Daily Event for July 9, 2009

July 9, 1942 the Grace Line's freighter Santa Rita was sunk by U-172 while returning to the USA from Egypt. The first torpedo ripped open her hull and destroyed the engines, giving the crew no choice but to abandon her, however while lowering the boats, one capsized and a crewman drowned, three others had been killed by the explosion. The remaining fifty-nine people got into two lifeboats. The U-172 came to the surface and machine gunned the ship and shelled the radio room. The Santa Rita was then boarded, searched and scuttled with charges.

Henry R. Stephenson, master of the Santa Rita was taken prisoner by the U-boat and was interned in the Milag Nord POW camp, he survived the war and was released during a prisoner exchange in Jan. 1945. All the other survivors were picked up, thirty-two of them by U.S. destroyers on July 11 and twenty-seven by a U.S. Army boat on July 25.
© 2009 Michael W. Pocock

September 9, 1941: Santa Rita seen shortly after delivery from the shipyard.
(Photo from the collection of Henry Glucksman, survivor of the Santa Rita)
Courtesy of Bill Glucksman

Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in SS Santa Rita
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Butts, James A.
1st Engineer
Diaz, Rafael
Donoso, Carlos A.
Serrano, Marcellino

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Feb. 6, 2012

I happened to be surfing the web when I found your website.  I did a Google search for SS Santa Rita, a merchant ship that my father, Henry Glucksman, served on, and found your site.  He was an engineer on that ship when it was torpedoed on July 9, 1942.  I remember as a boy the stories he used to tell me about his time in the Maritime service.  My father is since deceased (10 years ago this March), but it was fascinating to "re-live" his sharing of that fateful day.  From what he had told me, the men who were on his lifeboat included the First Officer, and between he and my father, they were able to navigate by the stars, my father having made a sail out of the canvas tarp, to Puerto Rico.  They were immediately arrested as spies until their identification could be confirmed. 

Some additional details about that day: my father was only about 15 minutes from going on his shift in the engine room, and as he was putting on his pants, the torpedo hit.  His cabin was located above the engine room, and when he had "come to," the floor of his cabin was almost touching the ceiling in the middle.  His bed was in the corner, and when he "came to," sea water had already come into his cabin.  He had to use a fire axe to break off the wire screening on the cabin door, as it wouldn't open due to the bulged floor.  He took a quick look into the engine room, and sea water was already over the boilers, so he headed for the life boats, where he told me about the capsized lifeboat, as the men trying to get into the boat didn't secure the bow line, and as the ship was still moving forward, the life boat swung out at the bow and then capsized.  He thought two men went under, but the article notes that only one perished. 

He also mentioned three life boats, two that got picked up by other ships, and the one my father was on was the 3rd lifeboat that made landfall in Puerto Rico.  Also, in the Wikipedia site for the SS Santa Rita, it mentioned Naval Guards and armament; a later SS Santa Rita had these; the one that sunk did not, as they weren't using Naval Guardsman in the early years of the war.  I actually was able to get pictures of both SS Santa Ritas from the Steamship Society of America.  I presented the picture, along with a couple other ship pictures of ships my father was on, to him while he was alive.  He immediately told me that the SS Santa Rita I first showed him was incorrect, due to the gun emplacement on the bow.  I finally got the correct picture, which was the U.S. Coast Guard trial run of the correct SS Santa Rita, with no gun emplacement.  I have some of these pictures in my possession; the rest of the pictures are at my mother's home.

I just thought I would share some history with you of the SS Santa Rita.  I hope you find this to be of interest.  Some other ships he served on was: the Edmund B. Alexander, his first ship as a coal passer, the SS Colabee, SS Andrew Briscoe, USAT Hunter Ligget (SS Pan America), SS Alphacca (Dutch) also known as the Chanute Victory, SS Panama, and SS Melrose, also known as Mount Sunapee.  He served in the Merchant Marine from 1940 until the early 1950s, when he came ashore to work in power plants and other various occupations.

Feel free to email back.  It's too bad they don't make any movies about the Merchant Marine during WWII.  It was a dangerous job, and many perished.  It is a story that needs to be told!!

Yours truly,
Bill Glucksman

Aug. 27, 2018

I am looking for information on Captain Stevenson from the Santa Rita. Do you know if he has any grandchildren? I'd like to get in touch with them if possible. I live in Santa Ynez, CA. My grandfather (KpLt. Carl Emmermann) sank that ship and as a thank you for sparing the captain and his surviving crew he gave my grandfather the ships Mariner's Compass. My brother now has it. If he has any surviving family I'd like to convince my brother to return it to them. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks much,
Michelle Emmermann

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