Re: Information on George A Gagnon from NH
Posted by Ron Carlson on July 23, 2012, 4:23 pm, in reply to "Information on George A Gagnon from NH"
I have found a likely match.
It is highly doubtful that your father was on an Italian ship, as opposed to being on a U.S. ship in or near Italy. Armed Guard personnel were on U.S. or Allied merchant ships, not Italian ships. Maybe they went aboard enemy ships that were captured or seized as war prizes but even that seems improbable.
Anyway, in sources available to me I found records of a George A. Gagnon and a George Alfred Gagnon who served as an Armed Guard on two different ships. None of the records I found involved a voyage that would have taken him to or near Italy at the time Vesuvius erupted on March 18, 1944. One of the records I found was for a voyage that ended in January 1944, another was for a voyage that began in August 1944, and the last was for a voyage in 1945. However some of the information you share points to a possible match for a voyage not recorded in the sources I searched.
Your father served aboard SS JAMES GUTHRIE, a U.S. Liberty ship that had left New York on October 30, 1943, and sailed to Liverpool (and perhaps other British ports) before returning to New York on January 11, 1944.
On February 9, 1944, JAMES GUTHRIE departed New York on a voyage to Naples, Italy. Other records (which contain no information about her crew) show that she arrived in Naples on March 10, 1944. On March 17, 1944, one day before the eruption and while still in Naples, JAMES GUTHRIE was damaged when a bomb struck the ship while unloading cargo. Apparently the damage was minimal since JAMES GUTHRIE departed Naples on March 28, 1944, and arrived in Augusta, Sicily, the next day. She departed Augusta on March 31, 1944, and arrived in Algiers, Algeria, about 630 miles west and south on the African mainland, on April 4, 1944.
On a day shortly thereafter that I have been unable to identify, JAMES GUTHRIE departed Algiers, with the expectation of joining a convoy that would have eventually returned to the U.S. She didn't make it. On April 17, 1944, she struck two Allied mines off the island of Capri (near Naples), resulting in massive flooding. There were no casualties but she was abandoned. A U.S. Navy tug towed the ship to Naples where she went aground, damaged beyond repair. She was scrapped in Naples after the war.
I believe your father was aboard the ill-fated final voyage of JAMES GUTHRIE, beginning in New York in February 1944, until she was mined on April 17, 1944, even though I have not found a crew list for that voyage. The resource I frequently use to identify crew members is from information submitted at the end of a voyage when a ship returned to its home port. Since JAMES GUTHRIE never returned to New York from the February-April 1944 voyage, there is no record of her crew. (Doubtlessly a crew list exists somewhere, just not in the sources I use.)
JAMES GUTHRIE was constructed by the Kaiser Permanente Shipyard No. 1, in Richmond, CA, in 42 days between late February and early April 1943. She sailed to Australia and New Zealand early in her wartime career before making voyages across the Atlantic and Mediterranean. See http://shipbuildinghistory.com/history/shipyards/4emergencylarge/wwtwo/kperm1.htm and scroll to hull number 532. Also see http://www.mariners-l.co.uk/LibShipsJ-Ji.html and scroll to the name of the ship.
I mentioned above that I found George A Gagnon on another ship as an Armed Guard, named SS BARTHOLOMEW GOSNOLD, another Liberty ship. One voyage began in New York on August 30, 1944, with a destination of Liverpool. From Liverpool she continued to Barry, Wales, from which she departed on October 28, 1944, returning to New York on November 10, 1944.
Finally George A Gagnon sailed again aboard BATHOLOMEW GOSNOLD from Norfolk, Virginia, on or about February 24, 1945, destination several ports in the Caribbean. She departed Trinidad on April 28, 1945, arriving in New York on May 10, 1945.
There were likely one or more other voyages aboard BARTHOLOMEW GOSNOLD between the one ending in New York in November 1944 and the one commencing in Norfolk in February 1945, as well as between his last voyage on JAMES GUTHRIE ending in April 1944, and the first voyage in which I found him on BARTHOLOMEW GOSNOLD beginning in August 1944.
I hope this is helpful.
Ron Carlson, Webmaster
Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website