Ships hit by U-boats


American Motor tanker

Photo courtesy of SSHSA Collection, University of Baltimore Library

Type:Motor tanker
Tonnage6,837 tons
Completed1920 - Baltimore Dry Docks & Shipbuilding Co, Baltimore MD 
OwnerSun Oil Company, Philadelphia PA 
Date of attack6 Apr 1942Nationality:      American
FateDamaged by U-160 (Georg Lassen)
Position34° 25'N, 75° 57'W - Grid DC 1246
Complement33 (1 dead and 32 survivors).
RouteCorpus Christi, Texas (29 Mar) - New York 
Cargo83,144 barrels of fuel oil 
History Completed in September 1920 as steam tanker for US Shipping Board (USSB). 1923 converted to a motor tanker by the builder for Sun Oil Company, Philadelphia PA.

Broken up at Hamburg in April 1965. 
Notes on event

At 08.07 hours on 6 April 1942 the unarmed and unescorted Bidwell (Master Sedolf Berg Hegglund) was hit by a torpedo from U-160, while proceeding on a zigzagging course about 30 miles east-southeast of Cape Lookout. The torpedo struck the port side amidships near the waterline and sent up a column of flame 150 feet in the air, tore a hole about 20 feet in diameter through the side and deck and ripped open #7 and #8 tanks and the summer tanks below them. Oil was spread over the entire length of the tanker, but it burned for only a short period. The second mate on the bridge was showered with burning oil, jumped overboard and drowned.

The Bidwell did not stop, because the chief engineer saw the burning oil on the surface and stopped some men from lowering the boat #3. The tanker ran in circles for nearly an hour, because the steering gear was damaged. A broken steam line barred communication between the bridge and the men in the after section, so the master and five men in the forepart lowered boat #1. They also searched for the second mate. Then the auxiliary steering gear was working and the ship stopped to pick up the lifeboat. At 10.00 hours, two destroyers appeared astern and offered assistance, but by this time the ship was under control by the crew of eight officers and 25 men. The master’s boat returned after the unsuccessful search and the Bidwell proceeded to Hampton Roads, Virginia at eight knots under her own power, where she discharged her cargo. She returned to service after being repaired at Norfolk, VA.

The master Sedolf Berg Hegglund died almost exactly a year later when the Sunoil was sunk by U-530 (Lange) on 5 April 1943.

On boardWe have details of 6 people who were on board

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