Transcription

Narrative by:

LIEUTENANT JAMES F. MURDOCK, USKR

USS LST 507

In Normandy Invasion Exercises.

Lieutenant Porter:
This is Lieutenant Porter. We are in the Office of Naval Record and Library on 16 August 1944. Lieutenant Murdock is here this morning. Lieutenant, will you kindly give us your full name and the name of the ship, or the designation of the ship which you commanded.

Lieutenant Murdock:
My name is Lieutenant James Frederick Murdock, former Executive Officer of the LST 507, and senior surviving officer.

Lieutenant Porter:
Lieutenant Murdock, what was the LST 507 doing along about last April?

Lieutenant Murdock:
The 507, shortly prior to the time the ship was sunk, was operating in the English Channel in exercise maneuvers and was en route to the assembly point at the time the torpedoing occurred.

Lieutenant Porter:
Could you give us the date of this event and the set-up of the ships there and then go on [to] describe your personal experiences which you saw and heard at the time of the torpedoing?

Lieutenant Murdock:
The 507 started from Brixham, England on the afternoon of April the 27th 1944. She was in company with the LST 499 and LST 289 as the last ship in the group of three. We maneuvered around in the English Channel until approximately 1930 at which time we fell astern of the five ships which made up the balance of the convoy which had come up from Plymouth. We cruised around until late that night on various courses and at various speeds preliminary to going to the assembly point.

At approximately 1:35 on the morning of April the 28th, gunfire was heard and tracers were observed coming from the port quarter. The origin of the fire was never determined, but apparently the fire was not directed at our ship, or at the ships which were ahead of us, our ship being the 8th ship in column, the last in the line. At approximately three minutes after two, we were torpedoed on the starboard side.

We had noticed two apparently very fast ships on our starboard, going astern of us probably 20 minutes prior to the time of the torpedoing. These two ships went past us approximately a mile and a half away, turned and came back heading in the same way we did. At this time they were about a mile or slightly less away from our ship. We did not know just what they were, assuming that perhaps they were members of our escort. As they came abeam we were suddenly hit by a torpedo on the starboard side which tore through the sides and exploded in the near vicinity of the auxiliary engine room. This immediately knocked out all the lights, the fire main and caused fires to start on both the tank deck, in the engine rooms and topside. At the time we had 282 Army personnel aboard for the exercise, and with the personnel were the necessary trucks, jeeps and DUKWs, as they are culled, to be used in the operation. All of the Army vehicles naturally were loaded with gasoline, and it was the gasoline which caught fire first. As the gasoline spread on the deck and poured into the fuel oil which was seeping out of the side of the ship, it caused the fire on the water. The bow of the ship entirely separated from the bridge and the stern-most part of the vessel. We on the bridge could not contact the bow at any time.

Lieutenant Porter:
Lieutenant Murdock, I understand that you were at general quarters at the time you were torpedoed because you had been called there at the time of the gunfire, also that when you speak of seeing these ships astern and in other positions, you mean that they were evident on the radar.

Lieutenant Murdock:
Yes Sir, we went to general quarters immediately, as soon as we heard gunfire, at approximately 1:35 and were at general quarters until the order to abandon ship was given.

Also the E-Boats were never actually seen as such. They were simply observed as pips in the radar.

Every effort was made the control the fires which were raging throughout the ship, but due to the explosion the fire main had been rendered inoperative. We tried to fight the fire with the CO2 containers scattered throughout the ship and with other means which were at hand, but absolutely no progress was made. The ship was sinking by the stern and listing to starboard.

The Captain was doing everything in his power to get the fire under control and to keep the ship on an even keel. The men on the bow tried to get through to the main, to the tank deck to secure the fire fighting mains which were spread on the bulkheads there, but due to the flames coming from the DUKWs and the jeeps, and the tanks and the gasoline tanks there, they were unable to do anything along that line there. The fire meanwhile, in addition to burning throughout the ship, was spreading on the water due to the gasoline and diesel oil which was seeping out of the ship.

The Captain considered whether to try to contact in some manner if he could, the other ships which apparently had gone ahead, or whether to make preparations to abandon ship. He decided on the later course and gave the order to stand by to abandon ship. At approximately 2:30 the Captain gave the order to abandon ship. Only two of the boats, the number one and two lifeboats forward were gotten into the water. Two of the others had been rendered inoperative due to the explosion and the remaining boats, two in number, were afire. Also, since most of the rafts were amidships and were in the flame only two of the rafts were gotten over.

The process of abandoning ship was carried out in a very orderly manner. The Army personnel was ordered off of the stern and those who were forward left the ship from that point. The Army wore life belts, and all Naval personnel, with the exception of a very few wore kapok life jackets. The Captain was the last man to leave the ship at approximately 2:35 or 2:40. As we left, trying our best to get away from the fire spreading on the water, the ship continued sinking and at approximately 3:15 or thereabouts the stern was down and only the bow was left showing with the fires still burning on the water. It is understood that later the ship was sunk, possibly by one of the destroyers which came up, by firing shells into her bow.

