SS CAPE ANN
For actions on July 25, 1956
Gallant Ship Award citation:
“Responding unhesitatingly to an SOS from the sinking Andrea Doria off Nantucket Island in the North Atlantic on the night of July 25, 1956, the Cape Ann raced fifteen miles through dangerously thick fog to the side of the stricken ship. Holding a position close to the sinking ship, the Cape Ann launched her two lifeboats, which in a series of trips brought back to the ship a total of one hundred and twenty-nine victims of the disaster, many of them injured. All were taken safely aboard, contributing to one of the greatest marine rescues in history.
The courage, resourcefulness, sound seamanship and teamwork of her master, officers and crew in successfully completing an extraordinary rescue operation caused the name of the Cape Ann to be perpetuated as a Gallant ship.”
SS Cape Ann, a C1-B type break-bulk cargo ship, was built by the Consolidated Steel Corp. in Los Angeles, California for the U.S. Maritime Commission. Completed on June 30, 1943, American Mail Line operated the ship as general agent from its launch through the end of World War II. After the war, United Fruit Company operated Cape Ann. The company purchased the vessel outright from the Maritime Commission, via its subsidiary Munargo Line, on March 26, 1947.
On July 25 and 26, 1956, Cape Ann responded to, and was the first relief vessel to arrive at, one of the worst disasters in modern maritime history. Late in the evening of July 25, SS Andrea Doria and MS Stockholm, two cruise ships, collided in heavy fog south of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Stockholm’ s bow struck Andrea Doria’s side, tearing a large hole in the Italian ship, which immediately developed a severe list. Within half an hour of impact, the master of Andrea Doria ordered that all abandon ship; however, the list prevented Andrea Doria’s crew from accessing the ship’s port-side lifeboats. Even the starboard-side lifeboats could not be loaded until they had been lowered into the water, and Andrea Doria put out an urgent call for more lifeboats from any nearby vessels.
Late in the evening of July 25, 1956, while en route from Bremerhaven to New York and about 15 miles from the site of the collision, Cape Ann received the SOS call from Andrea Doria and immediately altered its course. Approaching the scene, Cape Ann maneuvered through the thick fog and launched its two lifeboats within a quarter mile of Andrea Doria. Soon after its arrival, the fog began to lift and the night became clear with a near-full moon providing much needed light.
One lifeboat immediately transported 40 survivors to Cape Ann, some of whom had suffered injuries such as broken bones. Fortunately, two doctors were among the rescued passengers, and they were able to treat the injured using Cape Ann’s medical equipment.
Cape Ann, without a full load of cargo and unable to maneuver while its boats were being discharged, drifted about a mile away from the scene. Towing its boats, the vessel steamed in close again. About three hours after the collision, the French-flag passenger liner Ile de France arrived on scene and Cape Ann’s lifeboats began ferrying survivors to that vessel. Other vessels assisting in the rescue included USNS Private William H. Thomas, a U.S. Army troop transport, and Stockholm, the vessel that collided with Andria Doria, which did not receive any significant damage.
By 3:30 in the morning of July 26 rescue operations ended; Cape Ann’s lifeboats were secured, and the vessel proceeded at full speed for New York with 129 survivors onboard, nine of whom were seriously injured. Cape Ann’s Captain, Joseph A. Boyd later said that, “I have no hesitation in saying that the part played by the Cape Ann, at the Andrea Doria disaster, fully lived up to the great traditions of the American Merchant Marine. Fate placed her in the midst of the greatest marine rescue in history and she proved equal to the task.”
In August of 1963 Cape Ann was sold to American Union Transport Inc. and renamed Transunion. It operated until 1968, and was subsequently sold for scrap to the Chin Ho Fa Steel and Iron Company of Taiwan.