Ships hit by U-boats

Santa Rita

American Steam merchant

Photo courtesy of Captain Robert H. Nichols

NameSanta Rita
Type:Steam merchant (C-2)
Tonnage8,379 tons
Completed1941 - Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co, Kearny NJ 
OwnerGrace Line Inc (W.R. Grace & Co), New York 
HomeportNew York 
Date of attack9 Jul 1942Nationality:      American
FateSunk by U-172 (Carl Emmermann)
Position26° 11'N, 55° 40'W - Grid DP 2367
Complement63 (4 dead and 59 survivors).
RoutePort Sudan, Egypt - Beira - Lourenço Marques - Capetown (24 Jun) - Charleston 
Cargo5000 tons of chrome ore, 100 tons of asbestos, sausage casings, other general cargo and two German tanks as deck cargo 
History Completed in September 1941 
Notes on event

At 16.24 hours on 9 July 1942 the unescorted Santa Rita (Master Henry R. Stephenson) was hit by one torpedo from U-172, while steaming on a nonevasive course at 16 knots about 700 miles northeast of Puerto Rico. Lookouts had spotted the wake but it was too late and the torpedo struck on the port side between #3 hatch and the engine room. The explosion killed one officer and two crewmen on watch below, wrecked the engines and opened a hole 30 feet in diameter that caused the flooding of the #3 hold. Ten minutes after the hit, the most of the eight officers, 44 crewmen, two passengers and nine armed guards (the ship was armed with one 5in and some .50cal and .30cal guns) abandoned ship in an orderly manner in the two starboard lifeboats, but one of them capsized and one crewman drowned. They were followed by the master, chief officer and ten men in a third boat.

The U-boat then surfaced and fired some machine gun burst to warn the survivors and fired four rounds from the deck gun into the superstructure and destroyed the radio room. Some Germans boarded the abandoned vessel, searched her and placed scuttling charges on board. They returned to the U-boat after two hours with some foodstuffs. The ship sank capsizing at 20.30 hours after the charges detonated and seven more shells were fired into the hull. The master was questioned by Emmermann and then taken on board as prisoner of war. He was landed in Lorient on 21 July, taken to Wilhelmshaven and from there to the POW camp Milag Nord near Bremen. He was repatriated on the Swedish motor merchant Gripsholm in January 1945 through a Red Cross exchange of prisoner of war.

32 survivors in two lifeboats were picked up on 11 July by USS Livermore (DD 429) and USS Mayo (DD 422) and landed at Port of Spain, Trinidad. The other lifeboat with 27 survivors was taken in tow by a US Army Air Force crash boat after being spotted on 25 July by an aircraft and landed at Borenquen Point, Puerto Rico.

On boardWe have details of 6 people who were on board

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