If you have a family member or know of someone who was on the USS Henry R. Mallory please e-mail me and I will add that mans story with his shipmates.
Marvin E. Muehl
George G. Miller
Nicolas J. Yannuzzi
Chester S. Penko
Adolph C. Mattes
Joseph J. Bucheck
Joseph I. McMillen
Emil S. Ellefsen
Henry F "Pop" Filippone
Robert James Smallwood
Donald R. Gross
Gerald E. Moyer
"my wristwatch was stopped at 4:00 o'clock"By survivor, Joseph I. McMillen, from Hold No. 3
USMCR, Service Number 479147
Mr. McMillen contacted me about my Henry R. Mallory web page two days before the 60th anniversary of the sinking, on February 5, 2003 and he wanted to know why he was not listed as a survivor. I had asked him if he would share his experiences with me so I could add this to the Mallory's web page. This is his story:
"Go Down Like Marines" Torpedoed Men Urged
Four Pittsburgh District Corps Members Recall Tragic Sinking In North Atlantic
This was a wartime newspaper article written in the Pittsburgh Press.
A torpedo slammed into their ship before dawn of an icy North Atlantic morning. Half stunned, they scrambled out on deck and struggled in the darkness to launch a lifeboat. Through the confusion cut the voice of a Marine corporal, "Remember, you guys, you're Marines. If we go down, we go down like Marines." That scene is indelible in the memories of four Marines from the Pittsburgh district, for they participated in it, and in an agonizing eight hours on the open sea before they were picked up. The men were: Pvt. John Behun, 347 Renova St. Pittsburgh; Pvt. Joseph J. Biedenach, 339 Renova St., Pittsburgh; Joseph I. McMillen, 24 E. Grant St., Huston; and Stanley Pasinski, 528 Vermont St., Glassport.
I was contacted by Richard Morton about his uncle, Martin C. Finn who was a Marine and was lost on the Mallory on 7 February 1943. I ask him if he could share the story of his uncle with me to add here with the other stories of the Mallory. Martin C. Finn was a private in the Marine Corps and so he would have been bunked down in Hold No. 3 with fellow Marine Privates Alfred Buono, Marvin E. Muehl and Joseph I. McMillen in the general location where the torpedo hit the Mallory. Richard Morton spoke with his mother about her brother Martin C. Finn. This is the letter she provided with a poem written by her other brother Kevin Finn about the loss of thier brother that day in 1943.
My brother Martin Christopher Finn was born and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. In July 1942 at age 17 years old he joined the Marine Corp, determined to become a Marine. He was sent to Parris Island, South Carolina and later on he was stationed in Quantico, Virginia. On February 7, 1943 he was on the SS Henry R. Mallory when that ship was sunk in the North Atlantic. A survivor (of the sinking of the Mallory) of Norwegian Heritage (I never heard his name) told my parents that he asked about my brother and was told that he made it out. He never did make it. The Telegram arrived on March 5, 1943 to say that he is Missing in Action. In February 1944 he was declared dead. I was 11 years old at this time. He was a wonderful brother,always looking out for me. I think about him everyday.
In Loving Memory
To My Brother
Certificate issued to the family of Pvt. Buono from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, one year and a day after the sinking of the Mallory.
Pvt. Buono on the training course at Paris Island.
This photo was in the possession of Pvt. Buono's personal effects from Paris Island. It is believed to be Pvt. Martin C. Finn.
Pvt. Buono on the training course at Paris Island.
The Purple Heart issued to the family of Pvt. Buono
The reverse side of the Purple Heart
WWII Victory Medal issued to the family of Pvt. Buono
Reverse side of the WWII Victory Medal
Emil S. Ellefsen is known to be a survivor of the sinking of the Mallory on February 7, 1943 as he was contacted by the sister of fellow marine, Pvt. Joseph Buono asking for information on the death of her brother, Joseph Buono. On August 20, 1943 while Ellefsen was stationed at Marine Barracks, Reykjavik, Iceland. Ellefsen wrote to Joseph Buono's sister and told her what he knew of the death of her brother. This letter is still among the treasured possessions of the family of Pvt. Buono. In the letter he also makes reference to Mrs. Finn's son, which would be another fellow marine named Pvt. Martin C. Finn, who was killed along with Buono that morning on February 7th. Ellefsen also wrote a letter to the family of Pvt. Martin Finn but this letter has not survived to this day. It is assumed that Emil Ellefsen's rank was that of a Private.
Emil was born on Spetember 11, 1924 in New York to Emil Sr., and Anna Ellefsen. The elder ellefsen's were of Norwegian heritage. Emil Sr. worked as a Policeman possibly for an express agency and Anna was a telephone operator. In 1930 when young Emil jr., was five-years old the family lived in Brooklyn, New York. The only other fact known of Emil Ellefsen, a surivor of the sinking of the Mallory is that he passed away in October of 1974.
Among the marines on board the Mallory was a young 23-year old by the name of Ralph Carman Welliver, Jr. He was born on 21 May 1921 in New Jersey to Ralph C. Welliver, Sr. and Charlotte M. Welliver.
Ralph Welliver, Jr. can trace his roots back to his grandfather Elmer W. Welliver who was born in March of 1872 in Pennsylvania, and his grandmother Jessie who was born in January of 1874 also in Pennsylvania. Elmer was a laborer in a railroad car shop located in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. Elmer and Jessie’s first child was a son named Ralph Carman Welliver born on April 24th of 1899. Ralph would one day marry and have a family and his wife’s name was Charlotte. She was born about 1895 in Germany and together she and Ralph would start a family of their own. Their first child was born on 21 May 1921 and they named him Ralph Carman Welliver, Jr. At the time the family lived in Trenton, New Jersey where Ralph Sr. worked as Postal Clerk and Charlotte was working as a stenographer.
Prior to WWII Ralph Jr. was working as an actor in the New York area. But as American men were joining the armed services of the United States due to America’s entry into WWII, so would Ralph Jr. join the armed forces. Ralph C. Welliver, Jr. enlisted into the United States Marine Corps and when ordered for overseas duty he found himself sailing the waters of the Atlantic bound for Iceland with the rest of the marines on board the troopship SS Henry R. Mallory.
The torpedo struck the Mallory at the worst possible place for the marines. It was the hold that they were quartered in and most of the marines were killed or sustained severe injuries that dark cold morning of February 7, 1943. According to Ralph Jr.’s son Peter Welliver, Ralph did not talk much of the events of the sinking of the Mallory, likely as it held too many bad memories. So we will never know for sure what Ralph was doing that morning or how he was saved. But the fact is that Ralph got off the ship and was lucky enough to get to a lifeboat and was rescued by the USCGC Bibb. Ralph did sustain injuries from the sinking but he recovered from them.
After the war and Ralph was discharged from the Marine Corps and moved back to the New Jersey area where he met his wife during the 1950’s. She was from Sweden and they later moved to Sweden where they would life for the rest of their lives. Ralph Carman Welliver, Jr. passed away on September 25, 2002 and was a US Citizen until his death. This was known as the United States Consulate Office in Stockholm, Sweden recorded his death.
One of the few Marines who survived the sinking of the SS Henry R. Mallory on February 7, 1943 was Chester S. Penko. His roots begin in the Anthracite Coal producing hills of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Born on April 26, 1922 likely in or near the Pennsylvania towns of Plymouth and Hunlock Creek nestled along the Susquehanna River, Chester was the son of Michael and Francis Penko. His father Michael Penko was born in Russia and had come to America in 1910 and worked as a coal Miner in the many coalmines in Luzerne County. It was in Luzerne County in 1919 that the great Baltimore Colliery explosion occurred and killed 92 miners. The Penko family would be a coal mining family for many years.
Chester's mother was Francis Penko and she was born in Poland and had come to America about 1911. She had been married previously as her former married name was Prusiewicz and she had 3 sons by that first marriage. They were Charles, Stanley and Bernard. Charles being the eldest and he was born in Poland and came over with his mother Francis. Stanley and Bernard were born in Pennsylvania.
