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Name: Ralph Everett Porter Service Number: Z24149 Rank: Chief Mate Service: US Tanker SS Saint Mihiel, US Merchant Marine, Awards: Meritorious Service Citation Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal Date of Birth: July 29, 1901 Place of Birth: South Ohio, Yarmouth Co., Nova Scotia Enlistment: American Merchant Navy Draft Card: February 20, 1942 Address: Baytown, Harris Co., Texas Height: 5 feet, 8 inches Complexion: Light Hair Colour: Brown Eye Colour: Hazel/Gray Marital Status: Married Trade: Standard Oil Company Date of Death: April 9, 1945 Age at Death: 43 Memorial: United States Navy Memorial Listed on the United States Navy Memorial, Washington, DC, United States (Not Listed on the Yarmouth War Memorial) Captain Porter was the son of Inglis Porter (1875-1952) and Rosetta (Pitman) Porter (1873-1931). His parents married on July 1, 1899 in South Ohio. He had one sister, Janett. The family lived with his mother’s parents in South Ohio, George and Janett Pitman. Ralph grew up in South Ohio, and was a Lieutenant Cadet Instruction having attended the school of Cadet Instructors at Halifax between July 15, 1920 and August 14, 1920. Ralph immigrated to the United States arriving in Boston of the SS Prince Arthur from Yarmouth on May 4, 1927. At age twenty-five he applied for US naturalization on July 5, 1927 in Providence Rhode Island. He listed his residence as the SS F. H. Wickett in Providence Harbor. His occupation was listed as seaman. The SS F. H. Wickett was owned by the Pan American Petroleum and Transport Co. and operated as the SS F. H. Wickett from 1925 to 1931. It was later renamed the SS E.G. Seubert and sunk in Convoy PA-69 February 23, 1944 by uboat U-510 on route from Abadan and Bandar Abbas going to Aden and Suez. He joined the Pan American Petroleum and Transport Co. on May 10, 1927. In continuous service as a licensed officer from September 24, 1931, he was promoted to Chief Mate on October 4, 1940. On the morning of September 24, 1943, the MS Esso Little Rock on which Ralph served as Chief Mate, left Espiritu Santo with orders to load at Curacao. Chief Mate Ralph E. Porter left the Esso Little Rock November 9, 1943 for his vacation. As War Emergency Tankers, Inc. was in need of officers at that time, he was granted a special service leave of absence on December 31, 1943 and appointed Master of the tanker Malvern Hill. On March 11, 1945, he was assigned to command the new tanker SS Saint Mihiel, and on the following April 9 he lost his life when the Saint Mihiel was in a collision while bound for England in convoy. The SS Saint Mihiel, with a capacity load of high octane gasoline collided at night with another tanker the SS Nashbulk on passage from New York to Europe. The SS Saint Mihiel burst into flames, and the order to abandon ship was given. Twenty-three of the crew escaped and were later being picked up by a destroyer escort. Still afloat, but flaming, at daybreak, it was decided to try to salvage the ship. Together with a repair crew from two destroyers, Bruno Bernard Baretich, Second Mate on SS Saint Mihiel, the senior surviving deck officer, and fourteen volunteer crew members, re-boarded the ship. Under his leadership the fires were brought under control, engines turned over, and by utilizing the after emergency steering gear, and stationing himself in the bow -- the bridge having been completely gutted -- the SS Saint Mihiel was successfully brought to New York. The still smouldering fires were then extinguished and the valuable cargo was salvaged and the vessel repaired. In 1945 the War Shipping Administration awarded the Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal to Chief Mate Ralph Everett Porter and two members of his lifeboat crew which rescued the Navy fliers in the Pacific-Junior Engineer Stig Uno Mofelt and Boatswain Melvin Louis Eades. The citations were the same except for the reference to each individual. The medal awarded to Chief Mate Porter was received by Mrs. Ralph E. Porter at a ceremony in the Boston office of the War Shipping Administration on August 2, 1945. The presentation was made by Irving T. Sorge, Special Assistant to the Atlantic Coast Director, W. S. A. Chief Mate Ralph E. Porter was awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal on November 13, 1945 by Captain Hewlett R. Bishop, Atlantic Coast Director of the War Shipping Administration, in the captain's office at 45 Broadway, New York. Ralph lived in Medford, Mass, U.S. at time of his death. He was married with four stepchildren. A burial stone for Ralph Everett Porter is located in the Yarmouth Mountain Cemetery, Yarmouth NS.
