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Collision with Portuguese Freighter

The second trip across in March 1944 was very similar to the first, but the USS Enright's third trip home from Londonderry, she suffered her first tragedy.  On April 16, 1944, she was ordered out from the anti-submarine screen to intercept an unidentified ship and divert it from the convoy.  A thick fog reduced visibility to about 500 yards. 

At 0906 the USS Enright collided with a Portuguese freighter, the S. Thome (English translation "Saint Thomas").  After the collision, the USS Burke (DE-215) and the USS Weber (DE-675) came to the aid of the USS Enright.  Only slight damage was sustained by the freighter, but the USS Enright was crippled with a 9 degree list to port, a 65-foot hole in her port quarter, with all living compartments flooded. 

As a result of the collision, a crew member of the USS Enright, Carl Augustus Mims, SF3/c USN, was lost at sea.  The USS Enright limped into New York and entered the Brooklyn Navy Yard (ap) on April 17, 1944.  It required thirty days of Navy Yard availability to get her repaired and ready for sea again.


USS Enright at Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs.  Apr 17, 1944  

National Archives photo:   F644C6010



USS Enright at Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs.  Apr 17, 1944  

National Archives photo:   F644C6006



USS Enright at Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs.  Apr 17, 1944  

National Archives photo:   F644C6009



USS Enright at Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs.  Apr 17, 1944  

National Archives photo:   F644C6008




S. Thome, undated photo


S. Thome, later undated photo



Eyewitness Account - Al Green, sonarman

April 16, 1944

We were at general quarters (GQ).  A target had been detected on radar moving towards our Eastbound convoy.  This was early on the 08-12 watch.  At this point we did not know what it was.  It could have been a submarine, so our depth charges were set for a possible attack.  The convoy had just come out of a storm, not uncommon in the North Atlantic.  Our longitude coincidentally was similar to the Titanic, but several hundred miles south in latitude almost on the thirtieth anniversary date of that disaster.  It was extremely foggy.  Visibility was very poor and the sea was in long, high swells-enough to make the Enright roll and pitch almost as much as in the storm from which we just emerged, but this was life and commonplace on a DE.

Another escort vessel was dispatched to intercept the target but couldn't find it.  It was moving directly towards the convoy.  As far as I know, no one knew at this time, what type vessel it was.  Visibility was still down to nothing.  Despite the log listing the target as a merchantman, there was no way of knowing this since it was just a blip on the radar screen.

In the sonar hut we had no contact at this time.  Moving in the opposite direction of the convoy it would have caused bedlam and potential destruction in the convoy.  The Escort Commander [Commander Adolfe Wildner], on another DE, (he had been the previous captain of the USS Enright), ordered the Enright to stop it at all costs.  Radar was reporting the target, and sonar finally had the target with a very clear echo, but the visibility was still very poor.

Our captain, unfortunately was over his head.  Working on the bridge, and hanging around that part of the ship between watches, it had been obvious to me that he should have had a shore job.  (This he did get after the collision hearing.)

Another sonarman was assigned to the echo ranging shack.  We rotated assignments for GQ.  My assignment was other sonar equipment at this time, so it was possible for me to jump from the Sonar Hut to the flying bridge, a distance of three feet, and reinforce our report.

Suddenly, like an apparition in the port bow, the freighter appeared out of the fog.  It looked like the Empire State building heading towards the bridge of the Enright.  The skipper froze. Fortunately, our Executive Officer Lt. William Folkes, shouted "we are on a collision course", took command, and by adjusting the engines and the course of the ship, saves us from being sliced in two, probably killing anyone on the bridge, the nerve center of the DE. 

We did collide, and a 65 foot hole occurred on the portside, flooding a number of compartments.  The ship was about 306 feet in length, so 65 feet was considerable.  We really thought we would be abandoning ship, but accolades went to the damage control team.  They were well trained.

Unfortunately, one sailor, Carl Mims, was knocked overboard by the jar.  Almost simultaneously, a depth charge set for a submarine attack was jarred and fell into the sea, exploding at it's designated depth.  No person in the sea could have survived the percussion.  Another depth charge was loosened from a rack and fell on the legs of Bill Thompson, a Yeoman.  After a series of operations he was discharged, went to Notre Dame, becoming an engineer.

