W D Anderson sunk by U-504/Poske 23 February 1942 off Bahamas, Florida

W D Anderson

Poske’s next victim – within 24 hours of his attack on the Republic – was W. D. Anderson, a large American tanker of 10,227 tons registered to Philadelphia. She had been built by Moore Shipbuilding of Oakland, California in 1921 for the Atlantic Refining Company of Philadelphia. Her first name, for the Southern Pacific Company was Tamiahua before Atlantic Refining bought and renamed her in 1936. She was 500 feet long, 71 feet wide and 31 feet deep. The ship was en route laden with 133,360 barrels of crude oil from Corpus Christi, Texas to Philadelphia. It had left Philadelphia southbound on the 8th of February.
Her master was Captain Albert Benjamin Walters of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, and amongst her crew of 36 were Frank Leonard Terry, aged 23, a wiper from Lansford, Pennsylvania, and Niel Jensen, a fireman/water-tender, aged 54, from Camden, New Jersey as well as Robert A. Aquinaldo, a Steward, of Wildwood, in the same state. Jensen was proud of the ten years he served at the Curtis yacht company and his stint in the US Navy during World War I. A veteran of the Spanish American war, he told friends that he was undeterred that he couldn’t swim (Camden NJ Morning Post, Feb. 28, 1942). 
At 11:27 that morning the Second Officer of the W. D. Anderson, Mahlon E. Stitsel, spotted the periscope of a submarine off the Florida Keys and called it into the Eastern Sea Frontier, which duly printed and disseminated the following message: “W. D. Anderson, Atlantic Ref. Co. tanker, sighted the periscope of an unescorted submarine at 25-41N; 79-53W.” Given the disposition of submarines at the time, this was unlikely a U-Boat as the only ones in the region – U-504 and U-128 – were busy sinking 3 ships a day off the northern-central Florida coast.
At 1900 on 23 February 1942 Poske struck the Anderson. The description of the effects of Poske’s torpedo is sadly simple to relate: the ship immediately and successively blew up, killing everyone left on board. She was about 12 miles northeast of Jupiter Light, Florida at the time – dusk, or 1900 local time. No doubt the keeper, who had so recently pulled the bodies of the Pan Massachusetts crew from the surf, was shaken alert again – mere days later. Even Poske was startled by the sudden reaction, writing in his war diary (KTB) that “The ship stood, in a fraction of a second, from forward to astern in flames” (palmbeachpost.com/news/divers-to-examine-safety-of-sunken-world-war-1678034) The only reason that the sole survivor lived is that he threw himself from the ship at the sight of the first torpedo. His training and experience as a life guard plus his youth allowed him to act on impulse, whereas the man standing next to him “chewing the fat about foreign ports” and especially a group trapped in the mess room in the after section (Moore) were incinerated. 
Here is Terry’s story: “He dived overboard when the first explosion came, and swam for two hours against the wind- away from the drift of blazing oil on the water- until he was rescued by E. A. Baldwin, a fisherman, who brought him ashore here [Stuart, Florida].
       “Five or six of us were on deck talking when the explosion came,” Terry said. “I knew we had been hit. I jumped to a railing and dove into the water. While in midair, another explosion came. There were six in all, but some might have been the boilers.”
       “Fire was all around me. I started to swim but flames were getting closer. I ripped off my clothes. I saw a body floating by and grabbed it, but I couldn’t tow it. The fire was getting too hot. I swam against the wind, hoping that the fire would go the other way. That’s probably what saved me. I guess the rest of my buddies got killed. I don’t think they had a Chinaman’s chance getting a boat over the side. We caught fire too fast. I never saw the submarine” (dvrbs.com/Monuments/Camden/Camden,NJ-MM-SS-WDAnderson – Camden Evening Courier,  February 28, 1942) Terry found the February water “so cold he thought sharks had bitten off his legs. He was surprised when rescuers told him they were still there” (Palm Beach Post, 1992).  From Capt. Baldwin’s boat he was transferred to the US Coast Guard boat Trouper, which took him ashore in Stuart. When a Coast Guard vessel picked him up the Coasties complained that with the weight of additional he must have weight five hundred pounds. He was hospitalized for three days, later wryly commenting that his first trip to Florida did not get off to a very positive start.
As for the remains of the ship, local fishing charter captain Chris Cole says that it lies in 560 feet (consistent with the 60 fathoms or 360 feet mentioned in the Navy report), lying on its side in one piece and still in “decent” shape (Ibid). As for the W.D. Anderson still holding oil, “I doubt it,” Frank Leonard Terry, now 93, said from Pennsylvania. “There was a huge fire.”