George Robert Race
Born: April 18, 1919
Hometown: Schenectady, NY
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Engine Cadet
Date / Place of death: February 7, 1943 /
North Atlantic, 55-18N, 26-29W
Date / Place of burial: February 7, 1943 /
North Atlantic, 55-18N, 26-29W
Lost at Sea
George R. Race signed on aboard the U.S. Army Transport SS Henry R. Mallory as
Engine Cadet on January 15, 1943 at Boston, MA. Joining him were Cadet-
Midshipmen Robert Helling, Richard E. Holland (Deck) and Frank C. Roberts (Deck).
Two Cadet-Midshipmen were already aboard from the ship’s previous voyage; Joseph
E. Best (Deck) and James A. Hammershoy (Engine).The Henry R. Mallory was built in 1918 as a passenger and cargo ship.
The Henry R. Mallory sailed on January 24, 1943 as part of slow convoy SC-118 bound
for Liverpool via Nova Scotia. However, the Henry R. Mallory and several other ships
were to split off from the convoy on February 9 to proceed to Iceland. Loaded with 383
Army, Navy, Marine Corps and civilian passengers, the ship was also carrying a mixed
cargo of clothing, food, trucks, tanks, cigarettes, liquor and 610 sacks of mail.
On February 4, 1943 German submarines sighted the convoy and began attacking it.
The attacks continued until the afternoon of February 7. At 0538 GCT on February 7,
despite the rising sea and snow falling, a torpedo fired by U-402 struck the starboard
side of the Henry R. Mallory at Hold #3, damaging the engines and blowing the hatch
covers off of Hold #4. At the time of the explosion the Henry R. Mallory was traveling at
about 7 knots and was not steering an evasive course. According to some survivors
the ship began sinking immediately, while others, apparently including the Captain,
believed that the ship would remain afloat. As a result neither distress messages nor
flares were launched. In addition, after the sinking survivors reported that the General
Alarm was not rung and no order was given to abandon ship. In the confusion of the
greater attack on the convoy, none of the other ships in the convoy knew that the Henry
R. Mallory had been hit.
However, the Henry R. Mallory’s engines were badly damaged and quickly shut down.
Two of the aft lifeboats had been damaged in the explosion while others were damaged
by the heavy seas, but the remainder seemed secure. When the ship suddenly began
sinking faster by the stern the abrupt change caused panic among passengers and
crew. Men rushed on deck amid frigid temperatures without proper protective clothing.
In the chaos, only three boats were lowered successfully, and each of these was
dangerously overloaded either during launching or after picking up survivors from the
water. Several other boats capsized as crew and passengers tried to launch them.
Many of the life rafts could not be launched either because they were tied or frozen in
place. Others were insufficiently trained in how to use their rafts and did not properly
deploy key parts of the raft to prevent capsizing in the heavy seas. Hundreds of the
men aboard jumped overboard, where they would be forced to wait several hours in the
Meanwhile, the situation on the overloaded lifeboats was perilous. According to Cadet-
Midshipman Joseph Best, his life boat was intended for fifty men but held eighty. With
so much weight the boats gunwales were just inches above the water and the high seas
threatened to either capsize or simply sink the boat. Many of the men frantically bailed
with anything they could lay their hands on to keep the boat afloat while others
jettisoned anything that did not appear to be necessary to survive their imminent
sinking. However, Cadet-Midshipman Best took custody of the distress rockets and
flares because he thought, “. . . they might become useful.”
With daylight the men in Best’s boat sighted the USCGC Bibb (WPG 31). The rockets
hoarded by Best were fired into the air while Cadet-Midshipman Frank C. Roberts
waved a yellow flag to attract the Bibb’s attention. The Bibb saved 205 freezing
survivors of the Mallory, including those in the life boat with Cadet-Midshipmen Best
and Roberts. The Bibb’s sister ship, USCGC Ingham (WPG 35) also picked up some
survivors. According to the official U.S. Coast Guard history of the USCGC Bibb,
“Lookouts aboard the Bibb sighted one of the Mallory’s lifeboats at 1000
and, disobeying an order to return to the convoy, Bibb’s commanding
officer, CDR Roy Raney, ordered his cutter to begin rescuing survivors.
Many of Bibb’s crewmen leapt into the water to assist the nearly frozen survivors, and the cutter Ingham assisted. One of Ingham’s crew described the scene, a dreadfully common one along the North Atlantic that year:
“I never saw anything like it, wood all over the place and
bodies in life jackets … never saw so many dead fellows in
my whole life. Saw lots of mail bags, boxes, wood, wood
splinters, empty life jackets, oars, upturned boats, empty life
rafts, bodies, parts of bodies, clothes, cork, and a million
other things that ships have in them. I hope I never see
another drowned man as long as I live.”
Among the 272 men who died in the frigid water were Cadet-Midshipmen George R.
Race, Jay A. Hammershoy, and Richard E. Holland. In a sad twist of fate, Richard
Holland had survived the sinking of the SS William Clark three months earlier.
Cadet-Midshipman George R. Race was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal and Presidential
George R. Race was the second son of Nicholas Racz and Magdalena Helen Racz,
who had emigrated to the U.S. before World War I. According to the 1940 U.S.
Census, George’s family name was spelled Racz, although it became “Americanized”
within the following two years. In 1940 George was working as an Apprentice
Electrician while his father worked in a bakery. George reported to Kings Point in
October 1942. George’s older brother, Victor, sailed aboard U.S. Army Transports in
the Atlantic and Pacific during World War II