Recently people have been joining me on my Sunday Walks in Downtown Albany. Typically, I walk in Albany when I'm scheduled as a tour guide on the USS Slater. A slide show and a map are detailed at this blog entry. I plan on walking on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27. You can contact me at:

More on the USS SLATER (

Friday, February 15, 2008

Convoy Math: Saving Lives

There are numerous benefits associated with convoys. A big one was the slim possibility of rescue. In February 1943, the Battle of the Atlantic was fiercely contested. The North Atlantic Convoys sailed north to skirt Labrador, Greenland and Iceland because the air patrols provided a measure of protection. In February these waters are near freezing. If the survivors of a torpedoed ship were not picked up quickly they died. Consider the contrast between two ships sunk a few weeks apart.

On February 3, a troop ship (SS Dorchester) carrying 904 men was torpedoed within 100 miles of Greenland. On board the Dorchester were four chaplains, who gave their lives so others had a fighting chance against the cold. While six hundred and seventy five persons were lost, thanks to efforts of sailors on the convoy escorts (i.e. Charles W. David, Jr.) there were 229 survivors. One of the Four Chaplains was Rev. Clark V. Poling. Before the war he was the minister of the 1st Reform Church of Schenectady (about 15 miles from the USS Slater, Albany NY). An audio rendition of the story is available from The American Storyteller! The official report on the Dorchester sinking is also posted on the web.

A few weeks later (2/15/1943) the tanker SS Atlantic Sun was having engine trouble and straggled from convoy ON-165. It was sunk by by U-607. Without the benefit of convoy protection it appeared that the ship was loss with all hands. Two years later, near the war end, a sole survivor (William Golobich) was found as a German POW. He related a remarkable story in this newspaper account.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Convoy Math: Truck Load Equivalents

On some tours I try to translate the crisis faced by Great Britian in 1940-1941 into 21st century terms. I have found that translating British Shipping Losses into Truck Load Equivalents usually gets the point across. Here's the math:

In the 1st quarter of 1941, when FDR made his four freedoms speech, the British were lossing ships which had the equivalent cargo capacity of 10,860 Trucks EACH MONTH. By the time the American congress passed the Lend lease act (that initiated the Destroyer Escort Program) the monthly average rose to 13,724.

Another important column on the worksheet details the production of of new ships. Great Britian relied on International Trade to keep it's people feed and it's war machinery functioning. Basically, if U-Boats continued to sink merchant ships faster than they could be built then the British would be forced to surrender. In a speech to the House of Commons in the spring of 1941, Winston Churchill noted that if the trend continued this could happen in 1942 "....But when all is said and done, the only way in which we can get through the year 1942 without a very sensible contraction of our war efforts is by another gigantic building of merchant ships in the United States similar to that prodigy of output accomplished by the Americans in 1918." This element of the Battle of the Atlantic was referred to as the tonnage war. The Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels published a detailed article on this topic (Der Tonnagekrieg) in the Das Reich Weekly news magazine (21 June 1942).