Captain Henry Peter Smith
Master of the SS Delmundo
Sunk 13 Aug 1942, the Windward Passage
On 13 August 1942, the American
Merchant Marine ship SS Delmundo was torpedoed by the German U-600 and sank
in the Windward Passage, near Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Captain Henry Peter
"Harry" Smith was the Master. He died two days later from
injuries sustained during the attack.
I welcome information about Captain Smith, the attack of 13 Aug 1942, or the Delmundo. Contact me at email@example.com.
See also Captain Smith's Continuous Certificate of Discharge which documents his WWI service.
Herbert (pg. 265) reminds us that we should refer to these men as "merchant seamen in the organization known as the United States Merchant Marine."
The SS DELMUNDO was the flagship of convoy TAW 12 (Trinidad-Aruba-Key West 1). She was carrying general cargo from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to New York when, on 13 Aug 1942, while in the Windward Passage, eighteen miles south of Cape Maisi, Cuba, she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-600. The engine room was destroyed, the boilers exploded, and the ship sank by the stern in five minutes.
The attack took place at four in the morning (EWT 2). Rohwer gives the time of the "beginning of the attack or the first shot" as 0800 (GMT) and 0958 CET.
Rohwer, pg. 115, indicates that the U-600
fired four torpedoes in its attack on convoy TAW 12.
1. Also seen as Trinidad-Curacao-Key West.
2. Eastern War Time. This would have been the DELMUNDO's time. The German submarine reported the time as 0958 (24-hour clock in CET or Central European Time).
The SS Delmundo was attacked at 19.55 N/ 73.49 W
This is Grid DN on the German grid maps.
Kelshall gives an account of the attack by U-600 on convoy TAW 12. He notes that the placement of the scattered islands in the Caribbean forced the ships, in passing between islands, to enter what were essentially choke points. The Windward Passage was such a choke point, as well as a place where convoys were formed and reformed. The night of 13 Aug 1942, convoy WAT 13 was coming south and convoy TAW 12 was headed north through the passage. Ships were leaving both convoys, and, in addition, ships were waiting off Guantanamo and Jamaica to join one or other of the convoys. The number of ships in such a relatively confined area drew the U-boats.
Late in the night of Aug 12, the Dutch freighter Medea of convoy WAT 13 was torpedoed by the U-658. The "flash and tremendous detonation" indicated that she must have been carrying explosives. An half hour later, the U-600 spotted convoy TAW 12 and moved in to attack. Kelshall says the sub "fired three torpedoes in succession." Two of the torpedoes failed to hit anything. The third hit the Latvian freighter Everelza with its cargo of ammunition. She "exploded with a six hundred foot tower of flame" and sank in less than a minute. The convoy's escorts were looking for the sub outside the convoy. However, the U-600 had slipped inside the convoy. The U-600 fired its last bow torpedo then turned to fire the stern torpedo. Both hit the Delmundo. "The heavily laden freighter sank within five minutes..." At dawn, the hunt was still in progress for the two U-boats, "and the waters of the wreckage strewn Windward Passage [was] being quartered by aircraft from Guantanamo Bay."1
The Norwegian merchant ship, Reinholt,2 was in the Old Bahama Channel the morning of 13 Aug, having left Port of Spain (in Trinidad). They heard an SOS from a torpedoed ship, which could have been that of the Delmundo.
Convoy TAW 12 had been joined by more ships at Jamaica and was then designated TAW 12J. It continued up Old Bahama Channel, bound for Key West, stalked by U-boats of the morning's attack. By early the next morning, 14 Aug, the U-598 had caught up with the convoy and positioned itself well enough to begin firing torpedoes. The Michael Jebsen and the newly-appointed Commodore ship, the Empire Corporal, were sunk. The Standella was damaged and had to be towed to Key West.
Escorts making up TAW 12 included, the destroyer HMS CHURCHILL, trawler HMS RUBY, US Coast Guard cutter LEMAIRE, corvette HMCS AGASSIZ, minesweeper YMS50, and the submarine-chasers USS PC475 and PC505. The US destroyers FLETCHER and O'BANNON came as reinforcements.3
