Wentworth, Robie Knowles

Robie Knowles Wentworth
Born: June 19, 1921
Hometown: Kennebunk Beach, ME
Class: 1944
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Third Assistant Engineer
Date / Place of death: August 30, 1944 / North Atlantic
55-30 N, 7-30 W
Date / Place of burial: August 30, 1944 / North Atlantic
55-30 N, 7-30 W – Lost at Sea
Age: 23

 

 

On October 29, 1942 Robie K. Wentworth and a friend, James Wallace, left Kennebunk
Beach, ME for the U.S. Maritime Service School at Sheepshead Bay, NY. Six weeks
later, on December 15, 1942 Robie Wentworth wrote to his parents that he, and James,
had been accepted to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academ y. During his Cadet training at
sea Robie sailed as Engine Cadet on the SS William Cullen Bryant, SS John P. Holland
and the SS Abner Nash. Following his graduation with section B-318, Robie Wentworth
signed on aboard the SS Jacksonville, a T2-SE-A1 tanker, as Third Assistant Engineer
on August 19, 1944. Also signing on aboard the Jacksonville was Cadet-Midshipman
Leroy P. Lawrence, the Deck Cadet.

On August 30th, about 50 miles north of Londonderry, Northern Ireland the Jacksonville
was maneuvering with four other ships to split off from Convoy CU-36 to sail for Loch
Ewe, Scotland. The ship had just completed an 86-degree turn to take its place at the
end of a single column on the port side of the convoy when it was struck by a torpedo
from U-482. The Jacksonville’s gasoline cargo ignited immediately. Within seconds of
the torpedo’s explosion the entire ship was on fire with flames shooting hundreds of feet
into the air. Witnesses on other ships said that they could hear the ammunition in the
ready service boxes exploding. Less than five minutes after the first torpedo, U-482
fired another torpedo, breaking the ship in two. With no time to launch either lifeboats
or rafts, all but two members of the ship’s crew and Armed Guard, perished. The only
survivors were two men who jumped overboard before the flames caught them.

Based on his merchant marine service Robie K. Wentworth was posthumously awarded
the Mariners Medal, Combat Bar with star, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal
and Presidential Testimonial Letter.

Robie K. Wentworth was the eldest of Warren K. Wentworth and Mabel V. Wentworth’s
thirteen children. He graduated from Kennebunk high School in 1940 where he played
football, basketball and baseball. Robie’s family owned and operated the Wentworth
Hotel. The family lived in the hotel during the winter months and in a nearby cottage
during the summer “tourist” months. Robie’s college plans were dashed by a
combination of his father’s high medical bills for rheumatic fever and a severe drop in
the tourist trade in 1939 and 1940. In Septem ber 1941 Robie and his brother Bailey
began working at the South Portland Shipyard building Liberty Ships. Robie’s long time
girl friend Irmena was known as the “pin up” of Section B-318. The two were engaged
to be married when the Jacksonville returned from this voyage.

In 1988 eleven of his section mates placed a plaque in the Memorial Arbors at Kings
Point in Robie’s honor. Sometime later his family wrote a detailed biography of Robie.
The following poem was found in the memorabilia that Robie’s Mother’s kept of him.

To My Soldier Son
Today I watched you go away,
You left on that long, long ride.
You were so straight, my tall dark son
My heart just swelled with pride.
When you are so far away, my dear
I’ll miss you so, I know,
But I feel that whatever may come,
I’ll be proud of where’er you go.
You’ve been such a pal to your mother, dear,
I’ll treasure each precious hour,
And pray that God will keep you safe,
‘Till you’re come home with me once more.

To the day she died Robie’s mother believed that he would somehow return to her

Photo of SS Jacksonville

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