Lieutenant Porter:
Before we go any further, Lieutenant, I think it might be a good idea to put the Captain’s name in here.

Lieutenant Murdock:
The Commanding Officer of the ship was Lieutenant James S Swartz[sic], who had been in the Navy approximately three years. A man who had operated in the Pacific theater for about two years, a very capable and earnest young man who at all times kept the safety of his ship in mind.

With reference to records and government property. At the time the order to prepare to abandon ship was given, the ship’s yeoman, whose battle station was the Captain’s helper at the con, came by and asked for the keys to the office in as much as he had left his in the quarters. He was given the keys and went into the office, picked up the muster roll and other necessary records, which previously on many occasions he had been cautioned to have accessible for just such an emergency. He picked up his records and left the ship with such records. However, the yeoman was lost at sea, his body was recovered, but all the records were gone. The leading quartermaster on the ship meanwhile had left the ship with the ship’s log and the charts. He also drowned in the water and all the records which he had were lost. The yeoman was James Bailey, Yeoman second, and the quartermaster was Charles Garlock, Quartermaster second.

The commanding officer and the narrator left the ship and swam out to one of the two rafts which were being used. On this raft were approximately ten men, including five officers and the rest enlisted men from the ship, and one Army man. We hung onto the side of the raft using the paddles which were on the raft to get away from the ship and any possible explosions which might occur. Prior to leaving the ship all of the ammunition forward and aft had been scuttled in order to prevent the explosions from damaging persons in the water.

We stayed in the water until approximately 6 o’clock at which time the LST 515 approached. We signalled to her with a flashlight which we had and by this manner, and by yelling, we attracted their attention. Meanwhile the one man from the Army who was on our raft had died due to the extreme cold of the water, the temperature of the water being less than 50˚.

As we approached the 515, which was practically stopped in the water, one of the officers apparently gave out and slipped off of the raft. Before he could be recovered he had drowned. As we were hauled up on the 515, the commanding officer, Captain Schwartz[sic] was taken aboard, put with a number of the other survivors and died shortly after being given emergency first aid. His death is believed to be due to exposure and shock.

Aboard the LST 507 were 165 naval personnel which included 14 officers. In Army personnel, we had 282. From this group, 89 of the navy personnel, including 8 officers are listed as survivors, five were picked up and taken to hospitals and being, wounded, a total of 94 survivors. Fifty eight men were picked up as dead, and 13 are still carried as missing. In the Army 131 are listed as dead or missing, 151 were picked up as survivors, 19 of whom were hospitalized.

The gunfire coming from our port quarter was observed at approximately 1:35. The ship was torpedoed at approximately 2:03, the order to abandon ship was given at approximately 2:30 and the Captain and the Executive Officer left the ship at approximately 2:40. The ship was last noticed with its bow sticking up at approximately 3:15. The survivors on the raft on which the narrator was holding on was picked up at approximately 0600.

During the night of April 27, and the early morning of April 28, the weather would be considered as being probably fairly good. The wind was from gentle to zero. A quarter moon was low and setting. The sea was calm, the visibility was fair to good.

Lieutenant Porter:
Lieutenant, I understand that some other ships in this exercise were hit. Did you see anything of that?

Lieutenant Murdock:
We saw the ship immediately ahead take a hit, the 289. However, the 289 was hit dead astern and did make its way into port. The LST 531 which it is believed was fourth in column was hit by two torpedoes and it is understood it sank possibly within six minutes or so.

Lieutenant Porter:
Did you see these hits while you were still on board ship, or after you had gotten into the water?

Lieutenant Murdock:
We saw the ship immediately ahead break into flame and heard the explosion, beyond that we know very little about what went on. We did not see the 531 get hit, we only saw the flames from the 531 which was quite some distance ahead.

Lieutenant Porter:
These events that you describe you saw before you had abandoned ship?

Lieutenant Murdock:
All of this was noticed prior to the time we abandoned ship. Naturally after getting into the water we noticed the 531 aflame possibly a mile and a half or two miles distant from us. The LST 507 was torpedoed first and it is understood that the 289 was hit, then the 531, in as much as when we were hit we stopped and the other ships continued, it can be assumed that the column pulled away from our particular ship.

Lieutenant Porter:
Was any effort made to report your damage by TES or any other way to the Convoy Commodore?

Lieutenant Murdock:
We made every effort to contact the Commodore, but since all power had failed when the explosion took place, we had no means of communication whatsoever, either by TES or radio.

Lieutenant Porter:
These Army troops you had aboard, were they a hospital unit?

Lieutenant Murdock:
No sir, the Army personnel aboard were men who were [remainder of sentence unintelligible].

Lieutenant Porter:
In other words, they were assault troops.

Lieutenant Murdock:
Yes sir.

END