Quidort, Eugene C. ’44 or ’45

Quidort, Eugene C. ’44 or ’45 had he remained a Cadet

There was an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer honoring the men who served in WW II. The article was about Eugene Quidort who had attended Kings Point and survived the sinking of the Esso Gettysburg.(Article follows as last paragraphs) It also told of a voice Quidort heard prior to the torpedo striking the ship that saved his life. George Ryan asked what happened after he made it ashore after the sinking of the Esso Gettysburg and why did he not return to Kings Point?

(On 1/20 he said He said he was given three months to recuperate from wounds mostly where the shark rubbed against him (he said the wounds physically were minor but there were surely mental wounds). He never got orders to return to the Academy so after a year, through a relative he got a job in 1944 as a Deck Yeoman on the Thomas H. Berry, ATS, a large troop ship.)

On 1/30/13 he said that he reported to the office in New York, 45 Broadway, and was given a couple of weeks off and then he returned to the Academy. He shipped out as a cadet on the Buena Vista as cadet and on 4/1/44 and for 2 weeks he was acting 3rd mate and then back to cadet (cadet pay was $62.50/month).

On 1/30/13 he said he was given a release from the Academy to sail in other capacities. He said that he sailed on the tanker SS Washington as AB and that the Captain talked him into getting his Purser papers and he wore an Ensign uniform for his last trip; he then said his last ship was the hospital ship newly fitted out in February 1945 the Aleda E. Lutz, where he was yeoman. He had said earlier that through a relative in 1944 he shipped out as Yeoman on the Thomas H. Berry, a 3,800 passenger troop carrier (converted French ship)

He also shipped out in some capacity on an the Robert E. Howe with a 70 plus year old Captain who heard of his experiences and told him he was acting Third Mate for the trip since the third mate failed to join. His ship was in a 200 ship convoy; Quidort was the Captain’s eyes and legs on the 8-12 watch; the Captain feared with his bad vision there could be a collision.

Regarding the sinking of the Esso Gettysburg ,he said that Ensign Arnold who was in charge of the gun crew attempted to fire a round at the submarine as his ship was sinking but there was a serious flashback that burned Arnold’s face and hands. Arnold made it over the side with a life jacket on but was foundering until Quidort and the third mate towed him from the oil and flames for about four hours until they got into the lifeboat. He said that Arnold survived and received the Navy Cross and that Quidort received the Mariners Medal and a letter saying that he was a member of the tin fisherman club.

In summation, Quidort said he served in the merchant marine for 3 years and 3 months; he was made a staff officer, a purser on the SS Washington, with the rank of Ensign for his last year. Ships he sailed on were Esso Gettysburg, Buena Vista, Robert E. Howe, Washington, and Aleda E. Lutz.

After the war in either 1946 or 47, Quidort, who had an AB ticket, sailed as wheelsman on a two week trip on the Great Lakes on the Horace S. Wilkenson from Lake Erie to Lake Superior to load iron ore. He did not like wheeling and never went back.

Last comment was that he still hears the voice of the woman who said” You don’t want to go down there, go up and get some sun”

 

Cleveland Plain Dealer

By Brian Albrecht, Plain Dealer Reporter on January 19, 2013

Ex-Merchant Marine vet credits survival to guardian angel

There are no ordinary lives,” said Ken Burns of those who served in a global cataclysm so momentous that the filmmaker simply entitled his 2007 documentary “The War.” Many who served in so many different ways during World War II are gone now. Some took their stories with them. But not this one.

Eugene Quidort had a guardian angel — a girl, by the sound of her voice.

It was a voice he heard on June 10, 1943, when Quidort was aboard the “Esso Gettysburg,” a tanker hauling 120,000 barrels of crude oil straight into the sights of a German U-boat lurking off the Georgia coast.

Quidort was a cadet-midshipman, partway through his training at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and serving on his first ship.

The West High School graduate (class of ’39) had a hankering to go to sea ever since he was a young boy, when a Great Lakes freighter captain who lived on Quidort’s street took the youth on a short voyage across Lake Erie.

