Robert W. Lorenz
Born: June 23, 1917
Hometown: New York, NY
Class: USMCC Cadet Officer – 1941 New York Maritime Academy – 1940
Service: U.S. Naval Reserve
Position / Rank: Lieutenant
Date / Place of death: On or about September 17,1943 / near Shira Saki, Honshu, Japan
Date / Place of burial: On or about September 17, 1943 / Lost at Sea near Shira Saki, Honshu, Japan – Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial Honolulu, Hawaii
U.S. Navy records indicate that Robert Lorenz entered the U.S. Naval Reserve on June 39, 1939 while he was a student at the New York Maritime Academy at Fort Schuyler, NY. In 1940 after graduating from Fort Schuyler he applied for, and was accepted into, the Cadet Officer Program of the U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps. He was assigned for training to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Ship Explorer. He served aboard the Explorer from October 16, 1940 until January 25, 1941. The Captain of the Explorer said in his report dated May 3, 1941,
“Mr. Lorenz displayed an unusual amount of ability and energy. He was considered the most capable of all the Cadets assigned this vessel. He is highly recommended for receiving a Certificate of Ability and for any other award that can be issued.”
While he was assigned to the Explorer, he applied for appointment as an Ensign, U.S. Naval Reserve and assignment to Active Duty. While he was waiting for his commission he was assigned to the U.S. Maritime Commission Cadet School at Fort Schuyler, NY. On January 27, 1941 he reported to the U. S. Maritime Commission Cadet School, Tiburon, CA. He served as an Instructor in Seamanship and visual signaling. His performance was noted as being “Superior”.
Robert Lorenz was commissioned Ensign, USNR with a date of rank of February 14, 1941, but did not receive Active Duty orders. In the meantime he signed on as Cadet Officer aboard the passenger ship SS Uruguay as Cadet Officer (Deck) on
April 11, 1941. He was promoted to Junior Third Officer for the ship’s next voyage,
signing on in this capacity on May 20, 1941. In July 1941 he wrote to the Navy inquiring
into the status of his request for Active Duty. This letter appears to have broken a
bureaucratic log jam as he was ordered to Active Duty on August 20, 1941. He signed
off of the SS Uruguay on September 22, 1941 in order to accept his commission and
report for Active Duty on September 24.
After initial processing, Ensign Lorenz left New York on September 29 and reported
aboard the USS McCawley (AP 10) on October 4, 1941. Ensign Lorenz was assigned
to duty as a Junior Watch and Division Officer and Assistant Boat Group Officer until he
was detached on September 27, 1942. After initially being assigned to the Atlantic Fleet
the USS McCawley was transferred to the Pacific Fleet. Upon its arrival in Wellington,
New Zealand the USS McCawley became the flagship of Rear Admiral Richmond K.
Turner, USN, Commander of Amphibious Forces for the Navy / Marine Corps
amphibious landings at Guadalcanal. On June 15, 1942 Robert Lorenz, already a
combat veteran was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade). Upon his detachment from
the USS McCawley on September 27, 1942 to attend Submarine School his
Commanding Officer stated the following in his Report on Fitness of Officers,
“Very good personal and military character. In action at Guadalcanal Aug.
7 – 9 & Sept 18, 1942 with creditable performance of duty.”
On October 19, 1942 Lt. (j.g.) Lorenz reported to Submarine School at New London, CT
for training to become a submarine officer. Two days later he was assigned to USS O-6
(SS 67), a World War I-era submarine used by that time for training submarine Sailors.
He was detached from the O-6 on December 18, 1942 to report to the Submarine
School to complete his training in submarines. Shortly before being detached from USS
0-6 he applied for transfer to the Regular U.S. Navy. His request was denied because
New York Merchant Marine Academy was not recognized as a Naval Reserve Officers
Training Corps unit. On March 27, 1943 Lt. (j.g.) Lorenz completed his training and was
transferred to Commander, Submarine Force Pacific for duty. Upon his arrival in Pearl
Harbor Lt. (j.g.) Lorenz was assigned to Submarine Division Forth Three for temporary
duty aboard one of its submarines and ultimate assignment to USS Pompano (SS 181).
According to his service record, Robert Lorenz was promoted to full Lieutenant on May 1, 1943. He reported aboard the USS Pompano on May 12, 1943, the day after it
began its refit period following its fifth war patrol. Lieutenant Lorenz was aboard for the
Pompano’s sixth war patrol, although he was not fully qualified in submarines until the
very last days of the patrol. After a thirty-day long refit at Midway, the Pompano
departed for its seventh war patrol on August 20, 1943. The Pompano’s orders were to
patrol the east coast of Honshu, Japan from August 29 to September 27, and then to
return to Pearl Harbor. The Pompano attacked and sank two Japanese ships, and
damaged a third, in early September.
A recent re-analysis of Japanese Navy records indicates that unbeknownst to the
Pompano’s crew, one of its fuel tanks had been damaged and was leaking oil. On
September 17 Japanese anti-submarine forces spotted a moving oil slick off the
northern coast of Honshu, about a mile off of the Shira Saki Lighthouse. The oil slick
was attacked by both aircraft and anti-submarine patrol craft, resulting in large
quantities of oil floating to the surface in a fixed location. On July 23, 2012 a U.S. Navy
minesweeper operating off Shira Saki detected what is described as a “possible
submarine” laying on the bottom.
The USS Pompano was stricken from the U.S. Naval Vessel Register on January 12, 1944. Lt. Robert Lorenz and the rest of the crew of the USS Pompano were declared dead on January 4, 1946.
Lieutenant Robert Lorenz, USNR was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and Submarine Combat Patrol Insignia with one star. He was also awarded the Merchant Marine Defense Bar. His name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii
Robert Lorenz was the youngest of Julius Lorenz and Eugenia Rieger Lorenz’ two sons.
Following graduation from Straubenmuller Textile High School in June 1936 Robert
attended New York University and Columbian Preparatory School (Washington, D.C.)
before entering New York Merchant Marine Academy in 1938. Robert and his older
brother Theodore grew up in a hotel in Westchester, NY where their father was either
the owner or manager.
PHOTO OF USS Pompano (SS-181) memorial
Juniper Hill Park, Frankfort, Kentucky