2 ships sunk, Hull assails Nazi 'terror' (10-22-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 22, 1941)

Sinking toll now 10 –
2 ships sunk, Hull assails Nazi 'terror’

Lawlessness of high seas called part of world conquest scheme

Subs strike twice

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This map shows the probable routes of the freighters Bold Venture and Lehigh, the ninth and tenth U.S. ships sunk since the start of the war.

Washington, Oct. 22 (UP) –
Secretary of State Cordell Hull said at his press conference today that the sinking of the American-flag freighter Lehigh was a perfect example of:

…the Nazi policy of attempting to create a reign of terror, frightfulness and absolute lawlessness on the high seas.

The sinking of the Lehigh off the African Gold Coast last Sunday and the sinking of the American-operated freighter Bold Overture south of Iceland on Oct. 16 which were announced yesterday brought the total of American ships lost since the start of the war to 10.

Mr. Hull said the Nazi policy of terror is being demonstrated:

…especially on the Atlantic.

Raps Neutrality Act

The Secretary said it was an immediate part of the Nazi program and the movement for world conquest to commit acts on the high seas which are:

…contrary to all law and in harmony with all the definition of piracy and assassination.

Mr. Hull said that such a program was designed to threaten and intimidate nations like the United States from carrying out necessary self-defense.

He added that this was another reason why many in the government have been encouraging revision of the Neutrality Act. He said provisions of the law interfere with effective defense against such acts on the high seas, which he described as violative of every right of nations to navigate the seas.

Half World War total

The United States now has lost half the number of ships since the present war started in September 1939 that it lost before America entered World War I in 1917. 20 American ships were sunk between January 1915 and April 1917.

The Lehigh, owned by the Maritime Commission, was sunk at 9 p.m. Sunday off the West African Gold Coast.

The Bold Venture, also owned by the Maritime Commission but under Panamanian registry, was sent to the bottom off the coast of Iceland on Thursday, Oct. 16.

Attacked by submarines

No loss of life was reported in either incident.

Announcement of the sinkings came in swift sequence – one from the White House, the other from the State Department.

President Roosevelt announced the Lehigh sinking to his press conference three minutes after he had received the news himself. He said a submarine was the attacker and plainly indicated that it was a German U-boat.

An hour later, the State Department announced the Bold Venture sinking. The Maritime Commission said the ship – carrying cotton, steel, copper and general cargo – was also sunk by a submarine, apparently German. It announced the position as about 700 miles south of the western extremities of Iceland.

Entire crew saved

The Bold Venture went down some 24 hours before a submarine – presumably German – torpedoed the U.S. destroyer Kearny 350 miles southwest of Iceland with a loss of 11 seamen and injury to 10 others.

Rear Admiral Harold R. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the Kearny was engaged in convoy duty when attacked. This aroused speculation whether the Kearny had played any part in convoying the Bold Venture and whether the same submarine which attacked the merchant ship also trailed the Kearny and subsequently torpedoed her.

A report to the Maritime Commission said 22 of the Lehigh’s crew had been picked up by the British vessel Vimy, now en route to Bathurst, a British West African port.

The commission announced today that the 22 missing seamen of the Lehigh’s crew of 44 had landed safely at Freetown, British West Africa. Arrangements were being made by the operators of the vessel to return the Lehigh crew to the United States.

The State Department said that 17 of the Bold Venture’s crew of 32 – none of them Americans – had landed at Reykjavík, Iceland. The crew consisted of five Danish, 16 Norwegian, three British, five Canadian, two Swedish and one Scotch seamen.

Former Danish ship

The Bold Venture, of 3,222 tons, was formerly the Danish ship Alssund. She was seized by the United States at Baltimore last March and was operated by the Waterman Steamship Agency of Mobile, Ala., under Panamanian registry. She sailed from New York Sept. 22.

The Lehigh, a 5,000-tonner, left New York Sept, 13, unloaded at Bilbao, Spain, and was en route to the West African Gold Coast without cargo when attacked. She was due at the Gold Coast Oct. 22, to pick up ore consigned to the United States.

