on the Japanese naval base at Truk Lagoon, the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Oite (1,270 tons) sailed for Japan escorting the light cruiser Agano. Both ships were due for a refit. When about 200 miles from the island, the Agano was torpedoed and had to be abandoned by her crew. The 523 crewmembers were taken on board the Oite which was ordered to proceed back to Truk. The air attack against ships anchored in the Lagoon was by now taking place (Code-named Operation Hailstorm). As the Oite approached the entrance to the Lagoon she came under heavy attack by Avenger torpedo carrying planes from the carrier USS Yorktown. With her back broken, and within minutes, the Oite plunged 240ft. to the bottom. Almost all the 523 rescued crew of the Agano perished together with the Oite's own complement of 150 officers and ratings.

TANGO MARU     RYUSEI MARU   (February 24, 1944)   After the sinking of the Suez Maru it was decided to replace those sick prisoners who had drowned with more prisoners from Java. Around 3,500 Javanese labourers, romusha, plus a few hundred Allied POWs, were assembled in Surabaya to board the 6,200-ton transport Tango Maru. Accompanying the Tango was the 4,805-ton transport Ryusei Maru carrying 6,600 Japanese soldiers from various units. When about forty  miles north of Lombok Island the two ships were spotted by the American submarine USS Rasher commanded by Lt.Cdr. Willard Laughon. Four torpedoes were fired from the Rasher, three of which found their mark on the Tango. Within minutes the Tango Maru was gone drowning over 3,000 romusha and POWs. Rasher's sights were now lined up on the Ryusei Maru. Four more torpedoes were fired and again three hits were recorded. It took only six minutes for the Ryusei to sink. In the process 4,998 Japanese soldiers and crewmen were either killed or drowned. 

HMS  MAHRATTA   (February 25, 1944)  The 1,920 ton destroyer was torpedoed and sunk by an acoustic homing torpedo from the U-956  (or the U-950)  in the Barents Sea while escorting the forty-three merchant ship convoy JW-57 to Russia. The convoy had set sail from Loch Ewe in Scotland on the 20th of  February. Eleven officers and 209 ratings lost their lives. There were only seventeen survivors.

USS  LEOPOLD  (March 9, 1944)  Another Coast Guard manned destroyer sunk 400 miles south of Iceland by an acoustic torpedo from the German submarine U-255. The Leopold was escorting the Atlantic convoy CU-16 to the United Kingdom at the time. A total of 171 men died with the ship, including all of the Leopold's officers. There were 28 survivors who were picked up by her sister ship the USS Joyce. On May, 14, 1944, the U-255 was scuttled during Operation Deadlight.

I.J.N.  AKIGUMO   (April 11, 1944) 
Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer (Lt.Cdr.Iritono Atsao) assisted in the sinking of the American carrier, USS Hornet. The Akigumo was sunk by torpedoes from the American submarine, USS Redfin, thirty miles south of Zamboanga while escorting the troop transport, Kiyokawa Maru. Her commander and 136 crew were lost.

(April 14, 1944)  British Ministry of War Transport steamship (7,142 tons) loaded with 1,400 tons of munitions and a cargo of 9,000 cotton bales, was berthed in Bombay docks when a fire broke out with such ferocity that it soon reached the ammunition stored in the forward section of the ship. The resulting explosion was almost as great as the blowing up of the ammunition ship Mount Blanc in Halifax Harbour during the First World War. Fires on shore blazed for two days and nights as the flaming bales of cotton were hurled into the air only to drop onto the wooden shacks and shanties of Bombay's slums. In the harbour itself, eighteen merchant ships were either sunk or severely damaged. A total of 336 people died and over 1,000 injured.

   (April 20, 1944)  Liberty Ship, part of Convoy UGS-38 which had formed in Norfolk, Virginia, sunk by aerial torpedo from a Junker Ju-88 bomber about thirty miles off the coast of Cape Bengut, Algeria.  The plane came in low and launched its torpedo about 150 feet from the Paul Hamilton which also carried a volatile cargo of high explosives and bombs. The ship simply disappeared from the surface of the sea after a violent explosion which threw debris hundreds of feet high into the air. A total of 580 men (47 Merchant Marine crew,  29 Armed Guards and 504 Army Air Force personnel, including 154 men of the 831st Squadron, lost their lives) There were no survivors, only one body was ever recovered, that of 2nd. Lt. Austin Anderle. This was the largest casualty list of any Liberty ship during the war. During the same action, the escort destroyer USS Landsdale was sunk with a loss of 47 lives. Another ship was sunk and two more damaged bringing the total deaths in this disaster to 627. Altogether, 413 merchant ships totaling l,740,250 tons were sunk in the Mediterranean by enemy action. (Forty three American merchant ships were lost with all hands during WW11 taking the lives of over 1,600 souls)

