The Panama Transport Company tanker Peter Hurll, manned by an American crew, was en route to Aruba when war was declared in Europe, September 3, 1939. At Aruba and Las Piedras the ship loaded her first wartime cargo, 106,514 barrels of fuel and crude oils ior Everett, Mass. Captain Philipp Wulfken was her master and Chief Engineer Alfred C. Sickenberger
was in charge of her engineroom.
A Danish crew took charge of the Peter Hurll at New York November 3, 1939, but on November 21 the vessel was again tak-en over by Americans and the Danes were repatriated on the Stavangerfjord, sailing December 9, 1939. Thereafter, the Peter Hurll was manned continuously by Americans until September 29, 1942, when she was again placed in charge of a Danish crew, and tlie ship remained in Danish hands for the rest of the war.
During 1940 and 1941 the Peter Hurll alternated coastwise and South American trips. A typical series of voyages was as fol-
Load 110,000 barrels fuel oil at Aruba Discharge at New York
Load 10,000 barrels lubricating oil at New York
Load 100,000 barrels fuel oil at Caripito Discharge at Rio de Janeiro and Santos, Brazil
Load 115,000 barrels crude at Guiria Discharge at Aruba
Load 110,000 barrels fuel oil at Aruba
Discharge at New York, etc.
In 1942 the Peter Hurll was placed on the regular Aruba-New York run and remained in that service almost exclusively "for
the duration". She became a supply vessel for Aruba, carrying general cargo down from New York on the ballast runs.
Turns Tables on Sub.
Captain Harry E. Heffelfinger, who was master of the Peter Hurll most of the time while she was manned by Americans, told
in an interview for this history how the tanker drove off a submarine by attempting to ram her:
"We left New York, where our armament had just been installed, on April 30, 1942. At Hampton Roads we joined the tankers
Gulf of Mexico (Gulf Oil Corporation) and Mercury Sun (Motor Tankship Corporation) . The three ships formed up in single file with the Mercury Sun first, the Gulf of Mexico second, and the Peter Hurll third. On the first night out of Hampton Roads,
when we were in the vicinity of Cape Lookout and I was watching for Lookout Shoals Buoy, I saw tracer bullets. The Gulf of
Mexico was being machine gunned by a submarine. Soon the U-boat sent up star shells and then began to fire on the Gulf
of Mexico with her heavier guns.
"The Peter Hurll changed course and escaped in the darkness. Both the other ships sent out distress messages but neither
was sunk. (Only a few days later, however, the Mercury Sun was sunk in the Caribbean, May 18, 1942.)
"On the following night, running alone, we were approaching Ormond, Florida. At about 10 o'clock Chief Engineer Elliott C.
Daniels called the bridge and said he would have to stop the port engine for repairs. We were able to make only about seven
knots on one engine. I called out the gun crew. It was a fine, clear night and we were only a mile and a halt off shore.
Also Tried to Ram.
"A submarine surfaced about 300 to 400 yards away and began firing machine guns at us, the tracer bullets coming close
over the wheelhouse. We fired back with our 50-calibers on the bridge. I decided to try to ram the U-boat.
"When we headed for her she crash-dived. I phoned the engineroom and called for all the revolutions we could get. We ran
at full speed on our starboard engine for about two and a half hours and never saw the submarine again.
"At that time the enemy was having a field day with coastwise shipping. The submarine we encountered was apparently run-
ning low on torpedoes and did not want to use one on a southbound, ballast ship. She could hardly have missed us at such
The wartime transportation record of the Peter Hurll was in summary as follows:
The Peter Hurll made news a few months after the war's end when, on February 14, 1946, she bunkered the Queen Mary at
Pier 90, North River, New York, in a direct tanker-to-ship delivery of fuel oil, pumping 27,797 barrels of fuel oil aboard in less
than ten hours. The famous Cunard liner, recently reconverted from a troopship back to her peacetime role as a passenger
vessel, was enabled by this emergency service to sail on schedule.
The MS Peter Hurll was built in 1930 by the Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Ltd., at Hebburn-on-Tyne, England.
She is a sistership of the F. H. Bedford, Jr., J. H. Senior, and J.A. Mowinckel. The Heinrich v. Riedemann, lost April 16,
1942, was also a sistership.
A twin-screw vessel of 17,585 deadweight tons capacity on international summer draft of 30 feet, 4 3/4 inches, the Peter
Hurll has an overall length of 542 feet, 4 inches, a length between perpendiculars of 520 feet, a moulded breadth of 70 feet,
and a depth moulded of 38 feet, 9 inches. With a cargo carrying capacity of 138,108 barrels, she has an assigned pumping
rate of 4,000 barrels an hour.
Her Diesel engines develop 5,300 brake horsepower and give her a classification certified speed of 12.3 knots.
The Peter Hurll's American masters during the war years were Captains Philipp Wultken, Philip H. Johnson, Robert W. Overbeck, Fred Marcus, John B. Petterson, and Harry E. Heffelfinger.
Americans in charge of her engineroom in the same period were Chief Engineers Alfred C. Sickenberger, Ervin C. Haatvedt,
Seth T. Miller, and Elliott C. Daniels.
Captain Hans K. Groth was Danish master of the Peter Hurll from September 29, 1942 to V-J Day, September 2, 1945, and
Danish Chief Engineer Rasmus H. Rasmussen was associated with him in charge of her engineroom from September 9,
1942 to the end of hostilities.
Captain Groth received from the Navy the following letter of commendation:
15 December 1943 From: Commander All Forces, Aruba-Curacao To: H. K. Groth, Master, Peter Hurll Subject: Station keeping and join-up, efficiency in.
1. On 7 December 1943 your vessel departed from Aruba with eight other tankers in convoy to join a main convoy.
2. A report has been received from our Escort Commander complimenting you for the very efficient and excellent manner in
which your vessel was handled and for maintaining station in the join-up to the main convoy.
Commander All Forces also joins in extending his appreciation for the excellent manner in which your vessel was handled.
R. V. Mullany, by direction.