Vancure, Robert Charles

Robert Charles Vancure
Born: October 27, 1919
Hometown: Youngstown, OH
Class: 1944
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Engine Cadet
Date / Place of death: January 9, 1943 / North Atlantic,
56-15 N, 22-00 W
Date / Place of burial: January 9, 1943 / North Atlantic,
56-15 N, 22-00 W – Lost at Sea
Age: 23


Robert Vancure signed on aboard the SS Louise Lykes as Engine Cadet on October 18, 1942 at New York, NY. He was joined by three other Kings Point Cadet-
Midshipmen, Charles Gassner (Deck), Allen Miller (Deck) and Eugene Walters (Deck).
In addition, the ship’s Third Assistant Engineer, Frederick Baumann and Third Mate,
Harry Wolfe, were former U.S. Maritime Commission Cadet Officers. The Louise Lykes
made one voyage to the Mediterranean and returned to New York on December 12,
1942. A fifth Cadet-Midshipman, Marion Chrobak (Engine) joined the ship for its next
voyage. The ship sailed on January 2, 1943 loaded with general cargo and ammunition
bound for Belfast, Northern Ireland. For unknown reasons the ship did not sail in a
convoy and was not escorted. On January 9, 1943 the ship was in mid-Atlantic several
hundred miles south of Iceland.

On the evening of January 9, 1943, U-384 located the solitary ship and fired four
torpedoes while surfaced. Two torpedoes hit the ship which, according to German
Navy records, disintegrated in a massive explosion. The captain of the U-384 reported
that he had to submerge the submarine to prevent damage from falling debris. When
the submarine re-surfaced 5 minutes later there was no sign of the ship or its crew.
There were no other witnesses to the disaster, and there were no survivors among the
50 merchant crew, 34 Naval Armed Guard, and 10 U.S. Army personnel aboard,
including the five Cadet-Midshipmen and two Cadet Officers. This was the single
deadliest sinking in the Academy’s history. .

Cadet-Midshipman Robert C. Vancure was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone
Bar, the Victory Medal, and the Presidential Testimonial Letter.

Robert C. “Bob” Vancure was the eldest of Charles E. Vancure and Henrietta Bingham
Vancure’s five children. Bob had three brothers, John, W illiam and Thomas. His little
sister, Dorothy, remembered Bob as being very protective of her and his two younger
brothers. Dorothy remembers that Bob always had some kind of part time job to help
out with the family finances and to maintain his Model T Ford. According to the 1940
U.S. Census, Bob was working as a machinist in a local steel mill. His sister said that
he was training to follow in his father’s footsteps as a tool and die maker. However,
when the war came his interest in ships and the sea led him to his training as an
engineer at the Merchant Marine Academy. Dorothy specifically recalls,

“He was always cheerful, upbeat and positive. He had a sense of humor
that infected the lives of all who were a part of his short life.”

Photo of SS Louise Lykes

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