Mariners and Armed Guard Together at the Guns
SS Nathaniel Currier attacked by Japanese planes
PR 1648 (w)
WAR SHIPPING ADMINISTRATION
FOR RELEASE IN AM PAPERS OF FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 1943
The Liberty Ship's maneuverability and the accuracy of its armed guard's fire saved the SS Nathaniel Currier when it was attacked by Japanese planes on its maiden voyage, the War Shipping Administration disclosed today. Reports of the attack also contain tributes to the courage and. efficiency of merchant seamen assigned to assist the Navy gun crew.
The ship was lying off a Southwest Pacific base, unloading cargo onto barges when the base was assaulted by "Aichi 99" dive bombers. At first warning of the enemy's approach all barges were cast off and ordered away the ship. General quarters sounded, the crew went to their stations on the run, guns were manned, cases of loose ammunition were broken out, and the vessel cleared, for action, its log relates.
"The Nathaniel Currier was underway and zigzagging when the enemy planes peeled off for attack. The first plane started a fore and aft run. With a gun him he had to swerve away and with the vessel swinging to starboard his bombs missed. The hottest action lasted three to four minutes, during which two planes were shot down, two others badly damaged, while another made off with smoke coming out of him, apparently on fire."
A report of the Office of Chief of Naval Operations says:
"Information has been received in the Office of Naval Intelligence that certain members of the merchant crew aboard the SS Nathaniel Currier rendered commendatory services while the vessel was under attack by enemy bombers at a Southwest Pacific base on 16 June 1943. The names of the crew members and the services rendered by each are as follows:
"Cadet-Midshipman William E. Sigman, (Flat River, Mo.) assisted at the 3-inch gun as second loader and carried out his assignment in cool and efficient manner. During the engagement the jackstaff of the Currier was shot down and the flag fell to the deck. Sigman retrieved the flag and lashed it to the stub of the jackstaff without neglecting his duties.
"Able Seaman Leo S. Whelan, (San Francisco, Calif.) was at wheel during the attack and carried out every order of the master in a cool and expert manner, although for several minutes the gunfire was so heavy that the master had to give his orders by hand motion. Whelan disregarded planes passing overhead, falling bombs, and heavy gunfire to watch the master's signals and to carry out orders.
"Cadet-Midshipman Lester G. Hammon, (Soda Springs, Calif.) Second Officer Joseph B. Gaier, (Perth Amboy, N.J., Ordinary Seaman John A. Larsen, (Hastings, Mich., and Messman Jerome Reed, (San Francisco, Calif.) formed their assignments at the guns in a cool and efficient manner. Gaier also assisted in spotting and identifying enemy planes."
The report of the Nathaniel Currier's master, Captain D. W. Hassell says:
"The ship handled extremely well, at times exceeding the designed r.p.m. of main engines. All orders to the engine room were executed with dispatch and the greatest cooperation. I believe the reason we escaped casualties among the personnel and damage to the ships was on account of the volume accuracy of the barrage put up, also the maneuvering of the vessel. I am proud to have commanded this crew, who, although never having been under fire before, behaved like veterans and lived up to the highest traditions."
The Nathaniel Currier was launched at Permanente Metals Corporation Yard No. 1, Richmond, Calif., on March 11, l943. She is operated by R.A. Nicol & Co., of New York, N.Y.
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