Of the 10 American-owned merchant ships sunk since the start of the war, half have been sent to the bottom since Mr. Roosevelt gave the Navy orders on Sept. 11 to shoot on sight the Axis “rattlesnakes of the Atlantic.”

He said these orders apply to the Lehigh’s attacker. Undoubtedly, the submarine which destroyed the Bold Venture was also the object of a determined quest by American naval forces.

Four of the ill-fated merchant ships flew the American flag. The other six were under Panamanian registry.

The tone and inference of the President’s announcement on the Lehigh case left no doubt that German-American relations have reached a climactic point. Mr. Roosevelt was asked specifically to define the distinction between an act of piracy and an act of war.

Although he declined to answer directly, he intimated that the distinction was so fine as to require extensive thought.

Asked if the Lehigh went down in American defensive waters, Mr. Roosevelt replied sternly that the sinking occurred on the seven seas (he has said previously that ships of all nations have a right to conduct commerce on the seven seas).

Gives ‘hint’ on sinking

He was asked:

Who do you suppose sank the ship?

He countered with a question in kind – who do you suppose?

It is certain, he continued, that a submarine sank the Lehigh, and it is equally certain that the attacker was not British, Argentinian, French nor American. He said that in such cases the process of elimination is useful and suggested that reporters put on their thinking caps.

Mr. Roosevelt agreed that the sinking seems to establish that merely keeping ships out of combat zones no longer guarantees them against destruction. Bilbao, the Lehigh’s last port of call, is outside the combat zone from which American shipping is barred by presidential proclamation under the Neutrality Act.

’Spurlos versenkt’

Mr. Roosevelt said the possibility that ships of any nation on the seven seas now may be destroyed without warning recalls the phrase first uttered during World War I by the German Ambassador to Argentina:

Spurlos versenkt – Sunk without trace.

The chief executive said in reply to a question that submarines which attack as far south as the spot where the Lehigh was sunk operate from various bases – some coming all the way from occupied sections of France; some refuel from tankers in mid-ocean, varying their refueling locations from time to time.

American freighter torpedoed in South Atlantic

The 4,983-ton freighter Lehigh which President Roosevelt announced was sunk off the coast of Africa Oct. 19.

Reed opposes arming –
Lifting of all ship bans eyed

Move started for more neutrality changes
By the United Press

Washington, Oct. 22 –
The White House and the State Department suggested today that continued sinkings of American merchant ships make it desirable to change the Neutrality Act now so that these ships may sail anywhere under protection of their own flag and guns.

This reaction, lending support to a bipartisan move in the Senate to repeal Section 2 and 3 as well as Section 6 of the Neutrality Act, followed within one day the disclosure of sinking of two more American-owned ships, the Lehigh and the Bold Venture in the Atlantic.

Sections 2 and 3 of the Neutrality Act forbid American flag ships to enter combat zones or belligerent ports. Section 6 forbids arming them.

Reed before committee

Opposition witnesses appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the House-approved resolution to repeal Section 6. The first opposing witness, former Senator David A. Reed (R-PA) said it was “unwise” to insist on freedom of the seas now.

Stephen T. Early, the President’s secretary, virtually invited Congress to repeal Sections 2 and 3. At his press conference, he re-read and underlined portions of Mr. Roosevelt’s recent message to Congress on repeal of the ship-arming ban. The passages he emphasized were those in which the President also asked “earnest and early attention” to the matter of opening belligerent ports to American merchant vessels.

Secretary of State Cordell Hull told a press conference the sinking of the U.S. flag freighter Lehigh was another reason why many in the government have been encouraging revision of the Neutrality Act.

Testifies two hours

Mr. Reed was before the Senate committee for two hours. The hearings were secret but he summarized his testimony for reporters. He said he told the Senators that he sympathized with Britain and China and believed in freedom of the seas, but felt that “some judgment should be used” in exercising the right.

Mr. Reed, who is chairman of the Pittsburgh chapter of the America First Committee, was asked about the sinking of the Lehigh.

He replied:

We’ve got to remember that these countries are fighting with insane fury and innocent bystanders are likely to be struck by missiles. I don’t see any settle policy of hostility toward us on Hitler’s part. In fact, there is some indication that he does not want to drag us in.

