From: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Public Relations Division
U.S. Coast Guard
NORFOLK, VA., Sept, 18 -- Adrift, in shark-infested waters off the Virginia coast for 58 hours, 19 weary survivors of the 125-foot Coast Guard cutter Jackson, lost in the hurricane which battered the East Coast Thursday, were recovering in a hospital here today after their dramatic rescue by Coast Guard air and sea units .
Recuperating in the same hospital were 12 survivors of the Coast Guard cutter Bedloe, which like its sister ship, was sunk by successive waves which seemed as if they were breaking more than 100 feet high during the height of the hurricane. Spotted by a patrol plane, they were picked up an hour later and brought to Norfolk aboard a Navy minesweeper.
Meanwhile, an intensive search continued for 49 officers and men reported missing in the twin disaster, including the 23-year-old skipper of the Jackson, Lt. (j.g.) Norman D. Call of Lakewood, Ohio, 1942 graduate and former football star at the University of Michigan. The captain of the Bedloe, Lt. (j.g.) August S. Hess of Lohrville, Wis., was among those rescued.
Three Coast Guard Kingfisher planes from the Elizabeth City, N. C., Air Station, spotted the Jackson survivors Saturday morning and, after radioing for aid, landed in the swells, a plane next to each liferaft. Badly battered and suffering from shook, the men were lifted to the wings of the tossing planes, where first aid was administered,
Guided by PBMs and Navy blimps, a 36-foot rescue launch put out from the Coast Guard Oregon Inlet Station 15 miles away, and the survivors were carried aboard. The men later were transferred aboard a Navy ship near shore, where they were treated by a physician until Coast Guard PBMs from Elizabeth City landed and flew then to Norfolk.
Survivors said 37 officers and men originally clung to the three rafts, but 17 died during the second night from exposure and exhaustion. Added to the torment of parched throats, crowded rafts and heavy seas during their 58-hour vigil were sharks and "Portuguese men-of-war," multi-tailed marine pests whose stingers continually lashed the bodies of the storm-tossed men.
Ironically, crew members of each vessel pinned their hopes on rescue by the other, unaware of the like doom of each ship.
Lieutenant Hess said his crew hoped for rescue because, as he explained: "Skippers often think alike, I was trying to work our way out to sea a bit to avoid the heavy swell hitting near the shore and I figured the Jackson was doing likewise and would be somewhere in the vicinity."
Struck four times by the towering waves, the Bedloe tossed like a matchstick in the ocean before going down, survivors said. All crew members safely abandoned the ship and at least 30 were able to obtain a hold on the liferaft.
However, the strain of fighting the hurricane aboard the 125-foot cutter, plus the ordeal of hanging to liferafts for more than 50 hours, proved too much for most of the waterlogged men and only 12 were able to hang on until rescued. One man slid under the water only minutes before the rescue craft came into sight.
Percy P. Poole, chief radioman, of 29 Cherry St., Lakewood, N.J., one of the last to leave the sinking ship, was in the water for 24 hours without a lifejacket before he obtained one from a man who had died during the night. He lost his, it was disclosed helping in shipmates climb out of hatches into the open.
The crew had been fighting the seas since 4 a.m. Thursday before the ship went under about 1 p.m. that day. The barometer had dropped below 28.8 during that Period, After 51 hours in the sea, the survivors were discovered by the patrol plane at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and picked up an hour later.
The demise of the Jackson, which formerly operated on the Great Lakes occurred as follows, according to survivors:
Borne to the top of a huge the ship was struck by two other swells and rolled over until the mast dipped water. As the swell subsided, the ship righted and was hit by another high sea and turned on her side a second time. Struggling out of that, the vessel was carried high by a third sea. It seemed then, survivors said, that she hung in mid-air for seconds; then the wind seized her, turned her on the side and completely over, and she disappeared under a huge wave.
The survivors first were spotted about 7 a.m. Saturday by Coast Guard aviators, who radioed the position to the base. The pilots were instructed to land an the sea, render first aid and stand by until surface craft arrived. First to land was Aviation Pilot First Class Roy H. Weber, 1659 Orchard St., Chicago, who lashed his plane to a raft holding three men. He and radioman Third Class Philip Pincus, 1429 Noble Avenue, New York City, shed their clothes and dove into the water to drag the men onto the plane.
Chief Aviation Pilot, Carl F. Krogmann, of 1261 Kearney Street, N.E., Washington., D.C., former warrant officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and radioman Third Class Edward Guinan, 51 Church Street, Pittsfield, Mass., landed next and lashed their plane to a raft bearing 12 men. Five miles away Aviation Pilot First Class Donald Cobaugh, 1445 Newman Street, Lakewood, Ohio, and radioman Third Class Chester E. Haag, 420 Sheridan Street, Greensburg, Ind., set their plane down beside the third raft, which held five men.
A Navy blimp dropped emergency supplies while the Coast Guard rescue vessel, commanded by Lt. Bernie B. Ballance of Rodanthe, N C., rushed to the scene. William W. McCreedy, Coast Guard boatswain's mate first Class of Pontiac, Mich., who assisted in the rescue, said the first thin he saw was a man doubled up in a small raft, his eyes resembling "a couple of blue dots in a beefsteak."
"He flashed a beautiful smile that couldn't be missed," McCreedy continued. " felt I had looked at something a man sees once in a lifetime -- sort of thought I had come to the edge of heaven. Then, as though his last will to fight had been lost when he saw us, he slumped into the water.
"The radioman (Guinan) grabbed him and hold him in the raft. I went overboard to help and the three of us dragged the raft down. The unconscious man's foot was twisted in the lines, but I cut him free and we put him in the boat."
Just before reaching shore, the severely injured man reached up, stroked McCreedy's face and mumbled, "We made it." then died.
Two of the survivors on Friday had tried to swim to shore, which they thought was about 10 miles away. They were Stanley M. Lencewicz, ship's cook first class, 64 Oates St., South Boston, Mass., and Joseph Brouillard, seaman first class, 36 Rivers Avenue, Williamsett, Mass. After swimming about three hours, they realized they were making little headway and decided to return, Turning back, Lancewicz saw a shark about 30 feet a way,, heading for Brouillard. The shark was longer than the six-foot Brouillard, he said, but passed by him without harm.
The two officers rescued, Lt. (j.g.) F. K. Merrick, executive officer, of Meridian, N. Y., and Ensign R. F. Hainge, communications officer, of 28 Mitchell Place, White Plains, N. Y., would not accept a drink of water until certain all the men had been cared for. Then they took one sip.
Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation