Hammershoy, Jay Arthur

Jay Arthur Hammershoy
Born: March 14, 1922
Hometown: Glenbrook, CT
Class: 1944
Service: Merchant  Marine
Position / Rank: Engine Cadet
Date / Place of death: February 7, 1943
North Atlantic 55-18 N, 26-29 W

Date / Place of burial: February 7, 1943
North Atlantic 55-18 N, 26-29 W / Lost At Sea
Age: 20

 

James A. Hammershoy signed on aboard the U.S. Army Transport SS Henry R. Mallory
as Engine Cadet on November 7, 1942 at New York, NY. Also aboard the ship were
Cadet-Midshipmen Joseph E. Best (Deck) and Phillip G. O’Reilly. After completing one
voyage, Phillip O’Reilly signed off and four new Cadet-Midshpmen signed on; Robert
Helling, Richard E. Holland (Deck), George R. Race (Engine), and Frank C. Roberts
(Deck). The Henry R. Mallory sailed on January 24, 1943 as part of slow convoy SC-
118 bound for Liverpool via Nova Scotia. However, the Henry R. Mallory and several
other ships were to split off from the convoy on February 9 and proceed to Iceland.
Loaded with 383 Army, Navy, Marine Corps and civilian passengers, the ship was also
carrying a mixed cargo of clothing, food, trucks, tanks, cigarettes, liquor and mail.

On February 4, 1943 German submarines sighted the convoy and began attacking it.
The attacks continued until the afternoon of February 7. At 0538 GCT on February 7,
despite the rising sea and snow falling, a torpedo fired by U-402 struck the starboard
side of the Henry R. Mallory at Hold #3, damaging the engines and blowing the hatch
covers off of #4 Hold. At the time of the explosion the Henry R. Mallory was traveling at
about 7 knots and was not steering an evasive course. According to some survivors
the ship began sinking immediately, while others, apparently including the Captain,
believed that the ship would remain afloat. As a result neither distress messages nor
flares were launched. In addition, after the sinking survivors reported that the General
Alarm was not rung and no order was given to abandon ship. In the confusion of the
greater attack on the convoy, none of the other ships in the convoy knew that the Henry
R. Mallory had been hit.

However, the Henry R. Mallory’s engines were badly damaged and quickly shut down.
Two of the aft lifeboats had been damaged in the explosion while others were damaged
by the heavy seas, but the remainder seemed secure. When the ship suddenly began
sinking faster by the stern the abrupt change caused panic among passengers and
crew. Men rushed on deck amid frigid temperatures without proper protective clothing.
In the chaos, only three boats were lowered successfully, and each of these was
dangerously overloaded either during launching or after picking up survivors from the
water. Several other boats capsized as crew and passengers tried to launch them.
Many of the life rafts could not be launched either because they were tied or frozen in
place. Others were insufficiently trained in how to use their rafts and did not properly
deploy key parts of the raft to prevent capsizing in the heavy seas. Hundreds of the
men aboard jumped overboard, where they would be forced to wait several hours in the
freezing water.

Meanwhile, the situation on the overloaded lifeboats was perilous. According to Cadet-
Midshipman Joseph Best, his life boat was intended for fifty men but held eighty. With
so much weight the boats gunwales were just inches above the water and the high seas
threatened to either capsize or simply sink the boat. Man of the men frantically bailed
with anything they could lay their hands on to keep the boat afloat while others
jettisoned anything that did not appear to necessary to survive their imminent sinking.
However, Cadet-Midshipman Best took custody of the distress rockets and flares
because he thought, “. . . they might become useful.”

With daylight the men in Best’s boat sighted the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bibb (WPG 31). The rockets hoarded by Best were fired into the air while Cadet-Midshipman Frank C. Roberts waved a yellow flag to attract the Bibb’s attention. The Bibb saved 205 freezing survivors of the Mallory, including those in the life boat with Cadet-Midshipmen Best and Roberts. The Bibb’s sister ship, USCGC Ingham (WPG 35) also picked up some survivors. According to the official U.S. Coast Guard history of the USCGC Bibb,

“Lookouts aboard the Bibb sighted one of the Mallory’s lifeboats at 1000
and, disobeying an order to return to the convoy, Bibb’s commanding
officer, CDR Roy Raney, ordered his cutter to begin rescuing survivors.
Many of Bibb’s crewmen leapt into the water to assist the nearly frozen
survivors, and the cutter Ingham assisted. One of Ingham’s crew
described the scene, a dreadfully common one along the North Atlantic
that year:

“I never saw anything like it, wood all over the place and
bodies in life jackets … never saw so many dead fellows in
my whole life. Saw lots of mail bags, boxes, wood, wood
splinters, empty life jackets, oars, upturned boats, empty life
rafts, bodies, parts of bodies, clothes, cork, and a million
other things that ships have in them. I hope I never see
another drowned man as long as I live.”

Among the 272 men who died in the frigid water were Cadet-Midshipmen Jay A.
Hammershoy, George R. Race, and Richard E. Holland. In a sad twist of fate, Richard
Holland had survived the sinking of the SS William Clark three months earlier.

Cadet-Midshipman Jay A. Hammershoy was posthumously awarded the Mariners
Medal, Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal Presidential
Testimonial Letter.

According to Academy records, Jay Hammershoy was sworn in as Cadet-Midshipman,
USNR on October 14, 1942. He was the oldest child and only son of Joseph and Mary
Hammershoy. Arthur’s father was born in Denmark and worked in 1930 as a Railroad
Foreman.

According to Academy records, Jay Hammershoy was sworn in as Cadet-Midshipman,
USNR on October 14, 1942. He was the oldest child and only son of Joseph
Hammershoy and Mary Hammershoy. Arthur’s father was born in Denmark and worked in 1930 as a Railroad Foreman.

 

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