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This page is attached to The Sinking of the SS Veerhaven: Epilogue


Allied Ships Attacked by the Italian Submarine

Leonardo da Vinci






During World War Two, Italy operated a substantial fleet of submarines which were split between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic theatres of war. The Italian submarines were larger and less manueverable than the German Type VIIC U-boat which sank so many Allied ships on the North Atlantic. Italian submarine commanders were also trained differently from their German counterparts. Instead of operating in groups like the German wolfpacks, the Italian submarines usually operated alone. German U-boat commanders were trained to attack on the surface at night, but, Italian submarine commanders preferred the older method of torpedoing a victim from periscope depth before rising to the surface to finish off the attack with gunfire. In 1942 the Italian submarines based at Bordeaux, France, began venturing farther out to look for ships travelling alone in waters off the Caribbean, along the western coast of Africa and off northeastern South America. One of the Bordeaux-based subs, Leonardo da Vinci, sunk a total of seventeen Allied ships. The first six were sunk when the submarine was under the command of Luigi Longanesi-Cattani and the rest were sunk when she was commanded by Gianfranco Gazzana-Priaroggia.

The information below is taken mainly from three books:

Britain's Sea War: A Diary of Ship Losses, 1939-1945. Written by John M. Young and published by Patrick Stephens Limited, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, c1989.

Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two: German, Italian and Japanese Submarine Successes, 1939-1945. Written by Jürgen Rohwer and published in London by Greenhill Books and in Annapolis, Maryland by Naval Institute Press, c1999.

A Careless Word...A Needless Sinking: A History of the Staggering Losses Suffered by the U.S. Merchant Marine, Both in Ships and Personnel, During World War II. Written by Captian Arthur R. Moore and published by the American Merchant Marine Museum, King's Point, N.Y., c.1983.

Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT) is the volume of space within the hull and enclosed spaces above the deck of a merchant ship which are available for cargo, stores, fuel, passengers and crew. The letters MOWT stand for the British Ministry of War Shipping. The term "In Ballast" refers to any heavy material which is put into the hold of an empty ship in order to make the vessel steadier.




Ships Attacked While Da Vinci Was Commanded By Longanesi-Cattani



SS Cabedelo
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter
GRT: 3,557
Nationality: Brazil
Date of Attack: 25 February 1942
Position of Attack: 16°N 49°W

Details: The Cabedelo had left Philadelphia on the 14th and was reported missing afterwards. The Da Vinci reported sinking a ship by torpedo alone which was possibly the Cabedelo.



SS Everasma
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter
GRT: 3,644
Nationality: Latvia
Date of Attack: 28 February 1942
Position of Attack: 17°N 48°
Details: Torpedoed and shelled


SV Reine Marie Steward
Type of Vessel: Sailing Vessel
GRT: 1,087
Nationality: Panama
Date of Attack: 2 June 1942
Position of Attack: 07° 16N 13° 20W
Details: Torpedoed and shelled


MV Chile
Type of Vessel: Motor Freighter
Owner/Manager: (MOWT, United Baltic Corp.)
GRT: 6,956
Nationality: United Kingdom
Date of Attack: 7 June 1942
Position of Attack: 04° 17 N 13° 48W
Details: Torpedoed only


MV Alioth
Type of Vessel: Motor Freighter
GRT: 5,483
Nationality: Netherlands
Date of Attack: 10 June 1942
Position of Attack: 00° 08N 18° 25W
Details: Torpedoed and shelled


SS Clan Macquarrie
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter
Owner/Manager: Clan Line
GRT: 6,471
Nationality: United Kingdom
Date of Attack: 13 June 1942
Position of Attack: 05° 30N 23° 30W
Details: Torpedoed and shelled







Ships Attacked While Da Vinci Was Commanded By Gazzana-Priaroggia



SS Empire Zeal
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter
Owner/Manager: MOWT
GRT: 7,009
Nationality: United Kingdom
Date of Attack: November 2nd, 1942
Position of Attack:00° 30°S


SS Frans Hals
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter
GRT: none given
Nationality: Netherlands
Date of Attack: 3 November 1942
Position of Attack: 01° S 32° W
Details: The Da Vinci attempted to torpedo the Frans Hal five times, but all of them missed the freighter and she was able to escape


