Daily Event for March 26

Unescorted and unarmed, this was standard operations for most merchant ships operating on the east coast of the U.S.A. during the early months of the Second World War. In March of 1942 U-boats ruled the sea and ships on the U.S. east coast were easy pickings. On March 26, 1942 one such U-boat was lurking in the waters off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, waiting for a target, soon one happened along.

Built in 1921 by New York Shipbuilding Corp. in Camden, New Jersey the 8,046 ton Dixie Arrow was sailing
to Paulsboro, New Jersey from Texas City, Texas. She was carrying 86,136 barrels of crude oil which made her an important target for the U-boat. The thirty-three man crew was well aware that the voyage was dangerous, but the job had to be done and like many before and after them they sailed anyway.

At around 9 a.m. U-71 fired three torpedoes at the Dixie Arrow, at lease two of them hit the ship starting
a huge fire and killing most of the men in the deck house. With her hold cracked flaming oil poured into the
sea engulfing the ship. Flames raced toward toward the bow, pushed by the wind, where seven of the crew had gathered.

They had two choices, jump overboard, off the bow of a moving ship into a sea of flames, or stand there and
die. The courage of one man gave them a third choice. Able Seaman Oscar G. Chappell of Normangee, Texas, who was injured, but still at his position in the wheelhouse saw his shipmates in peril and acted. He turned the ship into the wind and held her there turning the flames away from the men on the bow and the ship away from the flaming sea.

Those on the bow could now jump clear of the flames and were all saved, however the flames now engulfed
the wheelhouse and soon Chappell was killed. He was posthumously awarded the Merchant Marine
Distinguished Service Medal and the Liberty ship Oscar G. Chappell was named in his honor.

The Dixie Arrow sank about two hours later and the twenty-two survivors were picked up by USS Tarbell DD-142 and landed at Morehead City, North Carolina. Chappell and ten others perished on the tanker.
© 2008 Michael W. Pocock
MaritimeQuest.com



Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in
SS Dixie Arrow
"Least we not forget those heroes who fought and died for our freedom"

 
Name
Rate
Notes
Chappell, Oscar G.
Able Seaman
Collins, William P.
Chief Mate
Dailey Jr., Horace E.
3rd Mate
Flynn, James J.
Radio Officer
Goark, Velontie J.
Messman
Honkala, Arthur
Messman
Johanson, Anders M.
Master
McNamee, George R.
2nd Mate
Northern, Ivar M. K.
Chief Cook
Norwegian native
Sawyer, Wilbur E.
Ordinary Seaman
Shannon, Thomas J.
Ordinary Seaman


The Dixie Arrow in flames.

 



2005 Daily Event
2007 Daily Event