Lawrence, Leroy P.

Leroy Pinneo Lawrence

Born: July 10, 1921
Hometown: Hartford, CT
Class: 1945
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: August 30, 1944 /
North Atlantic, 55-30 N, 7-30 W
Date / Place of burial: August 30, 1944 /
North Atlantic, 55-30 N, 7-30 W – Lost at Sea
Age: 23

 

Leroy P. Lawrence signed on aboard his second ship, the tanker SS Jacksonville, as
Deck Cadet on August 18, 1944 at the Port of New York. He had previously served as
Deck Cadet aboard the SS Henry S. Sanford. A recent Kings Point graduate, Robie K.
Wentworth, signed on as Third Assistant Engineer. The ship sailed shortly afterward
loaded with a cargo of aviation gasoline.

On August 30th, about 50 miles north of Londonderry, Northern Ireland the Jacksonville
was nearing the end of its voyage when tragedy struck. The vessel was one of five
ships in Convoy CU-36 destined for Loch Ewe, Scotland which were separating from
the main convoy. The Jacksonville had just completed an 86-degree turn to take its
place at the end of a single column on the port side of the convoy when it was struck by
a torpedo from U-482.

The Jacksonville’s gasoline cargo quickly ignited. Within minutes, the entire ship was
enveloped in flames and ammunition in the stern ready boxes could be heard exploding.
Although the ship was on fire, it was not sinking. The Captain of U-482 fired another
torpedo which broke the ship in two. Even then the tough tanker didn’t sink. Convoy
escorts had to sink the after portion with gunfire and depth charges to remove the
hazard to navigation. The forward section continued burning, and sank the following
day.

The ship’s crew had no time to launch any lifeboats or rafts, and nearly all succumbed
rapidly to the raging fire. The only two survivors, a fireman and a member of the Naval
Armed Guard, jumped over the side of the ship into the flaming water, and swam away
from the doomed vessel. The attacking sub was never sighted and witnesses initially
thought that the ship had hit a mine. Cadet-Midshipman Leroy P. Lawrence and Third
Assistant Engineer Robie K. Wentworth, were among those lost in the sinking.

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

Leroy P. Lawrence was the third of Edward S. and Pauline Lawrence’s four children and
their second son. Leroy had an older brother Edward, and older sister Edith and a
younger brother Donald. According to the 1930 and 1940 U.S. Census, Edward
Lawrence owned a battery service company.

Leroy graduated from Hartford High School, where he was active in student
government, and a member of the National Honor Society. In 1940 Leroy entered
Wesleyan University with the class of 1943. During his college years he was a member
of the John Wesley Club, President of both the Debating Society and the International
Relations Club. Socially he was a member of the University’s Phi Nu Theta “Eclectic
Society” or Fraternity.

One thought on “Lawrence, Leroy P.

  1. George Ryan on 2/1/13 spoke to Earnest W. Elliott, ’44; he knew Bill Linde who died on the Jeremiah van Rensselaer. While not in his section, their fathers worked for Aetna Life Insurance Co. in Connecticut. Elliott said that it was hard to know other cadets in the graduating year since sections were being formed every week and sections were being shipped out as cadets or graduates very frequently.
    Elliott dedicated his book to the two cadets from his hometown, Bill Linde and to LeRoy “Whitey” Lawrence; Whitey died on the SS Jacksonville.

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