Tag Archives: Captain Joe Ciaramitaro

Captain Joe and Grandma Felicia’s Wedding June 11, 1938

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Thank you to the person who brought this down the dock for me.  Sorry I didn’t get your name.

Ron Gilson writes in-

Good morning Joey:

Over the years I have refrained from commenting on various interesting community posts on your blog.  Who’s interested in an old man’s perspective?

However, today’s wedding story on your blog represents not only a detailed account of a  prominent Italian commuity wedding, but more importantly, to me, it is a detailed slice of our all important fishing community history.

In 1938, all the up and coming leaders of the Italian community fishing fleet were listed as principals in this wedding.  They were the future players about to write Gloucester fishing history.  The Curcuru’s, Ciaramitaro’s, Branceleone’s, Strescino’s, D’Amico’s, Calamo’s, Novello’s, Orlando’s, to name a few, were all in attendance.  It was a wedding spectacular!  

Ten years later, Capt. Joe Ciaramitaro, in his highligher Benjamin C., would lead the fleet in the redfishing game, along with Capt. Sam Nicastro in his F/V Felicia; Capt. Chris Cecilio in his F/V Mary and Josephine; Capt. Rico Strescino in his family owned F/V Balilla and later in the  Boston vessel Agatha and Patricia; the Brancaleone brothers in their family vessels Joseph & Lucia and St. Victoria; the Novello’s in their new Bonaventure and the Calomo and D’Amico families in their highline seiner, Ida & Joseph.

These Italian vessels and their crews and many others played a major role in the prominence of Gloucester’s fishing production in that era.  It will never happen again, and this wave of Italian-American immigrants should never be forgotten.  It was an unforgettable time in our city’s history!

Ron Gilson

Joe Popcorn From Virginia McKinnon

Hi Joey, I was looking through some old pictures and came across this picture of Joe Popcorn at St. Peter’s Fiesta in 1947.  With Joe is my brother, Paul Frontiero, who worked for Joe that summer. We lived at 14 Gould Court and Joe and his family at 16 Gould Court. Later Joe made his famous lemonade slush. I have so many memories of Gould Court. This story is of early times, before the Ciaramitaro’s moved next door. Daily I look forward to your blog. Love, Virginia (Frontiero) McKinnon

Joe popcorn

One of my two Joe Ciramitaro Grandfathers.

Captain Joe Ciaramitaro of Captain Joe and Sons

and Joe “Popcorn” Ciaramitaro of Pat’s Center Grocery

Both Extremely Hard Workers

Video- Gloucester MA Waterfront , Rockport, Bearskin Neck, 1959-1967 Part 1

Old reels of tape converted to digital files.  Ciaramitaro and Curcuru families.  Benny Curcuru, Auntie Annie, Captain Joe and Felicia Ciaramitaro.  Stage Fort Park, Gloucester Harbor, the Paint Factory, The Dragger Fleet, Downtown, Rogers Street, The Gloucester House, Bearskin Neck, Rockport.  I don’t recognize a lot of the older Italian women and men, feel free to leave a comment with the names you recognize and the time displayed when you see them in the comments on this video.  Thank you

Gloucester MA Waterfront , Rockport, Bearskin Neck, 1959-1967 from Joey on Vimeo.

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."

Thanks To The Infamous Fred Buck We Have Two Accounts From the Sinking Of Our Grandfather’s Boat The Ben and Josephine By German Sub in 1942

Article by Charles Dana Gibson, undated-

On June 2,1942, the Ben and Josephine, an otter trawl dragger, left Gloucester, Massachusetts, at 7 p.m., in company with another dragger, the Aeolus. Both were bound for the Seal Island fishing grounds off Nova Scotia. By 3 p.m. the next day, the two draggers were about 170 miles east of Cape Ann when the man at the wheel of the Ben and Josephine spotted a submarine on the surface proceeding on what appeared to be a parallel course. 

Although concerned, the wheelsman later stated that the opinion among his fellow crew members at the time was that the submarine was probably friendly. Whoever was up and about on the Aeolus, then four or five miles astern, seems to have had the same thoughts, since it also made no attempt to alter course. But friendly the submarine definitely was not: it was the U432, the same sub which had sunk Foam some days earlier.

When later describing to naval authorities what had transpired, the crew members of both the Ben and Josephine and the Aeolus stated that for an hour a number had periodically studied the submarine through binoculars.

During that time, nothing was seen to indicate that it spelled trouble; yet, the fact that its course and speed were continually altered to match the draggers produced a menacing atmosphere.  Around 4 p.m., the submarine suddenly changed its course as if to cross the bow of the Ben and Josephine, increasing its speed as it drew nearer. When approximately five hundred feet away, it swung parallel and a machine gun opened fire, bullets striking the water close to its prey. Guiseppe Ciarmitaro (Captain Joe our Grandfather), the Ben and Josephine’s skipper, had been taking a nap. Suddenly shocked awake, he ran for the pilot house to radio for help.

The Germans, spotting Ciarmitaro moving across the deck and apparently guessing what he was about, sprayed machine gun fire in his path. Escaping narrowly, Ciarmitaro decided against any further heroics and shouted the order to cut away both dories. At this point, U-432′s commander began showing solicitude for the fishermen’s safety, ordering further fire withheld until the dories were clear. When that was accomplished, the shooting recommenced in earnest. The crew of the Ben and Josephine would later estimate that between thirty-eight and forty-eight rounds were fired from the sub’s main deck gun. But the marksmanship was poor, and despite the short range few made contact. Enough did hit, though, to start the craft going down at the bow.

At this point the fishermen saw what the Foam’s survivors had also witnessed – someone aboard the submarine was taking their photographs for posterity. Thirty-six hours later, the dories landed at the light station on Mount Desert Rock, an island off Maine’s Acadia National Park.  Aside from being hungry and suffering from mild exposure, all hands were well.

The Aeolus had been on a parallel course about five miles astern of the Ben and Josephine when the latter was attacked. Upon hearing the fire directed against the other trawler, the master, John Johnson, altered his course to put as much distance as possible between himself and the submarine. However, as soon as the sub had finished with the Ben and Josephine, it rapidly overhauled Aeolus. Upon closing, the Germans fired a warning shot, quickly followed by shouted orders to stop engines and put over dories. By way of emphasis, the U-boat’s deck gunners fired off two rounds, one of which struck Aeolus squarely forward on her whale back. Since all the fishermen were aft at the time engaged in lowering the dories, this was probably meant only as a threat to dampen any idea of sending off a radio warning.

It was when the fishermen had pulled clear that the Germans reopened fire, with most rounds missing as they had earlier with the Ben and Josephine. When enough hits were made to start Aeolus sinking, the U-432 headed away. Taking stock of the situation, the survivors decided on a course for Seal Island, the closest land. But before long a brisk breeze came up, raising enough of a head sea to force a change of plan. They then reversed direction, heading this time for the coast of Maine. They arrived a day and a half later, also landing on Mount Desert Rock close on the heels of the crew from the Ben and Josephine.

Guiseppe Ciarmitaro later recalled the effect that the sinkings of the Ben and Josephine and the Aeolus had on the morale of Gloucester’s fishing community. When the full news became known, enthusiasm for the offshore fisheries declined sharply. It would be some weeks before the men of Gloucester again extended their voyages east of Cape Porpoise, Maine.


from the "Sou’west Harbor" Maine newsletter, Feb. 2010

This is a letter we received from Doug Norwood, who grew up in Southwest Harbor and is now a resident of Birch Bay in Bar Harbor. We felt you would all enjoy reading it as much as we did.  Thanks Doug

Sixty-seven years ago I was a freshman in Pemetic High School in Southwest Harbor.  It was June 4th, 1942. We were in World War II. German U-Boats were all over the Atlantic Ocean.  Some historians have called that time “The Deadly Summer of 1942’. German submarines were sinking many allied ships on their way to Europe carrying food, supplies, oil. They were sinking any boat that was on the waters of the Atlantic.

On June 4th, 1942, my father came home early from work. He came into the house and told me not to go out anywhere as he wanted me to help him. He went to the phone and he called several people. I heard some of his conversation which wasn’t making much sense to me. He was talking about feeding fourteen fishermen, and getting some cots for men to sleep on, and dry clothes. When he finished his conversations, he told me to grab my jacket and follow him.

We got into his pickup truck and on the way to the high school he told me we were going to set up cots in the high school gym for fourteen fisherman who had had their boats shelled by a German submarine and watched them sink. He told me that the men were at the coast guard station in the Village. As the chairman of the American red Cross the Coast Guard had called my father to put into action a rescue operation.

When we got to the high school there was lots of activity by men and women of the community. Men were taking cots into the school gym, women were carrying baskets of food into the home economics class room. Women
were at work making fish chowder and biscuits, hot coffee and dessert. Some women were making up the cots for these fishermen to sleep on.

The fishermen arrived at the school. They were taken to the showers in the school, given fresh towels and then some men and women gave them clean clothing to put on. They were on their way to a fisherman’s
supper.
The fishermen were from two different trawlers which had been fishing in Nova Scotia waters. The first trawler was the Ben & Josephine. She had a crew of eight men. The boat’s home port was Gloucester in Massachusetts. The boat had been built in Thomaston in 1941. The German Submarine U-432 surfaced close to the fishing boat. The spokesman for the sub told the crew to get into a dory and row away. Then the sub shelled the boat until it sank. Those eight crewmen watched their boat until it sank. Those eight crewmen saw their boat sink out of sight.

