Peter Nicholas Chunosoff
Born: November 10, 1922
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: May 28, 1942 /
Caribbean, 16-28′ N, 67-37′ W
Date / Place of burial: May 28, 1942 /
Caribbean, 16-28′ N, 67-37′ W / Lost at Sea
Peter N. Chunosoff signed on as Deck Cadet aboard the SS Alcoa Pilgrim on March 4,
1942 at Mobile, AL. Also aboard the Alcoa Pilgrim was Cadet-Midshipman Edward T.
Ursin who signed on as the Engine Cadet.
On the night of May 27/28 the Alcoa Pilgrim was en route from Port of Spain, Trinidad
to Mobile, AL loaded with 9,500 tons of bauxite. According to the Navy report on the
sinking, the Alcoa Pilgrim was unarmed and zigzagging on a westerly heading at 15.5
knots. Around 0100 GCT, when the Alcoa Pilgrim was about 150 miles south of the
Mona Passage the ship was sighted by U-502 in the bright moonlight. Shortly
thereafter U-502 fired one torpedo which struck the Alcoa Pilgrim on the starboard side
at the engine room, just below the water line. The engine room was destroyed in the
explosion, sinking the ship in 90 seconds which left no time to send a distress signal.
No boats were successfully launched, though at least one was lowered as the ship
began to sink. Cadet-Midshipman Peter Chunosoff was lost overboard when this
lifeboat capsized. Cadet-Midshipman Edward T. Ursin was able to escape on one of
the two life rafts that managed to get clear of the ship.
Shortly after the sinking U-502 approached one of the rafts. The submarine’s
commander asked in fluent English for the name and nationality of the ship, the
tonnage and cargo, and whether the life raft had a sail. The U-502 then left the area at
full speed. Only nine of the forty crew members survived the sinking. The survivors,
including Cadet-Midshipman Ursin, were picked up from the two life rafts on June 2 by
the SS Thomas Nelson and landed at Port of Spain on June 5, 1942.
Cadet Midshipman Peter N. Chunosoff was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal and the Presidential
Peter N. Chunosoff was the only son and oldest of Nicholas Chunosoff, a Russian
immigrant, and Cecilia Chunosoff’s two children. According to the 1940 U.S. Census
Nicholas was employed as a shipping clerk in a department store. Peter’s little sister
was Laura, who was three years younger than him. Crew lists on file in Boston, NY
indicate that Peter signed on as Ordinary Seaman aboard the SS Express at New York,
NY on June 3, 1941 and was discharged there after a voyage to India in late
September 1941. Given the dates it appears that he applied for admission to the
Merchant Marine Cadet Corps shortly after leaving the SS Express and began his
training in early 1942.
Photo of SS Alcoa Puritan (yard sister ship of the SS Alcoa Pilgrim).