Sunday, November 17, 2013

Blast from the Past: The wreck of President Hoover: Life 10 Jan 1938

"The President Hoover, crack Dollar liner christened by Mrs. Herbert Hoover of  Newport News in 1930, was then the biggest ship ever built in an American yard. A vessel of 615 ft. and 21,536 tons, it cost $88,000,000..." It had been accidentally bombed by Chinese bombs on Aug 30 (killed one crewman) and did some damage. On Dec 10 it ran aground on Hoishoto (Green) Island on a Kobe to Manila run with over 800 passengers and crew, all of whom got off safely. Wiki notes:
After the Battle of Shanghai had broken out in August 1937, President Hoover was diverted from Hong Kong to evacuate US nationals from Shanghai.[3] She was moored in the Yangtze River, awaiting clearance to enter the Wusong River[3] to reach the Port of Shanghai when, despite a 30-foot (9.1 m)-long[2] US flag draped on her top deck abaft the bridge[3] to identify her to aircraft as a neutral US ship, the Republic of China Air Force mistook her for the Japanese troopship Asama Maru and bombed her.[3][10]

One bomb hit Hoover's top deck, killing a crewman from the mess hall.[3] Fragments from another bomb penetrated the main saloon, wounding six crew and two passengers.[3] One of Hoover's radio officers transmitted a distress call stating that Chinese aircraft were attacking her.[3] Both an IJN destroyer and a Royal Navy cruiser came in response, but in the event only medical help was needed.[3] Different sources date the incident as 14[10] or 30[11] August. Despite her casualties Hoover sustained only minor damage, but she aborted the rescue mission to Shanghai[3] and returned to San Francisco for repairs.[2]

Chiang Kai-shek, leader of China's National Military Commission, had known Robert Dollar and was reportedly furious that his aircraft had attacked his late friend's ship.[2] He threatened to have the officer responsible executed until he found that it was his chief air force advisor Claire Lee Chennault.[2] Chiang's wife Soong May-ling had hired Chennault only two months previously, and the Generalissimo relented and instead paid the Texan a $10,000 bonus soon afterwards.[2]
Wiki also has the story of her wreck. Members of the US public gave money to put up a lighthouse on Green Island, which was erected in 1938. The Takao Club, always a great website, has a very detailed account of the wreck.
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