Burton Gale Bergeson
Born: June 3, 1922
Hometown: Lake Park, MN
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: September 24, 1942 / North Atlantic,
Date / Place of burial: September 24, 1942 / North Atlantic,
56-00’N, 31-00’W / Lost at sea
Burton G. Bergeson signed on as Deck Cadet aboard the Liberty Ship SS John Winthrop on August 12, 1942 at Boston, MA shortly after the ship was completed and delivered to the War Shipping Administration. After a voyage to the United Kingdom, the SS John Winthrop sailed from Glasgow, Scotland to join 60 other merchant ships with 17 escorts of Convoy ON-131 which had departed Liverpool, UK on September 18,1942, bound for New York.
On September 21, 1942 the SS John Winthrop straggled from the convoy. For three
days the straggling SS John Winthrop managed to evade German U-boats prowling the
area. However, according to records of the German Navy, on the evening of
September 24 the straggler was found by U-619. The submarine fired five torpedoes,
breaking the John Winthrop into two pieces, which remained afloat. U-619 then
surfaced and sunk the remaining portions of the ship with its deck gun. There were no
survivors amongst the John Winthrop’s crew of 39 Armed Guard complement of 15. Of
the 61 ships in Convoy ON-131, the SS Jonathan Winthrop was the only ship sunk.
Cadet-Midshipman Burton G. Bergeson was posthumously awarded the Mariners
Medal, Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal and Presidential
Burton G. Bergeson, was the eldest of Reno Rino Selmer Bergeson and Anna Joanna
Skei Bergeson’s five children. He had two little brothers, Rudolph (three years younger)
and Harold (six years younger). Burtons two sisters were Enid (one year younger) and
Janice (two years younger). According to the 1940 U.S. Census, Reno Bergeson was
an insurance salesman.
Photo of Memorial in Lake Park Cemetery, Lake Park, MN
According to recollections of his sister Janice, Burton was considered a role model for his siblings. Janice recalls that Burton walked to school, was a good student and attended
church regularly. She also remembers a childhood filled with outdoor sports both
summer and winter. Janice recalled that In one notable year Burton “rolled up his sleeves” to help install indoor plumbing in the family home when they became available. During summer vacations in high school
Burton worked for the Northern Pacific Rail Road. He graduated with highest honors
from Lake Park High School where he played both football and basketball. After
graduation he enrolled in Concordia College. However, the war broke out during his
freshman year and he applied for entrance into the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy –
changing the course of his life.