“This was during the Depression, and when I sat down in that [ship’s] fancy dining room and ate like a millionaire, I said, ‘I’m going to be a captain when I grow up,’ ” Quidort, 92, of Cleveland, recalled.

During World War II, he joined the more than 200,000 members of the American Merchant Marine who delivered tons of supplies and millions of troops to combat zones around the world.

The thought of sailing on uncertain seas, stalked by German submarines and bombers during the war, initially didn’t faze Quidort. “Nervous? No, I was dumb,” he joked. That changed on that June day in 1943 aboard the Esso Gettysburg.

Quidort recalled that he had just had grabbed an engineering book to study and was headed for the engine room when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around, but nobody was there.

Then he heard a girl’s voice, clear as the blue sky overhead: “I wouldn’t go down there if I were you . . . Go to the flying bridge and get some sun.”

Quidort shrugged, headed to the upper decks of the ship, sat down and opened the book just as two torpedoes slammed into the ship, one directly into the engine room.

“It sounded like a giant sledgehammer — Boom! Boom!” he recalled.

 

As the ship tilted back on its stern, Quidort ran for bow and jumped. Five minutes later the tanker slipped beneath the waves, taking more than 40 crewmen with it.

Quidort and other survivors swam through oil and water toward an overturned lifeboat. He felt a thump against his leg. Sharks. Quidort said he could only think, “What the hell are we going to do?”

Suddenly a school of dolphins darted between the sailors and the sharks. “They knocked all these sharks out of the way and waited until we got the lifeboat turned over,” Quidort said.

“They stayed with us the whole time,” he added. “Then, when we got everybody in there and settled down, they practically waved goodbye to us.”

Quidort and the 14 other survivors were rescued the next day. He never again heard the voice of the girl he called his guardian angel.

It was a daunting beginning to his service in the war, but Quidort said, “I figured bad start, good ending.”

And that’s just how it turned out as Quidort safely sailed on four other vessels — including a tanker, troop transports and a hospital ship — to England, France and Mediterranean ports.

There were always reminders of the risks, including nights when there’d be a sudden flash on the horizon as a fellow convoy vessel was hit, or warships dropped depth charges.

There also were the natural elements to confront as the ships battled heavy seas. Quidort remembered times when he came off watch duty with his face whipped bloody by slashing wind and rain.

Some of the dangers he skirted were ashore, when he visited London while it was still under attack by German bombers and rockets.

Quidort said he was stunned by the devastation in the city. “You don’t realize what war is, until you go to a place like that,” he added.

After delivering troops or supplies, the ships would sometimes return to the U.S. with German POWs or wounded GIs.

Quidort remembered one prisoner who was put on a work detail, painting the ship, but kept “losing” his brush over the side. Quidort said that attitude changed when he told the POW that he’d follow the next brush that went into the sea.

He also recalled the wounded U.S. soldier who came aboard still clutching his weapon. Quidort said he was about to take it away when he was warned that the man had 15 members of his unit killed around him, and ever since, “he’s still talking to that gun.”

Quidort left the gun alone, after making sure it wasn’t loaded.

And that’s just how it turned out as Quidort safely sailed on four other vessels — including a tanker, troop transports and a hospital ship — to England, France and Mediterranean ports.

As the war wore on, Quidort missed his wife, Mary, whom he’d married after his first ship was torpedoed. He didn’t see their first son until five months after the child was born.

Quidort said that after a while he stopped worrying about the risks. “What’re you going to do? That’s life,” he said with a shrug.

But his wife worried, with good cause. More than 8,000 Merchant Marines were killed at sea, and another 12,000 wounded in the war.

Quidort said the best part of his service came “when the war was over and I could come home.”

After the war, he and his wife raised three children while he worked as a tool and die maker until he retired.

Looking back on World War II, Quidort said, “As far as [Adolf] Hitler goes, I did my part. “With a little help from a guardian angel, of course.

 

 

 

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