(Landing Craft Infantry)   (April, 1944)  Part of the 4th LCI Flotilla on its way to the UK after taking on supplies at Gibraltar, was attacked by three German Condor bombers from their base at Brest. Each plane dropped six bombs which hit the leading Landing Craft. The vessel broke in two, the rear half remaining afloat for some time and had to be sunk by gunfire. Unfortunately, the passengers and crew who had gathered on the forward half of the ship, perished. All  98 passengers and most of the crew died. The passengers were naval officers and ratings who were hitching a ride back to England to prepare for the  D-Day invasions.

(April 26-May 6, 1944)   A Japanese convoy (Operation Take-Ichi) transporting around 20,000 troops, enroute from Shanghai to reinforce the Japanese garrison of Halmahera on the Vogelkop Peninsula, was attacked by the American submarine USS Jack. The Yoshida Maru was sunk off Minila Bay. Later on  the 6th. May, the American submarine USS Gurnard spotted the convoy and attacked. Her torpedoes sank the transports Tenshizan Maru (6,886 tons), Taijima Maru (6,995 tons) and the Aden Maru (5,824 tons). Nearly half of the troops that embarked at Shanghai were lost.

(April 29, 1944)  Canadian destroyer of the Tribal class sunk north of Ile de Bas, France, by two torpedoes from a German Torpedo Boats T-24 and T-27 while clearing mines in the English Channel prior to the invasion of France. The ships magazine and a boiler blew up sending a plume of flame and smoke into the air that could be seen over twenty miles away. Her Captain, Cdr. John Stubbs and 128 members of his crew went down with the ship. The destroyer HMCS Haida  rescued 44 crew members but the rest, 83 men, were picked up from the water by  the torpedo boats and taken prisoner.

LSTs and LCTs
   (May 21, 1944)  A gigantic explosion occurred at the West Lock Munitions Facility, Pearl Harbor, the cause of which has never been explained. The ammo-loaded ships were spaced in line apart from each other when the first explosion occurred at the dock setting off a series of explosions on the other ships. Some vessels managed to take evasive action thus terminating the domino like chain of explosions.  Destroyed were the Landing Ship (Tank) LST-43, LST...69, (a Coastguard LST in which 13 were injured) LST-179, LST-353 on which the initial explosion occurred and LST-480. Also destroyed were the Landing Craft (Tank) LCT(6)-961, LCT(6)-963 and LCT(6)-983. Bodies were being dragged from the water days after the event. Casualties were said to be over 1,000 killed or wounded.

(June 13, 1944)  British destroyer sunk off Portland Bill, Dorset, by two torpedoes launched from German aircraft. Nine officers, including the captain Lt. Cdr F.W. Hawkins, and 166 ratings died. There were only 12 survivors.

(July 2, 1944)  Liberty ship, torpedoed and then shelled and set on fire off Ceylon by the Japanese submarine I-8.  On board were 41 crew plus 28 US Armed Guards and 31 passengers. All were taken on board the submarine and with hands tied behind their backs, were forced to sit on deck while the Japanese sailors systematically killed most of them with bayonets and spanners used as clubs.  With the last 30 survivors still on deck the submarine crashed dived when an enemy plane was spotted. The 30 survivors were left struggling in the water. A few managed to swim back to the burning hulk of the Jean Nicolet and launched a raft before the ship sank. Luckily, 23 of them survived to be picked up by the Indian Navy trawler 'Hoxa'. The I-8s captain ordered that three survivors be retained as POWs. Sadly, only one survived the war. 

