SS Peter Silvester

USS Peter Silvester, was an American merchant marine ship built for the United States Maritime Commission. Peter Silvester was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-862 off the coast of Australia in the Indian Ocean on February 6, 1945. 33 men aboard the ship died and 142 were eventually rescued, with some rescued weeks after the initial sinking.[1][2]

History
United States
Name: USS Peter Silvester
Namesake: Peter Silvester
Builder: California Shipbuilding Corp.
Laid down: 31 March 1942
Launched: 27 May 1942
Homeport: Los Angeles, California
Fate: Sunk, 6 February 1945
General characteristics
Class and type: Liberty ship
Length: 441 ft (134 m)
Beam: 57 ft (17 m)
Draft: 37 ft (11 m)
Propulsion: Steam
Speed: 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)
Armament:

History

The USS Peter Silvester was laid down on March 31, 1942 and built by the California Shipbuilding Corp. The ship was named after Peter Silvester (1734–1808),[3] an American politician who was a member of the United States House of Representatives from New York, who backed the patriot cause during the American Revolution.[4] The ship launched nearly two months later, on May 27, 1942.[5]

Sinking

1st attempt

On April 29, 1943, the ship, unescorted, was unsuccessfully attacked by Japanese submarine I-19 while en route from Espírito Santo to San Francisco, California. Two torpedoes passed beneath the ship and exploded harmlessly some distance away.[1]

2nd attempt

On February 6, 1945 the Peter Silvester was torpedoed by the German submarine U-862 in the Indian Ocean, (34°19′S 99°37′E) about 750 miles west of Perth Australia.[6] Both torpedoes struck on the starboard side at the #3 hold. It was reported that one torpedo went straight through the ship while the other detonated in the hold which ruptured the deck forward of the bridge and blew off the hatch cover. This led to flooding of the hold and the engine room. The ship was then hit at 17.10 hours by two more torpedoes on the starboard side at the traverse bulkhead between holds #2 and #3. The eight officers, 34 crewmen, 26 armed guards and 107 US Army troops abandoned ship in four lifeboats and six rafts. Soon after, the ship was hit by a coup de grâce at the #1 hold. This caused the ship to break in two. The forward section sank immediately, while the after section stayed afloat and was last seen deep in the water in the evening of February 8th.[1] At the time of its sinking, the ship was carrying 2,700 tons of US Army supplies, in addition to 317 mules bound for Burma.[7]

An extended search was conducted by all available ships of the US and Australian Navies. Within two days, 15 survivors in a lifeboat were picked up by the American steam merchant Cape Edmont and landed at Fremantle, Australia on February 12, 1945. The following day, February 13, 80 survivors on six rafts, and 12 survivors in a lifeboat, were picked up by USS Corpus Christi and brought to Fremantle after five days. 20 survivors in a third boat were picked up on February 28, 1945 by HMS Activity (D 94) and landed at Fremantle on March 2, 1945.[8] The last 15 survivors in another boat, adrift for 32 days, were rescued on March 9, 1945 by USS Rock (SS 274) and landed at Exmouth Gulf. The last lifeboat carrying 1 crewmen, 7 armed guards and 25 troops were lost.[1]

The Peter Silvester was the last ship sunk by German U-boats in the Indian Ocean.[1]

Survivors

Some of the survivors from the ship, that a rescued sailor wrote down.[5]

  • Glenwood Skaggs from Mineral Point, Missouri
  • Frank Kolb (US Navy) from East Orange, New Jersey
  • Cpl William S. Holmes (US Army Air Corp) from (Chicago, Illinois)

See also

References

  1. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Peter Silvester (American Steam merchant) - Ships hit by German U-boats during WWII". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  2. "Army Orient Sea Loss 1,008; Toll on Both Fronts from Sinkings Set at 4,612". timesmachine.nytimes.com. The New York Times. August 31, 1945. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  3. John L. Brooke, Columbia Rising: Civil Life on the Upper Hudson from the Revolution to the Age of Jackson, 2010, page 288
  4. "Death notice, Peter Silvester". Albany Gazette. Albany, New York. October 24, 1808. p. 3.
  5. "SS Peter Silvester". www.armed-guard.com. Project Liberty Ship. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  6. Domike, Donald. "SS Peter Silvester". ss_peter_silvester.tripod.com. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  7. Helgason, Guðmundur. "HMS Activity (D 94)". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 2008-11-23.
  8. "A History of HMS Activity". Royal Navy Research Archive. Retrieved 2008-11-23.
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