Then when Michael and Francis married they had 4 sons, Lenord, Chester, Edmund and Henley. In April of 1930 the Penko family lived the Hunlock Creek Road between the towns of Hunlock Creek and Plymouth, Pennsylvania. Both were snuggled along side of the wandering Susquehanna River just south west of Wilkes-Barre. The home the family lived in was owned by the Penko's and valued at $3,600. Michael the father, his stepson Charles who was 22-years old at the time and three boarders, Eward, Anthony and Peter Konieczko all worked in the coalmines.
When Chester S. Penko turned 18-years of age he may have felt that he did not want to spend the rest of his life working the coal mines of Luzerne, County and turned his thoughts to a life in the United States Marine Corps. We will never know how he thought of this as it was before the events of Pearl Harbor and it may have been a Marine Recruiter who got Chester to join the Corps but for whatever reason he did he was on July 24, 1940 at the Recruiting Station located in the Customs House in Philadelphia. That same month Recruit Penko was taken to Parris Island, South Carolina where his journey to becoming a marine began. He spent from July through September 1940 there before being sent as a Private to the Guard Company, Marine Barracks at Quantico, Virginia. Private Penko would serve there until Christmas time of 1940. He took leave from December 19-26 and likely went back to Luzerne County to see the family.
His likely path after December 1940 was back to Quantico and then just before the end of the year of 1942 he would have been at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in a Marine Detachment being formed up to be sent to Iceland. In the last week of January 1943 Private Chester Penko would have walked up the gangway to the deck of the transport SS Henry R. Mallory bound for Iceland. As his boots touched the deck of the Mallory he could not have known what would befall him in the coming days. I'm sure he felt that the Mallory was a good sturdy ship and would deliver him and his fellow marines to their intended destination. But the fact of the matter was that he would not make it to Iceland, or at least he would not make it there aboard the Mallory. The Marines were bunked down in Hold No. 3 of the Mallory. Fate would deal the marines a horrible blow because Hold No. 3 was the site of the German torpedo impact that would send the Mallory and many of his fellow Marines to death. Only a few of the Marines would survive the sinking and Private Penko somehow was among the living and the end of the day on February 7 of 1943.
It is not known if Penko was injured in any way from the sinking and he would have been picked up out of the icy angry waters of the Atlantic by the Coast Guard Cutter Bibb with many of the men from the Mallory. After nearly a week at sea on the Bibb, Captain Raney landed the men from the Mallory back to solid ground on Iceland. They had made it to Iceland; just not in the way they ever intended to get there. Private Penko may have had thoughts at that time that life in the coalmines was not so bad after all.
Penko's travels after being landed on Iceland after the rescue are not known but he did survive the rest of the war and eventually returned to his civilian life. When he was discharged from the Marine Corps his rating was Staff Sergeant. It is known that in 1947 Chester Penko was living at 137 Rugby Street in Providence, Rhode Island, which was a few blocks just off from Providence Harbor. It is likely that he was not married at that time as in the 1947 Providence City Directory only his name is listed.
At some point in his life Chester S. Penko married as from information from his gravestone is his wife's name, "Maria K. Penko Born July 22, 1919, Death March 6, 1999, Wife of Chester S. Penko." Chester Penko passed away on August 6, 1972 and was buried in Section 1C, Row 9, Site 1 in Arlington National Cemetery. On his stone it states "SSGT US Marine Corps" He and his wife lay resting peacefully next to each other there in Arlington.
Henry F. Filippone was another of the Marine Survivors from Hold No. 3 on the SS Henry R. Mallory as she slipped from the surface of the cold dark Atlantic on February 7, 1943. To the men in his Marine Detachment he was known as “Pop” due to the fact that he was some eight or so years older than the rest of the marines.
Henry F. Filippone was the son of Enrico and Francesca (Guarino) Filippone. Henry’s father Enrico was born in the area of San Marino, Italy on January 25, 1887. He had come to America in about 1902 and settled in Boston, Massachusetts. Enrico was known as Henry Carmino Filippone while he lived in the United States. Henry Carmino did not receive his Naturalization certificate until September 28, 1931 and at that time he lived at 187 Bennington Street in East Boston.
Henry Carmino Filippone met Francesca Guarino who was born in Boston about 1890, and fell in love where they married about 1909. Henry Carmino was a shoemaker by trade and likely learned it in Italy. During WWI at the age of 30-years, he registered for the Federal Draft and was then working as a shoemaker for the Thomas & Groker Shoe Company in Roxbury Crossing. He was married and had 2 children at that time.
Henry Carmino and Francesca had their first child a son named Andrew who was born about 1914 in Boston. Another son followed this, on September 11, 1915 when Henry F. Filippone was born. The family lived in 1930 in a rented apartment house at 253 Bennington Street that was owned by R. Scarpa and his wife Rose, both of whom were from Italy. Henry Carmino was still working as a shoemaker and his wife Francesca was working as a shipper in a candy factory. The eldest son Andrew was also working and may have been working in the same candy factory as his mother Francesca.
Henry F. grew up a typical “Boston Kid” and on December 7, 1941 like many other “Boston Kids” heard the call of duty and joined the military. Henry F. joined the United States Marine Corps and was sent to Paris Island for training. In late December 1942 Henry “Pop” Filippone who was by then a Corporal was sent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where a Detachment was forming for duty in Iceland. Corporal Filippone went aboard the SS Henry R. Mallory an event that would change his life forever in just a few days time.
Henry “Pop” Filippone later in life was not very talkative about the events of the sinking of the Mallory but one of his sons Ed does recall his father telling this story. On the evening of February 6, the evening of the sinking, “Pop” was down by the galley of the Mallory and noticed a fresh baked blueberry pie one of the cooks had set out to cool. When “Pop” enquired about the possibility of getting a piece the cook informed him that the pie was destined for the officers and was off limits. “Pop” was not going to get a piece of pie that evening and tried to put it out of his mind. Later that evening the image of the pie was getting to “Pop” and early in the morning he dressed and started up from Hold No. 3 where the marines were berthed to the Galley to see about that pie. As “Pop” was climbing up a ladder the German Torpedo slammed into the side of the Mallory mortally wounding her and killing many of his fellow marines at the same time.
“Pop” made his way to one of the crate type rafts somehow in the confusion and got off the quickly sinking Mallory. As it turned out the same cook that told “Pop” the Blueberry pie was off limits was also on the same crate type raft as “Pop” and he could not decide if he should punch the cook or thank him for saving his life. If it were not for the image of the pie “Pop” would have still been in his skivvies in his bunk sleeping in Hold No. 3 and likely killed.
After a few hours, the heroic efforts of the Captain and crew of the Coast Guard Combat Cutter Bibb rescued “Pop” and the cook from the sea. Captain Raney had defied a direct order and put the Bibb in harms way to rescue the men from the Mallory. Safe aboard the Bibb they spent another week at sea chasing German U-boats before they were landed on Iceland. After a few months the survivors from the Mallory were sent separate ways and Corporal Henry “Pop” Filippone was sent to the Pacific where he finished out the remainder of the war. The only story the family remembers about “Pop’s” experiences on the island hopping campaigns was that he found the cannibalized remains of some Japanese soldiers in a cave once.
After the war ended “Pop” Filippone, who had survived a sinking and the bloody island war in the Pacific returned to his home in the Boston area. He would marry a woman named Rita and together they would raise 5 children. Ironically Henry Filippone made a living working as a cook at the Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts. “Pop” could finally get that piece of Blueberry pie anytime he wanted. One of Henry’s sons Lenny remembers that his father's Italian Sauce was great. Henry also worked at a local newspaper and bar tended before finally retiring in the 1980’s.
