Ships hit by U-boats

Esso Williamsburg

American Motor tanker

Photo courtesy of Auke Visser

NameEsso Williamsburg
Type:Motor tanker
Tonnage11,237 tons
Completed1941 - Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co, Chester PA 
OwnerStandard Oil Co of New Jersey, New York 
Date of attack3 Oct 1942Nationality:      American
FateSunk by U-254 (Odo Loewe)
Position55° 00'N, 33° 00'W - Grid AK 5561
Complement60 (60 dead - no survivors)
RouteAruba - Reykjavik 
Cargo110,043 barrels of special Navy fuel oil 
History Completed in May 1941 
Notes on event

At 01.16 hours on 22 Sep 1942, U-211 (Hause) fired a spread of two torpedoes at the unescorted Esso Williamsburg (Master John Tweed) which was steaming at 15 knots about 500 miles south of Cape Farewell, Greenland. Two hits were heard, but the tanker continued and the contact was lost due to very poor visibility, so they probably missed. At 00.26 hours on 23 September, one torpedo was fired from about 2000 yards, which struck amidships, causing a violent explosion and set the ship on fire in 53°12N/41°00W. Ten minutes later, the stern torpedo was fired but missed. At 01.05 hours, another torpedo was fired, which struck on the starboard side amidships, causing the entire ship to light up in flames. The tanker broke completely in two and U-211 left the scene with both parts of the tanker still sinking.

On 3 Oct 1942, U-254 came across an abandoned and burnt out tanker, which was the drifting wreck of Esso Williamsburg. The U-boat finished her off with two coups de grâce fired at 14.32 and 14.42 hours.

None of the eight officers, 34 men and 18 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 5in, one 3in, two .50cal and two .30cal guns) survived the sinking, despite the observation of U-254 that all lifeboats had been launched except for one. A weak distress signal was received by a shore station, but an extensive air and sea search failed to locate any survivors or wreckage.

Revisions February 2009 by Rainer Kolbicz:
The loss of Esso Williamsburg was earlier attributed to U-211 alone, but the sinking of an abandoned tanker by U-254 on 3 October could only have been the drifting wreck of this tanker and not that of Robert H. Colley
More infoMore on this vessel 
On boardWe have details of 60 people who were on board

Attack entries for Esso Williamsburg

DateU-boatCommanderLoss typeTonsNat.
23 Sep 1942U-211Kptlt. Karl HauseDamaged11,237  
3 Oct 1942U-254Kptlt. Odo LoeweSunk11,237  

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