   (July 17, 1944)  A 7,212-ton Liberty ship, was moored at Port Chicago Naval Base, California, taking on ammunition and high explosives. Just before 10.20pm, the ship, loaded with 4,600 tons of munitions and 1,780 tons of explosives, blew up in one gigantic explosion completely wrecking the port and sending smoke and debris 12,000 feet into the air. Windows were shattered some 20 miles away. A second ship, moored nearby, the brand new Quinalt Victory was  getting ready for its maiden voyage and also loaded with munitions. It had taken three days and nights to load the two ships, the work mostly done by black naval personnel. All on board the two ships, and many on the pier, were killed instantly. (E.A.Bryan, 53 killed, Quinalt Victory, 44 killed)  A total of 320 men died including 202 black sailors. A total of 390 military and civilian personnel were injured. A twelve ton locomotive operating on the pier simply vanished, not a single piece was ever found. The 1,200 ft. wooden pier and 16 boxcars loaded with bombs and ammunition disappeared. The damage bill to the Port of Chicago (now the Concord Naval Weapons Station) was estimated at $12 million. The cause of the explosion was never officially established by the Court of Inquiry. (After this disaster, ammunition loading ceased to be a 'blacks only' affair)

(December 3, 1944)  
Following the Port Chicago explosion, 258 black sailors refused to load explosives on to Pacific bound ships until safety was improved. Fifty were court-martialed, and convicted of mutiny. They were reduced to the lowest rank and sentenced to long prison terms. Ten of them to 15 years, twenty four to 12 years, eleven  to 10 years and five got 8 years. The public outcry was such that all were released from prison some months later to spend the rest of their lives under the pall of injustice and deprived of veterans benefits.  One black sailor, a Freddy Meeks had his honour restored by President Bill Clinton in 1999 who gave him a pardon. Freddy Meeks died in June 2003 aged 83. 

HMS  QUORN   (August 3, 1944)   British 'Hunt' class destroyer, commissioned in September, 1940, on patrol off the British invasion beaches in Normandy was attacked and sunk during a heavy assault by German E-boats. Four officers and 126 ratings lost their lives. 

MATSU    (August 4, 1944)    Launched on February 3, 1944. Japanese escort destroyer (1,262 tons) leading a convoy returning to Japan was bombed and severely damaged by US aircraft about fifty miles northwest of Chichi-jima. The Matsu was later sunk by shellfire from the destroyers USS Ingersoll, USS Cogswell and USS Knapp. The bombing killed most of her crew. Out of her complement of 150 there were only six survivors one of whom died later aboard the rescue destroyer. 

KOSHU MARU   (August 4, 1944)   A 2,295-ton cargo vessel, under the control of the Japanese Army, sailed from Batavia carrying 1,513 Javanese labourers and 540 additional passengers and crew. Its destination was the Celebes islands where the labourers were to work repairing the much bombed Makassar airstrip. The Koshu Maru, along with another freighter and two escorts sailed across the Java Sea, the scene of so many tragic sinkings. The slow moving convoy was spotted by Cdr. William Kinsella of the submarine USS Ray. Four torpedoes were sent on their way, the resulting explosions breaking the back of the ship and sending her to the bottom. The labourers and passengers on board didn't have much of a chance, the ship sinking in a matter of minutes. Lost with the Koshu Maru were 273 passengers and 28 crewmen but the most tragic of all was the deaths of 1,239 Javanese labourers.

MEFKURE   (August 5, 1944)  Turkish motor-schooner in company with two other boats the 'Morina' and 'Bulbul', set sail from the port of Constantsa in Romania bound for Instanbul. On board were around one thousand passengers, mostly refugee Jews from Romania, Poland and Hungary, just over 325 to each boat.  Flying the Turkish flag but with no navigation lights, the Mefkure was hit by three torpedoes and shell-fire from an unidentified submarine (German or Soviet?) twenty-five miles north-east of Igneada, the survivors machine-gunned while struggling in the water to escape. The death toll from the Mefkure was 305 passengers killed including thirty-seven children. There were only eleven survivors, five Jews and six crewmenbers who were rescued by the Bulbul.

HMHS AMSTERDAM 11   (August 7, 1944)  Built by John Brown & Co. Glasgow, for the London North Eastern Railway in 1930 and converted to a hospital ship during World War 11. The vessel was sunk by a mine while embarking wounded from Juno Beach in Normandy. Fifty-five wounded men were lost as were ten medical staff and thirty crewmembers. Also lost were eleven German prisoners of war who were being transported to  POW camp in England. Total losses, 106 souls.

