The SS Otho

On 3 April 1942, just a few months before my dad would board the Zircon, the merchant ship SS Otho was sunk off the east coast by a torpedo from the German submarine U-754 while en route from Takoradi, Gold Coast (British West Africa) to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The torpedo struck the ship’s starboard side below the stack at the bulkhead between the #3 tank and the engine room, and within fifteen minutes, the ship disappeared into the Atlantic. Most of the fifty-three men aboard the Otho managed to abandon the ship within five minutes in three boats and a raft. At shortly after noon on the 8th, the Zircon picked up that raft and sixteen of the Otho’s survivors. (Ultimately, only twenty-one men survived the attack.)

USS Zircon Deck Log from 8 April 1942
Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania) Record, Saturday, 11 April 1942, Page 1

The list of men rescued by the Zircon:

John Frank Augustine
Philip Westerly Babcock
Harold Joseph Bohnen
Torsten Carlson
Malin Derrickson
Alric Jackson Edwards
Carl Oscar Hansen
Robert Vincent L’Hommedieu
Edward Thomas Magruder
Acsielo M. Perez
Carl Foch Roberts
James Lee Tigner
Cristobal Velasquez
Parke Milburn Ward
Will Bussey Wiley
Stanley Anthony Zelinski

The Zircon’s deck log has Derrickson’s first name as “Maliu” and newspaper accounts such as the above Wilkes-Barre Record, reported his name as “Marlin.” Based on an Ancestry page and obituaries I’ve found for, I believe, his son and wife, Malin appears to have been his name. I’ve also found Malin used on a couple of sunken ships websites.

I’ve not yet made contact with any of the families of the sixteen survivors, but I found photos at UBoat.net of Torsten Carlson (who died just six months later when the SS Examelia was sunk by U-68 about twenty miles south of the Cape of Good Hope) and James Lee Tigner. Based on Tigner’s 2011 obituary, he and his wife did not have children as they had devoted their lives to missionary work for the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Tigner’s wife, Jayne, was instrumental in having a memorial built in London, Connecticut for those who had lost their lives in the Merchant Marines. I’m still searching for something about that.

Torsten Carlson (left) and James Lee Tigner

I also found a photo of survivor Edward Thomas Magruder with a few family members, including his sisters, Dorothy and Lorraine. Below the photo is the text that accompanies the photo on Ancestry. Employed by Pan American Airway Lines as a plumber, Magruder was a civilian on the Otho when it went down. A couple of years later he joined the Navy. It appears that he had at least two children from his first marriage. He died 2 December 1984.

“Dorothy Magruder (Eddie’s Sister), Eddie holding Glenn, Mom hugging Jean, Buddy in front of Dorothy, and Lainie holding bible. Summer of 1944.”

Since the Otho went down, it’s highly unlikely that many photos exist that might have been taken aboard the ship, although I found this one at dock via Sunken Ships of the Outer Banks blog…

SS Otho (date unknown)

…and another at eBay that shows very little of the ship while underway.

Date on back of photo: 18 January 1941

The Otho was launched on 28 February of 1920, so it was just shy of being twenty-two years old when it went down.

The Tacoma Daily Ledger, 29 February 1920

As best as I can tell, the following sailors were aboard the Zircon the day of the rescue. Once the National Archives is open again, and I’m able to get deck logs from that month, I probably won’t know for sure.

Ignacio Acack
Arthur Merrill Adams
Gilbert Atwood Anderson
Joseph Francis Baldassare
Raymond John Battistelli
Frederick Joseph Beloin
John Stuart Bennethum
Joseph Cornelius Benson, Jr.
Harry Reno Blankenship
Samual/Samuel Booker
Thomas Brader
Berton Johnson Byers
Page Herman Carter
*Howard Cochrane
Francis Michael Conlon
*Edward Lee Crain
Sylvester Craven
Arthur R DeFields
William Louis Dommerich
Thomas Stephen Dunstan
John Robert Edwards
Burton Sandiford Evans
George Joseph Fager
Pete Richard Federoff
William Joseph Franey
John G Gay
John Thomas Gleeson
Anthony George Gutsch
Louis Monroe Harper, Jr.
Edward Davis Howland
Walter Hudgins Gordon
Ronald Johnson
Daniel Johnson
Burris Beaty Jones
Charles Jordan
Randall Manuel Keator, Jr.
Alexander Joseph Kotarba
*Martin John Kuck
George La Roy
Edward Lawrence Larsen
James Francis Ledwith
George Love
Francis James Lynch
Paul Magera
Angelo Maiorano
John McGhie
John Charles McNicol
James Eli Monte
John Earl Morgan
Charles Milne Morris
William Mortimer Newman
Orla Ezra Nichols, Jr.
**Stanley Thomas Niciejewski
Alfred Lester Nickles
Henry John Niemczyk
Anthony Nigro
**Joseph Francis Nolan
Edwin Lathrope Oakley
**Robert Davidson O’Brien
Eugene Martin O’Connell
**Edward Daniel O’Connell
William Henry Oesterle
James Thomas O’Hagan
Erhard Linus Olson
Thomas Augustine O’Neil
Eugene Patrick O’Shea
Henry John O’Toole
Julio Sabila Pacalioga
John Herbert Peach
William Ganeric Petrushonis
William Edward Pitt
William Bibbins Post
*Edward Walter Ranski
William Richard Salomons, Jr.
Charles Owen Schauss
George Preston Seybolt
Michael Joseph Silvasie
Theodore Soltys
Christopher Sottile
William Dixon Stevens
Carl Stone
Kenneth Edward Thompson
Edwin Thorne
Frank Truhn, Jr.
Elster Johannessen Tufte
Anthony Joseph Viviano
Wellesley Plant Wheeler
Julius Peter Wilkowski (Peter J. Wills)

*Received for temporary duty on 3 April 1942 and transferred 22 April 1942. I suspect that they were aboard for training, as one was rated Seaman, First Class (Cochrane), two were rated Seaman, Second Class (Crain and Kuck), and one, Apprentice Seaman (Ranski).

**Niciejewski, Nolan, O’Brien, and O’Connell were transferred to the USS Sylph on 3 April 1942 for temporary duty. and returned for duty on the Zircon on the 22nd. It would seem that this was to make room for Cochrane, Crain, Kuck, and Ranski.

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