27 January 1943, U-boat 105 sinks MV Cape Decision with 77 survivors

Source: uboat.net

My uncle, James Stevens, aged 20 years old was a US Navy Armed Guard on board the MV Cape Decision as it was steaming independently from Charleston, South Carolina to Freetown, Sierra Leone, is torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-105 at 22° 57’N, 47° 28’W - Grid DQ 5634.

At 09.25 hours on 27 Jan 1943 the unescorted Cape Decision (Master Hogler Emile Sorensen) was hit by two of three torpedoes from U-105, as she steered a zigzag course in clear weather and moderate seas. The torpedoes struck on port side between the #4 and #5 hatches with an interval of less than ten seconds. The explosions did not do much visual damage but quickly stopped the ship. The blasts damaged the ship throughout and knocked out the electrical system, which halted the engines. As the ship settled by the stern, her complement of nine officers, 36 men, 26 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 4in, one 3in and eight 20mm guns) and six US Army passengers abandoned ship in the two lifeboats and two of the four rafts. Two of the armed guards remained at their gun until the last moment and had to jump overboard. The master jumped into the water and brought the exhausted men, which were in danger of being caught by the suction of the sinking ship to his lifeboat. The U-boat moved around the stern at periscope depth and fired a third torpedo at 09.54 hours, which struck on the starboard side in the engine room. The vessel immediately began to list to port and sank by the stern five minutes later.

U-105 surfaced, questioned the survivors and directed them to the nearest land. The third assistant engineer and an able seaman were taken aboard, but were later put back into the boats after checking their papers. The U-boat then investigated the debris field, sank a landing craft with hand grenades and the 20mm AA gun and picked up some crates, containing new radio sets.

The survivors distributed the men evenly between the two boats. The boat of the master with 21 crewmen, three passengers and 16 armed guards reached Bridgetown, Barbados nine days later having traveled 957 miles. The boat of the chief mate with 37 men arrived at Saint Barthelemy, French West Indies, 14 days after the sinking and were provided with food and medicine by the natives.

Captain Holger Emile Sorensen was awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal in October 1943.

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