At the end of his life Henry F. Filippone lived in Peabody, Massachusetts and passed away on April 12, 1995.
|Private First Class Henry F. Filippone, taken shortly before sailing on the USS Henry R. Mallory||Another undated photo of Filippone likely taken after basic training as he is shown as a Private because he has no Private First Class stripe in his shoulder.|
Nicholas J. Yannuzzi was one of the Marines aboard the SS Henry R. Mallory who survived the sinking on February 7, 1943. Nicholas J. Yannuzzi Service No. 440768 entered the Marine Corps at Paris Island, South Carolina on August 20, 1942 where he took his basic training. By early October 1942 Recruit Yannuzzi was serving in the 5th Separate Recruit Battalion, Fleet Marine Force at the Marine Barracks in New River, North Carolina. On October 12 Pvt. Yannuzzi was transferred to the Guard Company, Marine Barracks, New York Navy Yard. While at the New York Navy Yard Pvt. Yannuzzi’s unit was assigned to duty on Iceland and was awaiting transportation there.
The ship that would transport the Marines to Iceland was the SS Henry R. Mallory, a veteran of the First World War, and she seemed to be a seaworthy ship and likely gave no cause to anyone that this voyage would end in her sinking and a great many lives lost, when the boots of Pvt. Yannuzzi set foot on the Mallory’s deck.
The morning of the torpedo attack Pvt. Yannuzzi was likely asleep in his bunk in Hold No. 3 of the Mallory. This was the location that the German torpedo hit and killed many of the Marines who were in that hold. From the experiences of other survivors, we can assume that if Yannuzzi was in his bunk he was likely thrown out and dazed by the explosion and leaking ammonia from the refrigeration lines. Somehow in the twisted debris and the darkness Yannuzzi and his fellow Marine survivors found their way top side to find the weather about as angry as they were. In the end Pvt. Yannuzzi was among the men picked up by the Cutter Bibb and after another week at sea was finally in Iceland.
Once in Iceland the surviving Marines were all assigned to duty at the various military installations on the Island. Pvt. Yannuzzi was assigned to duty at Camp Knox, likely on guard duty. Camp Knox was the Naval Operating Base on Iceland. Pvt. Yannuzzi would serve at the Naval Operating base on Iceland through at least January of 1944 along with several other of the Mallory Marine survivors.
Now advanced to PFC, Yannuzzi was transferred back to the States on February 19, 1944 and took schooling at the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia. He was assigned to Company D, Training Battalion, Marine Corps School, and was there during the summer of 1944. It is not known what the remainder of his service during the remainder of the war was but on November 20, 1945 PFC Nicholas Yannuzzi was Honorably Discharged from the Marine Corps.
Nicholas John Yannuzzi was born on July 24, 1924 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Anna Rita Laffey (b abt. 1905) and Charles Anthony Yannuzzi (1903-1945). Nicholas John or sometimes his middle name was listed as Joseph, took his first name from his grandfather Nicholas Yannuzzi (1879) who was born in Italy and had immigrated to the States about 1895, and had settled in Philadelphia. Nicholas John’s father was Charles Yannuzzi and he was the second son of Nicholas (1879) and Josephine (1879) and was the first Yannuzzi to be born in the United States.
By 1930 Charles Yannuzzi was married and he and Anna his wife was living in Philadelphia where Charles worked as an insurance collector. They had 6 children, Ellen, Nicholas, Marie, Josephine, Anna, and John. Nicholas grew up in Philadelphia, and by the time he had turned 18-years old America was already in a World War. Like so many other Pennsylvania boys his age he joined the war effort. Once he was discharged from the Marine Corps he returned back to civilian life and his home in Philadelphia. Sometime in 1946 Nicholas Yannuzzi was married in Philadelphia, and her name was Jennie M. Hecker. This marriage did not last very long and it is not known when it ended.
But by 1961 Nicholas Yannuzzi was again married. On February 3, 1961 he was married to Otis Gynel Burton Rainwater (1934-2006), and together they had at least two children. This marriage lasted until April 11, 1969 when Nicholas and Gynel were divorced in Harris County, Texas.
Nicholas would again take a wife on December 20, 1973 when he married Dorothy W. Daffon in Harris County, Texas. Dorothy was 15-year younger than Nicholas. There is not much known about this marriage and they likely were still living together in the Houston area until Nicholas passed away on August 23, 2000.
Today Nicholas John Yannuzzi is buried in the Houston National Cemetery in Section C2, Row B, Site 89.
One of the 23 marines who survived the explosion of the German torpedo on the morning of the February 7 attack on the Mallory was Private First Class Paul Cernansky. PFC Cernansky was one month short of being 18 years old on the morning of February 7, 1943 when the Mallory was mortally wounded.
Many of the marines aboard the Mallory that trip were from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area and Cernansky was also a Pittsburgh area boy. Paul Cernansky was born on March 9, 1925, and grew up in Glenfield, Pennsylvania, which is located along the Ohio River down river just a bit from Pittsburgh. In the spring of 1940 the Cernansky family lived on Dawson Avenue in Glenfield, which was nearly in the shadows of the bridge across the Ohio River, which is now Interstate 79. In the Cernansky home that was within eyesight of the Ohio River lived Paul’s 52-year old widowed mother Barbara with 6 children; Charles, Elizabeth, Peter, Paul, Ellen, and Eli.
In October of 1941, two months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Paul Cernansky joined the Marine Corps. At the time he would have been 6-months shy of his seventeenth birthday. So it seems that he must have fudged his birthday just a bit or he did get permission from his mother to join the Corps. But on October 29, 1941 Recruit Cernansky was in the First Recruit Battalion, Recruit Depot, Marine Barracks, Paris Island, SC under the command of Major Peter Conachy, USMC. Once boot camp was finished Private Cernansky was placed into a Military Police Company. In October of 1942 he was with the First Guard Company at Quantico, Virginia.
He was assigned to duty overseas and his unit was sent to New York where they boarded the Henry R. Mallory in late January 1943. After the sinking of the Mallory Cernansky ended up on Iceland along with the rest f the survivors of the Mallory. Cernansky was assigned to Camp Knox, which was the Naval Operating Base on Iceland. This assignment lasted until at least through the first few months in 1944. He was then sent State side and was at Quantico, Virginia with Company D, Training Battalion by at least the spring of 1944. He remained there until April 24, 1945 when he was sent to Camp LeJeune, NC. On October 24, 1944 he was awarded the Good Conduct Medal. Cernansky was advanced to Corporal while at Camp LeJeune.
On January 2, 1946 at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center Corporal Paul Cernansky 326154 was Honorably Discharged from the Marine Corps.
Paul Cernansky returned to civilian life married and raised a family in Florida. His wife’s first name was Eileen and they had one son named Paul, Jr.
Paul Cernansky who survived the sinking of the Mallory in 1943 passed away on June 4, 2011 in Venice, Florida. His Mass of Christian Burial was held at the Epiphany Cathedral. His wife Eileen, son Paul of Venice, Florida, a sister Ellen Spontak of Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, and three grandchildren survived him.
Private James R. Jennings III, USMC KIA February 7, 1943
James Robert Jennings III, Private, Service Number 363944, United States Marine Corps. Killed in Action during the sinking of the SS Henry R. Mallory, February 7, 1943. His body was not recovered. Hometown: Tennessee. He was Posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal, and his name is engraved on a stone tablet in the American Cemetery at Cambridge, England.
James Robert Jennings III was born 27 October 1914 in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee, to James Robert Jr. and Nell E. Jennings. It is believed that the father was deceased by the time James III enlisted in the Marine Corps as his mother is the only listed parent in his file. Sometime in 1943, she moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where she later married a Mr. Allen (first name unknown). James III had the following siblings: Billy and Donald E.James enlisted into the United States Marine Corps on March 24, 1942 at Nashville, Tennessee, for the duration of the National Emergency and was assigned to active duty the same day. After completing boot camp at Parris Island, North Carolina, he transferred to Quantico, Virginia, on March 26, 1942, and was sent to New York City January18, 1943. Private Jennings embarked to Iceland aboard the SS Henry R. Mallory on January 23, 1943.
On April 28, 1950 in a Pennsylvania State government office a clerk stamps a control number of 80337 onto a document for an application for WWII death compensation. Harry F. and Clara L. Gehret are making this application on behalf of their son, Harry Eugene Gehret who was Killed in Action on February 7, 1943 while serving with the United States Marine Corps. The full amount of compensation for the life of Private Harry Eugene Gehret, Service number 376443 was for $500. Little compensation for the life of their son who had given his life in service of his country, but Pvt. Gehret was not just a claim number on a State Government form, he had a life and a story.
