Foote, Calvert Sumner

Calvert Sumner Foote
Born: April 22, 1922
Hometown: Scranton, PA
Class: 1943
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: July 6, 1942 / 71N 45E
Date / Place of burial: July 6, 1942 / 71N 45E /

Lost At Sea
Age: 20

 

Calvert Foote signed on aboard the SS Pan Atlantic as Deck Cadet on April 6, 1942 at Philadelphia, PA. He was joined by his classmate, Cadet Midshipman Carl E. Anderson. The Pan Atlantic, built in 1919, sailed from Philadelphia on April 22 for Russia via Halifax, Nova Scotia, Scotland and Reykjavik, Iceland with a cargo of tanks, steel, nickel, aluminum, food, petroleum equipment and explosives.

At Reykjavik the Pan Atlantic joined with thirty-three other merchant ships, plus an oiler
and three rescue ships to form convoy PQ-17 to Murmansk. The convoy sailed from
Reykjavik (Hvalfjord) on June 27, 1942 bound for the Russian port of Archangel via an
evasive route north of Bear Island into the Barents Sea. The convoy was escorted by
three groups of British and American warships including covering forces of cruisers and
battleships.

All went well for the first few days, although three ships had to return to Iceland. The
convoy itself was not spotted by the Germans until July 1. Between July 1 and July 4
the convoy and its escorts beat back attacks by German torpedo bombers with the loss
of two. However, on July 4 the British Admiralty became convinced that the battleship
Tirpitz, with its escorts, was sailing to attack the convoy and its escorts. Shortly after
2100, unwilling to risk the Royal Navy’s limited number of heavy warships in waters
controlled by German aircraft, heavy surface ships and submarines, the Admiralty
ordered the convoy’s covering cruiser force to sail West, out of harms way, at high
speed. A few minutes later the convoy commodore was ordered to disperse the convoy
to proceed to Archangel independently. The result was as catastrophic as it was
predictable. Shorn of their escorts, the merchant ships manfully tried their best to
deliver the goods in the face of overwhelming odds. For many of the ships and their
crews their best was not good enough.

Among the ships lost was the Pan Atlantic. By pluck and luck the ship survived all day
July 5th and most of July 6th. At about 1610 GMT, when the ship was about 270 miles
North of Cape Kanine, Russia, a German dive bomber found the Pan Atlantic. The Pan
Atlantic’s Armed Guard Sailors and its crew manned all of the guns and fiercely
defended the ship. About five minutes later the aircraft dove on the ship, pulling out just
out of the machine gun’s range, dropping two bombs. The bombs hit forward of the
bridge setting off an explosion in the cargo that broke the ship in half. Three minutes
later the ship sank.

One boat was successfully launched from the Pan Atlantic by the Chief Mate, two
crewmen and two Armed Guard Sailors. This boat pulled eighteen other men from the
water or life rafts, including the Captain and Cadet-Midshipman Anderson. Cadet-
Midshipman Calvert Foote was one of the 25 men killed during the attack. The men in
the life boat spent three days in the frigid weather before being rescued by HMS Lotus
(K 130) on July 9. However, their ordeal was not over. The HMS Lotus and the
survivors aboard had to endure another 8 hours of German air attacks before they
arrived in Archangel on July 11. Many of the survivors had to stay in Russia for weeks
before they could get aboard a ship and make their way back to the United States.
Even then, the return trip was as hazardous as the first trip. Many survivors, like Cadet-
Midshipman Anderson, had to survive a second sinking before reaching home.

Cadet-Midshipman Calvert Foote was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal, and the Presidential
Testimonial Letter.

Calvert S. “Jack” Foote, was the only son of the Reverend Adrian B. Foote and Irene L.
Foote. The Foote family traveled extensively as Reverend Foote moved from church to
church. Jack and his sister Marjorie were born in South Dakota, but by the time Jack
was seven and Marjorie was six they were living in Whitney Point, NY. By 1935, the
family had moved to Pennsylvania where Jack attended the Methodist School in
Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania. Marjorie graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical
School in Baltimore, MD. She practiced medicine in Massachusetts until her death in
1976.

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