The scuttlebutt continually passed around was that Portugal, a neutral nation was supplying the subs with diesel.  I guess any ship could disguise their cargo.  None of these facts were confirmed to us.  When we thought we might abandon ship, I foolishly thought that the DE standing about a half a mile would pick us up in no time, and we would be heroes.

The North Atlantic is about three months behind the season so April where we were had January weather.  No human could last more that about 15-20 minutes in that.  At a recent reunion, I spoke to Tom Kelly, a torpedo man.  This group was also responsible for the depth charges.  He told me they had been set, and had the Enright gone under, they would have exploded. This could have killed anyone in the water in the vicinity.

Carl Mims, our one death was probably killed by what I remembered was one explosion, but actually were three.  At the very tip of Manhattan is a large memorial for all Navy Men lost in the Battle of the Atlantic. Carl is listed there.

When the Enright limped into port with a 65 foot hole on the port side, traffic stopped on the first two bridges to look at us.  It was a sight.

It took about a month to repair the ship.  We lived in a housing project near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  The US Navy had commandeered the facility for lucky sailors like us.  Long leaves were given to the crew, staggering the dates so that ship's business could continue during the repairs.  It set our convoy duties back about a month, otherwise we would have been in the UK in time for D-Day.  It is purported that the USS Rich-a neophyte, having been in Londonderry, on its first crossing, substituted for us.  We think we were the ship the records stated "was not available for the invasion."  The Rich screened for a battleship which was bombarding the cliffs at Omaha beach, protecting it from submarines, when it hit mines (two or three), went down, with a very large loss of lives.
                                                                                               - Al Green,     September  28, 2007

Ship's Log   April 15 -18, 1944

Note:  the ship's log from the USS Burke (DE-215) is interspersed with the USS Enright's log.  The USS Burke entries are highlighted in green.


April 15, 1944

0800:  USS Burke log:  position  38-10 N, 62-36 W

1200:  USS Burke log:  position  37-59 N, 63-24 W

2000:  USS Burke log:  position  37-24 N, 66-02 W


April 16, 1944

0000:  Steaming with Task Group 21.7 escorting convoy UC-18 on course 254 degrees T [true north] at 14 knots.  On station bearing 300 degrees relative from the guide at 5000 yards.  War cruising watches and material condition "Baker" set.  No. 1 and No. 2 Boilers in use

0040:  Convoy changed course to 279 degrees T

0100:  Convoy changed course to 305 degrees T

0400:  Steaming as before

0630:  Exercised at general quarters

0652:  Convoy changed speed to 13 knots

0711:  Secured from general quarters

0800:  USS Burke log:  position  38-00 N, 68-56 W

0800:  Steaming as before

0831:  Radar contact reported by USS Weber bearing 285 degree T (true north), distance 12-1/2 miles

About 0900:  Executed general quarters upon orders of CTG (Commander Task Group) 21.7.  Heavy fog, visibility about 500 yards.  CTG.  21.7 instructed USS Weber to divert a merchantman heading into convoy on reverse course of convoy.  USS Weber reported unable to identify or divert merchantman, merchantman had already passed him.  CTG 21.7 instructed USS Enright not to let the merchantman come between  the Enright and the convoy.  CTG 21.7 directed USS Enright to sound fog signals.

About 0903:  whistle would not operate

About 0904:  merchantman sighted one point off port bow on collision course

0905:  Full speed astern, hard right rudder

0905:  USS Burke log:  all ships in convoy and escorts ordered to stop CTG 21.7

0905 1/2:  Full speed ahead, hard left rudder

0906:  Collided with Portuguese freighter, later identified as S. Thome, on port side aft of engineering spaces.  All engines stopped.  Three living compartments C-201-EL, C-202-L, C203-L, flooded.  Commenced fog signals.  Three depth charges exploded at about 300 feet.  Listing to port 9 degrees.  Freighter lay alongside for about one minute and then backed away.  Shoring commenced on after bulkhead of after engine room, forward bulkhead of after steering compartment, and forward bulkhead of compartment C204-AL.

0914:  USS Burke log:  ordered by CTG 21.7 to go to the aid of the USS Enright, who was rammed by an Portuguese tanker, the "S. Thome", not in Convoy UC-18 in an attempt to divert her from the path of the Convoy.

0921:  Tested engines satisfactorily.  Port motor had overexcitation

0922:  Rudder and steering control tested satisfactorily  Gyro checks accurately

0928:  Degaussing shorted out and secured

0945:  Secured fog signals.  Radar out of operation with burned out tubes.  One man reported with compound fracture of the tibia of the left leg:  Thompson, William G., Y3c USNR, 205 21 39.  Patton, Melvin PhM1c administered First Aid.

