Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sunk Twice by Torpedoes-- Part 1

From Maritime Quest and Nov. 10, 2011, West Virginia Gazette.

Farris H. Burton, 88, of West Virginia, enlisted because of a torpedo and nearly ended his military career with two others.

He recounts that one of his best buddies, Bud Woody, was killed on the USS Reuben James when it was torpedoes by the Germans on October 31, 1941, before Pearl Harbor.  He and several other local boys enlisted in the U.S. Navy to avenge it.  Farris, however did not join until his 17th birthday, April 26, 1942.

Six months later, he had quite an ordeal of his own against German torpedoes.

On October 7, 1942, the German U-172 sank the SS Chickasaw City, a U.S. merchant ship.  It sank in less than five minutes.  The survivors were rescued by the HMS Rockrose.

A few hours later, the  Panamanian-flagged, U.S.-owned SS Firethorn, Farris Burton's ship, was hit by two torpedoes from the U-172 and sank in two minutes.  It had been carrying Sherman tanks and other supplies from New York to the Suez Canal.

There was no time to launch boats, but the 49 survivors of the 60 crew members were able to recover several life boats that floated free of the ship before it sank.

The same HMS Rockrose picked six men up on October 8th and the rest the following day and carried the survivors of both ships to Cape Town, South Africa to recover.


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