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SS Leopoldville


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#1 ww2dude

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 08:30 PM

Hi, is there anyone out there who is familiar with the sinking of the troopship Leopoldville? I have a book that dedicates a chapter to the sinking and a chapter to its discovery. However I was wondering if there is someone out there who could provide me with more info? I would be greatly appreciated. By the way, the book I used is The Sea Hunters by Clive Cussler. Thanks.

#2 Erich

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 11:52 PM

date and location please ?

E `

#3 PzJgr

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 12:00 AM

On Christmas Eve 1944, the Belgian troopship Leopoldville was transporting 2,235 American soldiers, all from the 262nd and 264th Regiment, 66th Infantry Division across the English Channel as reinforcements to fight in a fierce struggle that would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. The Leopoldville was protected by escort ships, including the British Destroyer Brilliant, but no air cover was made available even though the threat of attack by German submarines was high. Just five and one half miles from its destination of Cherbourg, France, the vessel was torpedoed by the German submarine U-486. The ship sank 2 1/2 hours later.

According to many survivors, the Belgian crew abandoned the sinking ship and left the American soldiers to fend for themselves. The British Commander in charge of the convoy ordered the Leopoldville's anchor dropped to prevent the troopship from drifting into a minefield outside the harbor. While this solved one problem, it created another. When a tug arrived on the scene, the dropped anchor prevented it from towing the sinking vessel into shore. Murphy's law states that whatever can go wrong will. On Christmas Eve 1944, Murphy's law was in full effect. Delayed radio transmissions for help, delayed response of rescue craft, heavy seas and freezing temperatures were just a few of the many things that sealed the soldiers fates. And it being Christmas Eve, serviceman at an American base in Cherbourg who could have aided the stricken Leopoldville were taking a night off from the war, either partying or attending church. No one seemed to be around to help.

By the end of that terrible night, 763* American soldiers were dead, many drowning or freezing to death in the icy waters of the English Channel. These soldiers represented youths from 47 of the then 48 United States. New York State alone lost 80 young men, including 39 from New York City. Many of those killed were only 18 to 21 years old and 493 of the bodies were never recovered. Three sets of brothers were killed, including two sets of twins.

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Because of wartime censorship and to cover-up the mistakes made by the various governments and officials involved, the disaster was not reported to the news media. Survivors were told by the British and American governments to keep quiet. Amazingly, relatives of the victims received notices that their loved ones were Missing in Action, even though the U.S. War Department knew them all to have perished. Later, the men were declared Killed in Action, but even then no details of their deaths were divulged to their families. After the war, the tragedy was considered an embarrassment to the Allies and all reports were filed away as secret by the American and British governments. Families of victims searched vainly for information about the deaths of their loved ones. Only in 1996--over 50 years later--did the British declassify documents relating to the sinking of the Leopoldville.

The Leopoldville disaster was the worst tragedy to ever befall an American Infantry Division as the result of an enemy submarine attack. Yet, this is more than a story about a terrible wartime tragedy, it is about how governments, in order to hide their own mistakes, can hide the truth from those who need it the most.

*The death toll has often been reported as 802. A review of the official Leopoldville Disaster List from the National Archives totals 763 confirmed dead.


The Sinking of the Leopoldville - The Story

Not much more that I could find.
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#4 Erich

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 12:01 AM

PzJgr you are sure it was from a U-boot ? I've heard otherwise some years ago...........mines.

#5 PzJgr

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 12:12 AM

Personally no since I have not heard of this story. Source is History channel website. Could not find any other sources except a book listing but no description or summary
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#6 Erich

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 12:19 AM

search on the u-boat.net as a possibility as it will give the U-boot or Rohwers exhaustive Seekrieg site.

in some ways this is like operation Tiger in April of 44 when the LST's that got ripped to shreds by KM S-booten - much was hidden and still is about the Slpton Isle affair.

#7 Erich

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 12:27 AM

this should cover the bases with info even on the U-boot as well

uboat.net - Articles

#8 ww2dude

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 04:26 AM

Thanks for the help. It was definitely a U-Boat, U-486, and not mines. I believe there are one or two books out there. On a different note, is there anyone out there who happened to survive this sinking and be willing to share with me a first-hand account of what happened that night?

#9 rjopm

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 10:55 PM

Are you still interested in a first-hand account of the sinking of the SS Leopoldville?

