Back to Casualty List | Search The Casualty Database
Precis File
source Frump, Two Tankers Down
type D
dead 5

Fort Mercer, an American flag T2, left Norco, La 19520212 loaded with heating oil and kerosene, for Portland, Maine. Crew of 43(?), all Americans. Ran into a Force 9 (occaisionally 10) noreaster off Cape Cod. Decided to hove to about 25 miles off Cape Cod.

At 0800 on 1952-02-18, crew heard the hull cracking, and oil begain spilling. At 1015, there was another loud crack. At 1140, a third crack and ship split in two in way of No 5 tanks, starting on the starboard side. Sea water temp was about 40F. Of the 9 men in the forward section, 5 were saved, due to extraordinary efforts on part of Coast Guard cutters.

The stern section floated more or less evenly and was semi-maneuverable. 21 of 33 aft elected to abandon ship, and were taken off safely, mostly via great seamanship by the Coast Guard salvage tug Acushnet, commanded by Lt Cmd John Joseph. Jospeh manuevered the Achusnet under the stern of the Fort Mercer, and 18 men merely stepped off when the waves brought the two ships to the same level.

Bow section eventually turned turtle and was sunk by USCG gun fire and depth charges.

Stern section with 12 men still on board was towed into into Newport, with some of the cargo still on board. The picture on page 143 clearly shows this was a brittle fracture. This section was then became the stern of a tanker called the San Jacinto. In March, 1964, the San Jacinto split in two after an explosion while in ballast off the eastern shore of Virginia.

source CTX
type C
volume 10000t
dead 5

Cause was almost certainly brittle fracture, altho corrosion may have played a role. Wartime ships were built with a high sulfur steel with low notch toughness. By 1952 this was known and the Pendleton had been fitted with four riveted strips as crack arrestors. This was basically a placebo, to keep these all-welded ships in service. Unless the crack started close to an arrestor, and propagated only toward the arrestor, these arrestors could not have much effect. This should have been clear to both the USCG and ABS, but a national goal at the time was to maintain an increasingly uneconomic American flag merchant marine.

Frump claims that, after the Pendleton and Fort Mercer casualties, ABS recommended that T2's be fitted with four more arrestors. CTX has no evidence this was ever done. It would not have made much difference. Frump claims that by 1963, there were 18 T2 structural failures, but CTX does not know what this is based on.

Whe spill volume is a wild guess. We dont know how much was recovered from the forward four sets of tanks.

The San Jacinto explosion was blamed on falling magnesium anodes. The two halves were towed ashore. And the re-jumboized ship became the Pasadena until she was broken up in 1983.