Bio: Staszak, Albert George (Account of Torpedoing – 1941)

Contact: Dolores

 

Surnames: Staszak

 

----Source: Staszak Family Memoirs Collection by Agnes Staszak Schanen

 

Staszak, Albert George (Account of Torpedoing –1941)

 

Harrowing Tale of Escape From Torpedoed Boat Told – Jackson Youth Among Group Landing Safely – Black River Falls, Wis. – (special)

 

A harrowing tale of his escape from the torpedoed Cities Service Empire tanker which was sunk off the east coast of the United States last month was unfolded in a letter written by Albert Staszak of Merrillan to his sister Agnes Staszak.

 

Staszak, 21-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Staszak, was one of five uninjured survivors of the ship who were brought ashore at Fort Pierce, Fla.  He was a cook.

 

Staszak’s letter describes his experiences in this vivid account:

 

“It was 4:20 in the morning, when everybody was asleep except those on watch, when the first torpedo hit.  Some jumped out, not taking any time to out any clothes on.  I jumped out and before I hit the deck, the second torpedo hit and in about 5 seconds the third hit.

 

“That’s the fastest I ever put on my pants and shoes.  I grabbed my life preserver and started for the life boats but the passage was blocked.  The bulkheads were torn.  Everything was thrown around and the rooms were filled with black smoke.  For a while I thought I was trapped, but I finally worked my way out after stumbling and falling over the wreckage.

 

“When a (I) reached the top deck, the first thing I saw was a huge blaze to starboard side and stern, and most of the ship was burning.  The first torpedo must have hit one of the forward tanks and started the fire.

 

“The crew and officers were trying to lower the life-boats, and figuring some way to escape.  Some of the men jumped overboard and tried to swim but the sea was pretty heavy and swept some into the fire.  Two of the life-boats were on fire; we tried to put it out but it was useless. The two life-boats at forward capsized so that left one raft on starboard side.

 

“That was our last chance.  We lowered the raft and polled it over its bow to port side where there was no fire yet.  We lowered some of the wounded and burned ones, and crawled on and rowed away for our dear lives to get away from the flames.

 

“Slowly but surely we rowed for about four hours.  We could see the ship’s stern sinking slowly and later the ship exploded.  We stayed about five hours before two coast guards and a destroyer picked us up.  They scouted the water until everybody was picked up – the captain was one.  I saw him being swept into the fire off a life raft.  About four were missing, probably trapped inside the ship.

 

We didn’t even think of sharks although there were plenty of them around us in the war water.

 

“We were taken into Fort Pierce, Florida.  The injured and burned men were taken to the hospital.  I was lucky to come out without a scratch or burn.”

 

 


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