Ships hit by U-boats


Polish Motor merchant

Type:Motor merchant
Tonnage4,426 tons
Completed1941 - International Shipbuilding Co, Pascagoula MS 
OwnerGdynia-Ameryka Linie Zeglugowe SA (GAL), Gdynia 
Date of attack30 Dec 1942Nationality:      Polish
FateSunk by U-214 (Günther Reeder)
Position10° 52'N, 60° 25'W - Grid EE 7747
Complement41 (3 dead and 38 survivors).
RoutePara, Brazil (24 Dec) – Salinas, Brazil - Port of Spain, Trinidad – New York 
Cargo4100 tons of general cargo, including rubber, nuts, mahogany and oil in drums 

Launched in 1920 as Italian steam merchant Trieste, but the hulk then laid unfinished in Mobile River and changed ownership many times. The owner in 1939 was American Mineral Spirits Co, New York, but the hulk was sold to the Polish Government by the Panamanian Victor Rose de Vapores in March 1941. The ship was fitted with diesel engines from Canada and commissioned as Paderewski on 20 Sep 1941. However, she ran aground on her maiden voyage on the Colorado Reefs west of Havana, Cuba and had to be repaired by Bethlehem Steel Corporation at Hoboken, NJ. On 11 Jun 1942, the ship picked up 35 survivors from the Pleasantville which had been sunk by U-135 (Praetorius) on 8 June.

Notes on event

At 08.19 hours on 30 Dec 1942 the unescorted Paderewski (Master Jerzy Mieszkowski) was hit on the starboard side in the engine room by one torpedo from U-214 while steaming on a non-evasive course at 7.5 knots about 23 miles south-southeast of Tobago. Six minutes earlier, the U-boat had fired a spread of two torpedoes, but the first became a surface runner and missed while the second struck the ship without detonating. A lookout on the ship mistook the first torpedo for a dolphin because he had seen a wake passing ahead of the bow that made a turn and then ran parallel to the port side in a distance of about 40 yards. The explosion destroyed the engines and killed the third engineer and two crewmen on watch below. No distress signals could be sent as the aerial came down, so the master continuously fired rockets to attract the attention of the nearby land. Most of the surviving 33 crew members, four British gunners (the ship was armed with one 3in, one 20mm and two machine guns) and one passenger (a sailor from the Polish steam merchant Slask) began to abandon ship without orders when she began to settle by the stern in the aft port lifeboat and rafts because both starboard lifeboats had been damaged by the explosion. As the gunners had already left, the master could no longer hope to defend the disabled ship and left with the remaining men in the other port boat after checking that no one was still aboard with the intention to reboard her at daybreak. At 08.30 hours, the U-boat fired a coup de grâce but the engine of the torpedo failed to run. U-214 then surfaced and Reeder decided to finish off the ship with gunfire after another coup de grâce missed at 08.54 hours. The survivors on a raft later reported that when the U-boat passed them, a crew member yelled in English: Don’t worry, we are your friends! At 09.19 hours, the Germans began to fire 23 high explosive and incendiary rounds from the deck gun at the abandoned Paderewski from a distance of only 300 meters and scored 13 hits, setting her on fire. In addition three clips of 20mm ammunition were fired from the AA guns into the waterline. Due to the proximity of land, the U-boat then left without questioning the survivors or waiting for the ship to sink at 09.45 hours. About 30 minutes later a first aircraft arrived at the scene, but could only observe how the burning Paderewski sank by the stern at 10.30 hours. In the afternoon, a fishing boat arrived that assisted the survivors until they were picked up by two American submarine chasers at 18.00 hours and later that day landed at Port of Spain, Trinidad.

On boardWe have details of 4 people who were on board

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