Willkie called wrong

Mr. Reed said that he believed Wendell L. Willkie and the 100 Republicans who issued a statement for repeal of the Neutrality Act are “completely wrong;” that they do not represent “a large Republican sentiment.”

Before Mr. Reed testified, he told newspapermen that keeping the Neutrality Act intact would give the United States greater influence in bringing about a “just peace” after the war. Mr. Reed added that he regarded the bill as a “step toward war.”

Senator Gerald P. Nye (R-ND), isolationist leader who was standing beside Mr. Reed, asked:

A step or a jump?

Mr. Reed replied:

A sort of sideways movement.

’Give ships a chance’

Mr. Reed continued:

I want to see my country stay at peace for many reasons, not the least of which is that, if we stay out of the war, our influence in a just peace will be greater. If we arm our ships, it gives them the status of war vessels. When we come to a final accounting with Hitler, our position will be weaker.

Besides, arming of ships is ineffectual. It has been brought out that in the last war, no armed merchant ship sank a submarine.

Meanwhile, administration supporters appealed for quick enactment of the armed-ship resolution:

…to give our ships a chance.

The sinkings of the Lehigh and Bold Venture, brought demands from administration sources for quick retaliation against Germany.

Senator Claude Pepper (D-FL) demanded:

Two ships for every American ship lost.

No change in vote seen

Chairman Tom Connally (D-TX) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is considering the armed-ship proposal, said:

An armed ship has a chance; an unarmed ship has none.

Administration opponents were “disturbed” and thought the latest incidents were “without justification,” but believed they would not change the vote in the Senate committee on the pending bill or lead to enlargement of it to include repeal of combat zone restrictions – a move that would virtually repeal the Neutrality Act.

American ship sinking toll reaches ten

Total now half of number lost before U.S. entered World War I

Washington, Oct. 22 (UP) –
Ten American-operated merchant ships have been sunk in this war and at least two American warships have engaged in “shooting incidents.” One of the latter was damaged.

Before the entrance of the United States into World War I, 20 American merchant vessels were sunk.

Six of the ships lost in this war flew the Panamanian flag; four were American flagships.

Here is the list of American-operated merchant ships lost so far in this war:

Nov. 8, 1940

City of Rayville – Struck mine in Australian waters. One American seaman lost. American-owned. American flag.

Dec. 21, 1940

Tanker Charles Pratt – Torpedoed and sunk off Freetown, West Africa. Two Americans lost. American-owned. Panamanian flag.

May 21, 1941

SS Robin Moor – Torpedoed and sunk in South Atlantic. All hands saved after ordeal in open boats. American-owned. American flag.

Aug. 17, 1941

SS Sessa – Torpedoed and sunk off Iceland. 24, including one American, lost. Three saved. American-owned. Panamanian flag.

Sept. 5, 1941

SS Steel Seafarer – Sunk by aerial torpedo in Red Sea. All hands (38) saved. American-owned. American flag.

Sept. 11, 1941

SS Montana – Torpedoed and sunk between Greenland and Iceland. Crew of 26 – no Americans – escaped in lifeboats. American-owned. Panamanian flag.

Sept. 20, 1941

SS Pink Star – Torpedoed and sunk between Greenland and Iceland. 22 rescued. 13 still missing. American-owned. Panamanian flag.

Sept. 26, 1941

Tanker I C White – Torpedoed and sunk in South Atlantic. Casualties undetermined. American-owned. Panamanian flag.

Oct. 16, 1941

SS Bold Overture – Torpedoed and sunk south of Iceland. 17 of crew of 32 landed at Iceland. American-owned. Panamanian flag.

Oct. 19, 1941

SS Lehigh – Torpedoed and sunk in South Atlantic off African Gold Coast. 22 reported rescued. About 15 others adrift in lifeboats. American-owned. American flag.

At least two American destroyers have been involved in clashes with German submarines off Iceland, as follows:

Sept. 4, 1941

USS Greer – Attacked by submarin whose torpedoes missed. Greer released depth charges with results “unknown.” No losses or injuries aboard Greer.

