"Where the Fleet Goes,
We've Been"

“A people who do not honor the deeds of their worthy dead will do nothing worthy of being honored by their descendants.” - Macaulay

MINES HAVE NO CONSCIENCE
by Harry Sonner, SM2/c

Harry Sonner

That Fateful Day. On July 09th 1944 we received orders to proceed out to sea in the Mediterranean for routine sweep for mines in the shipping channel. This was along the coast of Italy from Naples to Anzio. It was 0700 hours when we got underway leaving Naples, and arriving at our station at approximately 0800 hours. Her we put our gear overboard and commenced sweeping for contact mines.

Proceeding up the coast at sweeping speed, we were nearing Anzio at approximately 1130 hours. The Captain ordered me to hoist the flag to recover gear and proceed to port. That day we were the flag ship and were sweeping with a sister, the name escapes me now. (USS Seer AM 112)

At 1259 hours the order was given to execute the flag hoist meaning haul down the flags and commence to recover gear and head for port. The flag hoist was lowered and I was standing at the flag bag looking aft when an explosion rang in my ears and I saw the fantail rise out of the water. Debris was flying in the air above me and I knew it was going to come down on me so I ran for the pilot house. The officer of the deck was coming out to see what happened and I ran headlong into him, knocking him to the deck with me on top of him. He asked, "what happened"? I said, "go out there and you will get your brains bashed in".

The air was full of cables and depth charges. Afterwards, we ventured our to see the damage. Just where I had been standing a one half inch cable with eyelets on each end had wrapped itself around the speed hoist, just where my head would have been if I had stayed there. I surely would would have had a terrible headache to say the least. The lookout came down from the flying bridge a little white under the gills, (I guess we all were, come to think about it) and said a depth charge landed right behind him on the flying bridge.

With that the Captain came to the bridge and called out to everyone that she was only a third of the way gone so let's try to save her. With that the ship listed to port suddenly and the Captain ordered abandon ship and he jumped overboard on the port side.

I said to Barry, the lookout, "well, I guess it's our turn to jump". So we both jumped off the signal bridge together. When we hit the water and came up I looked up and saw the mast coming down on top of us. I yelled, "start swimming to get away fromit". Looking back again I saw the ship's bow coming up out of the water and sinking stern first. It was all over in seven minutes from the blast until it disappeared below the surface of the water. "Our ship was gone".

Now to get to our sister ship, as she was still recovering her gear and couldn't get close to us and was unable to to send her life boat to pick us up. It was ashore with the liberty party as was one third of each ship's crew were off the ship. This cut down considerably on the loss of life and injury. The chief Boats'n was ashore with the liberty party, had he been aboard he would have had all the seamen on the fantail working on the mine gear.

There were 3 killed and 7 injured as a result of the blast.

Harry Sonner, SM2/c survivor


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