Alan R. Clarke
Born: February 8, 1922
Hometown: Ridgewood, NJ
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: March 2, 1943 / North Atlantic,
Date / Place of burial: March 2, 1943 / North Atlantic,
62-10’N, 28-25’W / Lost at Sea
Alan R. Clarke signed on aboard the Liberty Ship SS Meriwether Lewis as Deck Cadet on October 13, 1942 at New York, NY. His classmate Randall Bourell signed on as Deck Cadet two days later. The ship’s two Engine Cadets were Walter E. Johnson and Daniel J. Maher. After an uneventful voyage to Casablanca, French Morocco the ship returned to New York on January 10, 1943. Walter Johnson was replaced by Francis McCann around January 25, 1943. On February 18, 1943 the Meriwether Lewis with its four Kings Point cadets sailed from New York as part of convoy HX-227 bound for the United Kingdom and then to Murmansk, Russia. The ship was loaded with a cargo of vehicle tires, ammunition, and according to some references, a deck cargo of PT Boats.
According to German Navy records, the Meriwether Lewis was identified as a straggler
from a convoy, and unsuccessfully attacked, by U-759 in the early morning of March 2.
The submarine was unable to re-attack the Meriwether Lewis due to problems with its
engines, but it was able to contact U-634 and lead it to the straggler. The U-634 fired
four torpedoes at the Meriwether Lewis, hitting it with one of them. The damage was
apparently sufficient to stop the ship, but did not sink it. The submarine hit the
Meriwether Lewis with two more torpedoes, the last of which detonated the ship’s
ammunition cargo. Although there was plenty of time to abandon ship, the USCGC
Ingham (WPG 35) found only a 30-mile line of floating tires during its two day long
search for the SS Meriwether Lewis and crew. Thus, the ship’s entire crew of 44,
including four Kings Point Cadets, and 28 members of the Naval Armed Guard perished
in the sinking.
Cadet/Midshipman Alan R. Clarke was posthumously awarded the Mariner’s Medal,
Combat Bar, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal, and the Presidential Testimonial
According to his classmate, David Douglas, Alan was the only child of a senior
executive of the Seamen’s Bank for Savings in New York. Clarke, who graduated from Ridgewood, N.J. High School in 1941 was a well rounded athlete, playing on the football, golf and track teams. He attended Washington and Lee University for two years before applying to the Merchant Marine Academy, and Washington and Lee later established a memorial scholarship In his memory. David Douglas said that he was told by his grandmother that both of the Clarkes died of grief not long after Alan’s death.