Oct. 17, 1941

USS Kearny – Torpedoed, reportedly while on convoy duty. Eleven crewmen missing; 10 injured. Kearny proceeded to undisclosed port.

Hitler strikes again

Two more sinkings – a freighter flying the American flag, and an American-owned and operated ship, under Panamanian registry.

Maybe Hitler really is as dumb as the Kaiser’s crew, despite his old habit of warning Germany against a repetition of the Kaiser’s military blunders. The Kaiser and his men didn’t think England would fight, so he invaded Belgium; and Hitler didn’t think England would fight, so he invaded Poland. They didn’t think America would fight, so they launched unrestrained submarine warfare. Is it possible that Hitler thinks that sinking of ships, such as the Lehigh, flying the American flag, will not inflame war sentiment?

The issue is so obvious as far as American public sentiment is concerned that the question arises whether Hitler is not deliberately gambling to influence Japan to start a Pacific war. This is assuming it was a Nazi sub acting under orders. Certainly a Pacific war, engaging the United States, would be the best possible break for Hitler today.

Hitler may want us to try to fight Germany and Japan on two oceans at the same time, making us cut off our material aid to Britain and Russia in order to save ourselves.

Whether he does or not want to get us into an Atlantic-European war, Hitler will be dumber than the Kaiser if he mistakes the genuine anti-war sentiment in this country today for any unwillingness to fight if attacked.

The Pittsburgh Press (October 24, 1941)

19 on Bold Venture killed in mess quarters; doctor operates on survivor’s head in lifeboat

Reykjavík, Iceland, Oct. 22 (UP) – (delayed)
Nineteen members of the crew of the United States Maritimer Commission freighter Bold Venture, operated under Panamanian registry, were killed in their mess quarters when a torpedo struck without warning, survivors reported today.

Seventeen survivors landed here. They said a submarine torpedoed their ship and that it sank in 30 minutes.

The Bold Venture was making its first trip to England carrying a general cargo and flying a Panamanian flag. No American citizens were aboard. The survivors said the ship went down so fast they were barely able to reach the lifeboats.

Donald MacLeod of Boston said:

I was below deck when I felt the hit and rushed to the deck, putting on a lifebelt and kicking off my shoes. I jumped overboard and swam 50 yards until I reached a lifeboat.

Although the dispatch said Mr. MacLeod was from Boston, he was presumably not an American citizen.

Another survivors said he grabbed a loose rope, thinking it was stationary and fell overboard, directly into a lifeboat.

The survivors drifted in two boats for two hours before a Canadian corvette picked them up.

Mr. MacLeod said:

Aboard the rescue boat, we saw a wonderful emergency operation on another survivor by a Norwegian student doctor who was himself picked up at sea a few minutes earlier. The force of the blast scalped one survivor, ripping the scalp back from the forehead and standing it straight up. The doctor pinned the scalp to the forehead with fish hooks, and sewed it in place with 31 stitches.

One seaman picked up from the water said:

Has anyone got an automobile? I’ve got so much oil inside me I could operate it for a long time.

The Bold Venture’s radio operator attempted to send an SOS, but the radio apparatus was smashed by the explosion.

The State Department had reported that the 3,222-ton ship was sunk last Thursday 500 miles south of Iceland.

Lehigh’s captain never saw sub

Freetown, Sierra Leone, Oct. 24 (UP) –
A torpedo crashed without warning into the United States freighter Lehigh on Sunday morning and she plunged to the bottom of the South Atlantic a little more than an hour later, her captain said today.

Two members of the crew of 39 were injured slightly in the torpedo blast. Also aboard the ship were one “workaway” and four Spanish stowaways.

The 4,893-ton ship, owned by the U.S. Maritime Commission and under charter to the United States Lines, was attacked at 8:55 a.m. and Captain Vincent Patrick Arkins of Montrose, NY, said that he saw no submarine either:

…before or after the ship was hit.

One seaman lost four toes when a beam crashed on his foot and the third junior assistant engineer, Joseph Brady of New York, was hurt when the deck plates buckled open and he was pitched down on one of the ship’s tanks.

Four lifeboats were launched immediately, Captain Arkins said, and all four were picked up Tuesday by a British destroyer and British launches which put out from Freetown.