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  SS Russell H. Chittenden
USN
EC2-S-C1
Liberty Ship

7,176 Gross Tons
441' 7" x 57' x 26' 9"
8 x 20mm AA guns
1 x 3" bow gun
1 x 5" stern gun

Ship History
Built by California Shipbuilding Corporation in Los Angeles for the U. S. Maritime Commission, War Shipping Administration (WSA). Hull Number 2564. Laid down January 19, 1944. Launched February 12, 1944. Named SS Russell H. Chittenden after Russell H. Chittenden a pioneering in biochemistry research. In early March 1944, loaded with cargo and war material at Los Angeles.

Wartime History
On March 15, 1944 departed Los Angeles on her maiden voyage across the Pacific bound for Australia. On April 22, 1944 arrived at Fremantle and refueled and took aboard water then departed two days later across the Indian Ocean and encountered two sea mines that were destroyed by 20mm fire and afterwards encountered a severe storm and lost all catwalks on deck.

On May 8, 1944 arrived at Columbo on Ceylon. While entering the Port of Colombo, the pilot collided with h Battleship King George V but neither ship suffered any damage but the British were very upset. After several days departed with a convoy northward into the Bay of Bengal to India. On May 19, 1944 arrived Calcutta and her cargo was unloaded.

On June 5, 1944 departed Calcutta and returned to Columbo five days later. The next day departed and crossed the Indian Ocean to Fremantle but due to a longshoremen strike proceeded to Port Lincoln and loaded a cargo of wheat, then to Adelaide for more wheat then returned to Fremantle arriving June 21, 1944 for more water and fuel and departed two days later and crossed the Indian Ocean. On August 15, 1944 arrived at Aden then to the Red Sea via the Suez Canal anchoring at Port Said, Egypt on August 21, 1944.

On August 24, 1944 departed as part of a convoy and during the first two days out of port were attacked by German aircraft including torpedo bombers and dive bombers. This ship was hit midship by a torpedo that was a dud. On August 29, 1944 arrived at Augusta on Sicily and the next day to Messina to unload part of the cargo of wheat. Afterwards, to Reggio on Italy. On September 9, 1944 departed and steamed into the Adriatic Sea to Crotoni to unload the remainder of the cargo then departed back to Sicily.

On September 13, 1944 returned to Augusta and three days later departed as part of a large convoy across the Atlantic Ocean to Baltimore. Near Bermuda, ordered to proceed alone to New Orleans. Alone, the next day a U-Boat surfaced two miles off the port bow and opened fire with its deck gun but missed and the ship's guns also missed. On October, 12, 1944 arrived at New Orleans ending her first world cruise.

Sinking History
On March 13, 1945 ran aground on a coral reef on the south coast of New Britain that broke the ship's back but without casualties and was abandoned.

Rescue
The crew were rescued by HMS Parret (K 304) and transported to New Guinea.

References
Wreck Site - Russell H. Chittenden (1944)
Armed Guard - Earl Hampton recollections of first cruise
BBC "HMS Parret- hunting U boats" John Main
"An American ‘Liberty’ supply ship was reported to be in difficulties in a position which was given as south of New Britain. A search carried out there proved to be negative and the ship, the SS Russell H Chittenden, gave a position now 200 miles away and in urgent need of fresh water and medical supplies. On reaching the position we found that the ship had ran onto a reef (on 13 March 1945) and broken its back. The crew were on a nearby island which had fresh water, and the crew with an adequate supply of alcoholic drinks!! The crew were picked up and taken to New Guinea and the Parret returned to its base in the Admiralty Islands."

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Last Updated
August 10, 2019

 

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