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September, 1944


WASHINGTON, D.C. - A giant American tanker carrying supplies to the European theater went down in the Atlantic several weeks ago following a terrific explosion, it was announced Saturday. Two survived.

The war shipping administration said the ship was believed [to be] torpedoed. The number of casualties was not revealed.

Big tankers normally carry a crew of 50. The navy gun crew varied with 30 or 40 members for dangerous voyages.

The tanker was the Jacksonville of a class known as T-2's. These tankers, nearly 17,000 deadweight tons, are capable of carrying about 135,000 barrels of petroleum products.

Jacksonville SS was built in 1944. She was en route from New York to Shell Haven, Loch Ewe, Scotland, in August of 1944, carrying a cargo of 14,300 tons of petroleum. She was steaming in convoy CU 36.

Believed to have been torpedoed, Jacksonville's gasoline cargo exploded at 15.55 hours on August 30, 1944. The 49-man merchant complement and the 29-man Armed Guard had little chance to abandon the blazing tanker. Nor did the crew and guard have a chance to launch any of the lifeboats or rafts onboard. A second massive explosion, broke the Jacksonville in twain.

Flames covered the ship from stem to stern, leaping 300 feet in the air within seconds. A few of the men on board jumped overboard with life perservers, but many of them died in a sea of flames that surrounded the tanker.

48 crew and 28 armed guards were lost. Only 2 - a fireman and one armed guard - survived, rescued by destroyer escort USS Poole (DE-151) after the two men spent 90 minutes in the water.

Among those who perished were:

Cecil Eugene THARP, 17, Merchant Marine, Galleyman


Leo Gerald THRAP, 21, Merchant Marine, Cook



The posthumous award of the Mariners medal of the merchant marine to to Des Moines brothers was announced Friday by the war shipping administration.

The medals will be presented May 21 to Mrs. Gladys THARP, the mother of the two. The brothers listed as missing and preseumablely lost last September were Cecil Eugene, 17, and Leo Gerald, 21.

The tanker on which they sailed, the SS Jacksonville was torpedoed on Aug. 30, 1944 in the North Atlantic. There were only 2 survivors. Leo had sailed on three previous trips as a chief cook but a lower rating on his last trip with his brother who was on his initial sailing.

Leo's wife Anna and a son who was born after Leo's death are living with Mr. and Mrs. THRAP in Des Moines.

A daughter of the THARPS, Mrs. Lucille COON, now is visiting her husband Pfc. Burl COON who lost a leg in Iwo Jima.

NOTE: Cecil and Leo were the grandsons of John Lindsey and Catherine (JARVIS) STEPHENS of Ringgold County, Iowa. Their mother was Gladys (STEPHENS) THARP SELLERS.

Jacksonville Sources: CRESSMAN, Robert J. Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in WWII Naval Institute Press. 1999.;

Articles submitted by Ann Wyer, April of 2012

To submit your Ringgold County news items, contact Sharon R. Becker at
Please include the word "Ringgold" in the subject line. Thank you.

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