Mahoney, Joseph ‘43
In early June 1941, I arrived at Fort Schuyler, Bronx, New York City to begin my preliminary training for preparation for sea duty. Upon arrival I was given a khaki uniform, and was told to put it on in the barracks on the second deck. The pants were tight and as I struggled to put them on; I leaned against a 7 foot tall clothing locker. It tipped over hitting a second locker and finally 12 lockers down the line fell. The last locker fell against the window and broke a pane of glass. The shattered glass fell on Commander John “Jackie” Wilson, Commandant of Cadets, who happened to be walking by. Jackie had been a Master of many freighters of U. S. Lines for many years and had come ashore to assist in the Cadet Corps program. Jackie had the notion that “someone was always trying to get him”. He ran upstairs to the barracks where I was alone with the fallen lockers, and the pants wrapped around my legs.
Jackie said “What is your name cadet?” I told him. Jackie said, “What’s going to happen to you, Mahoney, is you’re going on a Tanker” Jackie believed that the worst thing that could happen to anyone is to sail on a tanker.
About 2 1/2 months later I was assigned to the tanker SS OLNEY, owned by the Pennsylvania Shipping Company I signed on as Engine Cadet on September 17, 1941. The ship was on a shuttle run from Fall River, MA to Lake Charles, LA. On the completion of my first voyage upon arrival back in Fall River, in early November 1941, Deck Cadet Fulton Yewell signed on. I did ask Fulton on many occasions what remarkable achievement he had accomplished to merit being assigned to the OLNEY.
Fulton would never comment on that. I was delighted to have him aboard. We shared a large stateroom on the starboard side on the second deck of the midship house. A walkway existed around the midship house. Except for a few officers, most of the old timers were not very sociable. They were concerned that the cadets would soon be replacing them. They also thought we were coming up the easy way. They were obviously unaware that the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 called for the building of many new vessels that would need officers and crew.
The SS OLNEY was headed south on the way to Lake Charles when we received a message via the ship’s radio that the original four year course that was planned for the Cadet Corps had been reduced to 18 months. Fulton and I were stunned that in a little over a year we would have to sit for our licenses as third mate or third assistant engineer. The ship was off the coast of Florida on December 7, 1941. We were both in our room working on our Sea Projects when we heard that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. The following day the U.S. declared war on Japan. It was followed by Germany declaring war on the U.S. By the time we had passed into the Gulf of Mexico and before arriving in Lake Charles we heard of German Subs sinking American Ships along the East Coast. We came alongside the dock at Lake Charles terminal. We waited for our gasoline cargo for a week or so before loading. It may have been delayed due to the Christmas Holiday season. Fulton took advantage of this delay and went ashore many times to socialize with the friends he had made. He looked quite impressive as he went ashore compared to the shaggy crew of the OLNEY, and it worked very well in his shore activities. I stayed aboard during this period, having been there before.
We left Lake Charles with a full load of gasoline in the early part of January 1942. As we sailed thru the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic we heard maydays and reports of ships torpedoed. The OLNEY sailed with no running lights, and no lights visible to the outside.
Somewhere off the coast of the Carolinas, Cadet Yewell was feeling distressed. I told the 2nd Mate, who according to our cadet’s textbook “The Ship’s Medicine Chest” was the ship’s medical officer. The 2nd mate was a graduate of the N.Y. State School Ship. Fulton was vague in explaining his pain to me. The 2nd mate had Fulton relocated to the ship’s hospital room. The Mate told the Captain that it was essential that Fulton get ashore to a hospital. The Captain planned to get him to the Staten Island Marine Hospital since we were then off the coast of New Jersey and N.Y. Harbor not far away.
On the night of February 1, 1941, the watch on deck in the darkness of the night saw a submarine ahead and to starboard. The submarine was on the surface obviously charging batteries. The hatch of the sub was open and two sailors were at ease on deck. They had not been alert to see the OLNEY. The OLNEY with its reciprocating steam engine did not make a fuss going through the water. It was about 2330 hours. The Chief Mate was on watch, and as soon as the sub was sighted he quickly turned the ship to starboard to ram the sub. The hit was at an angle of about 15 degrees. I heard the load crash and the scraping of the vessel’s hulls. My room was adjacent and above. I immediately went out to the walkway and looked down at the sub. The deck watch already had large search light shining on the deck of the sub. I saw two German sailors dash down the open hatch and close it behind them. The OLNEY did not slow down and the Mate put the ship back on course to N.Y. Harbor. There were now two reasons to go into New York Harbor. One was to inspect for any hull damage, the other was to get Cadet Yewell to the Marine Hospital.
The OLNEY arrived in New York Harbor the next day, February 2, 1941. The Chief Mate told the engine room to speed up the ship if possible. The Chief Engineer later said we may have gone to 8 3/4 knots from our standard 8 1/2. That morning the Captain, D.G. Brodginski, told me to pack my gear and go with Cadet Yewell on the pilot boat to make sure he gets to the Staten Island Marine Hospital safely and fast. That we did.
I never saw Fulton Yewell again. Years later I heard he graduated from the Academy in 1943. Later, by reading Captain Arthur R. Moore’s (Class of 1944) book, I learned that Fulton was lost while serving as 2nd Mate on the SS MOTLEY.
Two weeks later I was reassigned to a new U.S Lines freighter, the MV AMERICAN MANUFACTURER. We left New York on February 19, 1942, went thru the Panama Canal and on to Australia. We returned June 16, 1942 to NYC.