Re: Looking for Info on Dad's AG service
Posted by Ron Carlson on August 12, 2008, 10:51 am, in reply to "Looking for Info on Dad's AG service"
I was unable to find any information on an SS SUSANNAH but did find information on an SS SUSANA similar to what you found. The name of the ship on which your father served therefore may have been SUSANA rather than SUSANNAH. Apparently he got off just in time. It may be of interest that the next entry in his service record was "USNH" which may refer to the US Naval Hospital that was once located in Brooklyn.
The SS WILLIAM WILKINS was constructed by Todd Houston Shipbuilding Corporation, Houston, Texas. Her keel was laid 22 January 1943, she was launched 6 March 1943, and she was delivered for service 22 March 1943, 59 days after keel laying. She was scrapped in Panama City, Florida, in 1963. Presumably she went into the reserve fleet ("mothballed") between the end of the war and 1963. See http://www.shipbuildinghistory.com/history/shipyards/4emergency/wwtwo/toddhouston.htm and scroll to hull number 47.
The Williams Wilkins (1779-1865) after whom the ship was named was a lawyer, jurist, and politician from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was a U.S. District Court judge (1824-1831), served in both the U.S. House of Representatives (1829 and 1843-44) and the U.S. Senate (1831-1834) was ambassador to Russia (1834-1835), and later was Secretary of War, 1844-1845, under President John Tyler.
I can place the SS WILLIAM WILKINS in these convoys just before and just after your father's death.
Convoy HX-248, New York City to Liverpool, 15-29 July 1943 (WILLIAMS WILKINS joined the convoy from St. Johns, Newfoundland, on 21 July)
Convoy BB-13, Belfast Lough, Ireland, to Milford Haven, Wales, 28-29 July 1943 (WILLIAM WILKINS presumably detached from HX-248 so as to reach and then leave Belfast before HX-248 reached Liverpool; note that Milford Haven is about 30 miles west of Swansea where your father died)
Convoy KMS-26G, Liverpool to Gibraltar, 5-18 September 1943
Convoy KMS-26, Gibraltar to Port Said, Egypt, 18-29 September 1943 (WILLIAM WILKINS had destination of Bône [now Annaba], Algeria, so would have detached from the convoy early on)
See ConvoyWeb (http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/hague/index.html; use "Ship Search" to find convoys) and WarSailors (http://www.warsailors.com/convoys/hx248.html).
There are no indications in the ConvoyWeb or WarSailors records for either convoy HX-248 or convoy BB-13 of attacks or other events that might explain your father's subsequent death. Among these records I cannot account for the whereabouts of the ship between 29 July and 5 September 1943, a period of about 38 days. However it is possible that this time was spent unloading its original cargo and/or loading new cargo, a process that could easily have taken several weeks. Although neither ConvoyWeb nor WarSailors are necessarily comprehensive, it strikes me as unlikely that the ship could have unloaded or loaded cargo and still have had time to venture out in another convoy in that period of time in which it could have experienced an attack at sea leading to your father's death. That your father died on 27 August, only about 29 days after the last record of the ship being in convoy, it is arguably even less likely he was injured in an attack at sea in that period of time. It is possible there was an air attack while the ship was in port, although the heaviest German air attacks on Great Britain had ended by late 1940.
Note that the name of the hospital in which your father died was probably Morriston Hospital rather than Morrisoton Hospital.
You may be able to find additional information about the SS WILLIAM WILKINS and about your father by contacting the U.S. National Archives. The Archives has custody of a wide range of records relating to warships, merchant ships on which Armed Guard units served, and other Navy units for the period from World War II through Vietnam, with a heavy concentration in World War II records. Available records include, but are not limited to:
* Action Reports (World War II)
* Armed Guard Logbooks and Reports (World War II)
* Casualty Reports (World War II – late 1950s)
* Deck Logs (1941 – 1967)
* Movement Report Cards
* Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries (World War II – 1970)
* Records of Individual Convoys
* War Diaries (World War II)
You may be most interested in the Armed Guard logbooks and reports, which each Armed Guard officer was required to file at the end of a voyage. The logbooks and reports listed the Armed Guard crew and significant events during a voyage. The whereabouts of or events relating to your father in the period of July-August 1943 might very well have been mentioned. Casualty reports, deck logs and muster rolls could obviously be of significance as well. Movement Report Cards also may be of interest since they indicated the movement of a ship including ports of call, anticipated and actual dates of arrival and departure, and convoys in which the ship sailed.
To learn more about the scope of these materials and to request records for a given ship, write to the following address:
Modern Military Records Unit (NWCTM)
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
In your letter, include the ship's name, the date/time period of interest; your full name, address, and telephone number; and as much other detail as possible about the information you would like to obtain. Due to the volume of requests received and the time needed to identify all appropriate records, Archives staff requests that you limit your request to five items per each letter. Allow approximately 10 – 12 weeks from the initial inquiry to receipt of the records.
A charge will be imposed for reproduction/mailing of the records, however do not send any cash/check/charge card information with your initial inquiry. Archives staff will review your request and mail to you an estimate of the cost and payment information. Follow the directions contained in that letter to order the desired records.
Also, a search of the website Ancestry.com turns up two mentions of your father arriving in New York City aboard the SS WILLIAM WILKINS. He arrived on 7 June 1943, on a voyage from Manchester, England, having sailed from that port on 24 May 1943. He was part of the Armed Guard crew, a total of 25 men under the command of Ensign James C. Rieger.
Incredibly the second record shows your father arriving in New York as part of the Armed Guard crew aboard the WILLIAM WILKINS on 18 January 1944 – nearly five months after the date you have for his death. He is listed as Gates Donaldson, seaman first class, serial number 300-92-37. However this may be a case of the Armed Guard crew list having been prepared prior to the beginning of the voyage, which may have been the voyage that included convoys HX-248 and BB-13. Most of the merchant marine crew had been on the ship at least as early as mid-June 1943, which would correlate with the ship's prior arrival in New York on 7 June and of being in convoy HX-248 in July 1943. Although there are indications of various merchant crew members leaving the ship in St. Johns, Swansea and other ports, there is nothing to indicate that your father left the ship before its return to New York. Given your knowledge of your father’s death this is curious, but the point is that the list must have been prepared prior to departure from New York in order to include records of crew leaving the ship before she returned to New York in January 1944. Again, the Armed Guard report for this voyage may contain more details.
I hope this information is useful.
Ron Carlson, Webmaster
Armed Guard website www.armed-guard.com