Clarence Bert Dengler, Jr.
Born: June 15, 1923
Hometown: Pottsville, PA
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Third Mate
Date / Place of death: February 5, 1945 / New York Harbor
Date / Place of burial: February 5, 1945 / New York Harbor
/ Lost at Sea
Clarence B. Dengler signed on as Third Mate of the T-2 tanker SS Spring Hill on February 1, 1945, just a few weeks after graduating from Kings Point in Section B-389. On February 5, 1945 the Spring Hill was anchored in Anchorage 27 off Pier 18, Staten Island, New York, loaded with 140,000 barrels of high-test gasoline. At around 0845 that morning she was rammed on the port bow by the foreign flag merchant ship M/V
Clio. The Spring Hill’s forward cargo tanks immediately exploded and burst into flames,
ultimately consuming about 1/3 of the ship’s cargo. Crew members who survived the
explosion jumped overboard into the ice choked water of New York harbor. Many men
tried to make their way to the aft of the ship, where the flames were less intense, but
most were unable to do so. In attempting to swim to other ships in the vicinity, several
men were caught in burning gasoline floating on the surface of the water. Nine crew
members, including Clarence Dengler, and 11 Armed Guard members died in the
disaster. The remains of Clarence Dengler and four other members of the SS Spring
Hill’s crew were never recovered. They were declared “Presumptively Dead” on
February 20, 1945.
As the ship’s least experienced Third Mate it is likely that he was on watch at the time of
the collision. The report by the Spring Hill’s Armed Guard Officer states, “The General
Alarm was sounded by the mate on duty.” Thus, Dengler’s action may have saved
several of the ship’s crew by alerting them to the approaching danger.
Clarence “Curly” Dengler attended Basic School at Pass Christian and signed on as
Deck Cadet aboard the SS Curaca on May 19, 1943 at New Orleans, LA. One month
later he was hospitalized in Valparaiso, Chile and left ashore when the SS Curaca
sailed. A few weeks later he was apparently fit for duty and signed on as Deck Cadet
aboard the SS Elias Howe which sailed from Valparaiso to Suez loaded with nitrates.
On September 24, 1943 the Elias Howe was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-
10 in the Gulf of Aden. The crew, including Cadet-Midshipman Clarence Dengler, were
able to abandon ship before the cargo of nitrates exploded. Clarence returned to the
U.S. as a passenger aboard the British passenger ship SS Stirling Castle on November
7, 1943. Three weeks later, on November 30, 1943, Clarence Dengler signed on as
Deck Cadet aboard the SS Santa Cruz at New York, NY. He was discharged at San
Francisco, CA on March 18, 1944, completing his Sea Year. Upon his arrival at Kings
Point for Advanced Training he was welcomed into the Tin Fish Club and joined the
Propeller Club. He graduated on December 22, 1944.
Based on his service as a Cadet-Midshipman, Clarence B. Dengler was posthumously awarded the Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, Mediterranean-Middle East
War Zone Bar, Pacific War Zone Bar, the Victory Letter and Presidential Testimonial Letter.
Clarence was the only son and youngest of Clarence B. Dengler, Sr. and Stella E.
Covely Dengler’s three children. According to U.S. Census and other records,
Mr. Dengler was a shoemaker. Clarence’s older sisters were named Eleanore and Anita.
Clarence B. Dengler died before the Academy’s Yearbook “Midships” could be
published for his graduating section. The following was printed on his Section’s page;
“It is with utmost regret that Kings Point announces the loss of her son,
Ensign Clarence B. Dengler.
Ensign Dengler, while at the Academy, by his demeanor, personified in an
exemplary manner, the finest qualities of an officer and a gentleman. His
beaming smile and congenial personality warmed the hearts of those
associated with him here.
We will ever cherish his friendship as a privilege that few of us will be so
fortunate to share again.”
Photo of Dengler Family Memorial, Pottsville, PA