The 4,488-ton tanker SS Healdton was making ten knots on a southwesterly course en route to Rotterdam, Holland, on the night of 21 February 1917. Icy winds blowing out of the northwest sent salt spray whipping across the decks. The U.S. ship, manned by a crew of forty-one including sixteen Americans, was riding low with 2,137,711 gallons of oil in its tanks. Passing heavy snow squalls obscured visibility. The tank ship was thirty-five miles inside the safe channel established by Germany for neutral ships in the North Sea. Welcoming flashes from the lightship at Terschelling Island, Holland, were just visible when a torpedo sliced through the icy waters and slammed into the tanker's port side; the detonation sent a shudder throughout the ship. The tanker's American captain, Charles Christopher, said; "At 8:15 o'clock Wednesday evening, I was in my cabin when aroused by a terrific concussion. All the lights went out and I rushed on deck in my shirt sleeves to stop the engines. I found that a torpedo had gone through amidships at the spot where the ship's name was illuminated brightly, wrecking the engine room. The light clearly served as a target. If we hadn't shown our lights we might have been saved."
After the torpedo struck, Christopher said, "The lifeboats were made ready and equipped for lowering. I rushed back to the cabin in the dark and was Just able to grab a coat and a sextant when a second explosion shook the ship." The second torpedo hit farther aft and exploded in the bunkers, setting the oil ablaze. "Burning oil was running in all directions," he said, "necessitating a quick getaway. I found that my boat. Number One, apparently having been cut from the tow line prematurely, had capsized near the ship. None of its occupants were seen again." Healdton was settling quickly, down by the stern and listing to port. The captain said, "One or two fellows in the bunkers never came up. I expect they were killed Acre by the explosion." Christopher managed to jump into the no. 2 boat just before it left the sinking ship. The captain and twelve men were in one open boat and the chief officer, Otto 0. Wailer, and another seven men were in a second boat. The boats pulled clear of the burning ship and stopped.
G. H. Krogh, American vice consul at Rotterdam, said in a cablegram to the State Department, "Captain saw submarine approaching when he was lying off Healdton watching vessel sink. Nationality submarine impossible to determine, because it possessed no distinguishing marks and was seen from a distance of 100 feet toward.
No words were exchanged with the submarine. Captain and crew believed submarine undoubtedly German. No other vessels were present or in sight when Healdton torpedoed. Submarine made no effort to assist crew or officers to save their lives, but disappeared immediately after Healdton sunk. Ships papers were not demanded."
The ship sank in twenty minutes and the submarine slipped below the surface and disappeared. The men in the two boats were left to the mercy of the sea and the freezing weather. Christopher said, "Then came twelve hours in open boats, insufficiently bad, and exposed to bitter hail and snow storms." The survivors rigged the sails on the boats and sailed and rowed in the darkness toward Terschelling Lightship, twenty-three miles to the southwest. When the crew of the Dutch trawler Java saw a boat
under sail the next morning, they stopped fishing and investigated. They reached the lifeboat carrying Captain Christopher and his men at 8:00 AM. The crewmen from Healdton were so exhausted and hypothermic they could not maneuver the boat alongside the trawler. The skipper of the trawler managed to get close enough to the lifeboat for Dutch fishermen to jump aboard. The fishermen brought the boat alongside and the survivors were taken onboard. They were cared for, given dry clothes, and taken to Terschelling. The second boat with the first mate and seven men was later found by the Dutch torpedo boat G-13 near Terschelling; the men had been exposed to the freezing weather for seventeen hours.
Krogh reported, "Perils and hardships suffered by all survivors extraordinary. Some possess no clothes. Others had no shoes.
Two stokers, Jose Jacinto and Jose Gonzales, had their clothes burned off in the fire and were naked. Jacinto died from exposure and bums in the first mate's boat. Gonzales died later at the hospital. None of the survivors were fully clothed. The first assistant engineer, G. W. Embry, had no clothes. Doctors said he would have died if he had been in the boat for another hour.
The second assistant engineer wore only his underclothes and was barefoot. The third boat, which had capsized, was found
by the Dutch steam trawler Ocean. Inside the boat, they found a Norwegian crewman from Healdton. His arms and legs were frozen, but he was still alive. Somehow, he had managed to right the boat and climb into it. The trawler took him into IJmuiden, Holland, for medical treatment.
The New York Times, March 24, 1917, Saturday.
13 AMERICANS IN CREW OF 41.
Several Other Nationalities Represented in Healdton's List.
