Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Captain William Adams of the SS Charles Morgan

The grandson of the captain of the SS Charles Morgan got in touch with me recently. He sent me a copy of William Adams 1945 award of the Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal, the highest honor a Merchant Marine could receive. It gives an excellent description of what happened to the ship after it was hit by a German bomb off the coast of Utah Beach on June 10, 1944.

Meritorious Service Medals Awarded "for Conduct or Service of a Meritorious Nature" during World War II

Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal

Adams, William
Master, SS Charles Morgan 06/10/44
Captain William Adams, was master of the SS Charles Morgan. The ship had delivered her cargo to a European port, reloaded nearly 500 Army personnel and several hundred tons of equipment for the Normandy beachhead. After discharging this equipment and debarking nearly all soldiers in the initial invasion, the vessel was struck in No. 5 hatch by a bomb, causing her to settle by the stern in about 33 feet of water. Fires were started and several men killed. Getting all fires under control, Captain Adams searched all quarters for possibly trapped and injured men and left the ship only after she was declared a derelict by the U.S. Navy salvage officer. At low tide he and eleven of his crew volunteered to reboard the ship in spite of continued enemy action. Pumps were manned to keep the engine room dry and make possible the salvaging of valuable stores and equipment Sep. 22, 1945.

In April the son of the first mate aboard the ship told me that the German plane was allowed to get so close, because there was an order for all ships to hold their fire unless the plane could be clearly identified. In the first few days following the invasion jittery gunners in Normandy had shot down several Allied aircraft by mistake. Since the attack came at night identification was extremely difficult. First Mate Curtin received the Silver Star for his heroic efforts on the sinking ship.

My grandfather's Army port company was aboard the Charles Morgan when it was hit. My book Longshore Soldiers discusses the event from their point of view.

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