Born: September 26, 1923
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Class: unknown 1944
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: April 11, 1943 / 53N, 39W
Date / Place of burial: April 11, 1943 / Lost at Sea -53N, 39W
James J. Magee signed on as Deck Cadet aboard the SS Edward B. Dudley at
Savannah, GA on March 1, 1943, just days after its delivery from North Carolina
Shipbuilding. James was joined aboard the Edward B. Dudley by Cadet-Midshipman
James Hope, also sailing as Deck Cadet.
After loading a cargo of cotton in Savannah, the Edward B. Dudley sailed on its maiden
voyage for New York. At New York the ship loaded more cargo, including either
ammunition or explosives. The Edward B. Dudley sailed from New York with convoy
HX 232 on April 1, 1943 bound for Liverpool via Halifax, Nova Scotia.
At some point after the convoy sailed from Halifax the Edward B. Dudley straggled
behind the convoy, due to, according to some sources, a bent propeller blade.
According to German Naval Records, the Edward B. Dudley was located by U-615 on
April 10. The submerged submarine fired a four-torpedo spread at the ship. Only one
of the four torpedoes was seen by U-615 to hit the ship, and it failed to explode.
Alerted to the danger, the Edward B. Dudley began zig-zagging but it was unable to
shake off the pursuit by U-615. The pursuit lasted all night with U-615 finally getting
ahead of the Edward B. Dudley and setting up its approach on the surface. When the
Edward B. Dudley was in U-615’s sights it fired two torpedoes at the ship, hitting it
amidships and stopping the ship. However, the Edward B. Dudley would not sink.
Twenty minutes after the first torpedoes hit the Edward B. Dudley the U-615 closed to
within ½ mile of the ship and fired another torpedo which hit the stern. The explosion of
this torpedo detonated the ammunition for the 5″ gun there, but the Edward B. Dudley
still remained afloat. At this point the crew of the U-615 witnessed the crew abandoning
ship in the ship’s lifeboats.
The U-615 then moved even closer to the crippled ship and fired a fourth torpedo which
was observed to hit under the bridge. This torpedo detonated the Edward B. Dudley’s
cargo, totally destroying the ship. Falling debris from the explosion wounded the U-
615’s captain and slightly damaged the submarine’s conning tower, forcing the
submarine to abort its patrol and return to base. The U-615 itself was sunk by allied
aircraft in the Caribbean on its next patrol.
Although the U-615’s captain and other crew members had seen boats being lowered,
no survivors of the Edward B. Dudley, including Cadet-Midshipmen Joseph J. Magee
and James A. Hope, were ever heard from. Given the extent of the explosion of the
Edward B. Dudley’s cargo any survivors who were in the life boats perished in the
Ironically, James was supposed to do his at sea training aboard another ship, the SS
Daniel Heister, and signed on aboard the ship as Deck Cadet on January 28, 1943.
However, a few days later he came down with a case of what the ship’s Master noted
as “grippe” (today known as influenza). He was sent ashore to a hospital in New York
for treatment and was left behind when the ship sailed. The Daniel Heister survived the
war without incident.
Cadet-Midshipman James J. Magee was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal, and the Presidential
James J. Magee was the middle son of John Charles Magee, Sr. and Anna C. McShea
Magee of Philadelphia. Anna Magee died on November 5, 1930, leaving her husband
to raise three young boys with the help of her mother, Annie Margaret McShea.
Following her death, the brothers took care of the family with the help of their
grandmother. Neighbors in Philadelphia thought highly of James, who was always
willing to cut a lawn or shovel some snow. Many thought he might later become a
priest. Robert Magee, the youngest son in the family, remembers brother Jim as an
excellent student at West Catholic High School, and a member of the crew team, the
student government, and the Senior Prom committee. He also recalled that his brother
could be tough on the youngest son in the family! James Magee attended Drexel
University for one year before enrolling at Kings Point. Robert P. Magee Jr., the son of
James’ brother Robert, graduated from Kings Point in the Class of 1969. According to
Robert Magee, when his sister Diane asked their father about whether he thought about
his brother often he said,
“No, but I never forget him.”