U.S. Merchant Vessel
Builder: William Cramp and Sons - Launched in 1916 as Sunoil renamed Atlas in 1927
Port of Origin: Philadelphia, Pa.
Propulsion: Single screw - Oil-fired steam engine - 10 knots cruising
Type: Fuel Tanker
Armament: Unarmed fuel tanker
Owner History: Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, Inc.
The S.S. Atlas was struck by two torpedoes on April 8th 1942, at approximately 5:00 am under a moonlit sky.The Atlas sunk just NE of Cape Lookout while transporting 84,240 barrels of gasoline to Seawarren, New Jersey. German U-boat, U-552 launched the first torpedo from 2,000 yards out and landed a direct hit midship on her starboard side. Fortunately the leaking fuel did not ignite, Captain Hamilton Gray issued the order for all engines stop and the entire 34 member crew safely abandoned ship. Meanwhile the U-552 repositioned herself for a second torpedo firing, this hit ignited the ships fuel and she erupted in a plume of fire and smoke. Unfortunately one of the Atlas' lifeboats drifted into the flames and two crewmembers drowned while attempting to swim away from the inferno, the remaining 32 survivors were rescued by Coast Guard vessel CG-462 at 8:00 am and returned safely to Morehead City.
Factoid: The U-552 was the first German U-boat to sink a U.S. Navy ship during WW2 on October 31, 1941. Even though the U.S. had not officially entered the war the U.S. Navy had been escorting and protecting convoys for monthes, U-boats had been patrolling and sinking convoy vessels during this time as well. The Navy destroyer USS Reuben James obtained this unfortunate distinction when the U-552s' torpedo struck the ships munitions magazine and sank quickly, killing 100 of the ships crewmembers, only 44 survived.
Data compiled by BluewaterBandit