#10 Tomcat

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 12:50 AM

Are you still interested in a first-hand account of the sinking of the SS Leopoldville?


Yes, please do post it.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for the want of a shoe the horse was lost, for the want of a horse the rider was lost, for the want of a rider the battle was lost, For want of a battle the kingdom was lost, and all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Robert,


#11 rvisdew

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 03:25 PM

James E. Hutchens (Pfc 262nd Infantry Regiment, 66th Infantry Division) perished on the SS Leopoldville on December 24, 1944.  He had been married to my mother for a brief four months.

We do not believe that his body was ever recovered, but are still searching for information. 

My mother passed this last March (in 2014) and on the 70th anniversary of this tragedy, we will be dispersing some of her remains at the site near Cherbourg.

 

Any helpful ideas or thoughts are certainly welcomed.



#12 TD-Tommy776

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 04:48 PM

James E. Hutchens (Pfc 262nd Infantry Regiment, 66th Infantry Division) perished on the SS Leopoldville on December 24, 1944.  He had been married to my mother for a brief four months.

We do not believe that his body was ever recovered, but are still searching for information. 

My mother passed this last March (in 2014) and on the 70th anniversary of this tragedy, we will be dispersing some of her remains at the site near Cherbourg.

 

Any helpful ideas or thoughts are certainly welcomed.

 

Welcome to the Forum, rvisdew.

 

You may want to request his IDPF (Individual Deceased Personnel File). There is no guarantee that it will contain any documents that will give your family closure, but you won't know without trying.

 

I found some documents on Fold3.com relating to the search & rescue efforts following the torpedoing of the SS Leopoldville. I can post them here if there is interest.


Edited by TD-Tommy776, 04 May 2014 - 04:49 PM.

Freedom is precious and many gave their lives for it. It is the duty of the future generation
to remember that sacrifice, and offer some sacrifice for themselves if Freedom is threatened.

Cecil Earl Workman, WWII Veteran, "L" Co., 129th Inf. Regt., 37th Inf. Div.


halvorsonpto129ir37id3.jpg

PFC Glenn W. Halvorson

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PFC Norman L. Halvorson


#13 LRusso216

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 01:25 AM

Have you seen this book? It seems to have some data you might be interested in. http://www.amazon.co...4/dp/1890309540

 

BTW, welcome to the forum.


image001.png

Lou


#14 Skipper

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Posted 07 May 2014 - 01:07 PM

c7pjabci3bxprr1elwtf.jpg

 

 

 

http://www.plongepav...opoldville.html

 

 

The wreck is still there.  49°45’14N/001°36’70W.

 

This confirms the U boot torpedo. The hole is clearly visible. 

 

 

http://www.google.fr...Q9QEwAw&dur=434

 

 

and this artist has painted the wreck 

 

http://www.webplonge...er-brichet.html

 

 

epave-leopoldville.jpg

 

 

 

The wreck is not strictly considered as a war grave , but as cultural heritage. This means that providing getting permission some people may actually dive there. In fact only a handfull professionnals may go there (it's over 60 meters deep) .


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#15 Skipper

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Posted 07 May 2014 - 01:14 PM

Ok want to know the fate and the whereabouts of the U-486 too ? 

 

Well it was sunk by  a British sub called HMS Tapir on April 12th 1945 near Bergen Norway at  60°44'N et 04°39'E killing all crew of 48. It was cut in half . 

 

 

 

Now it was found in 2013 by the Norwegian company Statoil  at 250 meters deep 

 

http://www.globalpos...d-norway-bergen

 

pecio-U-486.jpg

 

http://www.historias...pecio-U-486.jpg


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#16 rvisdew

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Posted 24 June 2014 - 06:35 PM

Welcome to the Forum, rvisdew.

 

You may want to request his IDPF (Individual Deceased Personnel File). There is no guarantee that it will contain any documents that will give your family closure, but you won't know without trying.

 

I found some documents on Fold3.com relating to the search & rescue efforts following the torpedoing of the SS Leopoldville. I can post them here if there is interest.

 

I have now requested the IDPF.  Maybe we'll find something new.    Thank you so much for the information!

 

Also, the information you found on Fold3.com may be of some interest, if you can share.



#17 rvisdew

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Posted 24 June 2014 - 06:38 PM

Have you seen this book? It seems to have some data you might be interested in. http://www.amazon.co...4/dp/1890309540

 

BTW, welcome to the forum.

