Lyons, Gordon W.

Gordon Wallace Lyons                                             Lyons, Gordon W. jpeg

Born: December 4, 1917                                           Hometown: Dallas, TX
Class: 1942
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Chief Mate
Date / Place of death: August 28, 1944 / 15-10N, 55-18E
Date / Place of burial: August 28, 1944 / Lost at Sea 15-10N, 55-18E
Age: 24


According to Academy records, Gordon W. Lyons was one of 47 men who took the
competitive examination to join the U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps on November
16, 1940. He passed the examination and signed on as Deck Cadet aboard the SS
Zoella Lykes at New Orleans on April 8, 1941. Crew lists show that the he made at
least two voyages to the Far East aboard the Zoella Lykes. Academy records also
show that by December 1941 he had returned to the Maritime Commission Cadet
School at Algiers, LA where he received 25 demerits for returning late from leave.
According to his U.S. Navy Service Record, Gordon W. Lyons was appointed a
Midshipman (Cadet), MMR/USNR on April 17, 1941. He was detached on December
30, 1941 and assigned as Deck Cadet to the SS Nishmaha. His U.S. Navy records
indicate that he graduated from the Merchant Marine Cadet program on July 6, 1942
and received his Third Mate’s license on July 11, 1942. He was subsequently employed
as Third Mate aboard the SS Frederick Lykes since August 8, 1942. He signed off of
the Frederick Lykes on March 11, 1943. Shortly before signing on aboard the SS
Frederick Lykes, Gordon Lyons applied for a commission as Ensign, USNR. He was
commissioned on October 13, 1942 with a date of rank September 22, 1942.

Gordon W. Lyons had signed on Chief Mate aboard the SS John Barry when it sailed
from Philadelphia, PA on July 19, 1944 bound for Dharan, Saudi Arabia. The ship was
carrying a cargo of oil drilling equipment, pipe, vehicles, and other war material. In
addition to the ship’s normal cargo it was also carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars
worth of silver Saudi rials, newly struck at the Philadelphia Mint, to pay oil field workers
in Saudi Arabia. After sailing in convoy to Port Said, Egypt, the John Barry passed
through the Suez Canal sailing unescorted en-route to the Persian Gulf.

On the evening of August 28, 1944 the John Barry was off of the coast of Oman sailing
in moderately rough seas under bright moonlight. The zig-zagging freighter was spotted
by U-859 which fired at least one torpedo at, or shortly after, 1800 GCT. One torpedo
hit the John Barry’s starboard side between the #2 and #3 holds, destroying the Number
1 lifeboat. The other boats were reported to have been launched within fifteen minutes
of the torpedo explosion. However, the Number 2 lifeboat, with Chief Mate Gordon
Lyons aboard, was swamped during launching throwing its crew into the water. The
boat was eventually righted, bailed out and put back into use. However, neither Gordon
Lyons nor another of Number 2 Lifeboat’s crew could be found once the life boat was
righted. These two men, who are presumed to have drowned when the boat swamped,
were the only fatalities in the sinking of the SS John Barry. The other 66 men were
rescued the next day by the SS Sunetta, a Dutch tanker, and the SS Benjamin Bourn.

Forty five minutes after the first torpedo hit the SS John Barry, U-859 fired a second
torpedo which hit amidships breaking the ship in two, sinking it in 8,500 feet of water. In
1989 a converted drill ship recovered a little less than half of the silver rials stowed in
the John Barry’s #2 Hold.

Gordon Lyons’ photograph indicates that he had already been awarded the Atlantic War
Zone, Pacific War Zone and Mediterranean and Middle-East W ar Zone bars before he
signed on aboard the SS John Barry. For his service aboard the SS John Barry he was
posthumously awarded the Mariner’s Medal and Combat Bar with star. In addition, he
would have also received the Victory Medal and the Presidential Testimonial Letter.

According to U.S. Census information, Gordon W. Lyons was the oldest of Percy Felix
Lyons and Agnes Cecilia Hughes Lyons’ three sons and three daughters. Gordon’s
siblings, who ranged from three to nine years younger, were Jessie, Robert, Kenneth,
Marion and Doris. These records indicate that although Gordon was born in Illinois, the
rest of his siblings were born in either Mississippi (Jessie) or Louisiana. However, by
the time of the 1930 U.S. Census the Lyons family was living in Dallas, TX where Percy
Lyons worked as a railroad engineer. In 1935 Gordon graduated from North Dallas
High School. According to the 1940 U.S. Census Gordon was living in New Orleans
where he was employed as a clerk in a warehouse in 1940 before he applied for the
Merchant Marine Cadet Corps.

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