FRANCIS J. SCHWARZ was
born in June 1928. He grew up in the Fairview section of Camden NJ,
attending the Fairview (Yorkship Square) Elementary School, and Hatch
Junior High School. He was a member of Fairview
Village Methodist Church and the
Francis Schwarz enlisted
in the Merchant Marine on his 16th birthday. He served as an oiler in
the engine room of the S.S. St. Mihiel, a tanker.
the 10 April 1945 Collision
Mihiel and SS Nashbulk
Esposito, EM3c, Was A Member Of The Rescue Party That Boarded SS St.
recall DE238 was closest to the burning tanker. Although there is
no record in the log the Flagship Edsall sent the Stewart
to intercept the tanker. Lt. Day was dispatched in the whaleboat
with inspection party and boarded the SS St. Mihiel. I do
not know the content of the inspection team except Lt. Day. Lt.
Day was the first to board the tanker. As soon as he boarded he
turned and waved. Comdr. Wilson using a bullhorn greeted him as
Capt. Day. When the inspection crew was done the Stewart
pulled alongside and dispatched the fire fighters. I mean
dispatched, we were helpfully tossed onto the tanker.
the fires were cooled down most of the boarding party returned to the Stewart.
memory serves me correct one merchant crew member stayed aboard the
tanker so as not to abandon the ship. I believe the captain was
killed in the fire. Later that day a few key merchant crew came
aboard and assisted our party in firing up the engines. This is
after Fromm, Hicks and I got the electrical back working in the engine
room. The rest of the ship was without power. We slept in
the crew quarters without light. The refrigerators were full of
the Edsall arrived on the scene she did exactly what the Stewart
did, sent officers, equipment and fire fighters aboard the tanker.
At that time some merchant crew were transferred to the tanker. I
would imagine Lt. Day was ordered back to the Stewart by the
Edsall. The Edsall was our task force authority.
was assigned to escort the Nashbulk. The Edsall took
us in tow until we got power up then we sailed on our own and anchored
near the Statue of Liberty.
During the night fires kept flashing up. CEM Fromm would drag us
out to extinguish same.
boat took us to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where we were trapped. The Stewart
was now in the Bayonne Navy Yard. Not until a courier arrived with
a letter from Comdr. Wilson did the marine guard let us off base.
The letter was signed by M. Maclean for the commanding officer.
may have been an officer from the Edsall who stayed aboard with
us. The Mihiel people fired up the engines with the help of
our MoMM people after we got power to the engine room.
slip and you would be crushed between both ships. As the log
states the Stewart pulled alongside starboard to port of the
Things got a little sketchy here, we were taken off the Mihiel
most likely when the pilot left. If that is true then a pilot
boarded at Ambrose Lighthouse and took the Mihiel to its
anchoring position near the Statue of Liberty. I remember the
dense fog well.
Wilson was a good skipper. He ran a tight ship.
Speaking for myself, I do not remember anyone eating steaks on board the
Mihiel. We grabbed what we could from the cooler, all
was not unusual to dine on sandwiches aboard the Stewart.
During rough seas, and that was most often, the cooks found it
impossible to prepare a meal for the crew. So we had what was
known as Horsexxxx.
was rammed midship possibly starboard side. Well, it had to be
starboard since we boarded on her port side. The initial explosion
was concentrated just forward and below the wheel house.
we got a chance to inspect the damage caused. The wheel house was
completely burned out. It was said the captain was killed so I
guess he was on duty.
all steering was done aft. There were portholes around the sides
of the steering house or maybe they were on the hatches (doorways).
The glass on the portholes melted then froze solid and appeared like
large frozen tears hanging there. Perhaps a symbol of pain for the
lost crew. The steel mast just forward of the wheel house looked
like a twisted pretzel.
hatches on the petroleum storage holds just forward and aft of the wheel
house had blown their covers. The living quarters on the fantail
were untouched. That’s where we operated from. Many of the
merchant crew jumped from the deck behind the living quarters into the
sea. Which was quite high. I was told of some in panic that
jumped into lifeboats and were killed. Of course you know about
the sharks getting them also.
could not locate a photo of the St. Mihiel anchored in NY.
One must exist. I also wrote the Navy Dept., inquiring if any
recognition was given to the rescuers, no luck. I tried to find
out the name of the tanker’s company, no luck there either.
the incident I was transferred off the Stewart. When
shipmate Post visited me in Tucson he said the fire fighting crew from
the Stewart was given a complimentary “job-well-done” by the Stewart
crew. Sadly I missed out.