Harry Eugene Gehret was from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was the son of Harry Franklin and Clara L. (Shough) Gehret.
Harry Eugene’s story begins with his father Harry Franklin, who was born on March 29, 1890 in Pennsylvania. Harry Franklin was a patriotic man and previous to the First World War had served for 3-years in the Pennsylvania National Guard. Previous to the war Harry Franklin had worked for the Remington Arms Company as a machinist, and did enlist into the Army during the First World War where he served in the Ordnance Department at the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia. After the war Harry Franklin met and married Clara L. Shough about 1921.
Harry Franklin and Clara started their family on November 20, 1922 with the birth of their first child, a son named Harry Eugene, the subject of this narrative. At the time Harry Franklin worked as a streetcar conductor for the city of Philadelphia. About 1926 a second son named Melvin W. was born, and then a third son named Lewis A. was born in 1928. The Gehret family made their home at 2125 South 71st Street in Philadelphia.
The three Gehret boys grew up in Philadelphia, and as America was now in a second war Harry Eugene at the age of nineteen enlisted into the United States Marine Corps. Likely from the patriotic example of his father Harry Franklin. On February 23, 1942 at Philadelphia 19-year old Harry Eugene Gehret became a Marine. He likely took basic training at Paris Island, South Carolina, and after Basic was assigned his first duty station, which was to be at the Naval Operating Base at Reykjavik, Iceland.
In December of 1942 the now 20-year old Pvt. Gehret was in Boston loading on his ship that would take him and his fellow Marines to Iceland. The ship he was boarding for the trip was the SS Henry R. Mallory a veteran of many wartime crossings during WWI and had already made several wartime voyages in this present war. We will really never know what Pvt. Gehret’s thoughts were as he set foot upon the deck of the Henry R. Mallory in Boston but once his boots touched the deck that day his life and the life of the ship he was standing on were forever linked together, he could not have known what lay before him at that moment.
The Mallory steamed to New York where they had to stay aboard for an entire week before sailing again to meet up with the other ships in Convoy SC-118. The date was January 23, 1943, and Private Harry E. Gehret had 16-days left of his life as the Mallory steamed out into the Atlantic Ocean never to return again.
Sixteen days later at about 4 o’clock in the morning on February 7 a German torpedo tears into hold No. 3 where the Marines and Private Gehret are berthed. The Marines take heavy casualties and only 23 of the Marines would make it off the Mallory alive. Tragically Pvt. Gehret would not be one of the 23 Marines. The exact details of how Pvt. Gehret died will never be known and it is very likely he was killed in his bunk by the explosion of the torpedo.
Private Gehret’s body was not recovered and today the only remembrance of his life is his name inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Cemetery in Cambridge, England. Private Harry Eugene Gehret, 376443 USMC was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and his date of death by law is listed as February 8, 1944, one year and a day from the date he was last seen alive.
The end of Pvt. Harry E. Gehret’s story ends on September 5, 1950 when another Pennsylvania State clerk stamps the approval date “Sep 5 1950” on the WWII Compensation form. Harry Franklin and Clara Gehret received a Government check in the amount of $500 for the life of their eldest son, a small compensation for a life that could have been many wonderful things. Private Harry E. Gehret, USMC stands today on eternal guard duty, Semper fi.
In the early morning hours of February 7, 1943 as the German torpedo exploded into Hold No. 3 of the Mallory the Marines who were berthed in that compartment took heavy casualties, and in fact only 23 Marines would make it off the ship alive that day. Private Roscoe Harrison Albaugh would not be one of the 19 Marines that day.
Roscoe Albaugh was a young 18-year old Marine who would have turned 19 the next month if he had survived the sinking. He was born on March 13, 1924 in Akron, Ohio to Roscoe (1892-1969) and Mary Grace Harrison Albaugh (1893).
Roscoe took his middle name of Harrison from his mother’s maiden name, and on his father’s side of the family he can trace the Albaugh name back to his Great-Great Grandfather Zachariah Ahlbach who was born in Germany in 1698 and was the first of the family to come to America. Sometime along the way the German name of Ahlbach was Americanized to Albaugh.
Roscoe Harrison’s father was born in 1892 in Ohio and did serve in the military during WWI. After the war he and Mary Grace were married about 1921, and they would together have one child the son they named Roscoe Harrison. The elder Roscoe worked as a custodian for the Akron schools to support his family and paying the $60 per month rent for the home located at 252 Fountain Street in Akron. Today the home does not exist and has been taken out because of Interstate 77 running through the neighborhood.
It’s not known how Roscoe Harrison entered the United States Marine Corps, but it may have been due to the example his father set by serving his country during WWI. But what is known is that in January 1943 Pvt. Roscoe H. Albaugh was a member Barracks Detachment, Marine Base, Navy Yard, New York awaiting transportation to his new duty station at the Naval Operating Base on Iceland as part of the Marine Detachment.
When Pvt. Albaugh boots touch the deck of the SS Henry R. Mallory he could not know that within a few days his life would end in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. He would never see his family again and his mother would never be able to hold her son in her arms. The end for Private Albaugh will never be known but it can be surmised that he was killed instantly during the explosion of the torpedo. His body was never recovered and today his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing in the American Cemetery in Cambridge, England. He was awarded posthumously the Purple Heart. His official date of death is February 8, 1944 which is a day and a year after his presumed death. This was done during wartime so that if he was taken prisoner his name would have appeared on a prisoner of war lists by then.
There is one final chapter to the story of Pvt. Albaugh to be told. In the Memphis National Cemetery in Memphis, TN there is a white marble military stone placed in his memory located at Plot MA 10. In this area of the cemetery there is a bronze plaque that reads: “The marker in this memorial area honor Veterans whose remains have not been recovered or identified, were buried at sea, donated to science or cremated and the ashes scattered.”
Today Private Roscoe Harrison Albaugh, USMC remains on Eternal Guard Duty.
One of the thirty Marines who were Killed In Action aboard the SS Henry R. Mallory when she sank on February 7 of 1943, was a 21-year old Marine by the name of Boyd Wiseley Heckathorn. His body was never recovered and his parents would never have a final resting place for their son.
The Marines were bunked in the very hold where the German torpedo made its deadly impact and they suffered very heavy losses that morning. Being that Private Heckathorn’s body was never recovered, and there seems to be no eye witnesses that have seen him after the first explosion we can conclude that he was killed in his bunk as he was sleeping.
Boyd W. Heckathorn was born on June 21, 1921 in Ohio to Frances Wiseley and Delvinna Emmerson Heckathorn. Boyd’s father was known as “Del” and was a farmer who worked a farm in Biglick Township in Hancock County, Ohio. Boyd was the youngest child of Del and Frances, and was their only son. Boyd’s middle name Wiseley, was his mother’s maiden name. During the depression years Boyd’s grandmother, Elizabeth Wiseley lived on the farm in Hancock County with the family.
By 1935 the Heckathorn family had moved to a new farm in Eagle Township still in Hancock County, Ohio. But by then Boyd, who was then 18-years old, was running the farm and his three older sisters had moved away, and his father Del was now working at a tile foundry. Only Del and his wife and Boyd were living on the farm in Eagle Township.
By the time America entered into the Second World War Boyd felt the calling to serve his Country. His father Del before WWI had served as a Corporal in the Coast Artillery Corps for 3-years in the New York Coast Defenses. Del may have passed on his patriotic feelings to his son Boyd, and it was on November 7, 1942 that Boyd enlisted into the United States Marine Corps Reserves as a volunteer. Private Heckathorn took his basic training at the Marine Barracks, Paris Island, South Carolina.
Once basic training was complete Pvt. Heckathorn was assigned to duty, and was transferred from the 12th Recruit Battalion on January 8, 1943 to the Marine Barracks, New York Navy Yard where he awaited transportation to his duty station, which was to be on the island of Iceland. While serving in the Marine Corps Pvt. Heckathorn had a nickname of “Buzz”.
