Daily Event for June 28

June 28, 1942 the Liberty ship Sam Houston, while on her maiden voyage, was torpedoed and sunk by the
U-203 in the Caribbean Sea north of the Virgin Islands. A single torpedo brought the ship to a stop flooding
the engine room and killing three men, but the ship remained afloat. The ship took a list, but soon righted
herself, however the captain, Robert Perry ordered her abandoned when the deck was little more than two feet above water. Three boats were lowered and forty-three men, including five who were badly burned, took to the open water.

Twenty minuets after the torpedo struck the U-203 surfaced and used her deck gun to finish off the ship.
Kapitänleutnant Rolf Mützelburg, the commander, ordered Perry to board the U-boat and was questioned and
released. Perry later reported that Mützelburg knew not only his name, but the name of the ship and its
destination, clear evidence that a spy was at work because Perry had replaced the ship's master only hours
before sailing.

It was two days before the USS Courier AMC-72 found the lifeboats and by then four men had died from their
burns. They were taken to St. Thomas where a fifth man died in hospital. A second Liberty ship named for
Sam Houston was launched on June 30, 1943, one year and two days later.

Like many U-boats the U-203 also ended up on the ocean floor on April 25, 1943, courtesy of Swordfish
aircraft of 811 Squadron from HMS Biter D-97 and a few depth charges from HMS Pathfinder G-10. Rolf Mützelburg however was no longer in command. On Sept. 11, 1942 he dove off the conning tower for a relaxing swim, at the same time the boat rose from a swell which caused him to hit his head on the casing, he died from the accident and was buried at sea the next day.
© 2008 Michael W. Pocock
MaritimeQuest.com




Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in
SS Sam Houston
"Least we not forget those who fought and died for our freedom"

Name
Rate
Clagett, Owen L.
Fireman/Trimmer
Dunning, Clyde A.
Oiler
Hall, Hamm M. "Max"
Fireman/Trimmer
Hickman, Avis J.
Messman
Hugghins, Cullen R.
3rd Engineer
Meadows, Fonzie
Cook
Starns, Wilmer
Oiler
Whitehead, Harold D.
Fireman/Trimmer


Message 1
Apr. 4, 2014

I was looking for information for the Merchant Ship SS Sam Houston and found this website. My great-Uncle was on this ship. Harold Tillman of Mobile, Al. is 92 yrs. old. He told me about the day the ship was torpedoed. Harold was on the deck at the time the ship was struck. When the torpedo struck, the ship listed to one side almost throwing him off the ship. As they began to abandon the ship by climbing down the ladder, the ship listed so violently that it slammed the ladder against the ship slamming Harold Tillman against the hull. This caused him to lose his grip and fall to the rescue boat.

As oil covered the water, he remembered seeing “the Cook” in the water. He and other helped pull him aboard the rescue boat and once they grabbed his arms to pull him aboard the skin from his arms pulled right off. At this time the U-Boat surfaced and began shelling the ship. The Germans took the crew captain down in the U-Boat for a couple of hours to interrogate him. When they surfaced and he returned on the rescue boats, the captain said, “they knew more about the cargo than I did”.  My uncle said the Germans were very friendly and they traded items with the Germans such as cigarettes.

Meanwhile, while on the rescue raft, the cook was in horrendous pain lying beneath a tarp like covering. My uncle said, that no one wanted to help him, so obviously empathetic to his pain, he would periodically pour mineral oil on his burns to protect the wounds from the sun. This was all they had to  help keep the wound from drying out.

Hours later, a plane flew by and acknowledge the crew. A rescue plane was sent and landed in the water. The pilot crew took the “cook” on the plane, as he was worse off than anyone else. They transmitted the crews position to send more help. As the plane sped off with the “cook”, the plane struck a wave, causing the nose of the plane to flip over before being able to gain any altitude. The crew escaped and swam to the rescue boats for safety but the injured “cook” went down with the plane.

I hope this has help add a little more detail to the story. My uncle never knew the cooks name, but I think it would be correct to assume him to be Fonzie Meadows. Harold is well. He still attends Sunday lunches at his brother's house and I will be seeing him later today.

Best regards,
Trevor Whitten

Message 2
Oct. 20, 2014

My father was Louie R. Padula Gunner's Mate on board the Sam Houston which was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1942 in the Caribbean. He passed away in 1993. I have sent his hand written diary to the Sam Houston website, and after their research they added it to their website. My father's  photo is also on the web. Which surprised me. My mother who is 94 cried. He is kneeling in the front row of a photo taken of the survivors. Far right hand side. My father went on to serve on the USS Porterfield as a Gunner's Mate. A Fletcher class Destroyer which served in the Pacific. I believe the number was DD-682.

Diary of Gunner's Mate 3rd Class Louis R. Padula

Louis J. Padula

Message 3.
Oct. 26, 2014

First, thank you so much for putting this information online. It's a hard job, but know that it is appreciated.
Second, Hamm Maxwell Hall, who died aboard the SS Sam Houston, was my great-uncle. It's a small thing, but his first name really was Hamm, not a nickname, "Ham". He was named after his grandmother's maiden name (Jane Hamm). From family letters, it appears that he used the name "Max" most of the time. (Given those choices, I would have, too!)

I never met him since he died long before I was born, but he had an interesting life. I figure the only thing I can do now for him is to make sure that his name is accurately recorded for posterity. I have photos of Max, but the only ones I have are from the days of Xerox.

Thank you again for all you do,
Ellen K. Hall