Scharpf, Theodore

Theodore Scharpf

Born: May 27, 1920
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Class: 1941 – USMMCC Cadet Officer
1940 – New York MMA
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: First Assistant Engineer
Date / Place of death: January 27, 1943 / 36-37N,
30-55W
Date / Place of burial: January 27, 1943 / Lost at
Sea — 36-37N, 30-55W
Age: 22

 

Theodore Scharpf entered New York Merchant Marine Academy in 1938 and was
aboard its Training Ship, SS Empire State for its 1939 cruise to Europe and the Far
East. Following his graduation in 1940, he sailed as Cadet Officer aboard the SS
Deltargentino and SS Veragua. On September 13, 1941 he signed on aboard the SS
Lancaster as Third Assistant Engineer and remained there through several voyages,
including a voyage to Murmansk and back in Convoy PQ-15 and QP-13.

According to U.S. Coast Guard Records, Theodore Sharpf signed on aboard the SS
Charles C. Pinckney on January 1, 1943. The ship sailed with convoy UGS-4 from
Hampton Roads, Virginia on January 13, 1943 loaded with ammunition, a general cargo
of war supplies and mechanized equipment bound for Casablanca. The Charles
Pinckney was one of three ships, including the SS City of Flint and the SS Julia Ward
Howe, which fell behind the convoy on January 21, 1943. All three ships, no longer
protected by the convoy escort of six U.S. Navy destroyers, were sunk by U-boats.
On January 27th the Charles C. Pinckney was about 200 miles south-southwest of Fayal
Island, Azores. During the morning the watch sighted a submarine far off on the
horizon, traveling parallel to the Charles C. Pinckney, apparently at great speed. The
gun crew fired a few shots at the submarine, but even at maximum elevation, these did
not come close to their target. The Charles C. Pinckney then increased to its maximum
speed of 11 knots.

Late in the afternoon, the Charles C. Pinckney changed its course to proceed directly
away from the submarine, but the crew was unable to tell whether or not the submarine
followed. At about 2145 local time, the Chief Mate observed a torpedo, fired by U-514
heading directly for the ship, and ordered a hard right rudder, but the order came too
late. The torpedo struck just behind the ship’s bow. The explosion detonated part of
cargo which blew off the bow and killed two men in the forward gun crew. On the
Captain’s order, the crew abandoned ship immediately, with all but one of the boats
lowered successfully. The gun crew remained on the ship at great peril to their own
lives, given the cargo of munitions on board. When the German submarine which had
fired the torpedo later surfaced near the port beam, the gun crew fired on the sub.
Although the gun crew claimed they sunk the submarine, it had actually made an
emergency dive.

Since the ship did not immediately sink, the crew re-boarded the ship to see if it could
be repaired. After inspecting the ship’s engines the Chief Engineer reported that it
would not be possible to raise steam and continue sailing the ship. However, the crew
was able to collect additional supplies, and send a distress signal. Around midnight U-
514 fired two more torpedoes, the second torpedo hit the Charles C. Pinckney, causing
the crew to abandon ship again. Soon thereafter U-514, approached the boats and
questioned the survivors.

The four lifeboats began making for the Azores, but were unable to stay together in
heavy seas during the second night. One lifeboat, carrying six crew members, including
the Second Officer, and eight Naval Armed Guard Sailors, was picked up on February
8th by the Swiss ship Caritas I, and later landed at Horta, Fayal Island. The other three
lifeboats were never seen again. Of the 73 persons aboard the SS Charles C.
Pinckney (42 crew, 29 Naval Armed Guard, and 2 U.S. Army Security Officers), only
these 14 were rescued. Theodore Scharpf, along with Cadet-Midshipmen Vincent
Corrigan and Robert L. Lamac were among those lost.

Based on his service aboard the SS Charles S. Pinckney, and his previous merchant
marine service, Theodore Scharpf was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal and the Presidential
Testimonial Letter. He would also have been eligible for the Soviet Commemorative
Medal awarded in 1995 by the then Soviet Union to U.S. Merchant Mariners who sailed
in the Murmansk convoys.

Theodore Scharpf was the youngest of Margaret Scharpf’s two sons. Theodore’s father
died sometime in the 1920’s. Emat, Theodore’s older brother, was fifteen years older
and employed as a bank examiner in 1930. The 1940 Census does not identify an
occupation for either Theodore or his mother, although it appears that they had taken in
a boarder.

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