Several Other Nationalities Represented in Healdton's List,
David T. Warden, General Manager of the steamship department of the Standard Oil Company at 26 Broadway, said yesterday that the Healdton carried forty-one officers and crew, of whom thirteen where Americans. The Americans on board were: Captain Charles Christopner, naturalized Norwegian. 147 Nichols Avenue, Brooklyn; Chief Officer O.O. Willerup. 2,272 Seventh Avenue, New York; Second Officer W. Chandler. 570 West 124th Street, New York; Third Officer C.F. Hudgins. NorfolK. Va.; Chief Engineer J. Caldwell,. naturalized Scotchman, New York.; First Assistant Engineer G.W. Embry, New Orleans: Second Assistant Engineer Y. Swenson, naturalized Swede, Hoboken; Third Assistant Engineer W.C. Johnson, Hoboken; E. Leviant,oiler.Hoboken; S.W. Smith, seaman, Chicago; J.W. Steiner, seaman, Pittsburgh; George Healey, saloon mess boy, San Francisco; H.H. Parker, wireless operator, Philadelphia.
The remaining twenty-eight members of the crew were:
C. Rode, boatswain, Russian; P. Martinez, carpenter, Spaniard; L. Van Does, chief steward; A. Snekkers, chief cook and Y.
Lenevelt, second cook, Hollanders; A. Laureine, engineer's boy, Spaniard; A.W. Vakstrom, sailor, Finn; P. Abrahamson, J.
Mathieson, VV. Johnson, S. Sovintson, sailors, Norwegians; L. Guillen, oiler, and A. Romero, oiler, Spaniards; P. Fonseca, B. Rebobido, F. Alonzo, R. Gonzalos, E. Lamar, J. Gonzales, A. Gomez, A. Grande, and P. Herreera, firemen, Spaniards; A. Corvado, fireman, Portuguese; J. Soto, coal passer, Spaniard; J.Cocha and R. Muino, coal passers. Cubans; N. Anderson,
coal passer, Swede; A. Alomo, fireman's boy, Spaniard.
According to a message received from Philadelphia, Parker, the wireless operator, had been saved and had cabled to his
father in that city. Mrs. Walter Johnson, the third assistant engineer's wife, who lives at 1,038 Park Avenue. Hoboken, said that last Wednesday she received a letter from the Standard Oil Company stating that the Healdton had arrived at Bergen, Norway, on March 17.
She had lived on the vessel with her husband and two children for six months while it was being repaired in Philadelphia. Mr.
Johnson served with the United States Navy in the Philippines, according to his wife, and since the submarine warfare started had often said that he might be killed, as the torpedoes were always aimed at the engine room.
Wilburt Chandler, second officer of the Healdton, one of the seven Americans lost, was 31 years old and was born in Falmouth, Nova Scotia. He came to this country several years ago, and served in the Red D and Ward Lines as a quartermaster. After taking out his full citizenship papers Chandler studied at a navigation school and passed his examination for second officer.
This was his second voyage on the Healdton. He was unmarried. His father is in charge of & canal boat now in New York Harbor.
Mr. Warden said yesterday, after a conference in his office, that the Standard Oil Company had not reached any decision regarding the arming of Its steamships in tho European trade. He said there would be no curtailment of sailings in any event.
Special to The New York Times, March 27, 1917, Tuesday
DEPICTS SUFFERING ON HEALDTON CREW;
Vice Consul Krogh Reports to Washington Details of Torpedoing of Tanker.
SOME DIED OF SUFFOCATION
Others' Clothing Was Burned Off; Exposure in Lifeboats Caused Two Deaths.
WASHINGTON, March 26.--The American and other members of the crew of the American tank steamer Healdton, belonging to the Standard Oil Company, which was sunk without warning by a German submarine in the North Sea last Wednesday night,in pursuance or Germany's prosecution of relentless U-boat warfare, suffered intensely, and others met death at sea, according to an official report received at the State Department today from G.H. Krogh, American Vice Consul at Rotterdam.
Some of the members of tho crew were suffocated and others frozen. Stokers' clothes were burned off their bodies by fire in the boiler rooms of the tanker aftor the second torpedo set the bunkers ablaze. One American way on the verge of death from exposure and fatigue when he was pulled out of the icy water of the North Sea by a trawler. This American. G.W. Embry of New Orleans,who was the First Assistant Engineer of the ship, was without clothes when he was rescued.
