Stauffacher, Jr., Edwin Ray

Edwin Ray Stauffacher, Jr.

Born: January 22, 1920
Hometown: Glendale, CA
Class: 1944
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Third Mate
Date / Place of death: On or about January 2, 1945 /
Mindoro Island, Philippines
Date / Place of burial: Unknown
Age: 24

 

 

 

After completing Basic School at San Mateo, Edwin Stauffacher sailed as Deck Cadet
aboard the SS William B. Allison and SS Kit Carson. It is likely that when Edwin
Stauffacher signed on aboard the SS John M. Clayton it was his first ship.
The John M. Clayton was one of several merchant ships which carried troops and
supplies to support the amphibious landings at Mindoro, in the Philippine Islands. On
January 2, 1945, the ship was anchored off of White Beach, Mangarin Bay, after having
unloaded all of her 401 Army troops and most of her cargo, which included Army
vehicles.
At 1540, the ship was attacked by a Japanese aircraft with its motor silenced. The
plane strafed the ship, riddling the lifeboats with bullets, destroying one of them. The
plane dropped one bomb, which struck the port side of the Number 3 hold, exploding
upon impact. The explosion blew off the hatch covers, and started a fire in the Number
3 hold. The fire was put out in ten minutes, but the ship was beached the next morning
to prevent its sinking. Two members of the crew were killed, along with four of the 29
Naval Armed Guard. Among those lost was Edwin R. Stauffacher, the ship’s Third
Mate, who was badly burned in the attack.
Two Academy cadets were on board the John Clayton at the time of the attack. Cadet-
Midshipman Lewis Little recalls the attack, the injuries sustained by his classmate,
Cadet-Midshipman Paul White, and the efforts of the crew to save the ship:
“On the night of 1/1/45 while our vessel lay at anchor in Mindoro Gulf,
Philippine Islands, an alert was sounded at 2030. Japanese planes were
spotted and immediately attacked us. The night was dark and the
weather extremely calm. At the time of our attack, there were four other
cargo vessels in the Gulf.
At 2340 [ship’s time] while I was at my assigned post in the engine room,
a torpedo dropped from the enemy aircraft hit in Number 3 hold causing
fire which gutted the forward part of the deck house. Six men were
burned alive and many other crew members received severe burns. We
immediately fought the fire with water drawn from the engine room and
after a difficult struggle were able to put the fire out although the vessel
had been slowly sinking. Not many hands became excited during the
attack and those few that did were immediately called down. The vast
majority of the crew members conducted themselves with extreme
calmness and coolness.
When the Captain gave the order to abandon ship, we went over the port
side and were immediately placed into Army LCMs which were standing
by. We were taken ashore where we remained for 11 days.
Cadet-Midshipman Paul V. White rec’d second degree burns on his hands
and face. He was doing well at Mindoro in an Army hospital. The last time
I saw him was when he was placed aboard a hospital plane and flown out
of Mindoro.”
Based on his service aboard the SS John M. Clayton, and his previous merchant
marine service, Edwin Stauffacher was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal,
Combat bar with star, the Pacific War Zone Bar, Philippine Liberation Bar, the Victory
Medal and Presidential Testimonial Letter.
Edwin Stauffacher was the only child of Edwin R. Stauffacher, Sr. and May Elizabeth
McCann Stauffacher. According to the 1940 U.S. Census, Edwin, Sr. was employed as
an Electrical Engineer for the local power company. After graduating from High School
Edwin attended Glendale Junior College before applying to the Merchant Marine
Academy.

After three months recuperation, Cadet Paul White returned to the U.S. and resigned from the Cadet Corps. He then sat for and received his Mate’s License and sailed as Third Mate for two years.

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