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SS Leopoldville

Discussion in 'Convoys and Troopships' started by ww2dude, Feb 18, 2008.

  1. ww2dude

    ww2dude Member

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    Hi, is there anyone out there who is familiar with the sinking of the troopship Leopoldville? I have a book that dedicates a chapter to the sinking and a chapter to its discovery. However I was wondering if there is someone out there who could provide me with more info? I would be greatly appreciated. By the way, the book I used is The Sea Hunters by Clive Cussler. Thanks.
     
  2. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    date and location please ?

    E `
     
  3. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    On Christmas Eve 1944, the Belgian troopship Leopoldville was transporting 2,235 American soldiers, all from the 262nd and 264th Regiment, 66th Infantry Division across the English Channel as reinforcements to fight in a fierce struggle that would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. The Leopoldville was protected by escort ships, including the British Destroyer Brilliant, but no air cover was made available even though the threat of attack by German submarines was high. Just five and one half miles from its destination of Cherbourg, France, the vessel was torpedoed by the German submarine U-486. The ship sank 2 1/2 hours later.

    According to many survivors, the Belgian crew abandoned the sinking ship and left the American soldiers to fend for themselves. The British Commander in charge of the convoy ordered the Leopoldville's anchor dropped to prevent the troopship from drifting into a minefield outside the harbor. While this solved one problem, it created another. When a tug arrived on the scene, the dropped anchor prevented it from towing the sinking vessel into shore. Murphy's law states that whatever can go wrong will. On Christmas Eve 1944, Murphy's law was in full effect. Delayed radio transmissions for help, delayed response of rescue craft, heavy seas and freezing temperatures were just a few of the many things that sealed the soldiers fates. And it being Christmas Eve, serviceman at an American base in Cherbourg who could have aided the stricken Leopoldville were taking a night off from the war, either partying or attending church. No one seemed to be around to help.

    By the end of that terrible night, 763* American soldiers were dead, many drowning or freezing to death in the icy waters of the English Channel. These soldiers represented youths from 47 of the then 48 United States. New York State alone lost 80 young men, including 39 from New York City. Many of those killed were only 18 to 21 years old and 493 of the bodies were never recovered. Three sets of brothers were killed, including two sets of twins.

    [​IMG]

    Because of wartime censorship and to cover-up the mistakes made by the various governments and officials involved, the disaster was not reported to the news media. Survivors were told by the British and American governments to keep quiet. Amazingly, relatives of the victims received notices that their loved ones were Missing in Action, even though the U.S. War Department knew them all to have perished. Later, the men were declared Killed in Action, but even then no details of their deaths were divulged to their families. After the war, the tragedy was considered an embarrassment to the Allies and all reports were filed away as secret by the American and British governments. Families of victims searched vainly for information about the deaths of their loved ones. Only in 1996--over 50 years later--did the British declassify documents relating to the sinking of the Leopoldville.

    The Leopoldville disaster was the worst tragedy to ever befall an American Infantry Division as the result of an enemy submarine attack. Yet, this is more than a story about a terrible wartime tragedy, it is about how governments, in order to hide their own mistakes, can hide the truth from those who need it the most.

    *The death toll has often been reported as 802. A review of the official Leopoldville Disaster List from the National Archives totals 763 confirmed dead.


    The Sinking of the Leopoldville - The Story

    Not much more that I could find.
     
  4. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    PzJgr you are sure it was from a U-boot ? I've heard otherwise some years ago...........mines.
     
  5. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Personally no since I have not heard of this story. Source is History channel website. Could not find any other sources except a book listing but no description or summary
     
  6. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    search on the u-boat.net as a possibility as it will give the U-boot or Rohwers exhaustive Seekrieg site.

    in some ways this is like operation Tiger in April of 44 when the LST's that got ripped to shreds by KM S-booten - much was hidden and still is about the Slpton Isle affair.
     
  7. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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  8. ww2dude

    ww2dude Member

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    Thanks for the help. It was definitely a U-Boat, U-486, and not mines. I believe there are one or two books out there. On a different note, is there anyone out there who happened to survive this sinking and be willing to share with me a first-hand account of what happened that night?
     
