Loss of life of the SS Paul Hamilton – April twentieth, 1944

[ 2022 Update: Another year has gone by and my list of family members of…

[ 2022 Update: Another year has gone by and my list of family members of KIAs on the SS Paul Hamilton that I am in contact with is down to one that touched base with me on this anniversary. But with the Ukraine war crunch on, I had not sent a refresh email out to my list of eight that these annual reposting had found, none of them in the last three years.

When I look at these April 1944 convoy ships on the water above it symbolizes the current Ukraine war disaster that is unfolding in front of our eyes, with a West acting like it is on some kind of war crack that it has been snorting, with mass media having its own version.

They seem oblivious to the lives being snuffed out, many frankly viewing it as a kind of entertainment. I just got an email this morning that Ukraine soldiers are using captured Russian soldiers’ phones to video their being castrated and then sending to the families. Ouch!

A line just got crossed there. Modern technology is becoming a handy snuff film tool to entertain the folks back home that ‘we’re putting it to the Rooskies here…send more cookies’.

Biden seems to be acting like this is a great opportunity to play the great war commander. He seems to have forgotten that we all know about the Iraq and Libya disasters that he and Obama brought to the world with apparently no regrets looking back, and apparently learned nothing from those debacles.

No mention of Obama’s use of proxy terrorism in Syria is ever made, like such a thing never happened. But the families of all the innocent dead know, and they are still here.

But despite our living in an imperfect world, with imperfect leaders that make imperfect decisions base on imperfect information we will honor our past dead this day, and those who are going to die in the current tragedy, one that NATO has worked years and years to bring on, and has the defense industry popping the champagne corks in joy.

We will not be joining them at VT... Jim W Dean ]

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This was despatched to me a number of days in the past by somebody out of the blue. My mom’s first husband was noticed on a New York Metropolis avenue in 1943 by a Collier’s journal advert exec, and ended up on this cigarette advert. And sure, he died on the SS Paul Hamilton. That they had been married about six months. She was nonetheless getting her Gold Star spouse pension test when she died at 90. Leon by no means knew how lengthy he helped deal with her. RIP. Only some physique components have been ever recovered. The main points of the tragedy have been categorised for 50 years, a horrendous injustice to the households. I’m nonetheless looking Miller descendents in Michigan for the additional Purple coronary heart that I’ve.

[ Editor’s Note, 2021: The SS Paul Hamilton died with all aboard on April 20th, 1944. I held off my annual republishing of the event for a weekend time to avoid having it pushed off the page quickly with the weekday heavy news cycle we are in.

I am going to weave something new into this year’s introduction, recent developments that might breathe some new life into the SS Paul Hamilton story andhopefully finding more of the over 500 families who shared this tragedy.

Long time VT readers are aware that I was able to interview Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams in Atlanta about a decade ago. It was a chance encounter from an invitation I had to attend a talk from a Vietnam era MoH recipient at Dobbins AirForce Base in Atlanta, but who had had to cancel at the last moment.

Cliff rode a failed parachute down 15,000 feet to hit the water at 100 mph

I arrived with a Vietnam Vet, an F-100 Crusader Marine pilot, Cliff Judkins, who had the unusual honor of having been the only pilot who bailed out of a jet WWII style when a mid air refeuling accident lit his plane up like a roman candle and then his ejection seat failed to punch him out due to a ‘maintenance error’.

He had no option but to pop the canopy and jump. He told me he did not have to acually jump as when he began to stand up to begin, he was immediately sucked out, spinning him in the turbulence.

In the 450 mph winds his chute lines got twisted which prevented his chute from opening, and he rode a ‘streamer’ down from 10,000 feet, hitting the water at nearly 100 mph, and survived only due to a series of miracles that happened one after another. 

Cliff Judkins and I arrived a bit late at Dobbins and could not see two seats together, so we had to split up. I spotted a table near the front with one empty seat and walked over, asking if the occupant had stepped away.