When the boots of Pvt. Heckathorn and the boots of his fellow Marines stood on the deck of the SS Henry R. Mallory each one of them would be forever linked to February 7, 1943. For that was the day fate decided who would perish and who would live. Pvt. Heckathorn was killed and his parents had lost their only son. Pvt. Heckathorn was awarded posthumously the Purple Heart Medal.
The Marine Corps listed his name on the Missing In Action list for the next year until February 8, 1944 when he was officially declared dead. Back home this was little consolation to his family as they had no body to burry and no grave to mourn at. Today the only remembrances of Pvt. Heckathorn are in Cambridge, England where his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Cemetery. And there is a second place of honor for Private Heckathorn, an upright marble headstone placed at the request of his mother Frances in Arlington National Cemetery. It was on July 20, 1960, nearly17-years after his death that his mother Frances filled out an application to have a headstone place in honor of her son in Arlington National Cemetery. On February 9, 1961 the Vermont Marble Company, 18-years and two-days after his death, delivered Pvt. Heckathorn’s marble headstone. Now at least the family could put to rest the memory of their son who gave his life serving his country.
One of the few Marines who survived the sinking of the SS Henry R. Mallory on February 7, 1943 was PFC Robert James Smallwood Service No. 308836. The exact circumstances of how Smallwood got off the Mallory and rescued are not known, as no other survivor story mentions Smallwood, and his personal story of the sinking was never told or recorded.
Robert James Smallwood was born on June 26, 1921 in Morgantown, West Virginia. He was the first-born child of Thelma Arbargast, and James Franklin Smallwood. In the 1920’s the Smallwood family must have lived in the Morgantown, WV, and northern Virginia areas as Robert was born in Morgantown and his two sisters Kathleen and Lindy were born in Virginia. During this time, James Franklin was working as an electrician in an automobile factory to support his family. But by 1930, the Smallwood family had moved to Detroit, Michigan, most likely in search of work as James was now working for an aircraft maintenance company in Detroit.
When Robert James Smallwood was 18-years old he was on his own working for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). In April 1930 Smallwood was working as a kitchen helper at Camp F-33 in Duncan Township in Houghton County, Michigan. He may have worked with the CCC throughout much of the Depression years.
By the spring of 1941 Robert felt he needed a change and that change came on April 24 of 1941 when he enlisted into the United States Marine Corps at a recruiting office in Detroit, Michigan. Recruit Smallwood was then send to Paris Island, South Carolina and was stationed with the 2nd Recruit Battalion for his basic training. On July 1 Smallwood was transferred to the Marine Barracks at Quantico, Virginia with Company B at the training center. July 21-31 Pvt. Smallwood was under instruction at the Motor Vehicle Operators School there. By October 1941 Smallwood, now a Private First Class, was qualified Mechanic and was assigned to the Post Service Battalion, Transport Detachment at the Marine Barracks, Quantico, VA.
In January of 1942 PFC Smallwood was sick for a time and was in the Naval Hospital at Quantico. Once released from the hospital he returned to his duty with the Post Service Battalion, Transportation Detachment, as a motor vehicle operator. This duty continued through January 13, 1943 when he was reassigned. Ordered to a Casual Company PFC Smallwood along with fellow Marines Marvin E. Muehl, Lawrence W. Famularo, Martin C. Finn, and Joseph I. McMillen all had orders to take transportation to the Naval Operating Base (NOB), Iceland for duty there. They were to go to the Marine Barracks at the New York Navy Yard and await transportation to NOB Iceland.
The Marines gathering for duty at NOB Iceland were to board the SS Henry R. Mallory. As Smallwood and the four other Marines, Muehl, Famularo, Finn, and McMillen, who came from Quantico with him, only three of them, Smallwood, Muehl, and McMillen, would survive the trip. As the Marine detachment boarded the Mallory, as she was tied to the dock in New York, each Marine had but two fates before them. One was survival and one was death, but none knew what lot he had drawn when his boots hit the deck of the Mallory. On the morning of February 7, 1943 was when each Marine would find out what lot he had been given.
Some way, somehow, PFC Smallwood had drawn a survival lot that morning. The torpedo hit the hold where the Marines were berthed and many of the Marines died in their bunks in that hold. So, possibly Smallwood was not in his bunk and may have been awake at the moment the torpedo tore into the side of the Mallory. In several of the survivor stories there were reports of Marines who were wounded and this may have been the case with Smallwood because after the rescue he was sent back to the States for medical care.
By the end of the day on February 7, Smallwood found himself on the deck of the Coast Gard Combat Cutter Bibb, feeling about as safe as one could feel under the circumstances. Gone was more than half of the Marine detachment that had boarded the Mallory. Aboard the Bibb there may not have been any time for Smallwood or his fellow survivors to think about those who had been lost, or how really lucky he and his fellow survivors really were. For the next week, the Bibb chased after U-boats and then made way to Iceland to off load her survivors to dry ground.
If Smallwood was injured in the sinking he likely received medical care in Iceland but was needing additional care and so on March 23, 1943 he boarded the USAT Chateau Thierry for transportation back to the States. On April 5, the Chateau Thierry arrived in Boston, and Smallwood was in the Naval Hospital in Chelsea, MA for 10-days until he was transferred to the Naval Hospital at Bethesda, Maryland about April 21, 1943.
Smallwood would remain in the Marine Corps until his discharge on March 13, 1945. Once he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps Smallwood went back to Detroit, Michigan where he was going to school under the G. I. Bill. Within two years of leaving the Marine Corps, Robert Smallwood met a young Cadet Nurse who was at the time going to nursing school at the Evangelical Deaconess School of Nursing Hospital in Detroit. The young nurse was Laurel Brudi from Battle Creek, Michigan. Laurel would graduate from nursing school on September 9, 1946, and on March 22, 1947 Laurel Brudi and Robert Smallwood were married. The marriage took place in Angola, Indiana, where Laurel and Robert were married by Pastor R. E. Gillette of the Church of the Nazarene.
After they were married Laurel and Robert may have moved to Battle Creek, Michigan near where Laurel’s parents Karl and Gertrude Brudi lived. The first child born to Laurel and Robert was a son they named Robert James Jr., and was born on October 10, 1948 in Battle Creek.
By the time the second child, a daughter named Sylvia, who was born on July 20, 1951, the Smallwood family had moved to Detroit. While living in Detroit Laurel gave birth to a third child a son named Mark Alan on July 26, 1953. Another son named David Paul on August 20, 1955, which was followed by a daughter named Sharon and lastly a son named John.
After raising their family Laurel and Robert would move away from Detroit and moved west to Castle Rock, Washington, which was where Robert’s father James Smallwood was living. In 1978 James would pass away and Laurel and Robert would continue on living in Castle Rock, WA. In 1997 Laurel and Robert suffered a loss when their daughter Sylvia passed away at the age of 46-years.
On September 28 of 1999 Robert James Smallwood passed away in Castle Rock, WA. And as of 2017 Laurel his wife, was still living in Castle Rock.
Aboard the SS Henry R. Mallory in Hold No. 3, the hold where the Marines were berthed, was a young Marine Private, by the name of John Edward Stott. He was one of 23 Marines who would survive the torpedo impact at Hold No. 3, and survived the sinking of the ship on February 7, 1943. He was at the time only 17-years old and this would be an event like no other in his life, and it would be an event he rarely spoke of for the remainder of his life.
In an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his mother after the sinking about a newspaper article from his hometown paper from the October 30, 1943 edition, of the Norristown Times Herold, Pvt. Stott writes, “Mother please forget about the little story the Times Herold had to say about me. It’s all over with now and the best thing is to forget it. Besides I don’t think it was any of the papers business and even if it was they didn’t have to build me up so high and make it sound like it was a vacation and glory to have that happen to a man. I can’t say anything about it and even if I could I wouldn’t. But I will say one thing, putting it mildly, it wasn’t very nice and I miss some of my best buddy’s I was with coming up.” These were words that had changed a 17-year old in ways Stott could not fathom at the time.
