The Sinking Of The Ben and Josephine Account From The Gloucester Daily Times

The Infamous Fred Buck At The Cape Ann Museum found the article from the Times with the account of how our Grandfather’s boat was sunk by the German Sub  on June 11, 1942

Gloucester Daily Times, June 11, 1942
ENEMY SUB SENDS TWO LOCAL …
14 Fishermen Reach Shore Safely After Craft Are Shelled
Two Gloucester fishing draggers were shelled and sunk within a half hour of each other off the New England coast Wednesday afternoon, June 3, while the crews of both vessels were endangered by machine gun bullets, shrapnel from hurtling shells and even from direct shelling by an enemy submarine, a long dull grey craft without identification marks.

All 14 men in the crews managed to reach shore after 36 hours of rowing through fog and drenching rain, with neither crew able to salvage an ounce of food.  Capt. John O. Johnson, owner-skipper of the second craft shelled, told a graphic story of the event, while Capt. Joseph Ciametaro [sic], 27 years, Washington Square, skipper of the other boat, described the machine gunning.  The only casualty was Capt. Johnson’s dog "Snooksie."

First Local Casualties
These are the first Gloucester fishermen to be sunk by subs since late summer of 1918, when the German submarines took a toll of Gloucester swordfishermen and market fishermen on Georges Bank.  News of the sinkings were learned here within two days of the tragedy.

In Capt. Ciametaro’s crew were Sam Frontiero, 45 years, 19 Mansfield Street, engineer; Tony Frontiero, 35 years, 17 Elm Street, cook; Sam Orlando, 23 years, 7 Washington Square; Dominic Montagnino, 27 years, 21 Riggs Street; William Mahoney, 49 years, 12 Locust Street; Peter Frontiero, 27 years, 42 Fort Square; James A. Sheaves, 42 years, 12 Marchant Street.

Their craft, costing some $80,000 a couple years ago when she was built, was on the fishing grounds in the late afternoon, and had already made one set, getting 1500 pounds redfish, when in steaming toward what they thought would be a better spot, Orlando on watch forward, saw the conning tower of a submarine off a distance from them.  At first, they thought she might be an American submarine on patrol, but when the raider came within 300 feet of their craft, they saw men on deck armed with machine guns, letting loose a barrage of tracer shots at their craft.

Machine Gun House
"Orlando called me on deck and when I realized they were firing at us, I knew very well she was an enemy," said Capt. Ciaramitaro.  "I ran into the pilot house to get the compass, and as I did, some of the machine gun bullets smashed away at the house.  Mahoney who was up nearby came within inches of getting killed.  They must have thought the firing would be a warning.
"Anyway, we made for the two dories aboard, and lost no time in launching them into the water.  We didn’t even bother to get our clothing or anything else and even left the compass behind.  I had planned to break the seal on the radio telephone in the engine house and notify the Coast Guard that a sub was attacking us, but the firing was too hot for us, and it would take too many precious minutes to get this done.

"Sheaves, Orlando, Montagnino and Tony Frontiero were in the first dory, while Sam Frontiero and myself made for the other.
"Within five minutes of the machine gunning, the sub crew started firing from a gun mounted on deck.  I don’t know what type it was or how big.  I know that those shells came thick and fast, and there must have been anywhere from 40 to 50 shells sent at our boat.  One of the shells must have banged into the foc’s’tle, because we saw the stove come hurtling out through a shellhole in the port side of the boat.

"The shell that did the trick was the last one, smashing into the engine room, causing an explosion, which set the boat afire.  However, it was a half hour later before she finally sunk.  We couldn’t see how good their aim was, because we were on the opposite side from where they were shelling.
"There was a lot of shrapnel from the shells flying around us, but none of us was hit.  None of the crew bothered to speak to us and we said nothing to them.  We don’t know whether they were Germans or Italians.  They certainly weren’t friends.  They were tall and slim.  There were several men on the deck of the sub.

Many Misses
Orlando and others of the crew declared there were more misses than hits as the shells screamed overhead and around them.  It looked like the battle of the Marne might have looked, they thought.  The weather was clear with visibility of at least six or seven miles, said the skipper.  The sea was fairly smooth.

As the two dories were rowing away from the craft in which they had made big money in the past couple years, they saw a short while later smoke rising in the distance and knew that the neighboring dragger had been sunk.

Fog set in on the long pull to shore.  Guided only by the direction of the wind which the skipper had sensed as he left the dragger, the reckoning proved correct and brought them to land 36 hours later.  They rowed in reliefs of two, and both dories kept together.  They had no food, but did have a small amount of water.  It was a long hard pull and when they finally made it, every man was exhausted.  They were given strong steaming coffee, bacon and eggs, and it all tasted mighty good.  Later the navy took charge of the men and took their accounts of what had happened.  They arrived about 4:30 o’clock in the morning.
Asked as to whether or not they were frightened when machine gunned, the skipper exclaimed, "Of course we were scared.  With those bullets flying all around us, there was no wonder we were scared."

"Every time they would fire a shell it would knock the boat around," the skipper added.  "The next shell would swing around the other way."  Said Peter Frontiero, "To tell you the truth, we were stunned.  The sub skipper gave us plenty of time to get off, but he did have a lot of shots fired in the pilot house.  When he let the shells go, we knew he meant business and we got going.  We are glad they never hit our dories."

3 comments

  • Elaine Marie Lapointe

    Wow, what a story. Thank God they all made it back. Lousy about loosing the boat but I guess it’s better to loose the boat then their lives. What a piece of history. These are the stories that you don’t often hear of. They are very interesting. Thanks for posting Joey.

  • I gree with Ms. Lapointe. Great piece of history! Thank you for posting it. I love this blog. I love reading the same last names from 1942 and 2012. I have always felt such a pull to Gloucester. Then I read this history and I realize, I’m drawn to the spirit of the people from Gloucester… and the spirit of fishermen. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Great piece of History!! I used to Fish out on Georges Bank on the Manuel Porter gill netter..And I thought 30 foot swells were scary….I Cant Imagine….

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