Yewell, Jr., Fulton Edison

Fulton Edison Yewell, Jr.
Born: September 28, 1921
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Class: 1943
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Second Mate
Date / Place of death: December 2, 1943 / Bari, Italy
Date / Place of burial: December 2, 1943 / Bari, Italy -Lost at Sea
Age: 22



Fulton E. Yewell entered the U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps on July 11, 1941 when
he reported to the Cadet School at Fort Schuyler, NY. However, he did not receive a
Naval Reserve appointment due to his “. . . inability to meet naval physical
requirements.” Despite this setback, his performance at the Cadet School as of August
30, 1941 was noted as being “Superior”. During his at sea training Fulton served
aboard the SS Cranford until it was torpedoed by U-155 on July 30, 1942. He returned
to Kings Point as a member of the “Tin Fish Club” wearing the Combat Bar with Star
and Atlantic War Zone Bar.

After graduation from Kings Point with Section A-105, Fulton Yewell signed on as Third
Mate aboard the SS John L. Motley at Baltimore, MD on June 4, 1943, shortly after it
was delivered from its builders, Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipbuilding, to the War Shipping
Administration. Also joining the ship on the same day were Cadet-Midshipmen Edward
Howard (Deck Cadet) and Jay Litton (Engine Cadet). The John L. Motley made one
voyage to the Mediterranean and returned to New York from Oran in mid-September
1943. Coast Guard Records show that Fulton Yewell was promoted to Second Mate
and signed on it that capacity on October 16, 1943. After loading a cargo of
ammunition, the John L. Motley sailed on its second voyage to the Mediterranean,
reaching the crowded harbor of Bari, Italy on November 28, 1943.

On December 2, 1943 the John L. Motley was moored alongside the jetty at Bari, Italy
discharging its cargo when a massive German air attack on the port took defenders by
surprise. The attack and ensuing explosions sank seventeen ships and put the harbor
out of use for three weeks. This attack become known as “Little Pearl Harbor”.

A Naval Armed Guard member on the SS John Bascom, moored next to the John L.
Motley, reported that the John L. Motley sustained three bomb hits, one in the Number
5 hold, one in the Number 3 hold, and one down the vessel’s stack.
The crew was able to control the fires caused by the first strike, but after the second hit, the fires on board raged out of control, burning through the vessel’s mooring lines, and setting her adrift. The subsequent explosion of the Motley’s cargo killed everyone on board, including Fulton E. Yewell, Jr., and Cadet- Midshipmen Edward D. Howard and Jay F. Litton.
However, the damage caused by German bombs to the John L. Motley did not end there. The explosion on the John Motley set off a chain reaction on the nearby SS John Harvey, which was carrying a secret cargo of mustard gas munitions. The John Harvey, which had already been hit and was on fire, disintegrated when the Motley exploded, releasing deadly mustard gas into the air and water around the vessel. The death toll in Bari was more than 1,000 civilians and Allied seamen. Six Kings Point cadets were lost, on three different
vessels. Thousands more seamen and civilians sustained serious injuries caused by
the exposure to mustard gas. The effect of these injuries was exacerbated by the fact
that doctors in the area didn’t realize they were treating mustard gas victims.
Upon his death Fulton E. Yewell had earned, or was posthumously awarded, the
Mariner’s Medal, the Combat Bar with two stars, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the
Mediterranean – Middle East War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal and Presidential
Testimonial Letter.

Fulton E. Yewell, was the only son of Fulton E. Yewell, Sr. and Rose Delano Yewell.
Baltimore City Directories from the 1920’s indicate that Fulton Sr. was a builder.
However, the couple were divorced some time in the 1920’s The 1930 U.S. Census
shows that Fulton and his mother were living with Fulton’s uncle, John S. Delano, a
Chesapeake Bay pilot. By 1940, according to that year’s U.S. Census, Fulton’s mother
was married to William M. Burich and Fulton is listed as Mr. Burich’s stepson. Mr.
Burich worked as a salesman for a local dairy.

The April, 1943 edition of “Polaris” described Fulton Yewell upon his graduation;

“‘Steamboat’ is famous for the speed with which he completes his
examinations. Famed for his double-jointedness, being able to bend in
any direction. Can turn around and look himself over. Is opposed to
everything traditional and loudly makes it known.”

2 thoughts on “Yewell, Jr., Fulton Edison

  1. Cadet Fulton Yewell
    Story by Joseph Mahoney, Class of 1943 passed along to George Ryan, January 16, 2012.
    Joseph Mahoney died July 7, 2012

    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 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 but he was having great difficulty urinating. 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. 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.
    As related by Joseph Mahoney, Class of 1943

    • Correspondence between Tom Schroeder and Rainer Kolbicz,
      Hi Rainer,
      Thanks for your quick reply. It must have been U-106 because of the similarities. Northbound tanker date etc. I will send you a copy the e mail describing the incident. I hope to have it included in the forthcoming book.
      Again thanks.
      —– Original Message —–
      From: Rainer Kolbicz
      To: ‘Tom Schroeder’
      Sent: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 6:16 PM
      Subject: AW: U-103
      Hi Tom
      I hope you had a nice Christmas. U-103 did not report such an encounter, but it could have been U-106 which collided with a northbound tanker in naval grid CA5879 (37°33N/73°34W) at 13.07 hours German time (06.07 EST) on 30 Jan, 1942. The U-boat was about to dive for a submerged attack on the ship when the tanker turned towards it and struck its upper deck over the capstan. As U-106 was already submerging, only the superstructure forward was slightly damaged when pushed down by the hull of the tanker, but the action made it possible for the tanker to escape.
      However, the date and position is a bit far from where your Cadet described the incident, so I am not quite sure if the tanker encountered by U-106 really was OLNEY. It is also strange that this ramming attempt is not mentioned anywhere in the US naval documents I have. For the time in question the OLNEY is only mentioned once in the ESF diary: 28 Jan, 1942, 0622 EST, OLNEY reported being chased by sub abeam Winter Quarter Gas Buoy.
      Kind regards
      Rainer, Crew member of
      Von: Tom Schroeder []
      Gesendet: Montag, 24. Dezember 2012 23:01
      An: Rainer Kolbicz
      Betreff: U-103
      Hi Rainer,
      Merry Christmas.
      I have a write-up from a WW-II USMMA Cadet who on Feb 1, 1942 was on the SS Olney a tanker off the coast of New Jersey.

      It was at night (230 hours) when they spotted a U boat on the surface and attempted to ram it. The hit was at an angle of about 15 degrees.

      The Cadet heard a loud crash and the scraping of the vessels hull. He also saw 2 German sailors dash down the open hatch and close it behind them.

      In that time period the U-103 was operating in that area and sunk some ships. Do you have anything about this incident?
      Best regards,

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