John Edward Stott was a very patriotic person and he was very proud to become a Marine. He likely took up the patriotic feelings from his father, Joseph Edward Stott. The elder Stott had enlisted into the army on November 6, 1901 and served with Troop C of the 1st U. S. Cavalry at the rank of Corporal. Joseph Stott had served overseas in the Philippine Islands during the Philippine Insurrection for a year and a half before being Honorably Discharged at the rank of Sergeant. Joseph Stott re-enlisted again and served with Troop B, 15th Cavalry in Cuba, and then returned home in 1908 to take a job with the Pennsylvania State Police, serving until 1911 when he again went back on Active Duty with the Army, again serving with Troop B, 15th Cavalry. He served with Troop B until 1913 when he took a Government job as Inspector of Customs for the Bureau of Insular Affairs, and was stationed in the West Indies. Joseph Stott served in this duty until 1915, when he was sent to the U. S.-Mexican border as Inspector of Customs. In 1916, he was once again sent to the West Indies as Deputy Receiver of Customs of Haiti and the Dominican Republic for the United States Government. He would serve this duty until 1921 when he came back home to Norristown for good.
The Stott family was a very patriotic family, Joseph Stott had an older brother named William G. Stott and had joined the Marines in 1899, and also served with the Washington DC Police force as a Captain during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Growing up in the Stott family John Edward Stott saw from his father and uncle the value of service and duty to one’s family and Country. And so, when America was attacked on December 7, 1941, the younger Stott saw this as his time to act, just as his father, and uncle had done before him.
John Stott also during his formative years, saw a second example of service, that from his mother, Jessie Stout Stott. She set forth an example of diligent church work and was very active in local Norristown civic functions. And so, John Stott saw before him two parents who gave of themselves to serve their communities and Country to better all.
And so, it was not surprising that in his senior year of high School, when other boys were worrying about taking a girl to the local soda shop, and playing sports, John Stott, who in the late summer of 1943, was just turning 17-years old, quit school and enlisted into the United States Marine Corps before he had reached the age he had to register for the Draft. The examples of his parents and uncle during his younger years led John Stott to make the decision to become a Marine… a Marine for the rest of his life, and it is well worth recounting his story.
John Edward Stott was the eldest son of Jessie Stout and Joseph Edward Stott, and was born on August 24, 1925, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. The Joseph Stott home was located at 813 Swede Street in Norristown. The home on Swede Street was a white two story duplex, with a large wrap-a-round porch, and the Stott’s had the left-hand side. The home stood between two 3-story brick houses, and it was from this porch that John Stott observed the examples of his mother and father. In the spring of 1930 the Stott family consisted of John, his mother and father, and John’s two younger sisters Jessie, and Joy. The Reddington family lived in the right-hand side of the duplex.
During the Depression years’ work was hard to find but Joseph was able to get a job working at the Valley Forge Park. He later on September 13, 1938, was appointed as the Superintendent for the historic park. The Valley Forge Park was the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of General George Washington and the Continental Army.
In 1777, the Continental Army had lost the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and the capital in Philadelphia. But support for General Washington in the Congress was reaching a new and unimaginable low. On December 19, 1777, as the Continental Army was marching into Valley Forge, George Washington was vilified by many as an incompetent general who should be relieved of his command at the earliest opportunity. As the army began to establish the camp at Valley Forge, Washington faced several enemies on several fronts. Many in the Congress, which was then quartered in nearby York, Pennsylvania, doubted Washington's ability to command. He wasn't winning battles. In fact, the Continental Army was regularly and frequently beaten by the British. But General Washington was determined to persevere, and persevere he did, and the rest as they say, is history.
Being that John Stott’s father was the Superintendent of the historic Valley Forge grounds running along the Schuylkill River, John likely had spent time there walking in the footsteps of the founding of our Country with his father. John may have also been inspired by General Washington and the victorious Army that came out of the winter stay in Valley Forge so many years before. This was another of the building blocks of the patriotic formations of John Edward Stott.
The Schuylkill River runs through the middle of Valley Forge Park, and then runs through Norristown just a few miles downriver. The Schuylkill also ran through the life path of John Edward Stott, as in the long summer days of John’s youth, he swam quite often in the river. Later in his life, when his very life was nearly lost during the sinking of the troopship he was aboard, John attributed this as one of the factors that saved his life, that of being a good swimmer from his youth and the many hours of swimming in the Schuylkill.
On December 7, 1941, John Stott was 16-years and 4 months old, in school and had his entire life in front of him. Events in America were happening that would change her history in ways that could not be imagined at the time, and so too, events in John Stott’s life were about to take place that would change his life forever.
On August 24, 1942, John Stott turned 17-years old, he would have been in his senior year at Norristown High School, and likely he already had thoughts of joining the military. It was two and half months later near the beginning of November 1942 that John Stott acted on this thought. He quit school, left his family, and at the Marine Recruiting Station in Philadelphia on Monday, November 9, 1942, John E. Stott made a choice that would change his life forever, by enlisting into the United States Marine Corps. It was not known if he returned home that evening or not, but by Tuesday November 10, about 3 o’clock in the afternoon recruit Stott had arrived at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. He began basic training with Recruit Platoon No. 940.
By Thursday November 12, Recruit Stott was able to take the time to write to his mother. On official United States Marine Corps stationary, Recruit Stott writes the following letter:
November 12, 1942
Went to the dentist this morning and had all my teeth filled and fixed up. We then went and took another examination, which I think I passed. Tell Pop not to join the Marines for in your basic training it would be too hard. I have to send all my clothes home because it takes up too much room. I also have to send all my belongings home for I got everything I brought with me down here and don’t need them here. I also can’t keep a diary down here and have to send that home too. Everybody is taking it hard and the first thing you do wrong you are sure told. There are a good many nice fellows with me, but oh so dumb. I can’t send my stuff home until I get something to send it home in.
They say 42,000 men have been killed in the Marines so far and they are trying to train us so we won’t be next. We are not supposed to get leave for a long time so I wish you would tell the fellows to write and please write yourself.
He ends with “Love Jack,” which was a nickname he went by. His mother had a diary she would write things in about her son while in the Marines during the war. This was a preprinted diary she had purchased and it was printed for someone who was in the Navy, but where it was printed Navy she crossed it out and wrote “Marines” It had a line for “His Nickname” and she wrote “Jack – Scratch – Bozo” so, clearly there was a deep relationship between the mother and son.
But in the last line of the letter from November 12, he writes; “P.S. Don’t worry for I will be all right.” These were words meant to comfort his mother, but a mother always worries about her child. These were ominous words for a 17-year old to write to his mother, and I’m quite sure at his young age he did not fear anything when he stepped aboard the SS Henry R. Mallory.
After his basic training was completed, and he had earned his Eagle, Globe and Anchor to become a Marine for life, Private Stott was sent to Quantico, Virginia before his first assignment. In Jessie Stott’s diary, she writes the following entries about her son.:
|January 11, 1943; Left Boot Training and went to Quantico, VA
Saturday June 16; Came home from Quantico. First time since enlistment, had to be back in Quantico Sunday 17th at 10:00 am
Monday January 18; left Quantico for Brooklyn Navy Yard, while in Quantico volunteered for Iceland duty from a year to 18-months.
Tuesday January 19; Came home from N. Y. for a few hours. Went to movies with Bob. Had to report at 7:30 am.
Wednesday January 20; Came home again for a few hours. Went to Bob’s and Browns.
Thursday January 21; Came home 7:30 very low in spirits, went to movies alone, would not call Bob and say good-bye, left on the 2:10 train, dad got up to see him off, sure it would be last time home.
Friday January 22; phoned home at 5:00 pm to say good-bye, packing up to leave at noon on Saturday Jan. 23 for Iceland, a little depressed but OK.
Stott was then transferred into a Detachment of Marines that would be going to Iceland to relieve the 5th Marines who had been stationed in Iceland for the past year. He was ordered to go to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to join this unit.