SS Andreas
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter
GRT: 6,566
Nationality: Greece
Date of Attack: 4 November 1942
Position of Attack:02° 00S 30° 30W
Details: Torpedoed and shelled; sunk


SS Marcus Whitman
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter (LIBERTY SHIP)
Owner/Manager: Matson Navigation Co., San Francisco
GRT: 7,176
Nationality: United States
Date of Attack: 8 November 1942 (Rohwer lists the date as 10 November 1942, but Captain Moore and the USMM webpage list the 8th)
Position of Attack: 05° 40S 32° 41W

Details: Marcus Whitman was en route alone from Capetown to Dutch Guiana, in ballast, when she was torpedoed at 11:12 pm Greenich Mean Time about 110 miles off Natal, Brazil. All the 41 merchant crew members and 11 Naval Armed Guard gunners aboard the Marcus Whitman survived the torpedo and the ship was abandoned by 11:27 pm. Da Vinci released a second torpedo before surfacing to finish off the attack by firing from the deck gun. Marcus Whitman sank sometime later. The survivors set off for Brazil in four lifeboats, all of which had sails and one of which had a motor. All arrived safely at various points along the Brazil coastline on November 11th and 12th.



SS Veerhaven
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter
GRT: 5,291
Nationality: Netherlands
Date of Attack: 11 November 1942
Position of Attack: 03° 51S 29° 22W

Details: Rohwer indicates that the Veerhaven was torpedoed as well as shelled, but Italian researcher, Cristiano Dovier, is very certain that the submarine had used up all her torpedoes and was only able to attack the Veerhaven by gunfire.



SS Empress of Canada
Type of Vessel: Steam Passenger Ship (converted to Troopship)
Owner/Manager: Canadian Pacific Steamship Co.
GRT: 21,516
Nationality: United Kingdom
Date of Attack: 14 March 1943
Position of Attack: 01° 13S 09° 57W

Details: Torpedoed. For more details of the sinking, please see Maureen Venzi's page "Role of the CPR Ships in WWII" which is listed at the end of "The Sinking of the SS Veerhaven: Epilogue".



SS Lulworth Hill
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter
Owner/Manager: Counties Ship Management Company
GRT: 7,628
Nationality: United Kingdom
Date of Attack: 19 March 1943
Position of Attack:10° 10S 01° 00E

Details: Torpedoed only. 14 men survived the torpedoing, but only 2 of them survived the following ordeal of 49 days on a raft. Kenneth Cooke has told the story in his book What Cares the Seas, published by Hutchinson in 1960.



SS Sembilan
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter
GRT: 6,566
Nationality: Netherlands
Date of Attack: 17 April 1943
Position of Attack: 31° 30S 33° 30E

Details: Torpedoed only. The attack also totally destroyed two American Landing Crafts, LCP-780 and LCP-782, which were being carried aboard the freighter.



SS Manaar
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter
Owner/Manager: T. & J. Brocklebank
GRT: 8,007
Nationality: United Kingdom
Date of Attack: 18 April 1943
Position of Attack: 31° 30S 33° 30E

Details: Torpedoed and shelled when enroute from East Africa to the U.K.



SS John Drayton
Type of Vessel: Steam Freighter (LIBERTY SHIP)
Owner/Manager: Weyerhaeuser Co., Tacoma, WA
GRT: 7,177
Nationality: United States
Date of Attack: 21 April 1943
Position of Attack: 32° 10S 34° 50E

Details: Torpedoed twice and shelled while en route alone, in ballast, from Bahrein to Capetown. 4 died when Lifeboat #1 capsized during launching. The men in Lifeboat #4 were rescued on 23 April by the Swedish vessel MV Oscar Gorthon; the raft was picked up on 27 April by HMS Relentless; the men in Lifeboat #2 were not picked up by the Greek freighter SS Mount Rhodope until 21 May. By that time only 8 of the original 24 men were still alive and of them, a further 3 died in hospital in Durban. In all, 21 of the 41 merchant crew members and 5 of the 15 Naval Armed Guards aboard John Drayton lost their lives.



MV Doryssa
Type of Vessel: Motor Tanker
Owner/Manager Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Co.
GRT: 8,078
Nationality: United Kingdom
Date of Attack: 25 April 1943
Position of Attack: 37° 03S 24° 03E
Details: Torpedoed and shelled when enroute to the Persian Gulf.







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