 

Hi:

 

Thank you ... I have seen and read books by Alan Andrade (A Tragedy Too Long Secret) and Jacquin Sanders (A night before Christmas).  They were both very helpful.



#18 TD-Tommy776

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 03:04 AM

I have now requested the IDPF.  Maybe we'll find something new.    Thank you so much for the information!

 

Also, the information you found on Fold3.com may be of some interest, if you can share.

 

I'll try to get something posted in the near future.


Freedom is precious and many gave their lives for it. It is the duty of the future generation
to remember that sacrifice, and offer some sacrifice for themselves if Freedom is threatened.

Cecil Earl Workman, WWII Veteran, "L" Co., 129th Inf. Regt., 37th Inf. Div.


halvorsonpto129ir37id3.jpg

PFC Glenn W. Halvorson

bannereto776tdv2.png

PFC Norman L. Halvorson


#19 TD-Tommy776

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 01:18 AM

When I went back to Fold3.com to find the reports I had mentioned, I came across a much more interesting document.  I found it in the Administrative History Collection, Historical Section, ETOUSA, CABLES * AGWAR [Adjutant-General, War Dept.] from Jan 1 - 15 [1945].  

 

The document is a communication relating a “report of personnel on board LSI Leopoldville.”  It goes on to list by unit (to company level) the number of officers and enlisted men for each that were “known dead” or missing.

 

 

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Freedom is precious and many gave their lives for it. It is the duty of the future generation
to remember that sacrifice, and offer some sacrifice for themselves if Freedom is threatened.

Cecil Earl Workman, WWII Veteran, "L" Co., 129th Inf. Regt., 37th Inf. Div.


halvorsonpto129ir37id3.jpg

PFC Glenn W. Halvorson

bannereto776tdv2.png

PFC Norman L. Halvorson


#20 TD-Tommy776

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 01:21 AM

When I got to the fourth page, I noticed that it had started listing the dead and missing of each unit (to platoon level !!) by name.  Naturally, I began to look for the 262nd. After looking through 21 of 23 pages of casualties, I finally found what I was looking for.

 

Second from the top under Co L, 262nd Inf Regt, Hq Co [or perhaps should be "Co Hq"]:  PFC James E Hutchens,  37668598    Missing

 

 

Attached File  Page 132.jpg   137.55KB   1 downloads

 

 

 

Added Note:  I have to say that, after reading through the 23 pages of names, I was struck by the enormity of the loss that occurred with the sinking of the SS Leopoldville  --  a ship which I was mostly unaware of until I read post #11 by rvisdew.


Edited by TD-Tommy776, 27 June 2014 - 01:31 AM.

Freedom is precious and many gave their lives for it. It is the duty of the future generation
to remember that sacrifice, and offer some sacrifice for themselves if Freedom is threatened.

Cecil Earl Workman, WWII Veteran, "L" Co., 129th Inf. Regt., 37th Inf. Div.


halvorsonpto129ir37id3.jpg

PFC Glenn W. Halvorson

bannereto776tdv2.png

PFC Norman L. Halvorson


#21 rvisdew

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 04:19 PM

 

When I got to the fourth page, I noticed that it had started listing the dead and missing of each unit (to platoon level !!) by name.  Naturally, I began to look for the 262nd. After looking through 21 of 23 pages of casualties, I finally found what I was looking for.

 

Second from the top under Co L, 262nd Inf Regt, Hq Co [or perhaps should be "Co Hq"]:  PFC James E Hutchens,  37668598    Missing

 

 

attachicon.gifPage 132.jpg

 

 

 

Added Note:  I have to say that, after reading through the 23 pages of names, I was struck by the enormity of the loss that occurred with the sinking of the SS Leopoldville  --  a ship which I was mostly unaware of until I read post #11 by rvisdew.

 

 

 

Thank you for posting!    One of the things that saddens me is that I probably know more about what happened to James than my mother ever did (due to the secrecy maintained for so long).  She did get the Western Union telegram that stated he was MIA in January of 1945 and finally a notice that he was presumed dead in (received March of 1945).  I'm sure she maintained some hope during that period even though the Army knew James died on Dec 24.



#22 Skipper

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Posted 28 June 2014 - 10:16 AM

Thanks for keeping this interesting thread alive. If anything else shows up , I'm sure our members  will post more.  


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