Woody Williams

I was invited to sit down and then turned to introduce myself, and there as the replacement speaker was WWII Woody Williams with this medal around his neck. The angels were smiling on me that day.

Fortunately he was on a weekend Atlanta trip with multiple events, so I was able bring him to my home studio where I got 70 minutes of wonderful footage, from his days as a farm boy to chaplain of the Medal of Honor Society.

When he told me that he hesitated for a moment and then said that in retrospect he considered being the chaplain a bigger honor than his decoration. We stayed in touch on and off over the years.

Woody is 97 now, still running strong with a full event schedule but with a new focus on top of his Medal of Honor Society work. He and his two grandsons have started a foundation to honor a group that has slipped through the cracks all these years, Gold Star Families, in that there had never been any memorials done for them as a group, KIA and MIA extended families.

Fast forward to today, and despite the Covid complications last year, his team has helped in the dedicated of 74 monuments already and has another 74 in progress, an incredible accomplishment. From what I can see, there will be hundreds more built over the next few years.

The reverse side of the new Gold Star Family monument

Michigan has one completed and another dedication scheduled for June, and it did not take me long to want to participate organzing another featuring the SS Paul Hamiltion, as my mother’s first husband died that day, leaving a 17 year old widow behind.

The initial surge of Paul Hamilton family responders who had read the first few annual VT articles, dwindled down to one a year, and then to zero. Maybe now we will be able to find more. Staff Sgt. Leon Miller was from Northern Michigan, and I hope to be in touch with descendants there soon to give them the monument project news.

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VT has always been a network. But as our older people die off, we have to replace them to maintain the man and woman power it takes to get our work done. We will pray that we can kill Covid and people can get back to their regular work and passions… Jim W. Dean ]

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JD 2020 introduction – Beneath is the 2015 republished model of this tragedy. Over time, I’ve run this 6 or 7 occasions, and have discovered about 7 households and residing veterans who have been within the convoy of the SS Paul Hamilton.

Final yr generated just one new contact. However I’ll all the time have the recollections. One brother and sister have been researching a grandfather’s brother and typed in a Google seek for “KIA, April twentieth, 1944” and my article popped up.

A Coast Guard photographer on one of many convoy ships took a photograph a number of seconds after a torpedo bomber had hit the Paul Hamilton in a nightfall assault. All 505 aboard have been killed immediately. Solely two our bodies have been recovered, though components of our bodies rained down on close by ships.

The households of the misplaced servicemen had by no means been advised the main points of what had occurred to the ship, as our authorities had categorised the incident for 50 years to keep away from having to clarify why troops have been being shipped on un-armored ammunition ships.

The witnesses included a radio operator on one of many ships, who revealed for the primary time that the German torpedo planes attacking at mud from the Algiers coast have been mis-identified as “friendlies”, which precipitated the destroyer display screen to carry hearth because the planes flew by them.

The five hundred+ aboard the SS Paul Hamilton had solely moments to reside, because it was the primary ship struck. Loss of life was instantaneous for all, with the aerial torpedo touching off the 6000 tons of explosives aboard. Perhaps this yr we will discover one other householdJD ]

The final of the SS Paul Hamilton convoy survivors and spouses are passing away. I buried mom in Arlington on Oct. twenty fourth, 2017. SSgt. Leon’ Miller was her first husband, KIA on the Hamilton. She had gotten him a memorial grave in Arlington, an arduous job, which required Ted Kennedy’s assist, however that certified her for burial, the place she additionally ended up about 100 yards from her older son. As destiny would have it, Katherine Kelly and I are alumni of Berkshire College in Western Massachusetts. She is the youngest and the primary feminine superintendent of Arlington. She made a gracious schedule adjustment for this photograph with mom’s three flags, for 2 husbands and a son.

– The 2015 version –

Notice: Some pictures and YouTubes are lacking under as a result of archive compacting that needed to be finished after the foremost hacking in early 2017. Flooding the positioning with 1000’s of searches that needed to undergo our large archive file was our weak level.

