Levett, Henry A.

 

 Henry Alexander Levett
Born:January 21, 1923
Hometown; Summit, NJ
Class:1943
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: December 2, 1942
/ NorthAtlantic, 48-45 N, 23-30 W
Date / Place of burial: December 2, 1942 /
Lost at Sea – North Atlantic, 48-45 N, 23-30 W
Age:    19

Harry A. Levett signed on as Deck Cadet aboard the SS Coamo on October 2, 1942 at New York, NY.  He was joined by Cadet-Midshipman Joseph Giovinco who also signed on as Deck Cadet.  The Coamo was built in 1925 for the East Coast to Puerto Rico passenger trade. When World War II began the ship was chartered by the Army Transport Service for use as a Troop Ship.

After a voyage to Algiers, the Coamo sailed with sixteen other merchant ships in convoy MKF-3 on November 23, 1942, bound for the West Coast of Scotland. On December 1, 1942, as the convoy was nearing the British Isles, the Coamo was ordered by the British Admiralty to proceed independently to New York, without escort.

On the evening of the following day the Coamo was sighted by U-604 in a rising gale. According to German Navy records U-604 closed to within 800 yards of its target and fired one torpedo. At 1818 GCT the torpedo struck the Coamo underneath its bridge. The Coamo sank within five minutes of the attack without launching a single lifeboat. Although the submarine’s crew reported seeing some survivors leave the ship on rafts none of the 133 crew, 37 Armed Guard and 16 passengers, including Cadet- Midshipmen Henry Levett and Joseph Giovinco were seen again.  It is believed that any survivors who left the Coamo died in the gale that swept the area for three days.  The sinking of the SS Coamo was the largest loss of merchant crew on any U.S. Flag merchant vessel during the Second World War.  It is interesting to note that all of the other ships in Convoy MKF-3 arrived safely at their destinations.

Cadet-Midshipman Henry A. Levett was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal, Combat Bar, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal, and the Presidential Testimonial Letter.

Photo of SS Coamo
Henry Levett was the youngest of Charles Martin Everett and Laura M. Levett’s two sons.  According to the 1940 U.S. Census, Charles Everett was a bond salesman in a brokerage.  Henry’s older brother Charles, Jr. was working as a clerk in a life insurance office.  Laura Levett was a puppeteer.


One thought on “Levett, Henry A.

  1. From Captain Henry N. Helgesen USCG, Retired KP 1945 Master Mariner
    Just rec’d your interesting information. I did go to the web to read list of the KP cadets lost during WW II. Looks like more names need to be added. Probably all in the works. I will mention that the Deck Cadets: Joseph Giovinco and Henry A. Levett who were lost from the USAT Coamo when the ship was sunk by the German U-604 on Dec. 9, 1942 North Atlantic, are not listed.
    (Later Captain Helgesen stated I moved too quickly to e-mail you on the date of sinking. I took the first reported date of sinking from Captain Moore’s study of the sinkings written in 1983 when first published. There it said 9 Dec 1942. The book was revised in the printing of 1988 the date was corrected to 2 December 1942. Which is correct. Sorry about that slip, I should have known better.)
    I am quite familiar with the sinking in great detail. My father Captain Nels Helgesen was the Master and also lost with all hands.
    My brother in law E.V. Friend did a great story of the sinking of the Coamo with the greatest of details. He researched the German Archives and the log book of the German U-604. And interviews of the surviving crew members of the sub. It is called : “SS Coamo Last Voyage”. Written in 1987. He had never met my father Captain Nels Helgesen. He read Capt. Moore’s “A Careless Word…A Needless Sinking”, which sparked his idea of finding out more about how and when.
    My father commanded most or all of the NY and Porto Rico Line ships. His life was at sea. Of course much of this is background and found in Friend’s book. My father resides in the Maritime Hall of Fame at the Museum at Kings Point.

    But E. V. Friend created the day of 2 December 1942 of the sinking and the sub tracking the Coamo until able to fire away a torpedo that evening and sinking when the sub got within range. It was a stormy day and the Coamo was zigzagging. On a leg heading into heavier seas the Coamo was slowed down at times. This enabled the sub to close in for the kill. Created from the U-604’s log book and Friend’s research. This was how the two Cadet-Midshipmen from KP perished with all hands.

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