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Stanvac Palembang (I) - (1941-1942)
The first named "Stanvac Palembang".
The Panamanian tanker, SS STANVAC PALEMBANG, was torpedoed by the German U-203 (Rolf Mutzelburg) at 2155 ship's time on July 11,
1942 in position 11-28 N/60-23 W. (About 15 miles off Tobago Island while en route alone, from Santos, Brazil to Port of Spain, Trinidad in ballast.
On board was a complement of 43 merchant crew and 7 U.S. Naval Armed Guard. Two crew members and 3 Navy gunners were lost. One
crew member who survived this sinking was lost on the SS ROBERT E. LEE, the ship on which he was being repatriated to the U.S.
The 1st torpedo struck on the starboard quarter wrecking the engine room and stopping the engines. The Master ordered abandon ship. He and
a few crew members plus the entire Navy crew remained aboard. In the meantime, the sub had surfaced and inquired among the two boats
for the Master. Then another torpedo was fired striking the ship on the port quarter. He followed that with 36 rounds from the deck gun of the sub.
Every shell was a hit on the ship. The ship sank at 2325 on July 11,1942.
The 2nd torpedo killed an Ordinary Seaman in his quarters directly above the blast and killed an Oiler in the Engine Room. The explosion from
this torpedo blew up through the steering engine room and reduced the gun platform to a mass of twisted steel killing 3 of the 7 Navy gunners
who were manning the aft gun. Three of the surviving Navy gunners then followed the Master to #2 boat in which they abandoned ship. While
getting the boat away from the ship, the Master heard a faint cry. It was the fourth Navy gunner. He was told to go to the stern and jump. He
did this and was picked up by that boat. He was badly injured.
The 45 survivors were picked up from 3 boats by the USS PC 8 at 1600 local time on July 12th and landed them at Port of Spain on the
same day. They were being repatriated to New Orleans aboard the SS ROBERT E. LEE when that ship was torpedoed on July 30 near the en-
trance to the Mississippi River. The survivors were picked up by various rescue craft and taken to Venice, Louisiana. The survivors from the
SS STANVAC PALEMBANG were taken to New York by train.
- See location on a map -
The U-203 (Kermann Kottmann) was sunk April 25, 1943 south of Greenland in position 55-05 N/42-25 W. by HMS PATHFINDER (G 10)
and aircraft from HMS BITER. Eleven were lost and 38 taken prisoner.
U.S. MERCHANT SEAMEN LOST
FAJARDO, Miguel L.
The three merchant seamen lost were from the Philippines.
A disproportionate number of Panamanian ships in WWII were tankers, belonging to affiliates of such companies as Esso, Socony, and
Gulf. These ships criss-crossing the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico were particularly vulnerable in 1942. Another Panamanian vessel whose
crew and Armed Guard detachment went through double jeopardy was the Stanvac Palembanq of the Standard Vacuum oil Company. She
was torpedoed off Tobago, and lost two crewmen in that original sinking, along with three men from the Armed Guard crew. Lifeboats managed
to reach Tobago where the survivors were eventually repatriated toward New Orleans on a venerable East Coast nightboat, the Robert E. Lee.
Even though she had an escort vessel, this ship, was torpedoed almost within sight of the Mississippi passes, and one more of the
Palembanq's crew was lost, as well as 25 crewmen and passengers from the Lee.