Chuck Wales, blacksmithing in his 90’s. His USS Lansdale was torpedoed and sunk, the place he spent three hours at midnight water earlier than fortunately being discovered.

Expensive VT Readers, It is a household indulgence, republishing this SS Paul Hamilton catastrophe each April.

Immediately is the fifth yr. Mom, who was a 16-year-old WWII widow, will likely be 88 in June (2015), and every time we have now related with a veteran who was within the convoy attacked, or relations who misplaced an ancestor, apart from final yr, which was a zero. I hope for higher luck this time.

There usually are not phrases to explain the satisfaction of being contacted out of the blue by a member of the family, the place all they needed to go on was KIA, April twentieth, Mediterranean theater, and up pops my VT article the place they will then contact me.

Once I see “SS Paul Hamilton” within the topic line, it’s all the time goose bump time. It’s the mixed miracle of Al Gore inventing the Web (that could be a joke), and VT current that these hook ups are made.

And, because the widow of a navy seaman within the convoy had shared with me each piece of archival reporting that they had gotten from a number of journeys whereas Helen Jones’ husband was alive, I move them on to the following household. This is only one of many tales of VT, what we do, how, and why we do it… the misplaced tales… the forgotten victims.


SS Paul Hamilton – the Largest lack of lives on a Liberty Ship throughout WWII

Mom meets eye witness former Navy Lt. Chuck Wales, sunk in the identical convoy assault and who noticed the Hamilton explode. I organized for him to fulfill her with a Berkshire Eagle reporter as a shock birthday present.

On this present day, April twentieth, 1944, the most important lack of life on a WWII Liberty ship passed off when the SS Paul Hamilton was sunk with all fingers. However these males have been killed not as soon as, however twice.

Sure, the German Junkers torpedo bombers did their work. However as their varied physique components rained down on the close by ships of the convoy, nobody knew then that particulars of the incident can be categorised for 50 years.

All of the households of those males would ever be advised, for that entire time, was…”Lacking in motion, presumed lifeless, Mediterranean Theater.” I’ve an entire alphabetical KIA roster hyperlink under.

Why, do you ask? The brass didn’t wish to face the households with explaining to them why that they had loaded a troop ship with 7000 tons of explosives and munitions.

My mom had married Sgt Leon Miller solely about 4 months prior. He was within the Military Air Corp…photograph intelligence, and has assured her he can be behind the strains. When the door bell rang she noticed a younger boy in a Western Union uniform standing with a telegram.

In these days you’d reasonably see the satan himself. It nonetheless had not hit her but till he stated the magic phrases…”Are you Mrs. Leon Miller?” Every part…at that second… modified eternally. She was sixteen years outdated.

Denial is usually the survival intuition for these telegram moments. She refused to just accept it. She did the most effective she might to push the grim reaper away, in a powerful manner for a younger girl,

“I’m certain there may be some mistake. My husband has not even gotten over there but.” The younger boy had been educated nicely, and he did his job. He learn the tackle to her and requested if it have been right, then once more requested her once more if she was Mrs Leon Miller.

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After which he stretched out his hand and stated, “I’m very sorry.” He had finished this many occasions earlier than. She had not.

Stage two of denial now enters. The younger widow sees the one avenue open to her not have this actually occur is to nonetheless not settle for the telegram. She insisted that he return to the workplace and double test …she was certain the error can be found.

The younger boy, seeming sad that he had didn’t do his job, left. If he might have proven her the lead photograph of the Hamilton going up, she would have taken the telegram. However mom by no means noticed it…till final yr.

The sixty two ships of convoy UGS 38 have been off the coast of Algiers on the fateful night. The SS Paul Hamilton was headed for the Anzio bridge head which was surrounded by sturdy German forces.

Our troops have been so laborious pressed that lots of the 504 Military Air Corp males aboard had been retrained in mine demolition work for the deliberate get away.

For extra environment friendly delivery logistics the brass had determined to maintain the boys and their 7000 tons of explosives collectively in the identical unarmored ship, the place one sizzling tracer spherical might blow all of them to smithereens.