HMS KITE   (August 21, 1944)  Royal Navy sloop of 1,250 tons, built at the Cammell Laird yard at Birkenhead, was escorting the aircraft carriers HMS Vindex and HMS Striker, which in turn were escorting a large 34 ship convoy JW-59 to Northern Russia when the convoy was sighted in the Barents Sea by German aircraft. Soon a pack of U-boats attacked the convoy and one U-boat was sunk by Swordfish aircraft from one of the carriers. Two more were sunk by other destroyers. During the action, HMS Kite was hit by two torpedoes from the U-344 and sank with the loss of ten officers and 207 ratings. Fourteen survivors were picked up by HMS Keppel  but five died just minutes after being rescued. Next day, the U-344 was attacked and sunk with all hands (50) by aircraft from the carrier Vindex. (Casualty list and photograph of HMS Kite can be found at...www.kemble.org.uk/kite.html)

     HMS HUSSAR  (August 27,1944)  Three months after the Normandy Invasion, ships of the British 1st. Minesweeping Flotilla, operating out of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches, were sweeping a channel through enemy laid magnetic mines off Cap d'Antifer. This was to enable the battleship' Warspite' to get closer to the French coast to bombard the port of Le Havre still in German hands. The 1st. Flotilla, led by HMS Jason and including the Britomart, Hussar, Salamander and the trawler'Colsay', began their fifth day of minesweeping on Sunday, 27th. of August, 1944.   At 1.30pm on this beautiful day, with the sea smooth as a duck pond, sixteen RAF rocket-firing Typhoons, of 263 and 266 Squadrons accompanied by a Polish squadron of Spitfires, swooped out of the sun and attacked the Britomart. On their second attack, the Salamander and Hussar were hit. In just over 10 minutes, two ships were burning and sinking, a third badly damaged and on fire. Men swimming in the water were now subjected to shelling from the German shore batteries. A total of 78 officers and ratings were killed and 149 wounded. Twenty two men were killed on the Britomart and fifty five on Hussar. Survivors were later told to 'keep their mouths shut about the whole affair'. A court of inquiry, held at Arromanches two days later, found that this appalling blunder was due to "an error in communications" the incompetence of naval shore based staff officers who knew the vessels were there but failed to pass this information on to their RAF counterparts. The RAF was completely exonerated.

(DD-383)  (September 13, 1944)  Launched in May, 1937, the 1,850 ton destroyer Warrington capsized during a violent storm in the South Atlantic while on her way to Trinidad. With winds of  up to 130 knots, the destroyer was brought to a standstill with the heavy seas pounding her hull to pieces. Sea water cascaded through the ducts and flooded the engine room cutting off all power and damaging her steering mechanism.The ship then took a heavy roll to starboard and the order to abandon ship was given. The Warrington then rolled completely over and with her bow pointing straight up at the sky she quickly and silently slid under the raging ocean. A prolonged search by rescue ships failed to save all the crew. Only 5 officers and 68 men were picked up from the sea two days later by the supply ship USS Hyades and the small carrier Croatan. A total of 248 officers and men  had drowned.

(October 25, 1944)  American destroyer sunk by gunfire from the Japanese Center Force battleships and cruisers during the 48 hour Battle of Surigao Strait, Leyte Gulf.  The Johnston and other destroyers, part of the thirteen ship Task Force, Taffy 111, were screening the American escort carriers when the attack came. After launching her full complement of 10 torpedoes at the Japanese heavy cruiser "Kumano' she was hit repeatedly by gunfire from the other ships including the Kongo. Ammunition stores on the Johnston started to explode and fifteen minutes later she rolled over and sank. A total of 183 men were lost from the crew of 326. Forty-six died from enemy gunfire, 45 died on rafts from their injuries and 92 were struggling in the water after the ship sank. They were never seen again. There were 143 survivors. Her captain, Comdr. Ernest E. Evans was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. A survivor later reported that he saw the Japanese captain salute the Johnston as she went down.

(October 25, 1944)
American destroyer sunk by the Japanese Center Force battleships while patrolling the entrance to Leyte Gulf. After taking over 40 hits from the Japanese ships including the battleship Kongo, the destroyer rolled over and sank by the stern taking 252 crewmen to their deaths,15 died while awaiting rescue on rafts. Only 85 survived.
During the same battle, the escort destroyer USS Samuel B. Roberts was also sunk with the loss of three officers and 86 ratings. The Roberts (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Copeland) was hit by a 14-inch salvo from the enemy battleship, tearing a hole 40 ft long and 10 ft wide on her port side. The 126 survivors spent 18 hours in the oil-covered water before rescue. Memorials to the Hoel, Johnston and Roberts are located at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego.

