Ships hit by U-boats

Steel Navigator

American Steam merchant

Photo courtesy of SSHSA Collection, University of Baltimore Library

NameSteel Navigator
Type:Steam merchant
Tonnage5,718 tons
Completed1921 - Federal Shipbuilding Co, Kearny NJ 
OwnerIsthmian SS Co, New York 
HomeportNew York 
Date of attack19 Oct 1942Nationality:      American
FateSunk by U-610 (Walter Freiherr von Freyberg-Eisenberg-Allmendingen)
Position49° 45'N, 31° 20'W - Grid BD 2862
Complement52 (36 dead and 16 survivors).
ConvoyON-137 (straggler)
RouteLiverpool (9 Oct) - New York 
Cargo2000 tons of sand ballast 
History Completed in December 1921 
Notes on event

At 19.46 hours on 19 Oct 1942 the Steel Navigator (Master Lars Jorgensen), a straggler from convoy ON-137, was torpedoed by U-610. The ship had been straggling since 17 October because the master feared a collision during foggy weather and was not able to find convoy again due to a raging storm that caused the sand ballast to shift. She developed a 40° list, but the crew managed with the help of the armed guards to correct it to 12°.
At 11.30 hours on 19 October, the first mate sighted an U-boat about 400 yards off the starboard beam, so the ship turned away and the gun crew fired two shots at the periscope. About eight hours later a torpedo struck between the #1 and #2 hatches, causing the vessel to settle rapidly by the head and to sink in three minutes after the boilers exploded.

The eight officers, 28 crewmen and 16 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 5in and four 20mm guns) tried to abandon ship in two lifeboats and the motor boat, but the latter and one of the lifeboats swamped throwing their occupants into the sea, injuring five men fatally. The master and 17 of these men climbed onto rafts while others were picked up by the second lifeboat that was launched successfully. The Germans questioned the survivors in the boat before leaving the area. The 27 survivors in the boat managed to right the other lifeboat during the night and transferred ten men to it. The storm continued and separated the boats. Two officers, eight crewmen and six armed guards were picked up by HMS Decoy (H 75) (LtCdr G.I.M. Balfour, RN) seven days later after one other man having died in their boat. The survivors were so badly weakened that they were hospitalized for three weeks after being landed at Gourock. They were later repatriated on the British liner Queen Elizabeth, arriving on 10 December at Halifax and travelling to New York by train. Nothing was ever heard of the other boat, the rafts or the men aboard them.

On boardWe have details of 38 people who were on board

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