1. Kelshall, The U-Boat War in the Caribbean, pgs. 135-137.
2. See more on the Reinholt at http://warsailors.com/singleships/reinholt.html
3. Rohwer and Hummelchen, Chronology of the War at Sea, Vol. 1, pgs. 245-246.
Browning remarks how the personnel data of the ships varies between sources and documents, so it is not unusual to see one source contradicting another. In these particulars, the numbers of casualties/survivors given by Captain Smith's obituary differs from other sources, giving 46 survivors, including the 9-man Armed Guard. Browning gives 50 survivors out of 58 onboard: 9 officers (2 lost); 32 men (3 lost); 9 Armed Guard (none lost); 8 passengers, including 2 women (3 lost).1
Jordan shows 8 died and 60 survived.2
Captain Smith's obituary mentions three New Orleans seamen on the Delmundo who gave details of the sinking:
Survivors were picked up ninety minutes later by the destroyer HMS Churchill. Fitzgerald was the captain.3
Ralph Lovejoy, Commander of convoy TAW 12, went with the Master of the Delmundo to the hospital at Guantanamo Bay. The Reinholt took over as commodore ship and the convoy continued on to Key West.
The papers of Captain Lovejoy have been given by his son to the Naval Historical Center. I have not yet seen these papers but look forward to reading of his account, if any, of the sinking of the Delmundo.
1. Browning, U.S. Merchant Vessel War Casualties of World War II, pgs. xxii, 198-199.
2. Jordan, The World's Merchant Fleets 1939, pg. 580.
3. I have not been able to find his full name.
Among those lost was the DELMUNDO's Master, Captain Henry Peter "Harry" Smith. The newspaper reported that he was injured "when he rushed to the rescue of a passenger, who had been struck by falling debris after a torpedo from an enemy submarine crashed into the ship and was himself struck." He was taken to the hospital at the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay1 where he died from his injuries. He was buried at the Naval Cemetery, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A note of remembrance written by his wife gives his death date as Saturday, 15 Aug, and the date of his burial as Wednesday, 19 Aug 1942. The last line of this handwritten note indicates that on Monday, 17 Aug, she received the last letter he had written to her. It had been mailed from Trinidad.
Of the 40 crewmen and 8 passengers on board the DELMUNDO, 5 of the crew and 2 of the passengers died.
Those of the crew killed on the DELMUNDO:
In 1980, A. C. Trapp, Jr., compiled a listing of burials at the Naval Cemetery at Guantanamo Bay. Here as Trapp lists him is " SMITH, HENRY PETER Louisiana Master Merch. Mar 15 Aug.1942"
The other of the crew are not listed as being buried at the Naval Cemetery.
1. The Commandant of the U. S. Naval Operating Base at Guantanamo Bay from 1 Apr 1941 to Mar 1944 was Vice Admiral RADM G. L. Weyler. In May of 1944, the title changed from Commandant to Commander.
Ralph L. Lovejoy, the Commander of convoy TAW 12, was onboard the Delmundo. He was picked up along with the other survivors by the HMS Churchill and taken to the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He survived, and after the war received the Bronze Star. After retirement, he was promoted to Captain. He served in the Navy 1919 to 1946.
His papers have been donated to the Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C. I have not yet seen these papers but look forward to reading of his account, if any, of the sinking of the Delmundo.
For mention of this acquisition, see http://www.history.navy.mil/ar/lima/lovejoy.htm
Merchant ships that were sunk on 13 Aug 1942:
A graph at http://www.euronet.nl/users/wilfried/ww2/network/uboat.gif and a table at http://users.accesscomm.ca/shipwreck/index7.htm show how the gross tonnage lost to U-boats peaked in the year 1942. The Times-Picayune notes in Captain Smith's obituary that the Navy states that this attack was "the first wholesale assault in the West Indian area since June when submarines took a heavy toll from the unprotected shipping...."
The SS DELMUNDO, a steam freighter, was owned by the Mississippi Shipping Company (later called the Delta Line1), New Orleans, Louisiana. She was built in 1919 at Hog Island, Pennsylvania (American International Shipping Corporation), and was 390'x54'x28' with a tonnage of 5032 and deadweight tons of 7104. Moore reports that she was formerly known as the Casey. She was laid down as the CLARCONA but was completed as the CASEY, becoming the DELMUNDO in 1932.
Jordan describes her funnel marking as "Yellow with yellow Greek 'delta' on green disc, separated from black top by green over yellow over green bands." 2 Jordan gives her services as "new Orleans/Port Arthur/Mobile/Gulfport/Pensacola/Tampa-Pernambuco-Rio de Janeiro-Santos-Montevideo-Buenos Aires."
When torpedoed, the SS DELMUNDO was traveling from Buenos Aires and Trinidad to New York and carried 4800 tons of general cargo.