USS MISSISSINEWA   (November 20, 1944)  U.S. Navy fleet oiler (11,316 tons) hit by a Japanese one man suicide submarine (Kaiten) while at anchor in the harbour of Ulithi Atoll, Admiral Halsey's 3rd Fleet anchorage. Two kaitens, launched from their mother submarines I-36 and I-47 had penetrated the safety nets across the mouth of the harbour. One ran ashore but failed to explode and was recovered by the US Navy. The destruction of the Mississinewa  proved to be one of the most important sinkings of the Pacific war as this was the first time the US Navy had encountered this type of submarine. The second kaiten found its mark on the starboard side of the  Mississinewa which was loaded with 440,000 gallons of aviation fuel which exploded and erupted into a blazing inferno at 5.45am. This was the first ship to fall victim to this new top secret weapon. Casualties were three officers and 47 ratings killed, eleven officers and 81 ratings wounded from the ships complement of 298. Now, 57 years later, oil has started to leak from the hull of the Mississinewa which lies upside down in 120 feet of water. The pollution threatens the livelihood of the 700 residents on the atoll.

URAKAZE  (November 21, 1944)   The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Urakaze had an excellent record of Allied tonnage sunk. In company with the destroyers Hamakaze, Yukikaze and Isokaze, the three were escorting the home-bound damaged warships, Kongo, Nagato and Yamato from Brunei to Kure, Japan, when attacked by the USS Sealion in the Formosa Strait. As the Sealion gradually caught up with the battle fleet her commander, Captain Eli Reich, launched three stern torpedoes at the battleship Nagato. All missed but one carried on and hit the Urakaze on her port side. After a series of explosions the Urakaze simply blew apart and in less than two minutes the vessel sank. Her entire crew of fourteen officers and 293 men were lost. 

USS COOPER   (December 2-3, 1944)  During a US naval attack on Japanese shipping in Ormoc Bay, Leyte,  the Cooper, accompanied by USS Allen M Sumner and the USS Moale, engaged two enemy ships, the Matsu class destroyers, Kuwa and Take. A torpedo from the Take hit the Cooper causing an explosion on her starboard side and breaking the ship in two. She sank within minutes taking the lives of 191 crewmen. There were 168 crew rescued by PBY Catalina flying boats and flown to the nearest naval base. This was the only naval engagement of the Pacific War in which U.S. ships were fired upon simultaneously from the air, sea and from shore batteries in one short desperate four hour battle.

USS REID  (December 11, 1944)  American destroyer escorting a supply convoy to Ormoc Bay on the island of Leyte. When off the coast of Limasawa Island, the Reid was sunk by two Japanese suicide aircraft. Of her crew, 104 men died. On November 2, 1996 a commemorative ceremony was held over the site of the sunken vessel. Three of the survivors, who had  recently died, had requested that their ashes be scattered on the waters over the wreck.

HMS ALDENHAM  (December 14, 1944) British destroyer. After escorting several convoys to the besieged island of Malta, the Aldenham (Cdr.J.G. Farrent) hit a mine in the north-eastern Adriatic and sank with the loss of five officers and 116 ratings.

USS HULL   USS MONAGHAN   USS SPENCE  (December 18, 1944)   Three American destroyers sunk during one of the worst typhoons to hit the Pacific ocean.  Typhoon ‘Cobra’ struck while the destroyers were escorting the 3rd US Fleet Fueling Group east of the Philippines. They were on their way to join up with task Force 38 engaged in the invasion of Mindoro, but they never made it. Waves 70 ft high were tossing the ships about like corks. Water pouring down the funnels caused the ships to turn over 60 degrees and finally capsize taking the lives of 765 men. A total of 146 aircraft were lost overboard from the carriers including 86 from the three escort carriers. There were only six survivors from the Monaghan, 23 from the Spence (which lost 294 men) and 63 from  Hull.  All told, 92 men survived the sinkings, many spending 13 hours in the water before being rescued by the destroyers USS Tabberer, USS Dewey, USS Swearer and USS Gatling. Admiral William 'Bull' Halsey was held responsible for the disaster for failing to sail the Third Fleet out of the typhoon's path.