Samuel Thomas Tyler, Jr.
Born: February 12, 1924
Hometown: Wilmington, NC
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: February 3, 1943 / North
Atlantic, 59-22 N, 48-42 W
Date / Place of burial: February 3, 1943 / North
Atlantic, 59-22 N, 48-42 W –
Lost at Sea
Samuel T. Tyler signed on aboard the U.S. Army troop transport SS Dorchester on
January 19, 1943 in the port of New York, NY as Deck Cadet. On February 3, 1943,
the Dorchester was about 150 miles west of Cape Farrell, Greenland in a small convoy
with two other ships (Convoy SG-19). The ship carried a complement of 130 crew
members, 23 Naval Armed Guard, and 751 passengers (made up of U.S. Army
personnel, civilian workers, Danish citizens, and U.S. Coast Guard personnel). The
vessel, which was traveling between St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Narsarssuak,
Greenland was also laden with 1,069 tons of general cargo and lumber, and 60 bags of
mail and parcel post.
Just before 5 a.m., one of five torpedo fired by U-223 struck the Dorchester on the
starboard side near the engine room. There were no submarine sightings before or
after the attack, and those on watch did not notice any wake indicating a torpedo attack.
Survivors recalled little noise, but a considerable concussion. A gaping hole in the
starboard side of the ship caused extremely rapid flooding, and the engines were
completely destroyed. Two of the lifeboats were also destroyed by the impact of the
Only three minutes after the vessel was hit, the Captain gave the order to abandon
ship. However, only two boats were successfully launched. Whether because of shock,
confusion, or limited space, hundreds of passengers and crew remained on board and
went down with the ship when it sank about 30 minutes after being hit. Some were
apparently unaware of the seriousness of the situation. Two of the convoy’s U.S. Coast
Guard escorts, USS Escanaba (WPG 77) and USS Comanche (WPG 76) remained at
the site of the disaster, picking up survivors throughout the night, and into the following
day. In all, only 229 of the SS Dorchester’s 904 passengers and crew survived the
sinking. Deck Cadet Samuel T. Tyler and Engine Cadet Edward J. Gavin were among the 675 who were missing and presumed lost.
In a renowned act of bravery, four U.S. Army chaplains on board the ship gave their life
jackets to nearby soldiers who had none. The four men held hands and prayed as the
ship went down. Each was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished
Service Cross. A stamp honoring the four men was issued by the Post Office in 1948.
Cadet-Midshipman Samuel T. Tyler, who perished just days before his nineteenth birthday,
was posthumously awarded the Mariners Medal, Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War
Zone Bar, Victory Medal and Presidential Testimonial Letter.
Samuel T. Tyler was the youngest son of Samuel T. Tyler and Mary Dell Brown Tyler.
He had an older brother, Horace. However, by the time he entered Kings Point, his
mother was using the name Mary D. Thomas.
Photo of USAT Dorchester