SS STANVAC CALCUTTA

For actions on June 6, 1942.

Gallant Ship Award Citation:

When about 500 miles off the coast of Brazil she was attacked by a heavily armed raider which came up close on her in a heavy squall.  Though armed with only a 4” rifle aft and a 3” antiaircraft gun the ship tried to escape in a running fight.  On the 5th round fired, the Stanvac Calcutta knocked out one of the raiders 15 cm guns but the next round from the enemy guns shattered the pointers scope and sight bar.  The crew continued to fight the gun by laying without signs until the ammunition magazine was hit and the ship began to sink.  With fourteen dead and fourteen seriously injured, the crew was forced to abandon ship and were taken prisoners.

This heroic defense against overwhelming odds caused the name of the Stanvac Calcutta to be perpetuated as a Gallant Ship.

SS Stanvac Calcutta, a 501-foot tanker, was built for Socony-Vacuum Oil Company by Bethlehem Steel Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. Completed in 1941, the vessel sailed under the Panamanian flag, although it was owned by an American company and most of the crew was American.

The War Shipping Administration requisitioned Stanvac Calcutta on April 25, 1942, while the vessel was in port at Coveñas, Colombia.  Petroleum Shipping Company, a subsidiary of Socony-Vacuum, operated the vessel under a time charter agreement.

On June 6, 1942, the vessel was transiting from Montevideo, Uruguay to Caripito, Venezuela when it encountered the German commerce raider Stier in heavy seas.  Although the ship valiantly resisted capture, actions that later earned it the Gallant Ship Award, Stier overwhelmed and sunk Stanvac Calcutta after a brief firefight during which both the wheelhouse and ammunition magazine of the tanker were destroyed.

Of the 42 crew members and nine Naval Armed Guards aboard Stanvac Calcutta, Stier picked up 37 survivors.  All but one of the survivors were taken to Japan and assigned to prison camps there; the remaining crew member was sent to a prison camp in Germany.