U-Boat Commander Takes Master of SS William King as Prisoner of War

Odlin - Maritime 60

PR 1738(W)


For Friday Afternoon Papers
January 21, 1944


Cleared and Issued
Through Facilities of the
Office of War Information

As their peril to United Nations shipping was reduced, German submarine commanders resorted to taking at gunpoint as prisoners the masters and chief engineers of merchant vessels which they are able to sink, the War Shipping Administration disclosed today. The obvious intent has been to deprive the Allies of the service of experienced ship officers so far as possible.

The latest reported victim of this practice is Captain Owen Harvey Reed, whose wife, Mrs. Vera Reed, lives at 1205 Market Street, Jacksonville, Fla. Reed was the skipper of the SS WILLIAM KING, sunk by torpedoes in the Indian Ocean. The attack occurred while the Liberty Ship was on her way from Arabia to South Africa, after discharging a cargo of war supplies for Russia at a Persian port. Early in one afternoon the first torpedo hit the fire-room bulkhead. Two lifeboats were blown to bits in the explosion. A second torpedo missed the ship by two feet, but a third sent the WILLIAM KING down within two minutes.

Two remaining lifeboats had been successfully lowered following the order to abandon ship, and when the vessel had disappeared beneath the waves the U-boat surfaced. A short machine-gun barrage was laid down around the lifeboats by the submarine. The WILLIAM KING's master was ordered to identify himself and surrender.

Captain Reed complied. Bidding his men farewell, he went aboard the submarine. He is now reported interned in Java.

All others aboard the lifeboats, save two who died. from explosion injuries, were picked up by British naval craft after trying for several days to find land. Three crew members were killed when the torpedo exploded in the engine room of WILLIAM KING, while another was blown from the bridge and never seen again.

The WILLIAM KING was built in the yard of the New England Shipbuilding Corporation, South Portland, Maine, in 1942. She was operated for the War Shipping Administration by the Marine Transport Lines, Inc., of New York.

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WSA Press Releases
Prisoners of War


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