Garritsen, Herman Gerard

Herman Gerard Garritsen
Born: February 23, 1922
Hometown: Ridgewood, NJ
Class: 1943
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Engine Cadet
Date / Place of death: November 4, 1942 / North
Atlantic 71-02 N, 13-05 W
Date / Place of burial: November 4, 1942 / North
Atlantic 71-02 N, 13-05 W /
Lost At Sea
Age: 20

 

Herman G. Garritsen reported aboard the Liberty Ship SS William Clark in New York
harbor on August 17, 1942. Also joining the ship on the same day were Engine Cadets
Richard Holland and Peter Smith and Deck Cadet Robert Everhart. They joined a crew
of 38 merchant ship officers and seamen along with 30 officers and men of the Navy’s
Armed Guard.

The ship sailed on August 22, 1942, carrying a cargo of general military
supplies in its holds and a deck cargo of aircraft and tanks to Murmansk, Russia. The
William Clark traveled with convoys via Boston (BX-35) and Halifax, Nova Scotia (SC-
99) to Reykjavik, Iceland where the ship would normally have joined a Murmansk bound
convoy. However, due to the high losses of the previous two Murmansk Convoys, PQ-
17 and PQ-18, and the demand for warships to support the landings in North Africa, the
Murmansk convoys were suspended. In the interim, supplies still had to flow to Russia.
So, the seven British, five U.S. and one Russian merchant ships that would have been
in the next Murmansk convoy were ordered to sail independently from Reykjavik in
twelve hour intervals between October 29 and November 2, 1942 in what was called
Operation FB. Of the thirteen ships, three turned back to Reykjavik, five arrived safely
and five, including the SS William Clark, were lost.

At 1135 on November 4, 1942, near Jan Mayen Island, the SS William Clark was hit on
the port side, amidships, by one of three torpedoes by U-354. The explosion
completely destroyed the engine room killing all five of the engineers on duty, including
Engine Cadet Peter J. Smith. The remaining crew abandoned ship into two life boats
and a motorboat. Although the motorboat was able to keep the survivors together by
towing the lifeboats, the towline was eventually broken and the boats became
separated. One boat with 26 survivors was rescued after three days afloat by HMS
Elstan (FY 240). The second boat with fourteen survivors were rescued by HMS Cape
Passiser (FY 256) after over a week at sea. Herman Garritsen apparently was in the
motorboat which, with twenty other crew members, was under the command of the
Captain. This boat was never heard from again.

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

Herman Garritsen was the only son, and youngest child of Herman H. and Bernadine
Peters Garritsen. According to the 1930 U.S. Census, the elder Garritsen was a house
painter. Herman Jr. started his seagoing career early, sailing across the Atlantic in
1925 when he was three years old to visit relatives with his mother. His nephew, Frank
Iudica, said that he was known as a precocious youngster with a lively interest in music,
sports, photography, science and journalism. He was an accomplished pianist who
wrote and arranged his own music.

Frank said,
“I remember him as an outstanding basketball player on his high school
team. He went on to study at Columbia University before entering the
Academy. As my uncle he was a role model and a loss I feel very
deeply!”

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