It is summertime and I am going to take something of vacation – part of it will be real since after 30 years of asking I finally bought my wife tickets for an Alaska cruise – and part of it will be will be an odessy of the mind since I will be travelling back to the tales I heard from my father as a boy and fleshing them out with the journal and photographs that he left for me. Dad could tell a mighty fine story and although certain parts were bowdlerized for my benefit as a boy the real stories leave no one any the worse for the wear. A few purists may complain that his writing does not meet the criteria of Strunk and White but we would remind them they are dealing with a source document that is seventy-five years old and we believe it more important to maintain the integrity of the document than to meet artificial [and often inelegant] predispositions towards modern usage. Dad’s words will appear in italics any my notes, asides, postscript and other intrusions into the narrative will not.
I had often felt urge to go to South-America, particularly the jungle, where I could see nature dressed up in another cloak. There were new sights to be had for the offing, namely the soft tropical moonlight nights, natives who were actually going native, vegetation of variable descriptions, animals of various sizes and colors, mountains that had an entirely different scheme of coloration, and native villages where the sun dipped thatched roofs were vainly trying to peep out from under the cover of brush. All of this seemed to be, to my mind, obtainable for the slight consideration of spending a term of three years in the jungle. So you can see that my mind and heart was set upon seeing some part of our Latin-American brother countries. Whether I was to be delightfully surprised or disillusioned utterly will be found out at the end of three years.
My first few days out of Portland were spent roving around the decks of the Norwegian tanker Teddy. I did not relish the ride as much as I should have, considering the fact that this was to be my first real ride over the sea. I really did not enjoy the rolling and tilting of the ship to any extent. [Only] Upon reaching the vicinity off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina did I Begin to show any interest in the boat ride. From this point on I began to take interest in the surrounding sea. I stationed myself at the bow of t he ship taking great delight in watching the various sizes of flying fish take-off on graceful glides. It surely does amuse a stranger to see these finny creatures take a perfect take-off and then disappear into the sea again. I can tell you that it is almost impossible to tally the countless creatures scampering about. Interest was greatly increased just before the ship entered the Caribbean Sea just west of the Island of Granada, prior to entering the mouth of the Gulf of Paria at the eastern part of Venezuela. While strutting around the pilot deck my attention was brought to a school of porpoises that were skimming the surface of the water; there must have been at least a dozen flitting gracefully and the nearness of the ship did not tend to scare any of them away. I kept my eyes opened for the sight of more of these tropical fish but did not see any until the later part of the day. While sailing in the shallower part of a coral reef my attention was attracted by the sight of an odd shaped creature that had all the appearances of a small hammerhead shark, but not being a piscatorialist I could not identify it. This odd sight encouraged me to look more intently for more curious sights. My time and patience was rewarded as I caught a good glimpse of more larger sized porpoises and one thing that I really wanted to see; a shark. This shark as far as I could see was in the neighborhood of 15 feet long and it had a head about the size of a vinegar barrel. After this animal disappeared I looked vainly for the appearances of other creatures but to no avail. By this time the tanker entered the mouth of the Gulf of Paria and I contented myself with looking over the mountainous coast of Venezuela. In a short while we were casually propelling ourselves into the harbor of Guiria, where I was to undergo the official customs test.
The customs official boat brought me ashore on Sunday, January 17, 1937, at 6:30 P.M. I spent two days at the Guiria Camp and had a good time — it surely did surprise me to see such a fine camp in such rank surroundings. On the night of 18 th. I slept on board the “Mosquito Tanker” SURINAM. The next day was spent watching the SURINAM unload its cargo off oil to the TEDDY. At 6:00 P.M. the SURINAM started on its trek for the Carpito wharf. Since the ride up the San Juan River was made at night I missed the river scenes and the possibility of seeing any of the river creatures, such as alligators, water snakes, and the like.
The SURINAM finally docked at the Caripito wharf at about midnight. I arose early the following morning and received the first good glimpse of the eastern Venezuela jungle. At 8:00 o’clock a small motorboat arrived from the wharf to take me further on my trip. From the wharf I rode on a small flat car operated by a Ford Y-8 motor and this “Uncovered ‘”wagon” took me through approximately two and a half miles of the jungle. During the short ride my eyes were intently gazing in all directions to see what could be seen plants, trees, birds, and, gayly plumaged parrots that were flitting overhead in all directions. It would be rather hard to describe with any accuracy all the types of plants and trees that were on both sides of the narrow gauge track; however it was all new to me and I took all of it in with interest. The “Uncovered Wagon” finally stopped at the warehouse and I waited for the S.O.V. taxi to take me to the camp proper. Incidentally a Mr. Delbert Lewis who got on the boat at Guiria poured all types of comments to me about the country in general.
