Mariners and Armed Guard on SS Floyd W. Spencer Bring Down Japanese Plane

Odlin - Maritime 62

PR 2160 (w)


Advance Release For

 Cleared and Released

Monday Morning Papers

 Through Facilities of the

February 5, 1945

 Office of War Information

Teamwork of the merchant crew and Navy armed guard saved the Liberty ship Floyd W. Spencer from destruction by a Japanese torpedo plane off the Philippines recently while on her maiden voyage, the War Shipping Administration was informed today. The encounter ended in the ship's guns blowing the plane to bits at point-blank range.

The attack culminated a full week of air alerts as Japanese planes tried to spot the war freighters that were supplying the American invasion. It was mid-afternoon on New Year's Day when the enemy plane swooped out of the clouds and nose-dived in the center of the American convoy. This was a surprise attack and no alert had been given but the one bomb dropped did no damage.

The Jap then circled to the rear of the convoy in a wide arc and started toward the Floyd W. Spencer at high speed. When 3000 yards away other vessels of the convoy opened fire but the Liberty ship withheld fire until the plane was within range of her 20-millimeters.

At 1800 yards the plane dropped a torpedo aimed at the freighter. Then at close range the Floyd W. Spencer's guns shattered the cockpit of the plane and it plunged into the sea. Skillful maneuvering by the ship's master, Capt. Simpson Blackwood, 10 Leed Street, Lewiston, Maine, caused the torpedo to miss the vessel's stern by a bare ten feet.

Appreciation of the part played by Captain Blackwood and his merchant seamen was expressed by Lieut. (j.g.) William S. Birdwell, Jr., commander of the Navy armed guard on the Floyd W. Spencer, in this communication to the WSA:

"During the plane's run she was fired on by the Navy gun crew, supplemented by members of the Merchant Marine. The plane was brought down within 100 yards of our starboard beam by gunfire from this ship. The torpedo missed the stern by some ten feet.

"The Merchant Marine personnel that were assigned to gun stations performed in a splendid manner. The clear, cool thinking and prompt action of the master in ordering full speed ahead and hard over is the probable cause of the torpedo missing this ship. It is a pleasure to comment on the courageous action of the Merchant Marine personnel and their able and capable captain during this action in which the ship was saved and the enemy destroyed."

The Floyd W. Spencer, delivered from the New Orleans yard of the Delta Shipbuilding Co., Inc. August 22, l944, is operated for the WSA by the Stockard Steamship Corp., New York. She is named in honor of a long-time official of the Department of Commerce on the suggestion of Louisiana Four-H Club members.

Veterans in Stockard service, in addition to Captain Blackwood, who are aboard the Liberty ship are Chief Officer Harold F. Boegehold., Brooklyn, N. Y.; Third Officer George Hiller, North Bergen, N.J.; Purser-Pharmacist's Mate Thomas W. Pearson, Houston,Tex., Chief Steward George N. Hawkins, Salem, Ore.

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