George Edgar Guilford
Born: July 22, 1921
Hometown: Centralia, KS
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Engine Cadet
Date / Place of death: November 7, 1942 /
Indian Ocean 40-00 S, 21-30 E
Date / Place of burial November 7, 1942 / Lost
at Sea / Indian Ocean 40-00 S, 21-30 E
George E. Guilford attended Basic School at Pass Christian, MS. According to Academy records he signed on aboard the SS La Salle as Engine Cadet at Balboa, in the Panama Canal Zone, on September 26, 1942. Also aboard the ship was the DeckCadet, his Pass Christian classmate Fred Pennington, and 1942 alumnus James D. Herndon, the ship’s Third Assistant Engineer. Shortly after signing on, the La Salle
sailed for Cape Town, South Africa loaded with a cargo of trucks, steel and ammunition.
However, the La Salle never arrived at Cape Town and the fate of the LaSalle remained
a mystery until after the war. The vessel was officially marked as “Presumed Lost” on
December 2, 1942.
After the war, German Navy records solved the mystery. On November 7, 1942, when
the La Salle was nearing the end of its voyage, the unescorted freighter was sighted by
U-159 about 350 miles southeast of the Cape of Good Hope. The submarine chased
the La Salle for over five hours, missing with one torpedo, until it managed to achieve a
better target solution and fired another torpedo. The explosion of that torpedo
detonated the La Salle’s ammunition cargo, instantly destroying the ship. The crew of
U-159 reported that the explosion sent pillars of flame hundreds of feet into the air.
Three of the submarine’s crew were wounded by the debris that rained down on the
submarine for several minutes after the explosion. It was later claimed that the
explosion could be heard 300 miles away, at South Africa’s Cape Point Lighthouse.
Everyone aboard the SS La Salle was killed instantly, including Cadet-Midshipmen
George E. Guilford and Fred Pennington and Third Assistant Engineer James D.
Herndon. Also among the dead was the ship’s Armed Guard Officer, the former Mayor
of Milwaukee, WI, Lieutenant Carl F. Zeidler, USNR. After resigning as Mayor so the
he could be commissioned Zeidler is said to have asked for the most dangerous job in
the Navy. He was then assigned to command a merchant ship Armed Guard
Cadet-Midshipman George E. Guilford was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, Pacific War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal,
and the Presidential Testimonial Letter.
George Edgar (Edward according to his family) Guilford was the oldest of Harvey
Dickerson Guilford and Hazel Zeola Condit Guilford’s two sons. The Guilfords owned a
farm outside of Centralia, KS. George’s younger brother, William E. Guilford, was killed
at Aachen, Germany in 1944 while serving in the U.S. Army.