Ralph Everett Porter
At about 1 pm October 15, 1943, Captain Whittom stated, "a Navy seaplane flew over the ship at masthead height and dropped a message in a weighted canvas pouch. Whether by good aim or luck, the container tell on the bridge within a few feet of the officer on watch. Second Mate Ernest Johnson.  "The message, a pencil note, was as follows: 'Disabled plane on water 06°03' North, 86° 10' West, bearing 060° true from Cocos Island at distance of 65 miles. Proceed and give assistance. Ensign John D. Robinson, Patrol Plane Commander 206-P-13' "The distance to the reported position was about 158 miles. At full speed, the Esso Little Rock was able to reach the location that night and for some time we turned our searchlight on the low hanging clouds, but sighted no flare in response.  "The wind being about west northwest, I ran down the wind for about 18 miles, continuing to play the searchlight back and forth on the clouds at frequent intervals.  "Hope was waning when we sighted a red flare, at some distance, and almost dead ahead. The contact was made at 1:35 am, on October 16. We steered in the direction of the brilliant light and at 3 am came alongside a Navy Catalina patrol bomber. Our position was then between Nicaragua and the Galapagos Islands.  "A lifeboat was launched in command of Chief Mate Ralph E. Porter. Manning the rescue boat were five members of the crew of the Esso Little Rock … and a member of the ship's armed guard, Signalman William Heapes, USN.  "Chief Mate Porter, working in the glare of the searchlight, performed with great skill the difficult task of manoeuvring the boat, in a choppy sea with a long north-easterly swell, close to the lee side of the drifting plane; he removed its entire crew of eight without injury to them or to his own men.  "To get the survivors off, Porter found it necessary to accept the hazard of placing the boat under the heavy wing of the bomber at moments when it was not swaying downward and threatening to crush the lifeboat and the men at the oars. The task called for sound judgement and cool seamanship.  "One of the rescued men said, I didn't know whether to get off the wing or not. The boat looked so damn small !'  "Fortunately, all of the plane's crew were in good physical condition, although they had been on the wings for forty three hours after their forced landing. However, they had had nothing to eat. Their food and water had been spoiled by leaking gasoline, but heavy rain squalls had provided plenty of drinking water.  "At the request of Lieutenant W. K. Aldridge, USNR, plane captain, the disabled craft was destroyed by gunfire before the Esso Little Rock proceeded on her voyage.  "When the eight rescued officers and men were taken on board at 4 am,  Chief Steward Albert S. Howald was ready to supply all their wants immediately. They were given shower baths and dry clothing and then sat down to a substantial hot meal, of which the main features were ham and eggs and coffee. After eating, they turned in for a much needed sleep on bunks placed at their disposal by the ship's officers and by the petty officers of the Navy armed guard.  "The plane was forced down in a way that imperilled the lives of its crew. There was extreme danger of fire or explosion. A rubber hose on the manifold that controlled the supply of gasoline to the engine suddenly split, with the result that more than 250 gallons of aviation gasoline were pumped into one of the hull compartments, compelling the men to abandon it and get on the wings as soon as the plane alighted on the water. The whole interior was filled with the dangerous fumes, and gasoline went all over the electrical equipment. … That no disaster occurred seems miraculous.  "As soon as the rubber hose split, the commanding officer brought the seaplane down. It was then in sight of Cocos Island, but the radio could not be used because of the gas. "It took 24 hours of constant effort to bail out the compartment, which was frequently flooded with sea water to bring the gasoline to the top. Officers and men took turns; each one, braving the gas fumes, worked for a minute or so, as long as he could hold his breath.  "When the compartment was finally cleaned out and gas-free, the radio transmitter could be operated safely and the com-mander sent a message to his base at Balboa, reporting his position. Within 20 minutes a PBY, which was searching for the missing bomber and had heard the distress call, located the plane and after circling it was further successful in finding the Esso Little Rock and dropping its message on board.  "Ten hours elapsed from the time we received the emergency order until we made the rescue. In those ten hours we first covered 158 miles to the reported position and then 18 miles before we found the plane, or a total of about 176 miles."  When the ship arrived at Balboa, the naval officer who came aboard to take care of the rescued men delivered to Captain Whittom the following letter of commendation:  Command Panama Sea Frontier sends his sincerest appreciation and thanks in recognition of the splendid performance of the Esso Little Rock in rescuing the Navy plane crew on October 16. RALPH EVERETT PORTER, CHIEF MATE  for Meritorious Service as set forth in the following Citation:  His ship, MS Esso Little Rock, received a message in the nature of a weighted canvas pouch dropped to the ship's bridge from a Navy PBY flying boat, giving the position of a Catalina bomber forced down in a heavy sea with a crew of eight. The master reached the reported position at 158 miles distance at full speed. There being no trace of the airmen, the vessel cruised for eighteen miles in the vicinity, playing her searchlight. Just as all hope was waning a flare was sighted dead ahead, and the tanker reached the spot in one hour and a half. Chief Mate Porter with six of his crew manned a lifeboat and at great personal risk and by skillful manoeuvring in the heavy sea, brought the lifeboat under the heavy wing of the drifting bomber as the wing swayed upward and one by one rescued the eight marooned fliers, who otherwise would have perished.  A copy of this commendation for Meritorious Service  has been made a part of Chief Mate Porter's official record.
Yarmouth Mountain Cemetery, Yarmouth, NS.