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West Madaket (Id. No. 3636)


The Navy retained the name carried by this vessel at the time she was acquired.

(Id. No. 3636: displacement 12,225; length 423'9"; beam 54'0"; depth of hold 29'9"; draft 24'2" (mean); speed 11.5 knots; complement 94; armament none)

West Madaket, a single-screw, steel-hulled cargoi ship built under a United States Shipping Board contract at Seattle, Wash., by the Skinner & Eddy Corp., was acquired by the Navy for duty with the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS); given the identification number (Id. No.)  3636; and was commissioned on 31 October 1918 at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash,  Lt. Cmdr. Bert W. Heald, USNRF, in command.

Completing her sea trials too late to see wartime service with NOTS, West Madaket sailed for the east coast one week after the signing of the Armistice, on 18 November 1918, laden with a cargo of flour consigned to European food relief. Proceeding via the Panama Canal, the cargo vessel arrived at New York on 16 December and departed three days before Christmas, bound for Europe. She made port at Falmouth, England, on 5 January 1919 and pushed on, that same day, for Rotterdam, Holland, where she busied herself discharging her 7,031 tons of flour until 23 January.

Returning to New York on 9 February 1919, West Madaket loaded 6,841 tons of general cargo and conducted one more voyage for NOTS, to Verdon-sur-Mer, France, before arriving back at New York on 28 April. Decommissioned on 8 May 1919 at Newport News, Va., simultaneously stricken from the Navy Register, and returned to the Shipping Board on the same day, West Madaket remained in the custody of that agency until the establishment of the Maritime Commission, and she continued with the commission on freight-carrying voyages into World War II. 

At 4:00 p.m. on 17 February 1942, West Madaket was delivered to the Maritime Commission by the Waterman Steamship Co., Mobile, Alabama, then allocated by the Maritime Commission to Waterman under a term charter agreement. 

On 2 May 1943, West Madaket (Hans Schroeder, Master), steaming in ballast (water and sand) in convoy ONS-5, bound for New York, straggled from the formation after being compelled to do so by heavy weather. She joined four other stragglers, escorted by the British Flower-class corvette HMS Pink (K.137) (Lt. Robert Atkinson, DSC, RN, commanding), then encountered the German submarine U-584 (Kapitanleutnant Joachim Deeke) less than three-quarters of an hour into the first dog watch on 5 May.

U-584 fired a spread of four torpedoes, one of which punched into West Madaket on her port side between her number five hold and the after peak tank, damaging the ship's steam lines. The vessel began to settle by the stern, a visible crack forming amidships. Most of the men on board (eight officers, 31 crewmen, and the 27-man Armed Guard) abandoned ship in three lifeboats 20 minutes after the torpedo hit, the Navy detachment remaining behind until the bitter end, jumping overboard at that juncture.

Pink scuttled the irreparably-damaged ship with four depth charges fired from her starboard depth charge thrower and rescued West Madaket's 61 souls, disembarking them at St. John's, Newfoundland, on 9 May, four days later. 

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

20 February 2024

Published: Tue Feb 20 18:42:56 EST 2024