Once aboard the SS Henry R. Mallory, Pvt. Stott was likely the youngest Marine in his unit. On Saturday January 23, 1943, the Mallory left New York bound to meet up with a convoy, which was outbound from Halifax, NS. Along the way routines aboard the Mallory were just that, routine. But according to fellow Marine PFC Joseph I. McMillen who stated, “Some of the guys would not sleep at night for fear of being caught in their bunks in case of an attack.” Down in the hold where the Marines were berthed the temperatures were hot as they were near the boiler rooms. Some of the Marines would stand with their backs up against the hull plating, which was cooled by the icy cold waters of the North Atlantic. They were also instructed not to strip down to their skivvies at night to sleep, but were to sleep fully clothed so they would be ready in case of an attack. But many disobeyed this order as it was just too hot below decks.
Now 15-days later, on Sunday February 7, 1943, the Mallory is about 600-miles south-south-west of Iceland, and the Mallory and many of those traveling within her hull would not finish the day alive. On Saturday evening February 6, Pvt. Stott went to his bunk in Hold No. 3, which was a top bunk located about the center of the hold, and went to sleep. The bunks in Hold No. 3 were stacked several bunks high, and the hold only had one ladder to get down into the hold from the deck above.
On Saturday evening, there had been several submarine alerts and the gun crews were constantly kept at the guns. Likely when Pvt. Stott went to his bunk that evening, he must have been uneasy along with most of the crew with the un-nerving submarine alerts. Plus, below decks when men would stand against the hull plating to cool off, some may have been able to hear distant attacks from the sound of depth charges going off.
In the moments before 4:00 in the morning on Sunday, the Mallory and many of her men only had moments to live. At the moment that the German torpedo hit the side of the Mallory, fellow Marine Pvt. Donald R. Gross, was then setting on the ladder that led to the upper deck. When the torpedo exploded, it threw Gross off the ladder and knocked him unconscious for a time. Pvt. Gross was quoted in saying “It blew the ladder out from under me, and I don’t remember anything else until I came to in a lifeboat. Then I found that I had on only dungaree pants, a dungaree jacket over a sweater, and no shoes.”
Pvt. Stott was fast asleep in his bunk on the top of the stack when the explosion took place. Stott recounted, “I was sleeping in the top bunk, and I was thrown up against the overhead and knocked out. I fell down the deck, and when I came to, there was considerable water in the compartment. Something was wrong with my leg. I could drag it, but I couldn’t walk on it, or put any weight on it.”
The ladder on which Pvt. Gross was setting at the moment of the explosion was the only way out for the Marines. The ladder and the hatch it led to were both blown apart, but there was a hole that led to the main deck, that was their only way out. Everyone was in a hurry to get to that hole, and Pvt. Stott had dragged himself to the hole, which led topside. But just as he nearly got there Stott realized he had no life jacket and turned around to get his life jacket.
Somehow in the confusion, darkness, and fumes Stott retrieved a life jacket. Dragging himself once again to the hole he found that most of the fellows had gotten out, but Stott somehow didn’t have any trouble getting through the hole and onto the deck.
Also at the time of the explosion in the bunk below Pvt. Stott’s bunk was Pvt. Gerald E. Moyer, who was also asleep. The explosion caused the bunks to collapse and Moyer was trapped under them. Pvt. Moyer stated that, “I managed to squeeze out, but my clothes were still under there, so I went up on deck with only a khaki shirt and dungaree pants on.”
The Marines were assigned to two lifeboats on the after well deck of the Mallory, and that is where all the Marines headed to. But when they arrived they found that one of the two boats had been blown to pieces from the force of the torpedo explosion. Getting the second one into the water proved to be a futile effort as it sank once it was in the water. During the effort to get this second lifeboat away the Marines found a member of the Mallory’s crew, a colored boatswains mate named Isaac F. J. Ennis, directing the cutting of the cables that held the lifeboat down. In the darkness and the weather conditions at the time, it took the men about 10-minutes just to get one end cut loose. This caused the boat to swing down into the sea and rapidly began to fill with water, and at the same time there were about 30 marines in the lifeboat.
Stott began to climb down a rope ladder that was hanging off the side of the Mallory into this lifeboat that was beginning to sink. Stott got his foot caught up in the rope ladder but someone already in the lifeboat helped him to get free and down into the lifeboat.
Now the lifeboat was in danger of sinking, and many of the marines fearing that it would sink jumped back aboard the deck of the Mallory, that was also sinking. The sea state at the time was such that on a crest of a wave the lifeboat was even with the deck of the Mallory and at that time many just jumped from the lifeboat back to the deck of the Mallory. Pvt. Stott and Pvt. Moyer were both still in the sinking lifeboat and had not yet jumped back onto the Mallory, when another lifeboat that had been successfully launched came by and all those in the sinking lifeboat jumped into the lifeboat that came along side. Pvt. Stott found to his amazement that Pvt. Gross, the Marine who was blown off the ladder in Hold No. 3 was there to greet him.
Stott noted that this lifeboat had about 20 or so in it, which included a Navy Ensign, who may have been Ensign Daniel Dannenbaum, an Army Chaplain, which was either Chaplain Gerald J. Whelan or Ira A. Bentley, as they were the only two Chaplains to survive the sinking, and two merchant marines. This lifeboat may have been lifeboat No. 4 in which Mallory crewmen Able Seaman Thomas A. Hebenton and the Mallory’s Junior 3rd Mate were in. Stott commented that the presence of the Chaplain and Ensign and the two merchant marines kept the boat pretty calm despite that they all were in grave danger.
Now away from the sinking Mallory the lifeboat that Stott, Gross and Moyer were in drifted away from the grave of the Mallory. All the while the weather increased and the wind whipped the waves higher. This compounded with rain and sleet that was falling at the time kept the men in the boats wet and cold. Life truly hung in the balance, and it was still dark making for a truly horrifying experience. After a few hours, another lifeboat from the Mallory was seen and the two boats maneuvered together. This second boat was so overcrowded that men were setting on top of each other. About 15 men from this overcrowded boat jumped into Stott’s lifeboat easing some of the overcrowding in the other boat.
Six hours had passed since the Mallory had slipped beneath the surface, and the light of the new gray day was beginning to break. It was a bleak welcome to the men in the boats who had at the very least made it through the sinking and at least made it to day-break, any more than that was certainly welcomed. Then a bright spot appeared in the form of a United States Coast Guard Combat Cutter. Captain Raney, the skipper of the USCGC Bibb pulled up along the side of the two lifeboats and parked his cutter like a New York Taxi cab driver. Not an easy task in the state the seas were running at the time.
Stott and his fellow shipmates were hauled aboard the Bibb and taken below and given warm dry clothes from the crew of the Bibb. Pvt. Stott recalls hearing one of the Marine Lieutenants saying nothing but praise for the way they handled themselves during the sinking. Sure, there was a certain amount of confusion, but they did not panic. The Lieutenant during the sinking overheard a Marine Corporal saying, “Remember, you guys, you’re Marines; if we go down, we go down like Marines.” And as the Marine Lieutenant was going over the side to the lifeboat he overheard someone else shouting half-jokingly, “You gotta go overboard for someone some day!”
The men rescued from the Mallory stayed aboard the Bibb for another week before they arrived in Iceland. But back home the Stott family had no knowledge of the sinking. But as any mother does Mrs. Stott writes to the Marine Corps to inquire about her son. On February 20, 1943, fourteen-days after the sinking Mrs. Stott writes her letter. Three days after that on February 23, a reply is written by Colonel H. L Parsons, USMC, Commanding Officer, Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, New York, in which the Colonel states the following:
My dear Mrs. Stott,
Your son was in good health at the time of his transfer.
Signed Colonel H. L. Parsons, USMC
Clearly even the Marine Corps did not know of the sinking, or the condition of the Marines who were aboard. It is not known how long it took for word to reach the front porch of the Stott home about what had happened to the son who was serving “beyond the seas.”
We do know that on March 30, 1943 Pvt. Stott writes the first letters to his mother and this may have been her first knowledge of the sinking and what had happened to her son. And on October 30, 1943, an article was published in the Norristown Times Herold newspaper about the local Norristown Youth, Pvt. John Stott.
