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Fred W. Weller - (1917-1949)
SS Fred W. Weller
THE Fred W. Weller did not voyage in what - were known as war zones, such as the approaches to the British Isles, the Mediterranean Sea, and fueling base areas near Japanese-held islands in the Pacific; but she ran the gantlet of enemy submarine perils and attacks in equally dangerous waters-off the Atlantic coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the South Atlantic. These were the hunting grounds in which German U-boats, for long periods,destroyed more Allied vessels than they sank in European war zones, where tankers and freighters traveled in convoys with increasingly strong protection as the war proceeded.

Narrowly Missed Disaster
On the other hand, the convoy system was also used to protect our coastwise shipping when enough escorts became available.
It was during a convoy incident which occurred off our eastern seaboard that the Fred W. Weller had a narrow escape from disaster.
The story of the voyage on which she came through unharmed, while ships near her were torpedoed, was told in an interview for this history by Third Assistant Engineer John R. Berret.
"The Fred W. Weller he said, "was in Buenos Aires on April 20, 1942, when she was time chartered to the 'Val' Shipping Administration. She was commanded by Captain Wesley F. Besse and her engineroom was in charge of Chief Engineer Florence A. Daniels. "She discharged a cargo of crude oil at Campana and on receipt of sailing orders, she left that port on May 4.
"Owing to the danger of submarine attack in the South Atlantic, we were routed from Buenos Aires down to the Strait of Magellan and up the west coast of South America. After stopping at Talara, Peru, for orders, we arrived at Balboa May 29, went through the Canal two days later and reached Cartagena, Colombia, on June 1. From Cartagena we took a cargo of crude to Aruba and then went to Las Piedras for our next cargo, consigned to New Vork.
"It was on this trip, which began at Las Piedras June 9, that the Fred W. Weller, while in convoy, came so near being torpe-doed.
"'We ran northward alone until we were almost off Cape Hatteras. Then a Coast Guard vessel told us to pull in toward shore and await a convoy. Following instructions, Captain Besse took the Fred W. Wellar into a sheltered, protected anchorage inside of Cape Lookout and south of Shackleford Banks, not far from Beaufort, North Carolina. We lay there about a week. A Navy antisubmarine patrol boat guarded the entrance.

Saw Freighter Go Down
"Our convoy of 11 ships left the anchorage with 5 escorts. Each night we heard the sound of depth charges. At about 6 o'clock one evening I was on the after deck talking with some of my shipmates. Everything looked very calm and peaceful. The convoy was formed in four columns, with four vessels abreast in each of the first two lines and three in the third. The Fred W. Weller was the lead ship in the second column.
"Suddenly, a big freighter, second in the column on our starboard hand, was torpedoed. We saw her list to starboard and in a
few minutes she began to sink by the stern. As we watched her, a fire broke out; we saw her crew getting into the lifeboats.
"About 15 minutes after the first attack, another freighter-right astern of us in our column-was struck by a torpedo. The explosion must have had a devastating effect, for she immediately heeled over about 30 degrees to starboard. We did not see her go down, but she fell back out of the convoy.

Believe Submarine Destroyed
"We were greatly cheered by the vengeance which the destroyers inflicted. Racing around, they fired one pattern of depth charges after another. All of our escorts joined in the fray and by that time planes and blimps were circling the area and dropping more 'ash cans'. We were forced to swing out of position to avoid the concussion.
"The enemy submarine was said to have been destroyed and we could readil)' believe the report. At any rate, there was no further incident. Instead of going to New York, however, the Fred W. Weller put in at Baltimore, where we arrived on June 25 and discharged cargo."

The SS Fred W. Weller was built in 1917 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd., at their Union Plant, Potrero Works, in San Francisco. She is a sistership of the A. C. Bedford.
A twin-screw vessel of 16,075 deadweight tons capacity on international summer draft of 28 feet, 8y1g inches, the Fred W.
Weller has an overall length of 518 feet, a length between perpendiculars of 500 feet, a moulded breadth of 68 feet, and a depth moulded of 38 feet, % inch. With a cargo carrying capacity of 118,939 barrels, she has an assigned pumping rate of 1,000 barrels an hour.
Her triple expansion engines, supplied with steam by three Scotch boilers, develop 3,000 indicated horsepower and give her a classification certified speed of 9.5 knots.
On September 3, 1939, the Fred W. Weller was in the port of New York; she had discharged a cargo of crude oil from Corpus Christi. Commanded by Captain Herbert E. Clothier, with her engineroom in charge of Chief Engineer Harry Farnan, she sailed September 4 for Las Piedras, where she loaded her first wartime cargo 100,505 barrels of heavy Venezuelan crude oil. It was consigned to Halifax and she arrived there September 21.
The vessel voyaged in \'\Testern Hemisphere waters for the duration of the war. Almost all her loadings were made at Caribbean,and Gulf of Mexico ports arid her 'chief mission was' to supply the petroleum needs of our domestic civilian economy and war industries. Her cargoes of fuel and crude oils were distributed widely-to New York and Halifax, Montreal and Boston, Providence, Philadelphia and Baltimore, Norfolk, Baton Rouge, and Buenos Aires-also to Aruba, Cristobal, and Balboa; and in 1940, to Tocopilla, Chile.
On V-J Day, September 2, 1945, the Fred W. Weller, commanded by Captain Gunnar Gjertsen, with her engineroom in charge of Chief Engineer John Willadsen, arrived at Cristobal, Canal Zone, with an Aruba cargo of 109,697 barrels of Navy fuel oil.
The transportation record of the Fred W. Weller during the war years was in summary as follows:


Her wartime masters were Captains Herbert E. Clothier, Alfred J. Thorson, Fred Marcus, Wesley F. Besse, Lionel E. Crowder, Trafton F. Wonson, Herbert A. Nelson, Kenneth Wing, Andrew Weiler, Johannes Boje, and Gunnar Gjertsen.
In charge of her engineroom during the same period were Chief Engineers Harry Farnan, Karl B. Nelson, Clyde P. Williams,
William O. Wilkinson, Florence A. Daniels, Anton Hogelin, Fred Lewis, Max D. Petersen, and John Willadsen.