Derick, Robert John

Robert John Derick
Born: April 2, 1923
Hometown: East Hartford, CT
Class: 1944
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Engine Cadet
Date / Place of death: August 19, 1943 /North Atlantic, 36-37’N,30-55‘W
Date / Place of burial: Unknown / Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, MO/Section 82 Site 7-10
Age: 20

 

Robert J. Derick signed on as Engine Cadet aboard the Liberty Ship SS J. Pinckney
Henderson on July 23, 1943 with his classmate, Deck Cadet Roscoe J. Prickett, Jr. By
August 14, 1943 the J. Pinckney Henderson had been loaded with a cargo of
magnesium, glycerine, resin, oil, and wax and sailed for Liverpool as part of convoy HX-
252.

The weather from August 14 onward was bad, with both high seas and fog. On the
evening of August 19 J. P. Henderson collided with the Panamanian flag tanker J. H.
Senior. The J. H. Senior was carrying aviation gasoline which exploded, showering
both ships with burning high octane gasoline. Within moments, both ships were
transformed into infernos. Three crew members on the J. P. Henderson and six others
on the J. H. Senior were able to leap into the sea and save themselves. The remaining
crew members of both ships, including Cadet-Midshipman John R. Derick, were killed in
the fire.

The J. P. Henderson was initially thought to be salvageable, and was towed to Sydney,
Nova Scotia, while still in flames. However, she continued to burn for another month
and was eventually declared a total loss. The hulk was later towed to Philadelphia and
scrapped. On September 3, 1943 the charred remains of 34 unidentifiable bodies were
buried with naval honors in a mass grave at Sydney. A monument was also erected
there in their honor. Sometime around 1949 the remains were exhumed and re-interred
in a mass grave at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. At the same time the
monument to the crew of the J. P. Henderson was moved to Kings Point. The
monument to the men of the J.P. Henderson languished in relative anonymity until 2004
when it was installed in a place of honor at the entrance of the American Merchant
Marine Museum adjacent to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Cadet-Midshipman Robert J. Derick was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal, and the Presidential Testimonial Letter.

Robert J. Derick was the son of Sarah M. Derick of East Hartford, CT. No other
information on his background could be located.

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