World War II Honor Roll

Francis J. Schwarz

Fireman First Class, 
United State Merchant Marine


S.S. St. Mihiel

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: April 13, 1945
Buried at Sea:            
Memorialized on the Pine Hill War Memorial, 
                                   Pine Hill NJ      

FRANCIS J. SCHWARZ was born in June 1928. He grew up in the Fairview section of Camden NJ, attending the Fairview (Yorkship Square) Elementary School, and Hatch Junior High School. He was a member of Fairview Village Methodist Church and the Boy Scouts.

Francis Schwarz enlisted in the Merchant Marine on his 16th birthday. He served as an oiler in the engine room of the S.S. St. Mihiel, a tanker.


Regarding the 10 April 1945 Collision
Between the Tankers
SS St. Mihiel and SS Nashbulk
Donald Esposito, EM3c, Was A Member Of The Rescue Party That Boarded SS St. Mihiel

 20 August 2000
     As I recall DE238 was closest to the burning tanker.  Although there is no record in the log the Flagship Edsall sent the Stewart to intercept the tanker.  Lt. Day was dispatched in the whaleboat with inspection party and boarded the SS St. Mihiel.  I do not know the content of the inspection team except Lt. Day.  Lt. Day was the first to board the tanker.  As soon as he boarded he turned and waved.  Comdr. Wilson using a bullhorn greeted him as Capt. Day.  When the inspection crew was done the Stewart pulled alongside and dispatched the fire fighters.  I mean dispatched, we were helpfully tossed onto the tanker.
     When the fires were cooled down most of the boarding party returned to the Stewart.
     If my memory serves me correct one merchant crew member stayed aboard the tanker so as not to abandon the ship.  I believe the captain was killed in the fire.  Later that day a few key merchant crew came aboard and assisted our party in firing up the engines.  This is after Fromm, Hicks and I got the electrical back working in the engine room.  The rest of the ship was without power.  We slept in the crew quarters without light.  The refrigerators were full of good food.
     When the Edsall arrived on the scene she did exactly what the Stewart did, sent officers, equipment and fire fighters aboard the tanker.  At that time some merchant crew were transferred to the tanker.  I would imagine Lt. Day was ordered back to the Stewart by the Edsall.  The Edsall was our task force authority.
     The Stewart was assigned to escort the Nashbulk.  The Edsall took us in tow until we got power up then we sailed on our own and anchored near the Statue of Liberty.
     During the night fires kept flashing up.  CEM Fromm would drag us out to extinguish same.
     A boat took us to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where we were trapped.  The Stewart was now in the Bayonne Navy Yard.  Not until a courier arrived with a letter from Comdr. Wilson did the marine guard let us off base.  The letter was signed by M. Maclean for the commanding officer.
     There may have been an officer from the Edsall who stayed aboard with us.  The Mihiel people fired up the engines with the help of our MoMM people after we got power to the engine room.

22 August 2000
     One slip and you would be crushed between both ships.  As the log states the Stewart pulled alongside starboard to port of the tanker.
     Things got a little sketchy here, we were taken off the Mihiel most likely when the pilot left.  If that is true then a pilot boarded at Ambrose Lighthouse and took the Mihiel  to its anchoring position near the Statue of Liberty.  I remember the dense fog well.
     Cmdr. Wilson was a good skipper.  He ran a tight ship.
     Speaking for myself, I do not remember anyone eating steaks on board the Mihiel.  We grabbed what we could from the cooler, all uncooked.
     It was not unusual to dine on sandwiches aboard the Stewart.  During rough seas, and that was most often, the cooks found it impossible to prepare a meal for the crew.  So we had what was known as Horsexxxx.

22 August 2000
     She was rammed midship possibly starboard side.  Well, it had to be starboard since we boarded on her port side.  The initial explosion was concentrated just forward and below the wheel house.
     Later we got a chance to inspect the damage caused.  The wheel house was completely burned out.  It was said the captain was killed so I guess he was on duty.
     Later all steering was done aft.  There were portholes around the sides of the steering house or maybe they were on the hatches (doorways).  The glass on the portholes melted then froze solid and appeared like large frozen tears hanging there.  Perhaps a symbol of pain for the lost crew.  The steel mast just forward of the wheel house looked like a twisted pretzel.
     The hatches on the petroleum storage holds just forward and aft of the wheel house had blown their covers.  The living quarters on the fantail were untouched.  That’s where we operated from.  Many of the merchant crew jumped from the deck behind the living quarters into the sea.  Which was quite high.  I was told of some in panic that jumped into lifeboats and were killed.  Of course you know about the sharks getting them also.
     I could not locate a photo of the St. Mihiel anchored in NY.  One must exist.  I also wrote the Navy Dept., inquiring if any recognition was given to the rescuers, no luck.  I tried to find out the name of the tanker’s company, no luck there either.
     After the incident I was transferred off the Stewart.  When shipmate Post visited me in Tucson he said the fire fighting crew from the Stewart was given a complimentary “job-well-done” by the Stewart crew.  Sadly I missed out.