Four miles away on the same day the same German submarine U-432 surfaced beside the trawler Aeolus. The spokesman for the submarine told the six man crew trawler to get into a dory and row away. The sub shelled the trawler seventeen times until it sank. The sub took moving pictures of the shelling and sinking of the Aeolus which sank in about twenty minutes. The Aeolus was 41 tons and had been built in Friendship, Maine in 1922. Its home port was Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The fishermen rowed their dories for 36 hours and twelve hours were rowed in a rain storm, arriving at Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse. From the Rock the men were taken to the Southwest Harbor Coast Guard Station.  My father arranged transportation for the fishermen to Gloucester. After one night at the high school the fishermen boarded a bus the next day for home.
As a young fourteen year old I was very impressed by the men and women who worked so cooperatively in taking care of those fishermen who had escaped with their lives. I had a great sense of being proud of my community as I watched them taking care of those who needed clothing, food, and encouragement.

I don’t know if any of the adults who worked on this project of giving are still alive today. Perhaps there are one or two. I do not know.

A letter received from the engineer of the Aeolus sent to my father is attached to this writing.
I think that the members and friends of the Southwest Harbor Historical Society will be interested in reading about the sinking of the Ben and Josephine and the Aeolus. More important, I think, is the response of men and women from Southwest Harbor who gave of themselves for their neighbors.

Sincerely, Douglas M. Norwood
The original letter is on the following page.

Page Nine
The Sou’West Voyage
February 2010
The letter:
Dear Sir,
June 3, 1942 a German Submarine sunk a boat names Aeolus and also a boat named Ben and Josephine, they were sunk about 30 miles from Seal Island, N.S. I was engineer on the Aeolus. This boat was sent to the bottom in broad daylight by 17 shells from a deck gun and two Germans on the sub, had a moving picture machine. One fellow pointed it and the other cranked it. That boat was sunk just to get the pictures. The crews of both boats rowed for 36 hours to the Mt Desert Rock, we was taken from there to the Coast Guard Station in South West Harbor. The Coast Guard and the Red Cross sure took good care of us down there, we slept in the High School one night and we got our eats and the crew of both boats got a full outfit of clothes and on top of that the Red Cross hired a bus to take us to Gloucester and we sure appreciated it.

I was talking to a soildier that was over in Germany a short while ago and he said he would not be surprised if those moving pictures could be found somewhere in Germany, they may be hidaway and some Red Cross department over there may locate them. They would sure be valuable to you
Chapter if you could capture them. That boat Aeolus was built in Maine and I think if your Chapter could get hold of these pictures they would belong to your Chapter.

The sinking of an American boat by a foreighn Battleship just to get moving pictures was sure a Historical event. I got crippled up on this memorial day. I hurt my hip when I fell into the dory from the rail of the boat and I had to do my turn at the oars for 36 hours and the last 12 hours we was in a pouring rain.

I got a 90% disability out of that racket and the Government has not done anything yet towards financial aid, but I think they are going to soon as they have confiscated German and Japanese assets in the U S and are going to pay some claims to persons that was not in the U S Service.
A letter from your Chapter to the Red Cross in Germany may capture those moving picture reels.

What do you think  If they are located and the Government grabs them we can put up a battle for them I remember that fish chowder I got down there from the Red Cross ladies. It sure was good. We never even got a cup of hot coffee from the Red Cross when we arrived in Gloucester from that memorial trip.  Yours Truly, Everett Gallagher

There were two men from the Intelligence department from Washington that laughed when we told them the Germans took moving pictures of the sinking of the boat, a stenographer took down all the stories from the crews of those two boats and they must have it in Washington. I had a card from those two
fellows that they give me down there but I have lost it.

Editor‟s note: I feel we still have the same community caring that we had back then. When there is a time of need, the people of our town are there to help as they can. Whether it be to provide clothing, food, Christmas gifts, a temporary home and or other things that are needed. We take great pride in
our community and the people who reside in it. If anyone knows of this event and the names of people who helped in the effort, please let us know so we can preserve their names, along with the stories.

Thank you very much Doug for sharing this with us.

Fred Buck Finds Another Picture Of Our Grandfather- Captain Joe Ciaramitaro- Thanks Fred!

From the Archives at The Cape Ann Museum.  ask and you shall receive-

If you have any Gloucester topics from the past which you would like to find out about, go to the Cape Ann Museum and talk to the friendly folks down in the archives.  They are happy to help you discover things that you may not know had existed.

Our Grandfather Captain Joe, the man our dock is named after is second from the rightAF1940-01-001a

Our Grandfather Captain Joe 1946 Article From The Atlantic Fisherman Courtesy Fred Buck and The Cape Ann Museum

joey – ran across this page in ‘atlantic fisherman’ from 1946.  feel free to post in gmg.  it’s from the collection of the cape ann museum, full set of the publication from the 1920s to 1950s donated by the publisher, gardner lamson, about 30 years ago.  he also gave us a trove of original photos of the gloucester fleet and wharves, skippers and owners, fishermen, processing plant workers and managers, etc.  there’s a lot of history in those pages.
fred buck

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