Picking up castaways from the American ships City of Flynt and Julia Ward Howe.
(Picture: "Vida Mundial Ilustrada" magazine)
Capitain: Capitão-Tenente Sarmento Rodrigues
Tonage: 1563 Gt
Owner: Portuguese Navy
Construção: Yarrow, England (1933)
The Portuguese destroyer NRP Lima was in Ponta Delgada, Azores, on January 26, 1943, when they received information about a distress call sent by radio message by crew-members of the American ship City of Flint, sunk by U-575 the day before.
The Navy ship would was in the way to make about 300 miles to reach the place of the sinking, when, around four in the morning of the 28th, white lights and very-lights were sighted. It turned out there were two lifeboats, each towing a raft, with a total of 71 people on board who belonged to the Julia Ward Howe, another American freighter, also sunk by a German submarine, the U-442.
The NRP Lima continued the search and at 08.30 hours spotted a small boat with the first 16 castaways from the City of Flint. Following the shipwrecked men's directions, they saw two more lifeboats, respectively at 10.14 and 11.35 am, both with 16 men each. They also tried to locate a fourth lifeboat with support from the Portuguese naval aviation, but on January 30th there were news of a new sinking, 150 miles southwest of Faial. The destroyer was routed to the area, with no positive results.
With scarce fuel they returned to Ponta Delgada, but they faced growing difficulties. With 119 castaways on board, the Lima faced a strong storm and a breakdown in the boilers almost sunk it. The ship was exposed to the waves, “for 45 minutes, crossed into the waves, it reached 67 degrees of inclination, rocking and falling asleep despite having, as a precaution, filled the naphtha tanks with water”, clarifies the captains report found in Torre do Tombo.
City of Flint
Capitão/Captain: Joseph Gainard
Tipo/ Type: Mercante a vapor - Steam merchant
Tonelagem/Tonnage: 4,963 Tb Gt
Proprietário/Owner: Moore-McCormack SS Co
Porto/Homeport: Filadélfia - Philadelphia
Construção/Built: American International Shipbuilding Corp (1920)
One of the lifeboats and the shipwrecked already on land
(Photo: Vida Mundial Ilustrada Magazine)
When it entered the port, it had numerous damages, including a lost lifeboat and another broken down; a twisted Turk; the entire port balustrade razed; the gangway on the same side carried by the sea; much of the furniture in the officers', sergeants' and infirmary's chambers was broken; radio completely smashed; a faulty radio goniometer; one of the naphtha tanks making water and several munitions sticks washed up at sea. One of the garrisons sailorsbroke a leg, and several castaways also suffered injuries.
Both the City of Flint and the Julia Ward Howe were part of the UG.4 convoy, leaving New York on January 13, 1943. Hit by a storm, the first one, with poorly packed cargo, had abandoned the convoy. At 22:00 on the 25th, it was sighted by U-575 whose torpedo ignited the oil and gasoline, transforming it into a torch. The crew had barely reached the four lifeboats when another torpedo delivered the coup de grace. Two crew and four gunners lost their lives. The cook, Robert Daigle, was imprisoned and the remaining 58 survivors were left to wait for salvation. Three lifeboats stayed together, but the fourth moved away. It was from one of these boats, equipped with an emergency radio, that the message heard by the Portuguese was sent.
National Archives UK, Kew (GB) § Arquivo Histórico da Marinha (PT) § Arquivo Histórico do MNE (PT) § uboat.net § Vida Mundial Ilustrada § Manuel Maria Sarmento Rodrigues (capitão-tenente), Contratorpedeiro Lima – Relatório do comandante de 15 a 31 de janeiro de 1943, Lisboa, Colecção Documentos – Edição Cultural da Marinha, 2005 § Diário de Notícias. §