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From the painting The Ordeal of Convoy NY-119 by Carl Evers

It was called the worst storm of the North Atlantic in the twentieth century. It was called the "battle of the barges." But the the official language of the navy simply called it Convoy NY-119.

In thirty days of record setting wind and waves, with winds of the storm sunk three tugs, eight car floats, five cargo barges. Convoy Commander Alfred Lind said more would had been lost if the small craft had not been detached from the barges and sent ahead.

The ship chosen to lead the detachment to safety was USS Mason.

The lookout spotted Bishop Rock, England The enemy had been the sea, as formidable a foe as the German submarines. The date was October 18th, 1944 and this month long struggle across the ocean was about to end. Almost impossibly, the weather became worse.

The wind increased to forty knots with gusts up to fifty, then sixty knots. The danger now was that vessels would be swept past the harbor entrance. No escorts came to Mason's urgent calls for assistance. The visibility dropped to zero. The small DE was pushed to its structural limit.

With the shoreline in sight, Mason's deck split.

Two beams in one compartment had collapsed. The seam holding the deck together had broken. Mason could break apart and sink.

Within two hours, the deck was repaired, a new antennae was in service (the old one had been blown away,) and water had been pumped from the engine room. But there was no time for relaxation. Mason turned to aid the convoy, still floundering in the storm. Two British vessels were ordered to accompany Mason. To the Mason crew's astonishment, the British returned to port almost immediately.

Mason stayed at sea three more days, assisting twelve more ships in the convoy, then moved on to the coast of France to salvage barges until near the end of the month.

 

"We had escorted all kinds of convoys. ... We never lost a ship in a convoy except in the convoy 119."

-- Charles Divers


The Ordeal of Convoy Ny 119 by Charles Dana Gibson
Navy’s first black crew proves heroic during storm Stars & Stripes

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