Ships hit by U-boats


American Steam merchant

Photo courtesy of SSHSA Collection, University of Baltimore Library

Type:Steam merchant (Hog Island)
Tonnage4,969 tons
Completed1919 - American International Shipbuilding Corp, Hog Island PA 
OwnerAmerican Export Lines Inc, New York 
HomeportNew York 
Date of attack13 Nov 1942Nationality:      American
FateSunk by U-181 (Wolfgang Lüth)
Position32° 23'S, 30° 07'E - Grid KZ 1914
Complement51 (2 dead and 49 survivors).
RoutePort Said, Egypt - Capetown - New York 
History Laid down as Cinnebar, completed in October 1919 as Sinsinawa for US Shipping Board (USSB), Philadelphia. 1928 renamed Examiner for American Export Lines Inc, New York. 1941 renamed Excello for the same owner.  
Notes on event

At 08.01 hours on 13 Nov 1942 the unescorted Excello (Master Maurice Almond Kent) was hit by one torpedo from U-181 about 50 miles south of Port St.John, South Africa, while proceeding on a nonevasive course at 9 knots. The torpedo struck on the port side at the #5 hold, blew the hatch covers off the #4 and #5 holds, brought down the main mast, unseated the winches and threw wreckage all over the boat deck. The engine room began to flood within three minutes and the engines were secured. The eight officers, 30 men and 13 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 4in, four 20mm and two .30cal guns) abandoned ship in three lifeboats. The falls of the first boat jammed, forcing several men to jump overboard and climb on board rafts. The ship sank stern first in less then 20 minutes. The explosion had killed one armed guard and the first engineer died later in the third lifeboat from shock and suffocation after swallowing fuel oil. The U-boat surfaced and questioned the survivors before leaving.
On 14 November, one boat with 19 survivors made landfall at Port St. John, South Africa and another with 18 survivors landed the following day. The ten crewmen and two armed guards in the third boat were picked up after seven days at sea by the British hospital ship HMHS Atlantis and landed at Capetown on 22 November.

U-181 was informed of the sailing times of the Alcoa Pathfinder, East Indian and Excello from a secret transmitter located aboard the German motor merchant Ehrenfels which was interned along with the German motor merchants Braunfels and Drachenfels and the Italian steam merchant Anfora in the Portuguese Mormugao Harbor. The information was given to the ship by a German spy living in Goa. On 9 March 1943 the Ehrenfels was scuttled by the own crew to prevent seizure by Portuguese.

On boardWe have details of 18 people who were on board

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