W. E. Hutton


Photo compliments of the Mariners Museum, Newport News, VA


W.E. Hutton
Official number- 219834
Official letters- KUMN
435.0 x 56.0 x 32.0, 7076 gross tons, 4359 net tons, draft- 27' 4"
2 decks, poop deck- 123', forecastle- 33', bridge- 50'
Machinery aft, longitudinal framing, fitted for fuel oil and carrying petroleum in bulk.
Built in 1920 at Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp- Alameda, CA, hull #- 1467
Original name- Portola Plumas.
Owner at time of loss- Pure Oil Co.
Home port at time of loss- Baltimore
Engine- Triple expansion- 27"/ 47"/ 78", stroke- 48", NHP 422
Engine builder- Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp.
Sunk- 03/ 18/ 1942, 2355 PM. Torpedoed at 2338, 2nd torpedo at 2348.
Torpedoed- 20 miles, SW of Cape Lookout Gas Buoy ("knuckle buoy"?)
Theoretical position- 27143.2 39524.3 (loran)
Course and speed at time of first torpedo- 049 degrees true, 10 knots

Account of the attack taken from U.S. Navy memorandum:

"The 7076 gross ton tanker W. E. Hutton was torpedoed without warning at 2210 (time one not specified) on March 18, 1942 about 20 miles southwest of Cape Lookout Gas Buoy. The ship was on course 049 true, speed ten knots, not zigzagging, completely blacked out radio silent and en route from Smiths Bluff, Texas to Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania with 65,000 bbls, of #2 Bunker Oil. Four men were on watch, a seaman atop the pilot house, a seaman on the port wing of the bridge and the 3rd mate and master on the starboard wing of the bridge. The weather was clear, sea choppy, wind from west force 4, visibility good. The lookout atop the bridge saw about 50 feet of the wake of the first torpedo but did not have time to give a warning. The first torpedo struck the starboard bow near the stem. The explosion caved in the bow, flooded the forepeak tanks and carried away the anchors. A fire of a few seconds duration resulted but died out without doing damage. After the first torpedo struck the crew was mustered on deck and lifeboats lowered about three-fourths of the way down. Distress signals were sent and acknowledged, and the course was changed to head toward shore. Eight minutes after the first hit, a second torpedo struck the ship on the port side amidships just aft of the bridge. The terrific explosion blew up through the decks, buckled and overturned the pilot house. The amidships section caught fire and was a raging inferno in a few minutes. The ship was abandoned a few minutes after this explosion and sank at 2245 by settling. Twelve survivors were in one lifeboat, three in another lifeboat, and 4 each on two liferafts. At daybreak all got into one lifeboat and began to row toward shore. At 1035 EMT of March 19, they were picked up by the British MV Port Halifax and taken to the Savannah Sea Buoy where they transferred to the pilot boat. Thirteen of the crew are missing. The submarine was not seen at any time. Comment was made that the smoke from the torpedoes was grayish or greenish white, and was accompanied (SP) by a strong, acid, sickening smell something like cordite. The suggestion was also made that liferafts should be oblong or rectangular to facilitate handling. Confidential codes believed destroyed by fire or went down with the ship."

 

Now that you have a good idea of the basic reports, here is

the Sequence of Events that took place that night, as told by the

U-boat commander's own hand:

(Sequence of Events)