Convoys have been nicely protected by that point within the warfare. The Luftwaffe was now not attacking them in the course of the day as a result of they might lose too many planes.

Their major tactic was the low degree torpedo bombing assault timed to strike simply after the solar went down. They got here in from the coast, utilizing the mountains to cover their radar detection for so long as potential.

The picket ships lastly picked them up and reported the incoming assault however there have been communications problems and most ships discovered when the taking pictures began.

The convoy was already at basic quarters as commonplace process. There’s not a lot for these on a troopship to do in a state of affairs like this. They’re actually alongside for trip in a recreation of excessive stakes roulette.

Each man on the Hamilton knew that in the event that they have been hit no life boats can be essential. They didn’t should undergo an extended wait. They have been the primary hit.

Because the planes closed on the ships within the submit sundown darkness flares have been reported being dropped by greater altitude German planes which helped the helped the torpedo bombers select ships to make their runs. However the convoy commander’s official report has no point out of flares.

Though the primary wave of planes attacked the convoy head on, the destroyers in entrance by no means opened hearth on them. I can solely surmise they may not see them at midnight and the planes have been by them earlier than they may shoot.

A witness on a ship close to the Paul Hamilton reported that an alert gunner fired a burst at a crossing aircraft, which then centered in on the gunner’s tracers.

This was truly towards firing protocol the place the armed freighters have been solely supposed to fireplace on planes making an assault run on them, so their tracer hearth wouldn’t expose them within the darkness. The destiny of the Hamilton was sealed.

Because the aircraft bore in all of the weapons the Hamilton might deliver to bear blasted away. When the aircraft didn’t go down, the gunners knew what that meant…incoming torpedo. In the event you take a look at this bigger photograph you will note all the additional gun tubs mounted fore and aft and amidships to offer them a preventing probability.

The Coast Guard destroyer escort Menges was screening the the column that the Hamilton was in, a bit behind it.

Fight cameraman Artwork Inexperienced was at his battle station on the fantail the place he had a panoramic view.  His eyes have been drawn to the outgoing hearth from the close by ships, and straining to see any planes within the darken twilight. Instantly, the sky turned from night time to day.

The flash shocked everybody. When Inexperienced’s eyes reopened he watched the mushroom cloud stand up from what had been the SS Paul Hamilton, and snapped his well-known shot.

Inside a month the photograph was getting used for warfare propaganda in American papers and magazines for example of the dangers and carnage concerned in getting provides to the entrance.

Inexperienced recounted that the Hamilton explosion lasted six to seven seconds after which every part went darkish once more. Extra explosions have been heard as 4 extra ships have been struck. Among the torpedoes that missed their targets and exploded on the finish of their runs have been mistakenly reported as bombs.

The destroyer Lansdale was sunk, and the broken Royal Star sank the following day. Each the broken Samite M/V and Stephen F. Austen M/V have been efficiently towed to Algiers. Inexperienced noticed one aircraft go down.

The gunfire tapered off because the convoy continued on its course into the quiet night time with the rear screening destroyers and tug boat aiding the broken and sinking ships. ****

The door bell rang once more. The younger widow had gathered Leon’s brother and spouse from their work. The spouse went to the door. Phrases have been mumbled, and he or she returned to the lounge to tell,

“He says he has to ship it to you solely.” The denial time was over.

Mom went to the door. The younger boy, extra tense this time, stretched out his arm with the telegram and stated, “There’s been no mistake. I’m very sorry.” She remembers to this present day,

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“He had a really unhappy look on his face…so unhappy. I felt sorry for him.” The telegram was hers now. She handed it to the brother and shortly heard the following worst sentence in WWII, ‘”The Secretary of the Military regrets to tell you….”

Solely two our bodies have been recovered and are buried on the Allied cemetery in Algiers. They have been recognized by way of fingerprints so these two households had some closure.

A seek for any survivors went on for 2 days, the seek for our bodies for every week. The photograph and assault experiences have been flown again to Washington.The brass knew there have been no survivors on the Hamilton. That they had the photograph of what can occur with their hybrid troop and ammo ships.

