Selections from Chapter 2
I was awakened around one-thirty on April 11th from the noise of rattling windows. U-203 was the replacement for Hardegenís U-123 at itís station off Cape Lookout; U-203 had just torpedoed the unarmed tanker Harry F. Sinclair, Jr. a mere four-and-one-half miles southeast of the Lighthouse. Mr. Earl was downstairs listening already on shortwave radio. The tanker was named for the founder of Sinclair Oil, the company using the logo of the large green dinosaur. It had been running a zigzag course accompanied by the USS Herbert (DD 160) and a Coast Guard boat as escort off the port beam.
U-203ís torpedo struck on the same side between the #4 and #5 tanks. The cargo of fuel oil and gasoline exploded immediately causing the twenty-eight crew members and eight officers to take to three lifeboats and a raft. All aboard one of the lifeboats got caught in the flames and perished. (Four officers and six crew members died.) The twentyfour lifeboat survivors were rescued a couple of hours later by the British trawler HMS Hertfordshire (FY 176); the two on the raft were picked up by the USS Herbert .
The Harry F. Sinclair , Jr. didnít sink but drifted, burning, for four days until another British trawler, the HMS Senateur Duhamel (FY 327), managed to haul the damaged ship to nearby Morehead where she remained until June 24th when it was towed to Baltimore...
refitted, and put back into service in 1943 under a new name: Annibal. But the name Harry F. Sinclair still remains in memory, vividly, etched forever, I guess, after listening on our radio to descriptions of rescue efforts we knew were happening that morning of April 11th just offshore from our Island.
On the final day of the two destroyerís patrol, on April 9th, the U-552, under Toppís command, hit the unescorted and unarmed ATLAS within eyesight of the Lighthouse! Firing at a close range of 900 feet, the explosion did not ignite the cargo, enabling the crew to abandon using three lifeboats. U-552 came closer and threw the second torpedo; flames spread rapidly from bow to stern. Two died and the remaining thirty-two survivors were rescued after daylight by a USCG cutter and taken to Morehead.
U-552 Sinks the Tanker ATLAS off Cape Lookout: April 9th. 1942.