Two members of the crew were trapped below in the tank ship and were never able to reach the lifeboats. Nineteen of the men died either through capsizing of lifeboats or through suffocation in bunkers. One naked sloker died of exposure in his mate's boat, and another died in a hospital after having been rescued. This made a total of twenty-one lives lost, Vice Consul Krogh's cablegram to tho State Deportment read as follows:
"Captain Charles Christopher, tank steamer Healdton, arrived Rotterdam and supplies following details required by Department's instructions;
"Healdton left Philadelphia, Jan. 26 last; called to Halifax by wireless. Feb. 9; left Halifax March 2; arrived Bergen March 17; departed Bergen March 20;bound for Rotterdam; cargo, 6,200 tons petroleum.
"Voyage uneventful until 8:15, evening March 21, when ship lay twenty-three miles north by east of Terschelling Lightship; torpedoed twice without warning. First torpedo hit amidships; all lights went out. Second torpedo hit further aft, under flag painted on side port.
Bunkers were ablaze, and ship began to settle.
"After first torpedo shock Captain ordered engine stopped and crew took boats. Vessel began list aport. Captain made farewell search for missing members crew. One boat tried pull away sinking vessel and capsized. Captaip saw submarine approaching when he was lying off Healdton watching vessel sink. Nationality submarine impossible to determine, because it possessed no distinguishing marks, and was seen from distance 100 feet toward. No words were exchanged with submarine. From action, Captain and crew believed submarine undoubtedly German. No other vessels were present or within sight when Healdton torpedoed.
"Submarine made no effort to assist crew or officers to save their lives, but disappeared immediately after I-Iealdton sunk. Ship's papers were not demanded. Captain and twelve men rowed and sailed in open boat for Terschelling Lightship. At 8 o'clock, morning March 22, boat was picked up by Dutch trawler, Java, about ten miles from Dutch coast. Another boat containing first mate and seven men picked up by a Dutch torpedo boat, G-13. near Terschelling, after seventeen hours' expo-sure; rescued at 2 o'clock, afternoon March 22.
"No details at hand concerning; thoso drowned in capsized boat or on ship except one Norwegian with arms and legs frozen,
brought Ymuiden by steam trawler Ocean. Perils and hardships suffered by all survivors extraordinary. Some possess no clothes: others had no shoes. Two naked stokers, Jose Jacinto and Jose Gonzales, died from exposure, the former in mate's boat, latter in hospital today.
"Stokers had clothes burned off by fire in boiler rooms. All members crew partially clothed. One man in Captain's boat, G.W.
Ernbry, home New Orleans, first assistant engineer, would have died exposure and fatigue, without clothes, if trawler had picked up small boat one hour later. All suffered from fatigue.
"Second assistant engineer only wore underclothes and barefooted. Every member crew states decisively that Healdton torpedoed without warning. Ship made no effort escape or resist. Captain ordered engines stopped after first torpedo. No flight attempted because ship crippled. Vessel going ordinary speed on peaceful voyage unarmed when torpedoed.
"Healdton was torpedoed when all members crew, forty-one in all, were on vessel, both torpedoes struck before any one could leave ship. Casualties were as follows; Nineteen men either died in capsized boat by ship or from suffocation in bunkers. Captain believes two members crew were never able to reach lifeboats because on watch below or in engine room. Two other men, as previously mentioned, died from exposure and burns; engineer Embry badly frozen; other survivors with minor afflictions, as bruised and frozen ears and fingers.
"When vessel torpedoed there was moderate northwest breeze on choppy sea. Heavy snow squalls were encountered by survivors in open boats, and weather during whole night was below freezing: All survivors have now reached Rotterdam.
"Of crew, number forty-one, thirteen were Americans and twenty-eight other nationalities; thirteen members of crew, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, and Norwegian, were drowned. Fate of Americans on board follows: Captain Charles Christopher, Brooklyn, saved; First Mate Otto Willrup, New York, saved; Second Mato W. Chandler, Brooklyn, drowned or suffocated; Third Mate Hudgins, Norfolk. Va., drowned; Third Assistant Engineer W.C. Johnson, home Hoboken, drowned or suffocated; oiler Henry Lee Veaux, Michigan, drowned or suffocated; able seaman M.W. Smith, Chicago, drowned; sailor John Stiner, Pittsburgh, drowned; Second Steward George Healy, San Francisco, drowned; Chief Engineer John Caldwell, New York, saved: First Assistant Engineer G.W. Embry, New Orleans, saved; Second Assistant Engineer G. Swanson, Brooklyn, saved: wireless operator M. Parker, Philadelphia, saved. Complete affidavits following.
Word reached British this country yesterday that the official propaganda in Germany was putting out the statement that the
Healdton when she was submarined was under convoy of British torpedo boats. In response to inquiries the British Admiralty cabled here: "There is absolutely no truth in this statement."