This account is from “Outside of the Entire world War II We Know,” a series from The Instances that files lesser-acknowledged tales from Planet War II. Seaman Second Course Joseph Shannon, an 18-calendar year-outdated sailor from Greenwich, Conn., was stationed aboard the SS Robert L. Vann, a Merchant Marine transport ship, when it was hit by an underwater mine in March 1945. Information demonstrate the complete crew survived.
We had just remaining Belgium, the place we had sent all kinds of food and supplies, and I had managed to get a pair of wood sneakers for my girlfriend, dimensions 8. The return excursion introduced us the identical way we arrived, through the Scheldt River, just south of the North Sea. The program was to return to our house port in Brooklyn, N.Y., reload the ship and set off to our up coming location.
There were being about 28 sailors and dozens of service provider mariners aboard the SS Robert L. Vann. It was a program sea voyage for transporting foods, which usually took about 6 times. All of the sailors on board have been gun crew, standing guard in situation the vessel arrived in speak to with any German E-boats, which was what the Allies referred to as the Kriegsmarine warships. So much, we hadn’t seen any motion. We have been privileged that we by no means experienced to dispatch for missions into Russia, where by there was a German battleship stationed that would raid on ships carrying materials for the Allies.
We traveled in convoys, and just about every ship was armed with a 3-inch, 50-caliber gun on the bow, and a 5-inch, 38-caliber gun on the stern. Every of us had our very own 20-millimeter equipment gun. The merchant mariners ran the ship and offered the meals frankly, we have been all set to safeguard the ship in regardless of what way we could.
As the SS Robert L. Vann sailed up the English Channel, we would stand guard in four-hour shifts all over the clock. At the time the Germans ended up launching buzz bombs, or V-1 traveling bombs, which would nose-dive into the ground with about a ton of TNT. I experienced after felt the outcomes of a little concussion just from the sound of one of individuals bombs. The British had been claimed to be monitoring down about 90 percent of the buzz bombs, but they had been raising hell with the Belgian population.
On March 1, though standing look at in the rear gun tub, which was surrounded by steel and was our largest piece of armament, I out of the blue listened to a bang on the aspect of the ship. I didn’t know what it was, but a next or two later on, there was an explosion. I promptly got onto the principal deck, where by I observed a friend unleashing a daily life raft. It was now in the h2o, and we watched it float straight into the propeller, which nevertheless experienced a head of steam. It was a good factor we did not get into that raft. I knew at the time that we would have to abandon the ship. I turned to my friend, Joe, and questioned, “Where do we go now?”
We ran to midship, downhill, since the ship was sinking from the middle. The explosion experienced been as clean up as a whistle, splitting the ship appropriate in half. As h2o flooded in, it sounded like a waterfall, and I imagine the only explanation we did not sink speedier was due to the fact they experienced poured cement into the ship for buoyancy.
As Joe and I had been running toward the lifeboats, we observed the officer-in-charge sitting down in a lifetime raft on the deck with his suitcase. We knew he was in threat of currently being sucked beneath with the raft if the ship became submerged. When Joe and I reached the lifeboats, we referred to as for him to jump into it. But he grabbed two ropes that were on the same side of the pulley, and went straight into the water, like a bullet. The good news is, Joe was in a position to yank him into our boat.
I have to give credit rating to the merchant mariners: They experienced been educated on how to get out of the ship, and when to reduce a raft, and we just realized how to use our guns! It was up to them to guard us from damage. We could not even find the explosion, considering that it took place at the base of the ship, which was almost certainly 25 feet down below the waterline.
I never know specifically how far out we ended up if there was a tall creating in the length, we almost certainly could have observed it. We had been in that lifeboat for maybe 5 or six several hours, and that was sufficient for us. An Army tugboat at some point pulled up with a major, vivid mild and rescued us. That was eerie, for the reason that we had heard rumors that German vessels would pull up together Allied ships, glow a vibrant gentle on them and then strike with machine guns. So when we initial arrived across tugboat, we assumed we’d be dead soon. Thank God it was an Allied tugboat. At the time we were rescued, I eventually puked! That was my present to that condition. Our nerves were definitely worked up. And, of class, I was not equipped to seize those shoes for my girlfriend from my locker on the ship.
We were transferred future to a British crawler, which took us all the way to Ramsgate, England. From there, we ended up sent down to London, where by we stayed in a hotel for what was meant to be two months, but it ended up becoming 18 times because of a coach strike. In London, we didn’t have any uniforms, only our perform shirts, for the initial couple days. We manufactured the very best of it: We would perform a large amount of card video games, or we would discover a bar and congregate with anyone and all people. We weren’t even sure if the ship had sank I was instructed it might have absent down and just hit a rock ledge or one thing.
This account has been edited and condensed for size and clarity. Joseph Shannon instructed his story to Jake Nevins, The New York Periods Magazine’s editorial fellow.