  9. rjopm

    rjopm recruit

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    Are you still interested in a first-hand account of the sinking of the SS Leopoldville?
     
  10. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    Yes, please do post it.
     
  11. rvisdew

    rvisdew New Member

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    James E. Hutchens (Pfc 262nd Infantry Regiment, 66th Infantry Division) perished on the SS Leopoldville on December 24, 1944. He had been married to my mother for a brief four months.
    We do not believe that his body was ever recovered, but are still searching for information.
    My mother passed this last March (in 2014) and on the 70th anniversary of this tragedy, we will be dispersing some of her remains at the site near Cherbourg.

    Any helpful ideas or thoughts are certainly welcomed.
     
  12. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Welcome to the Forum, rvisdew.

    You may want to request his IDPF (Individual Deceased Personnel File). There is no guarantee that it will contain any documents that will give your family closure, but you won't know without trying.

    I found some documents on Fold3.com relating to the search & rescue efforts following the torpedoing of the SS Leopoldville. I can post them here if there is interest.
     
  13. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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  14. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    [​IMG]



    http://www.plongepave.com/pages/epaves-en-manche/leopoldville.html


    The wreck is still there. 49°45’14N/001°36’70W.

    This confirms the U boot torpedo. The hole is clearly visible.


    http://www.google.fr/imgres?imgurl=http://lutin84.chez.com/images/plongee/leopold.jpg&imgrefurl=http://lutin84.chez.com/pages/plongee/epaves/leopoldville.html&h=344&w=500&tbnid=N26sBbxkl6mxpM:&zoom=1&tbnh=93&tbnw=135&usg=__3tusJ-_8Lm3pUYEtbsA34mfUKtk=&docid=h0xuSVaEycV3RM&sa=X&ei=xi1qU5nlMIOl0QXf64HQAg&ved=0CEQQ9QEwAw&dur=434


    and this artist has painted the wreck

    http://www.webplongee.com/actualite/interviews/olivier-brichet.html


    [​IMG]



    The wreck is not strictly considered as a war grave , but as cultural heritage. This means that providing getting permission some people may actually dive there. In fact only a handfull professionnals may go there (it's over 60 meters deep) .
     
  15. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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  16. rvisdew

    rvisdew New Member

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    I have now requested the IDPF. Maybe we'll find something new. Thank you so much for the information!

    Also, the information you found on Fold3.com may be of some interest, if you can share.
     
  17. rvisdew

    rvisdew New Member

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    Hi:

    Thank you ... I have seen and read books by Alan Andrade (A Tragedy Too Long Secret) and Jacquin Sanders (A night before Christmas). They were both very helpful.
     
  18. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I'll try to get something posted in the near future.
     
  19. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    When I went back to Fold3.com to find the reports I had mentioned, I came across a much more interesting document. I found it in the Administrative History Collection, Historical Section, ETOUSA, CABLES * AGWAR [Adjutant-General, War Dept.] from Jan 1 - 15 [1945].

    The document is a communication relating a “report of personnel on board LSI Leopoldville.” It goes on to list by unit (to company level) the number of officers and enlisted men for each that were “known dead” or missing.


    View attachment 20992 View attachment 20993

    View attachment 20994 View attachment 20995
     

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    Skipper likes this.
  20. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    When I got to the fourth page, I noticed that it had started listing the dead and missing of each unit (to platoon level !!) by name. Naturally, I began to look for the 262nd. After looking through 21 of 23 pages of casualties, I finally found what I was looking for.

    Second from the top under Co L, 262nd Inf Regt, Hq Co [or perhaps should be "Co Hq"]: PFC James E Hutchens, 37668598 Missing


    View attachment 20996



    Added Note: I have to say that, after reading through the 23 pages of names, I was struck by the enormity of the loss that occurred with the sinking of the SS Leopoldville -- a ship which I was mostly unaware of until I read post #11 by rvisdew.
     

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