Herold, Robert ‘44

Herold, Robert ‘44

Herold took his basic training at Kings Point and was assigned to the new T-2 tanker SS Chapultepec; after completing about 9 months on board he returned to Kings Point to finish up and graduated in 1944. While a cadet on the Chapultepec enroute from Aruba to Cristobal, Canal Zone on December 26, 1943, his ship was struck by a torpedo. Herold said that he was preparing to go on the 8-12 watch in the engine room he was looking over the side having a cup of coffee when a shipmate asked ‘what is that out there?’ The ship was turning and he saw a torpedo running alongside that hit the bow; another torpedo was seen missing the ship. Herold said that the entire bow and forward tanks were ripped off right up to the forward house. Fires were raging in various places as the burning cargo was swept aft by waves; the fires were quickly extinguished. He said that the entire Armed Guard crew of about 12 was having a meeting on the bow and that he believed they were all killed. He said he saw the submarine surface and men began to man the deck gun; but upon seeing an airplane (he thought a Piper Cub type) the men rapidly got back into the sub as it submerged. He believed that the ship was unable to maneuver with engines going ahead and thus the ship maneuvered to steer toward the Panama Canal going astern, until the rudder had a problem after 8-9 hours.  He thought the ship arrived there the next day the 27th. Herold was detached and returned to Kings Point. Cadet roommates at KP were John Lively, Vernon Rez and Jim Bristol; the later two have passed away and when George Ryan spoke to John Lively;John said that Herold never talked about the torpedo attack.


Upon graduation he was selected to become an active duty Naval Officer and spent a couple of weeks at the 2 Broadway,New York City office until ordered to Rhode Island to join the AKA-31. He was engaged in Pacific duty in several campaigns until the ship began several trip transporting former POWs to the states.


(Herold’s memory is at variance with significant details found in uboat.net, Captain Arthur Moore’s book A Careless Word…..A needless Sinking and U.S. Merchant Vessel War Casualties of WW II by Robert M. Browning. These sources, that seem to cross reference each other, state that there were no casualties (2 injured), damage was confined to the forepeak and adjoining compartments and that the ship steamed full ahead and reached Cristobal that day.)

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