McCann, Francis T.

Francis Thomas McCann

Born: March 8, 1924
Hometown: Johnson City, NY
Class: 1944
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Engine Cadet
Date / Place of death: March 2, 1943 / 62-10N, 28-25W
Date / Place of burial: March 2, 1943 / Lost at Sea –
62-10 N, 28-25 W
Age: 18

 

 

January 25, 1943 at New York, NY, replacing Walter E. Johnson. He joined Randall
Bourell (Deck), Alan Clarke (Deck) and Daniel Maher (Engine) who had made the
previous voyage to Casablanca, French Morocco. On February 18, 1943 the
Meriwether Lewis with its four Kings Point cadets sailed from New York as part of
convoy HX-227 bound for the United Kingdom and then to Murmansk, Russia. The ship
was loaded with a cargo of vehicle tires, ammunition, and according to some
references, a deck cargo of PT Boats.

According to German Navy records, the Meriwether Lewis was identified as a straggler
from a convoy, and unsuccessfully attacked, by U-759 in the early morning of March 2.
The submarine was unable to re-attack the Meriwether Lewis due to problems with its
engines, but it was able to contact U-634 and lead it to the straggler. The U-634 fired
four torpedoes at the Meriwether Lewis, hitting it with one of them. The damage was
apparently sufficient to stop the ship, but did not sink it. The submarine hit the
Meriwether Lewis with two more torpedoes, the last of which detonated the ship’s
ammunition cargo. Although there was plenty of time to abandon ship, the USCGC
Ingham (WPG 35) found only a 30-mile line of floating tires during its two day long
search for the SS Meriwether Lewis and crew. Thus, the ship’s entire crew of 44,
including four Kings Point Cadets, and 28 members of the Naval Armed Guard perished
in the sinking.

Cadet-Midshipman Francis T. McCann was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal, and the Presidential
Testimonial Letter.

Francis T. McCann was the oldest of Thomas V. McCann and Helen G. McCann’s two sons and daughter. Although he had been a coal miner when Francis was born, by 1930 the family had moved from Pennsylvania to Johnson City, NY. There Thomas McCann worked in a shoe factory while Helen was a Registered Nurse. Francis’ sister, Mary Lou was just two years younger, while his brother Joseph was much younger.

Although called Francis by his parents, he was known as “Nippy” to his friends due to
his resemblance to a comic strip character whose hair was similarly parted in the
middle. As a boy, Nippy was a fan of the 1930’s St. Louis Cardinals (the “Gas House
Gang”), and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. When he was home for Christmas
1942, just before joining the Meriwether Lewis, Francis “Nippy” McCann became
engaged to his childhood sweetheart. Joseph McCann recalls,

“I do remember, like it was yesterday when he came to my room to say goodbye. He had my Mother give him a pair of baby shoes to take for good luck.”

Photo of The McCann Siblings (l. to r.)

Francis, Joseph and Mary Lou

Francis with Brother Joe and Sister Mary Lou

 

 

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