Daily Event for July 13, 2014

The steamer Oneida was built at Detroit Shipbuilding in Wyandotte, Michigan for the Independent Steamship Company, but in 1924 she was sold to the Ford Motor Company of Detroit. The 251' long ship was launched on May 4, 1920 and completed in November of the same year. She was built for service on the Great Lakes of North America, but in 1942 she was under charter to the U.S. Government and at sea under management of the Lykes Brothers Steamship Company of New Orleans. Her career ended in July of 1942.

She departed Lake Charles, Louisiana in June with a load of rice for San Juan, Puerto Rico arriving on July 4th. On July 7th they proceeded toward Punta Gorda, Cuba for her next cargo. Sailing in bright daylight on July 13, 1942 she was four or five miles northwest of Maisi, Cuba when a torpedo was sighted less than 300 feet from the ship. Walter Deal, the ship's master, ordered the wheel to be put hard over to port, but it was too late. The torpedo struck the ship on the starboard side aft of the engine room opening about 20% of the ship to the sea and destroying the four lifeboats. The ship sank stern first in less than three minutes taking six men with her to the bottom.

The twenty-three survivors took to the two life rafts and made for shore. It was fortunate that they were only a short distance from land, the day was clear and the sea was calm. One of the survivors, Joshua Carey, later stated that the U-boat surfaced and recovered a life preserver, but made no attempt to approach the survivors. After fifteen minutes the boat was seen to move off to the north and submerge.

Shortly after the U-boat had gone the survivors were spotted by a U.S. Navy patrol aircraft. The aircrew dropped a message giving the survivors directions to land, this was hardly needed as they could see Cape Maisi in the distance. They made land about five hours later and walked to the lighthouse which was five miles distant where they arranged for the schooner Zoila to take them to Baracoa. They were later taken to Guantanamo Bay and on the the U.S.A.

Oneida had been torpedoed by U-166 which was commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Günther Kuhlmann. He was a veteran U-boat man having made eight war patrols in U-37, but this was his first war patrol as commanding officer. It was in fact his second command, his first command was U-580, however she was sunk during a training accident. Kuhlmann reported the sinking of an unnamed steamer of 3,000 tons to U-boat headquarters and also claimed to also have sunk an unnamed sailing vessel. It is possible that he fired on a ship as a U-boat was reported to have been seen shelling an unnamed ship off Cape Maisi at 1458 zone time, but none were reported as lost. He also reported that he sighted an eleven ship convoy escorted by three destroyers and two flying boats, but was forced to submerge and made no attack. This may have been convoy TAW-3. U-166 did not survive the war, she was sunk with all hands a little more than two weeks later on July 30, 1942 by USS PC-566.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock

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

Aravena, Maunel
Camara, Lionel
Daniels, Elton M.
2nd Engineer
Grassey, Louis E.
Ordinary Seaman
Hodges, Leslie H.
Chief Mate
Weddington, Francis B.

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SS Oneida seen loading lumber at a Michigan Port.

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