Ships hit by U-boats

El Occidente

Panamanian Steam merchant

US Naval Historical Center Photograph #NH 106039

NameEl Occidente
Type:Steam merchant
Tonnage6,008 tons
Completed1910 - Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co, Newport News VA 
OwnerUS Lines Inc, New York 
Date of attack13 Apr 1942Nationality:      Panamanian
FateSunk by U-435 (Siegfried Strelow)
Position73° 28'N, 28° 30'E - Grid AC 4662
Complement41 (20 dead and 21 survivors).
RouteMurmansk - Reykjavik - New York 
CargoA part cargo of chrome ore as ballast 
History Completed in December 1910 as steam merchant El Occidente for Morgan Line (Southern Pacific SS Co), New York. In May 1917 requisitioned by the US Army and used as transport to France until the vessel was taken over by the US Navy in August 1918. Assigned as animal transport USS El Occidente (ID # 3307) to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, she made three more voyage to France. In March 1919 decommissioned and returned to the owner by the US Shipping Board (USSB). On 7 Jul 1941, the ship was purchased by the US Maritime Commission, registered in Panama and turned over to US Lines Inc under a GAA agreement at Galveston, Texas. 
Notes on event

On 30 Jan 1942 the El Occidente (Master Olaf Nannestad) had left Boston, stopping at Halifax on 1 February. She left Halifax in convoy HX-174 six days later and after arrival at Clyde River left on 23 February, arriving in Reykjavik six days later. On 1 March, the vessel (now armed and with British gunners on board) left in convoy PQ-12 for Murmansk, arriving on 13 March. After discharging her cargo, she left in convoy QP-10 on 10 April.

At 01.29 hours on 13 April, the El Occidente was hit by one or two torpedoes from U-435 in the engine room nearly breaking her in two. The vessel sank stern first within two minutes, so fast that there was no time to launch lifeboats. The survivors were forced to jump overboard and were picked up by HMS Speedwell (LtCdr J.J. Youngs, RNR) about 30 minutes later. Nine bodies were also picked up and later buried at sea. The survivors were landed at Reykjavik from where they were eventually repatriated to the US aboard the American steam merchants Capulin and Artigas.

On boardWe have details of 4 people who were on board

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