0945:  USS Burke log:  standing off starboard bow of USS Enright who is dead in water

0954:  USS Weber came close aboard port side, offering assistance

0955 (about):  Radar back in operation

1013:  USS Burke log:  secured from General Quarters

1025:  Steaming at various speeds on 305 degrees T

1030:  USS Burke log:  Ordered by CTG 21.7 to take station #2 Nan, after being relieved by the USS Weber from assisting the USS Enright.

1053:  Commenced fog signals

1055:  Ceased fog signals

1100:  Secured from general quarters

1104:  All divisions mustered on station.  One absentee:  Mims, Carl Augustus, 829 27 56 SF3c USNR.  Daily inspections made of forward magazines and smokeless powder samples.  Conditions normal.  Unable to reach after magazines.

1116:  USS Weber took station ahead of USS Enright at 1500 yards

1130:  USS Burke log:  on station nan

1135:  Fog lifted

1200:  USS Burke log:  position  38-17 N, 69-28 W

1200-1600:  Steaming as before.  Gradually increased speed to 15 knots on both engines

1600:  Steaming as before

1717:  Changed base course to 298 degrees T

1800:  Ship's clocks turned back one hour to zone plus 4 time

2000:  USS Burke log:  position  39-41 N, 71-58 W

2000:  Steaming as before

2314:  Light bearing 35 degrees T, 5 miles identified as fishing craft


April 17, 1944

0000:  Steaming with the USS Weber on base course 298 degrees T, base speed 10 knots.  Material condition "Baker" set forward of frame 60 and condition "Able" set aft of frame 60.  No. 1 and No. 2 boilers in use.  War cruising watches set.  Carrying a port list of 12 degrees due to the damage caused by the collision.

0327:  Sighted and identified USS Resolute (AT) and SC1013

0400:  Steaming as before

0530:  Sighted buoy bearing 270 degrees T and started up swept channel

0730:  Steaming at various courses up swept channel

0800:  Steaming as before

0830:  Land sighted 312 degrees T, 8 miles

0839:  Ambrose Lightship sighted

0855:  Stationed special sea detail

0900:  Whistle and siren tested satisfactorily

0915:  Coast Guard pilot came aboard

0922:  Passed Ambrose Lightship.  Steaming at various courses and speeds up Ambrose channel.

0955:  Made daily inspection of magazines and smokeless powder samples forward.  Conditions normal.

1044:  Passed through gate

1155:  Yard tug came alongside.  Yard pilot came aboard.

1216:  Moored port side to USS Spencer at Berth 5, Pier D, Brooklyn Navy Yard (ph ap) New York

1230:  Divers commenced inspection of damage

1251:  In accordance with Form "G", Thompson, William George 205 21 39 Y3c was transferred to Brooklyn Navy Hospital

1420:  Lt. (jg) Mark A. Richards, D-V(G) USNR, 185095, reported aboard for duty per basic orders from Bupers 3134-SLP-3 dated 26 February 1944

1432:  Prepared to get underway for Drydock No. 1 without ship's power

1433:  Underway

1452:  Stern passed the caisson of Drydock

1505:  Bow passed the caisson

1600:  Underway as before

1618:  Resting on keel blocks

1715  Receiving steam, fresh water, electric power and telephone from the shore

1725 Patton, Melvin J. PhM1c reported that Kostyack Edward 822 38 18 S2c, had Xray taken of knee which was injured at time of collision 16 April, 1944.  Recommended he be transferred to hospital.

1845:  Commenced moving ammunition off ship

2000:  Resting on keel blocks as before

2225:  In accordance with Form "G" Kostyack Edward 822 38 18 S2c, transferred to Brooklyn Navy Hospital, with diseased condition of the knee caused by fall as a result of collision 16 April 1944.


April 18, 1944

0000:  Resting on keel blocks in Drydock No. 1, New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y.  Receiving fresh water, steam power and phone services from the dock.

0230:  Completed removing all ammunition from ship



Related information

Official Letter resulting from the of collision at sea.

Lat/Lon coordinates:  screenshot from Google Earth

Lat/Lon coordinates:  Google Earth  (requires Google Earth installation on your computer)

Ship's Log excerpts,   April 7 & 11-18, 1944









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