Snider, Paul G. ’44
Snider was appointed a Cadet Midshipman and received orders to report to the Navy/Coast Guard station in Algiers, LA on September 23, 1941. Along with 15 other appointees he arrived and was assigned to live in a large white house in the center of the base. It was dubbed the ‘country club house’. Each room had four midshipmen, two double deck bunks and a large study hall table with 4 chairs.
Uniforms and books were issued, a physical exam was given and the military regime began. Wake up call was 615 AM, made beds, cleaned rooms and reported to march down to the muddy Mississippi to row lifeboats for 30 minutes. Food was good and plentiful and we ate at the officer’s mess. Classes, instructions in the 4” and 5” guns, depth charges, torpedoes and mines were part of the day’s work; study halls and lights out by 10 PM. The C.O. was LCDR V. P. Hillyard who predicted we would be at war with Japan by the end of the year.
After 8 weeks of study we were to get leave for a week. Early in October we were told that leave was cancelled and after 8 weeks we would go to sea. In late October we were moved from the ‘Country Club House’ to the motor vessel North Star; a large private yacht previously owned by Dr. Mayo of Rochester, MN. It was large enough to berth all the cadets; we went from 4 to a room to 2 in a room but we still ate at the officer’s mess. My fist assignment was cancelled since the ship was being outfitted with guns and degaussing gear. On December 7th, after church services, we went to a movie; when the movie ended a man came out and announced that all military personnel must return to base as the Japs have attacked Pearl Harbor. We went back to the North Star, all liberty was cancelled and the next day we listened to President Roosevelt deliver the “Day of Infamy” speech. On 12/9 we were told that the course was shortened to 22 months, 10 months at sea and one year at the new Academy at Kings Point. On 12/15 I was sworn in as a Midshipman in the U. S. Naval Reserve and was told I could be called to serve on any man of war.
On 12/17/41 I was assigned to the SS Cripple Creek a ship that was being outfitted with guns; I was detached and assigned to the SS Del Plata that had just been painted battleship grey. We had some armament and a Navy gun crew on board but sailed to Mobile for installation of another 20 mm gun. Food was very good; best I ever had.
On 12/25 we sailed from Mobile; had to stop at Key West to land a sick seaman but then proceeded to Montevideo, Uruguay via St. Thomas VI. On January 18, 1942 we arrived in Montevideo; an American cruiser was in port. In dress whites we joined the Navy officers for dinner in their wardroom. On another night we went to the Ambassador’s home for cocktails and dinner. In the harbor at anchor was an interned German supply ship. We then went on to Buenos Aires, Argentina to load coffee.
On the morning of 2/20/42, in the Caribbean, 14 days out of Rio, I was thrown out of my bunk by a large explosion, the ship listed to starboard and I hurried to my battle station on the bridge. Orders were given to abandon ship. As the lifeboat was being swung out, I was in it securing the plug in the bottom of the boat when a seaman used an ax to cut the bow lines causing the boat to drop and in the process parted the after lines. The lifeboat hit the water and capsized; I was in the water and began swimming to a life raft that was still attached to the ship. The ship was moving astern and I could only watch as the 2nd and 3rd torpedo struck the ship. All but one of the lifeboats was launched and one of them picked me up from the raft. The last lifeboat was launched with the Captain, 1st Mate, gunnery Ensign and gun crew. In the late afternoon we were picked up by a small sub chaser USS Lapwing; all of the 52 crew slept on deck. At daybreak it was seen that the Del Plata was still afloat and a few of us boarded her to see if the boilers could be relit and the ship salvaged. While on board the gun crew saw a periscope and began firing on her. The ship was not salvageable and the Lapwing finisher her off with gunfire and we saw our home slip beneath the waves.
We were taken to San Juan, the gun crew was transferred to another ship and we were billeted in a hotel. The Red Cross provided personal items and $5 in cash. After several weeks we were put on an Army transport and made an uneventful trip to New Orleans.
I was detached and returned home to Spencerville, OH for R/R; after 2 days I was ordered to report in 2 days but transportation to New Orleans was impossible to obtain so I was ordered to await new orders. The ship I was originally assigned to was loaded with ammunition; it was sunk with the loss of all hands.
In December 1942 I was told to report to the SS Stephen C. Foster in a Houston shipyard where it was being finished. I was put up in a hotel. On January 16, 1943 I was awarded my first combat ribbon with star, which indicated I had been in a battle with the enemy and had lost my ship. I was told I was the 2nd midshipman to receive this ribbon. We left for Cuba to load sugar that was taken to NY. I was on the Foster from 1/28-3/2/43.
I was then ordered to Baltimore to join the army transport Edmond B. Alexander, the old German liner Amerika. She was being refitted from coal to oil; on March 9 we sailed for NY to load troops. We joined a large convoy of over 100 ships bound for Oran, North Africa. We had engine problems and it was disconcerting to see the convoy sail across the horizon but we made it through the Straits of Gibraltar and entered port where it took several days to unload the troops.
The return cargo was thousands of German and Italian prisoners of war. They were put to work chipping and painting the ship. While not on watch I would study and talk to the prisoners. We would barter and I came into possession of a German Purple Heart and a nice silver ring. The prisoners were under the impression that they were winning and would not be in the States very long. We sailed for Boston where the prisoners were made to walk through a delousing shed to kill the lice. From Boston we sailed to the Brooklyn Navy yard and I was discharged from the Alexander on June 4, 1943 and reported to Kings Point. I graduated on 25 February, 1944 and went on active duty with the Navy.
In a letter dated 1/13/13 to George Ryan from Paul Snider he states: ”The 16 men who were all at Algiers when the Japs attacked, all had at least one ship torpedoed; Ralph Mock from New Mexico lost two, a cadet from Florida, last name Boyd, lost three.”
(Transcribers note: Paul Snider reported to his fist C/M sea duty on 12/17/41 and was finished 6/4/43; one year, 6 months, 18 days although some of that time was awaiting repatriation after being sunk and on leave awaiting next assignment.)