M/S Empire Drum at anchor in New York harbor on the 19th of April, 1942 – a mere five days before her destruction. Not the anti-torpedo contraption on her bow, for streaming degaussing equipment (defined as “neutralizing the magnetic field of a ship by encircling it with a conductor carrying electric currents.”)
Capt. Miles went on to observe that “The Magazines in my ship were constructed by Italian Workmen and there was no secrecy about our destination,” leading him to believe that the workmen communicated with Italian submarines offshore to plan his ship’s destruction (the submarine which sank Empire Drum was German not Italian and there is no evidence to support Captain Mile’s concern on this point).
USS Roper, DD 147 at sea during WWII. Photo taken as the Roper escorted a convoy out of Hampton Roads Virginia in 1942
Photograph of the third Empire Drum lifeboat with 11 men in it (possibly 13) on May 1st 1942 taken from a US Coast Guard ambulance airplane. Note his is not flying a yellow pennant from the mast, though red sails are clearly visible (though the photo is in black and white). This boat was under the command of Chief Officer John Arthur Lee. Two men were taken from it either just before or after this photograph was taken on Friday May 1st1942.
“Survivors of the MV Empire Drum ashore at NOB, Norfolk.” (National Archives photo 80-CF-103A-3). From Chewing, Alpheus J., “The Approaching Storm, U-Boats off the Virginia Coast During WWII,” Brandylane Publishers, Lively, Virginia, 1994, page 85. Since they are being landed from a large naval vessel in daylight this must be survivors being landed by the USS Roper at 9 am on Saturday May 2nd with the 2nd Officer (Greenlees) of the Empire Drum in charge of 14 men.
NOTE:There is considerable confusion over exactly which vessels rescued which lifeboat from the Empire Drum. Because both CGC 407 and USS Roper deposited 27 men within hours of each other, most sources, including Wikipedia, say that the USS Roper rescued all 27 men. However this was not possible, as the Roper was patrolling some 200 miles to the northeast at the time that First Officer Lee’s men were being rescued by a plane and a surfboat – rescues which are well documented in original material (patrol logs from the ESF made at the actual time). Furthermore, a “phantom” Coast Guard Cutter, CGC 487 crept into some records and was referred to by Chewning among others. On the relevant date CGC 487 was escorting a convoy from New York to Cape May New Jersey and was nowhere near the scene of the Empire Drum’s third lifeboat.
Another source – “Summary of Survivors Statements” says that CGC 409 delivered the Drum survivors ashore on 2nd May. All of these are wrong and can be attributed to mis-reading the “0” in CGC 407 as an “8” or the “9” as a “7” – easy enough mistakes to make, particularly when dealing with duplicate copies and coupled with the “fog of war.” There is no doubt in this author’s mind, having unravelled a number of similar conflicts using original documentation, that USS Roper rescued the 2nd batch of Empire Drum survivors and that the surfboat 5429, aided by an airplane (CG 183) and CGC 407 rescued the third and final group.
ConvoyWeb.co.uk, Data supplied by Don Kindell, extracted from the late Arnold Hague’s papers with the kind permission of Mrs. Gill Hague
Gentile, Gary, “The Fuhrer’s U-Boats in American Waters,” Bellerophon Bookworks, Philadelphia PA 2006
Mason, Capt. Jerry, www.uboatarchive.netfor English translation of U-136’s diary or KTB
“Survivors Statements” including the Panama portion of Souza’s narrative, from NARA, in Washington DC, as found by Michael Constandy, www.westmorelandresearch.org. Formal citation: Survivor’s Statements (1941-1942) Series : Papers of Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin, compiled 1941 – 1974. Record Group 38: Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1875 – 2006 Entry P-13. National Archives at College Park – Textual Reference (Military) 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740
The National Archives, Wales, Anglesey County Record Office/ GB 0221 WD9 letter to the sister of Capt. John Robert Miles concerning his death and service on the Statira. http://apps.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/onlinelists/GB0221%20WD9.pdf
Uboat.net, for photo of Empire Drum, http://www.uboat.net/allies/merchants/ships/1566.html
U-Historia for an image of the U-136: http://www.u-historia.com/uhistoria/historia/huboots/u100-u199/u0136/u136.htm
Wiberg, Eric, “Everalda” attack / survivor narrative, 2014, http://uboatsbahamas.blogspot.com/2013/06/latvian-ship-everalda-indirectly-caused.html