After arriving at the general offices Lewis brought me in and introduced me to my future boss Mr. J. A. Holmes who is the eastern division petroleum engineer. After a few introductions Lewis and I went over to the mess hall and ate breakfast. I was then ushered to my rooming quarters which was only temporary. I took the room of one of t he fellows who was on a local leave. Met some darn nice fellows in D-27, namely, Rudd Krasse of New York City, Joe Brown of Omaha, Nebraska, and Byron Judah of Houston, Texas. These fellows certainly did everything to make me feel at home and I appreciate their effort. On the 21st. I rode to Quiriquire, some 80 miles away, for a physical examination. This ride was taken through the jungle; this trip kept me busy gazing at the various trees and brush that lined both sides of the road. I find myself busily occupied with plenty of work pertaining to drawings and graphs necessary for the annual report. At other times I do my best to teach one of the Venezuelans the intricacies and mysteries of drafting. For recreation I find time to bowl, take long walks, play golf, and, see the latest shows. How long I’ll be located here I cannot say, but in the near future I understand that my next stopping point will be either Quiriquire or Temblador, in the southern part of Venezuela in the savannah country.
This story starts in 1937. The shooting war between the United States and the Axis would not start for another four years and Dad would play his part in that war, as so many Americans did, but one of the greatest tolls that the war would take would be on merchant shipping – including the two vessels pictured above. While Dad would spend his career in the oil patch I grew up to be a wharf rat and followed the Young family in doing business on the great waters so my contribution to this post will be about the ships.
The tanker Teddy was lost in 1940 while on a voyage from Abadan to Singapore with a cargo of 10 137 tons fuel oil when captured by Atlantis. The captain and 19 others were transferred to Atlantis, while 12 remained on Teddy, 8 of whom were engine room crew. Teddy was not sunk immediately, but with a prize crew under the command of Lieutenant Breuers she was ordered south to await further orders, while Atlantis went looking for other ships, the Norwegian M/T Ole Jacob being her next victim on Nov. 10.
Ship’s position when raider appeared was 5 30N 86 30E. Time: 00:45, November 8-1940. Raider loomed up on starboard beam, disappeared ahead and then altered course 180 degrees and came close alongside on port side. The raider flashed searchlights on the tanker’s gun and bridge and flashed to the captain: “This is HMS A…… (captain said it might have been Antenor but he was not quite certain) and I want to look at your papers. She further ordered them not to use their wireless. A boat was lowered from the raider and when it came alongside German voices were heard. They came aboard so quickly the boarding officer reached the bridge before anything could be done. Boarding officer’s name was Mohr. The Teddy was abandoned by her crew at 3 am and they were taken on board the raider and sent below. The master reports that on Nov.-13 the Teddy was picked up again and she was sunk on the 14th after some difficulty. She was finally sunk by explosive charges, apparently two of them, then shell fire after she did not immediately sink. She was not seen to sink, but when raider left, a column of smoke 1000 feet high could be seen on the horizon.
The raider took off the Teddy’s provisions but none of the fuel oil. She took some of Teddy’s diesel oil for her own use. The seaplane was sent out nearly every day, and could be hoisted out within a very few minutes. This gave the raider plenty of time to avoid capture by day, and also revealed if any prospective prizes were in the offing. The raider’s officers told him they picked him up by luck at night from the light from one porthole improperly darkened aft. The raider had an extremely efficient system of lookouts with excellent binoculars.
The Allan Jackson was a tanker traveling from Cartagena, Columbia to New York. The week before her sinking, she had picked up 72,870 barrels of crude oil, which was near to capacity. The crew consisted of thirty-five officers and men. The beginning of a long list of ships that were attacked by German U-boats began with the Allan Jackson. This area of the Atlantic would become known as Torpedo Alley. On the morning of January 18th, 1942 at 1:35 AM the U-66 launched two torpedoes which struck the Allan Jackson. The first torpedo hit the forward tank on the vessel’s starboard side and exploded beneath an empty cargo hold. The damage was reported to be minor. The second torpedo hit even closer to the bow. The force of the explosion was so severe that it split the tanker into two. The oil cargo began to leak out in all directions.
Only lifeboat 3 remained useable. The boat was lowered and eight members of the crew jumped inside. Meanwhile, Captain Kretchmer was searching the deck for remaining crew members. The suction from the sinking ship began to pull him away from the bridge ladder. The captain was able to grab a couple of small boards and drifted away from the wreckage. Second mate Matte Rand and Seaman Larson were also afloat on pieces of wreckage. Third Mate Boris A. Voronsoff and Junior Third Mate Francis M. Bacon were also clinging to wreckage and joined up with the other two. However, shortly thereafter Bacon died. At the first light of day with the Allan Jackson was gone with only an oil slick left as a remembrance. Boatswain Clausen attempted signaling with his flashlight was fortunately seen by the U.S. Destroyer Roe. The Roe was able to pick up all survivors. However, the tragedy of the night took its toll as only thirteen of the listed thirty-five crewmen survived.