John Paul Tucek, Jr.
Born: August 8, 1922
Hometown: Rutherford, NJ
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: March 10, 1943 /
Caribbean,19-49 N, 74-38 W
Date / Place of burial: March 10, 1943 /
Caribbean,19-49 N, 74-38 W – Lost at Sea
John P. Tucek signed on aboard the SS James Sprunt as Deck Cadet on February 23,
1943 at Charleston, South Carolina. He was joined by his Academy classmates Cadet-
Midshipmen Michael Buck (Engine), Howard McGrath (Engine) and James Rowley
(Deck). The ship loaded at Charleston for a voyage to Karachi, India via Texas and the
Panama Canal with general cargo and 4,000 tons of high explosives.
On the morning of March 10, 1943 the James Sprunt was traveling in convoy KG-123
about three miles southeast of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Another ship in the convoy,
the Virginia Sinclair, had been torpedoed at 0430 on the same morning. At 0809 U-185
fired torpedoes at the convoy, hitting the James Sprunt.
At 0810 the SS James Sprunt’s cargo of explosives blew up with extraordinary force,
disintegrating completely. The glare from the explosion was seen more than forty miles
away, and witnesses on other ships recalled the violent tremors, and debris that fell like
hail on the other ships. There were no survivors among the 43 crew members and 28
Naval Armed Guard members including all four Kings Point Cadet Midshipmen; Michael
Buck, Howard McGrath, James Rowley, and John Tucek.
The thirty day life of the SS James Sprunt may have been the shortest life span of any
Liberty ship. The ship was delivered from North Carolina Shipbuilding to the War
Shipping Administration on February 13, 1943, loaded cargo from the 19th to the 29th
and was destroyed on March 10, 1943.
Cadet-Midshipman John P. Tucek was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Combat Bar, Atlantic War Zone Bar, Victory Medal and Presidential Testimonial Letter.
John Paul Tucek, Jr. was the son of John Paul Tucek, Sr. and Rose June Tucek. He
graduated from high school in Rutherford, New Jersey in 1941 where he was the
Captain and star of his high school football team during his senior year. A passenger
list on file in New York indicates that John and his mother took a trip to Curacao in 1934
aboard SS Astrea, so he was no stranger to the sea. John attended Washington and
Lee University after graduation. After one year there, he decided to apply for admission
to Kings Point in June 1942 and reported for his initial training in October 1942.
Photo of SS James Sprunt shortly after completion