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US Army October 26, 1942
J Tranape 2001
On December 7, 1941 President Coolidge with transport A. T. Scott escorted by USS Louisville (CA-28). was en route from Tarakan to Pearl Harbor. The liner diverted to California where it was converted to a troop transport capable of carrying 5,440 men and was painted gray and armed with defensive weapons.
On October 6, 1942 departed San Francisco via New Caledonia bound for Espiritu Santo. Aboard were 5,440 troops, mostly from the US Army 43rd Infantry Division. Plus extensive equipment, armaments and supplies.
Two were killed in the sinking. Fireman Robert Reid was working in the engine room and was killed by the initial mine blast. Captain Elwood J. Euart, U. S. Army Artillery Corps from Pawtucket, RI had safely gotten off the ship when he learned that there men were still in the infirmary who could not get out. Euart voluntarily went back aboard and into one of the sea doors. After successfully rescuing the men, he was unable to escape and he went down with the ship.
Over the course of the next 90 minutes, 5,340 men got safely off of the wreck and to shore. There was no panic as the troops disembarked - many even walked to shore. However, the captain's attempts to beach the ship were unsuccessful due to the coral reef. The Coolidge listed heavily on her side, sank, and slid down the slope into the channel. She now rests on her port side with her bow at a depth of 70' and her stern at 240'.
After the sinking, there were three official Court of Inquiry investigations about the sinking. The first preliminary Court of Inquiry convened November 12, 1942 aboard the USS Whitney at the behest of Admiral Halsey. The Court of Inquiry recommended additional charges be laid against Captain Nelson. The matter was referred to a Military Commission which convened in Noumea, New Caledonia on December 8, 1942. This commission acquitted Captain Nelson of guilt. From the Commission of Inquiry it came out that Merchant Marine vessels were not given all available tactical information, most notably regarding the placement of mines. This simple precaution would have prevented the sinking. This outcome did not please the Navy Department, and he was referred to a Coast Guard Investigation Board upon his return to the United States on February 6, 1943. This Investigation Board took no further action.
Postwar, salvager divers removed her propeller blades, bunker oil, brass casings of shells, electric motors, junction boxes and copper tubing. On November 18, 1983 the Republic of Vanuatu government declared that no salvage or recovery of any artifacts would be allowed from the President Coolidge shipwreck.
The shipwreck lies on her port side with her bow at 70', only a short walk and swim from the southeastern edge of Luganville (Santo) on Espiritu Santo. . At a depth of 45m within the ship is "The Lady" in the first class passengers lounge smoking room. Now she poses for those divers sufficiently experienced to penetrate the wreck.
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