Mrs. Stott again writes in her diary about her son John, which may have been about the same time the October Newspaper article was written. She back dates her entries so as to record for history what had taken place. She writes:
On the morning of February 7, 1943, on way to Iceland, ship was torpedoed at four o’clock in the morning, weather sleet and rain, ship sunk very quickly. See clipping which was not released until October 30, 1943. Was picked up by Coast Guard Cutter at noon. February 14 arrived in Iceland, went to Camp Falcon, about mile from the capitol.
No news for weeks, much in the papers about North Atlantic sea disasters. [These must have been anxious days for Mrs. Stott, wondering if she would ever hear or see her beloved son ever again.]
February 19, 1943; received cable, “All safe and well, please do not worry, all my love.”
February 20 wrote to Commanding Officer, Brooklyn for a mailing address.
February 25, received letter from Commanding Officer, with the Fleet, Unit # 555.
March 30, 1943; Received first letters, written February 27, had written letter before but never received at home.
April 3, 1943; Second cable, “You are more than ever in my thoughts at this time, please do not worry, all my love.”
April 4, 1943; Sent cable to “Jack” Naval Operating Base Iceland Unit #555, “Letter and cable received, many thanks, family all well.” Letters continued coming fairly regular until summer, then irregular, about one in three weeks’ time.
July 31, 1943, Emergency operation for appendicitis. Very bad condition. Appendix burst in surgeons’ hand as he was removing same. Left hospital August 21 and went back on duty.
August 11, 1943; Company moved from Camp Falcon to Fleet Air Base, 3-miles from Reykjavik the capitol.
December 20, 1943, received 60 letters and cards from friends and folks back home. Had a very nice Christmas in Iceland.
January 23, 1944, got on SS North King, a freight boat for home, sailed January 31 from Iceland to Scotland.
Back on Iceland, on December 10, 1943, just over 10-months since the sinking of the Mallory, John Stott, now a Private First Class writes a letter to his mother. He writes,
Dec. 10, 1943, Friday
Well mother hope you haven’t been worried about not hearing from me, but as usual have been quite busy and haven’t gotten the chance to write to anyone.
I can’t say anything about the place or what has been going on but of course you know that already and I don’t have to explain any further.
Have had so much to do that I haven’t even had time to answer mail six weeks old, but we haven’t received any since then so I have time now to answer some of it before more comes in.
Glad to know that everyone is fine back there and all in the best of health. I am doing well and getting along just as fine as ever.
I guess Xmas will be there and gone by time this letter reaches you, but my thoughts are with you and everyone at home, always and maybe next Xmas I will be able to spend some of my time home with you all.
Want to thank everyone for their lovely Xmas packages and only feel sorry that I could not get anything to send them.
Mother please forget about the little story the Times Herald had to say about me, it’s all over with now and I think the best way to do is to forget it, besides I don’t think it was any of the papers business and even if it was, they didn’t have to build me up so high and make it sound like it was a vacation and glory to have that happen to a man. I can’t say anything about it and even if I could I wouldn’t. But I will say one thing, putting it mildly, it wasn’t very nice and I miss some of my best buddies’ I was with coming up.
I certainly was glad that Bill Gilligan hadn’t said anything about it for I am fine and you have never yet seen me really hurt or in a place or fix that I couldn’t get out and in other words no matter what happens I expect to get home safely and as long as this thing lasts, whatever I get into I shall come home to everyone when it is all over.
John Stott was a confident Marine, his attitude was positive that he would be able to handle anything that came at him. For the next 14 months Pvt. Stott was stationed in Iceland. By October of 1943, he had been advanced to Private First Class and was then serving at the United States Naval Air Facility on Iceland. By July of 1944, PFC Stott, along with several other Marines from the Mallory sinking, were then stationed at the Marine Corps Barracks at Quantico, Virginia, serving in Company D, Training Battalion, at the Marine Corps School. He would remain in this Company until the end of the war. In January of 1945, PFC Stott got a 9-day furlough and may have went home to see the family. Along about the same time he had met Kathryn Belle Morrow, who was 18-years old and was then living in Arlington, Virginia. A courtship began with the dashing 21-year old Marine and Miss Morrow, and on June 30, 1945, at the Marine Barracks in Quantico, PFC Stott and Miss Kathryn Morrow were married. The Reverend George P. LaBarre, Jr. who was an Episcopal Priest conducted the marriage ceremony.
On or about January 28, 1946, PFC Stott was transferred out of Company D, at Quantico to a Casual Company in preparation to his discharge. His Honorable Discharge came on February 6, 1946, and he and his wife Kathryn moved back home to Norristown fulfilling the promise he made to his mother that he would return back to the family.
When John and Kathryn returned to Norristown they had taken an apartment next to John’s parents located at 807 Swede Street. This was the 3-story brick apartment house right next door to his parents’ home. John had taken a truck driving job, which he would have for many years while living in the area.
It was in 1952 that John and his father Joseph, would build a house on Mill Road in Fairview Village, just 10-miles from Norristown. The address was 3046 Mill Road and was 8-houses down from the Valley Forge Road. John was very proud of this home. From 1946 through 1967 John and Kathryn would raise five children within sight of the historic Valley Forge Park.
In 1967 John and Kathryn pulled up roots in Pennsylvania and moved out west to Tucson, Arizona. They lived in the Tucson area for the next 18-years until they again returned to the Norristown area again. Here they would live until December 15, 1986 when John Edward Stott passed away.
The son of John and Kathryn Stott, Joe Stott recalls that his father “hardly talked about it at all. The few things he did tell me was that he had been knocked out and he had hurt his leg when the torpedo hit and that he froze his feet and legs in the water. He thought he survived because he was a good swimmer having swam a lot in the rivers in Pennsylvania.”
Joe Stott continued talking about his father’s war experiences, “He did tell me there was a merchant marine who wouldn’t sleep inside and slept on deck and that was where the torpedo hit. And another man who was sucked down a way when the ship [Mallory] went down but came back up, had some broken bones but survived.”
Joe stated that “after reading his letters when he wrote of Marine Corps friends who had died, and reading the accounts and letters from survivors and families of those who lost their lives, I understand my father much more. While growing up, he held people who were in the wars with the highest esteem, and I have much more appreciation and thankfulness for the men and women who fought and died for our freedom.” Joe recalls that two days before his death, John Stott stated that “I survived the Mallory sinking, but I won’t survive the cancer that I have.”
When John Edward Stott, the proud Marine passed away, he was given a military funeral and was buried in the Valley Forge Memorial Cemetery. Kathryn his beloved wife lived on until March 18, 2003 when she passed away.
Among the effects of John Edward Stott there is a hand-written poem thought to be from 1943 and was written by Gray Richards. Richards was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania on October 16, 1902. During WWII Richards joined the U. S. Navy and by December 1, 1943, was stationed at the Naval Operating Base Iceland. Richards was on Iceland until July 10, 1943, when he was transferred. He must have known Pvt. John Stott and several of the Mallory survivors, both from the Marines and the Navy men. Richards poem is entitled “Tribute to the men who lost their lives on the Henry R. Mallory”
Grim lips of men have told the tale,
She was arrogant; proud and defiant,
With her convoy heading northward,
Hoarse shouts of men rang through the night,
Five hundred men stared death in the face,
Seven men of God had made this trip,
Devoid of life belts they went down,
The colored man alone, here aft,
With life boats caught, men gave up hope,
The ship was sinking quickly,
Tell those loved ones who are yearning,
This poem speaks of the seven Army Chaplains, five of who perished, and “the colored man alone, here aft” is the Mallory’s Boatswain, Isaac F. J. Ennis. So, it seems that Gray Richards the sailor stationed on Iceland when the Mallory’s survivors arrived, must have spent time with them and hearing their stories as he has all the details correct in his poem.
|PFC John Edward Stott, Service No 489472, official United States Marine Corps photograph.||
PFC John Stott on the right and an unidentified Marine on the left. Note that in this photo it must have been a rainy day when this photo was taken, as both have a plastic hat protector on.
|Bronze grave marker of Corporal John E. Stott in the Valley Forge Memorial Cemetery.|
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