1. For the Delta Line, see http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/images/delta.htm (seen 9/11/04) The flag of the Delta Line was green with a yellow triangle (the Greek delta).
2. The World's Merchant Fleets 1939, pg. 404.
Henry Peter "Harry" Smith was born 8 Jan 1890 in Wicklow, Ireland. His obituary, which contains information given by his wife, stated that he was 52 when he died 15 August 1942. He had been going to sea since he was 14 years old.
He married Bessie Beulah Harrell of Fayette, Mississippi. Inside her wedding ring is engraved, "HPS to BBH Sep 3, 1920." She was the daughter of George Monroe Harrell and Clara Markey Stevens Harrell. Captain Smith and his wife had no children, and she did not remarry. She lived the last years of her life in Claiborne County, Mississippi, where she died in the 1960s. She was buried in the Fayette, Mississippi, cemetery, where many of her relatives are buried.
The home address of Captain Smith and his wife as given on the back of his wife's Merchant Marine pin commemorating the date of the sinking of the DELMUNDO was 668 First St., Orleans Pkway, Jefferson Parish, New Orleans, La. The name of this street may have been changed to St. George Street (a different 1st Street still exists).
I am aware of these medals belonging to Captain Smith.
The HMS CHURCHILL with its "dazzle" (a kind of camouflage).
Image from NavSource Online at http://www.navsource.org/ (seen 9/29/04)
The destroyer HMS CHURCHILL came to the rescue of the DELMUNDO on 13 Aug 1942. The Churchill was previously the DD-198 USS HERNDON. She was built in 1918 at Newport News, Virginia, and launched 31 May 1919. In September 1940, she was part of the lend-lease program with Britain when the United States swapped battleships for bases. She was one of the Town Class ships -- fifty destroyers that were part of the lend lease, which were given names of towns that the United States, Britain, and the Commonwealth had in common (thus the "Town Class" ships). Britain renamed the ship the HMS Churchill, not for their illustrious citizen, but for the village of Churchill in Gloucestershire.1
The Churchill took part in the search for the German battleship Bismark after the sinking of the Hood and later assisted in the Allied invasion of North Africa.
On 24 May 1941, the HMS HOOD was sunk by the enemy battleship BISMARCK. Commander Rayner, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve officer, in charge of, among other things, North Atlantic escorts, has written his memoirs, in which he mentions the sinking of the HOOD and the search for the fleeing BISMARCK. While escorting the homeward-bound convoy SC 31, Rayner, onboard the destroyer VERBENA, in company with Commander J. Bostock of the CHURCHILL, spotted
a big ship on the horizon hurrying to the southward; but she was hull down and difficult to identify. I made to Churchill, "Are you reporting what I think I see?" and got back the reply, "Better not--identification by no means certain. Might cause confusion. Gather the Suffolk has the situation in hand."
(SUFFOLK AND NORFOLK were cruisers following the BISMARCK.2)
In August 1941, Winston Churchill visited the ship. She later became the Russian ship, Dejatelnyj.
1. Roscoe, United States Destroyer Operations in World War II, pg. 25;an article written by Neil Coates at http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/biography/in-memoriam/memorials (seen 8/20/2010). In exchange for these ships, the United States received 99-year rights to establishing bases in the western hemisphere British Colonies of Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, Trinidad, and British Guiana. For a list of the fifty lend-lease ships, see Roscoe, pg. 26.
Destroyers and destroyer escorts were often called "cans" or "tin cans." Roscoe writes that the nickname means "can" or "ready now" and "able to" (Roscoe, pg. 526).
2. Rayner, Escort, pgs. ix, 93-95.
The U-600 was a Type VIIC class submarine, built by Blohm+Voss, launched 16 Oct 1941, and commissioned 11 Dec 1941. The Type VIIC U-boat had a crew of 44 and could carry up to 14 torpedoes.1
On 7 Nov 1943, the U-600 left Brest, France, on its last patrol. On 25 Nov 1943, the U-600 was sunk in the Atlantic, north of the Azores, by depth charges from frigates HMS Bazely (K-311) (Lt. Comdr. J. V. Brock) and HMS Blackwood (K-313) (Lt. Comdr. L. T. Sly) of EG4, both in support of convoys KMS.30/OG.5. All 54 on the U-600 perished, including its commander, 34-year-old Kptlt. Bernard Zurmuhlen.2
Location of the sinking of the U-600 seen as 40.31 N/ 22.07 W. Kemp reports it as 41.45 N/ 22.30 W and notes that the submarine was never recovered. She had been in active service 23 months. Showell credits her with the sinking of six ships.3
The HMS BAZELY and the HMS BLACKWOOD were former U. S. destroyer escorts that had been transferred as part of the lend-lease to the United Kingdom, 18 Feb 1943 and 27 Mar 1943, respectively.4
Other ships beside the American Delmundo that were sunk (S) or damaged (D) by U-600:
For more information on these ships and on U-600, see
1. Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, pg. 175.
2. Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, pg. 129; Showell, U-Boats under the Swastika, pg. 9; Kptlt is abbreviation of Kapitanleutnant or Lieutenant Commander; Niestlé, German U-Boat Losses During World War II, pgs. 10, 271, 74.
3. Showell, U-Boats under the Swastika, pg. 138.
4. Roscoe, United States Destroyer Operations in World War II, pg. 543; Niestlé, German U-Boat Losses During World War II, pg. 286.
My interest in Captain Harry Smith results from family connections -- his wife, Bessie, was the sister of my maternal grandmother. The pins, medals, and personal photographs shown in these pages belonged to her and were left with my grandmother after Bessie died. They eventually came into my mother's possession.
Routes used WWII for shipping coming soon.......
__, Mississippi River Routes, P. O. Box 1161, Vicksburg, MS 39181-1161, for obituary of Captain Henry Peter "Harry" Smith taken from The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, La.
Bishop, Chris, Kriegsmarine U-Boats 1939-45: The Essential Submarine Identification Guide, Amber
Browning, Robert M., U.S. Merchant Vessel War Casualties of World War II, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1996.
Goldberg, Mark, The "Hog Islanders" The Story of 122 American Ships. This is Vol. 1 of his American Merchant Marine History Series. Other books in this series: Vol. 2, Going Bananas: 100 Years of American Fruit Ships in the Caribbean; Vol. 3, Caviar & Cargo: The C3 Passenger Ships; and Vol. 4, The Shipping Board's "Agency Ships: Part I, The "Sub Boats." He is also the author of The Stately President Liners: American Passenger Liners of the Interwar Years and is currently at work on a new and expanded version of The "Hog Islanders."
Herbert, Brian, The Forgotten Heroes: The Heroic Story of the United States Merchant Marine, Tom Doherty Associates, NY, 2004.
Hocking, Charles, Dictionary of Disasters at Sea During the Age of Steam: Including sailing ships and ships of war lost in action 1824-1962. From http://perso.wanadoo.fr/cdasm.56/dico.htm (seen 4/29/2005).
Jordan, Roger W., The World's Merchant Fleets 1939: The Particulars and Wartime Fates of 6,000 Ships, Chatham Publishing, London, 1999.
Kelshall, Gaylord T. M., The U-Boat War in the Caribbean, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1988, 1994. For events concerning the DELMUNDO, see Chapter "Convoys," especially pgs. 135-139. See also references to Zurmuhlen and the U-600, maps, and the general situation of merchant shipping and routes in the Caribbean during this time.
Kemp, Paul, U-Boats Destroyed: German Submarine Losses in the World Wars, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1997.
Miller, David, U-Boats: The Illustrated History of the Raiders of the Deep, Brassey's, Washington, D.C.
Moore, Captain Arthur R., A Careless Word ... A Needless Sinking: A history of the staggering losses suffered by the U.S. Merchant Marine, both in ships and personnel, during World War II, American Merchant Marine Museum, U. S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY, 1983.
Niestlé, Axel, German U-Boat Losses during World War II: Details of Destruction, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1998.
Rayner, D. A., Escort: The Battle of the Atlantic, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1999.
Rohwer, Jurgen, Axis Submarine Successes 1939-1945, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1983. See for U-boat attacks on ships and the dates, times, and locations of attacks. See also for maps of the German grid system for describing ship locations.
Rohwer, J. and G. Hummelchen, Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945, Derek Masters, trans., Volume One: 1939-1942, Ian Allan, London, 1972.
Roscoe, Theodore, United States Destroyer Operations in World War II, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1953.
Showell, Jak. P. Mallmann, U-Boats under the Swastika, Ian Allan, Ltd., London, 1987.
Tarrant, V. E., The U-Boat Offensive 1914-1945, Arms and Armour Press, London, 1989.
Trapp, Jr., A. C., Gravestones of the United States Naval Cemetery Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), 1980.
Wynn, Kenneth, U-Boat Operations of the Second World War (in 2 vols.), Caxton Editions, 2003.
Last updated 24 Aug 2010
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