The ‘lacking in motion’ first telegram was adopted by the second, including …’presumed lifeless’. Later adopted the compulsory condolence playing cards from Secretary Marshall, President Roosevelt, and a Purple Coronary heart. And that was that…till 1995.

No apologies or explanations have been ever forthcoming as to why the entire 50 yr classification interval was allowed to run. Lots of the dad and mom of those KIAs handed away by no means figuring out precisely how their sons died.

I personally really feel it was an act of governmental cruelty to do that. It served no different goal than to have fewer residing dad and mom alive to make a stink over it. Mom had stated the federal government did provide transportation to Algiers and a ship trip out to the positioning for a wreath laying at sea.

I do not know if anybody has ever finished this, the lifeless dad and mom actually not. Mom by no means talked about going. I by no means requested why, not being certain it might be something greater than driving one other stake into her coronary heart.

By that point she had collected her third flag in 2004, burying a son, an Military Ranger Colonel, from Agent Orange associated causes. She and I did a ceremony for Sgt. Miller the following day in an space of Arlington for stones with no our bodies.

It was a good looking setting, filtered gentle, and the Arlington Honor Guards are a memorable expertise which I’ll share with you under. This was the primary shoot I did with my new JVC5100 TV digital camera.

These younger troopers teared up after I advised them the story that she was getting this finished after ready sixty years. I used to be happy with her…two Arlington ceremonies again to again.

Be sure you click on on 480p for the most effective decision. You might be watching essentially the most stunning flag folding footage that I’ve, and I’ve so much.

Notice: Beneath is a video clip of the ceremony for Sgt. Miller for my mom that we have been in a position to arrange for the day after we buried by brother with the total blown horse drawn wagon and honor guard. I had stunning filtered gentle. Ultimately I’ll get the high quality full model up. This was my first use of my new JVC 5100, my first actual TV digital camera buy, about what a great used automobile price again then. Mom and I have been the one attendees, with everybody else doing the vacationer factor despite the fact that this ceremony took ten minutes. ]

Mom was a shell for the following 5 years. An Algeria journey was positively not within the playing cards. However I did ship her a duplicate of my excessive decision photograph. You’ll be able to see tracer hearth from one aircraft’s tail gunner, loopy to be exposing their place the the convoy gunners.

I met Helen Jones on-line, the widow of a destroyer seaman on the convoy. That they had made a number of journeys to the archives to get all the declassified data data. Her pc literate youngsters put all of it on a CD for me…each identify, each captain’s report, even the gunner station experiences together with the rounds that they fired.

They embody the phrase for phrase radio transcripts of the rescue operations. I’m eternally grateful to Helen and her household. I had bother getting the 100 plus web page file to load, however go away me a word within the feedback and I’ll you’ll want to let you recognize when that’s mounted.

Mom and her VA rep Al Adams did get a duplicate of many of the Hamilton file following the declassification, however one way or the other the photograph was among the many lacking.

Subsequent as much as share his retrospective is eye witness Service provider Marine seaman Howard Morseburg who was within the convoy.

That is the one private witness video I’ve discovered on the Web, so an enormous salute to Howard for honoring his mates. He has an enormous punchline on the finish. Don’t miss it, one other story in itself.

So there you’ve got it from Howard. The service provider seamen bought a triple shafting. Enable me so as to add one other indignity to the record. All of the service males KIA households bought $10,000 of GI life insurance coverage.

The service provider marine households bought $5000. Isn’t that particular. Widow’s advantages…zero…children?…zip.

Howard didn’t appear bitter. He simply needed it on the report. I must see if outdated Howard remains to be round. For this final video I needed to place you within the seat of the German bombers, despite the fact that it’s day time, to see some precise footage of such a torpedo assault moving into on a convoy.

What struck me straight away is that they appeared to dropping them virtually like bombs, and from lengthy distances the place it looks as if a want and a prayer to hit something.

580 males die as SS Paul Hamilton explodes