A dedication to the heroes of the SS Heintzelman

This web site is dedicated to the families of the men that sailed aboard the SS Samuel Heintzelman. It is both a memorial and a tribute to honor the heroes who after making the supreme sacrifice, suffered the indignity of that not even their families knew their fate.

Long ago the Heintzelman set sail in a far off sea, without destroyer escort and was never heard from again. For three generations that is all the families knew of the Heintzelman's fate. Surely the loss of the Heintzelman was a tragedy but it was compounded further by the fact that the full story of  the fate of the Heintzelman and her crew was never told. Knowing the Heintzelman story cannot bring back a loved one, but it does offer something that the families have long been denied--closure.

Because the story was never told, many of these men did not even have a  proper memorial service much less get proper honors and recognition for their sacrifice made to preserve our freedom. The fate of the men lost when  the Heintzelman disappeared was not known for three generations.

To date I have heard from many of the Heintzelman families, but I have not  heard from all of them. If you are a Heintzelman family member, please let  me know that you have seen this web site and heard the story. If you want to send me a photo of your relative and a short biography I would be happy to  add a page honoring your families hero on this web site. Whatever you do please please let me know about your visit so I can properly track the families I have heard from. 

Thank You, 
Eric Andersen

The Fatal Voyage of the SS Samuel Heintzelman

Her last port of Call was Fremantle, Australia. The SS Samuel Heintzelman left Fremantle on July 1st 1943 and was never heard from again.

The vessel was reported missing on July 14th when she failed to reach the destination port of Colombo, Ceylon. The vessels ultimate destination was Calcutta, India. Official letters from the War Dept stated that on September 30th 1943 debris including a plank marked "SS Samuel Heintzelman" was found washed up on a beach somewhere in the Maldive Islands. For 60 years this is all that families of the missing crew knew about the fate of the SS Samuel Heintzelman.  One book that listed the names of liberty ships and their ultimate fate said "Disappeared" next to the listing for the SS Samuel Heintzelman.

The tragedy of the Heintzelman was that the families knew nothing of the fate of their lost loved ones. In wartime it is certainly not uncommon to lose someone but usually the family is told something specific about the time, date or circumstances. If there is something worse than losing a loved one it is to know nothing about how the loss occurred. Knowing the circumstances gives the family closure and a chance to begin to heal from the loss.

The tragedy of the Heintzelman touched me in a very personal way. Stewart A. Andersen, my uncle, was one of the crew members lost on the Heintzelman. It has always seemed to me a mystery as to what happened to Stewart. There was the picture on the wall of someone I had never met. At family gatherings I would often ask about Stewart. I wanted to know why was nothing known. How could something as large as a ship just disappear without a trace?

A couple of years ago, I shared my concerns about Stewart with a friend at work and he told me about a book he was reading called Black May (by Michael Gannon, 1999). Black May is a book detailing how the Allies turned the tide against German U-Boats during the war. This was not news to me. I knew that the Allies had won the war against U-Boats. I had known this ever since Grade School when I read all of the WWII books in the library. I was entranced to read stories about "D Day", The Sinking of the Bismarck," etc. What was news to me was how in many cases it has since been determined by researchers which U-Boats sank which ships and vice versa.

Years after the war has ended and enemies have become friends again, the record books are open for everyone to look at. Clearly, this was not possible during the war and even for many years after the war. But now many years have past and the books are open. I should also mention there is now something called the Internet. Almost all of my research has been conducted on the Internet and I never imagined that I would get so far without traveling and visiting warehouses full of dusty old documents and stale records.

Prior to now, I have known very little about what happened to Stewart. The only thing I knew of Stewart was what I heard from family members and what was written of him in the official letter from the War Department announcing he was missing in action and presumed dead.

Realizing that it was possible now to find out about things formerly hidden, I made it a personal mission to find out more about what happened, and to find out exactly where his ship went down. I thought perhaps I could identify the enemy submarine as well. Someday I thought, I can travel to the location of the downed ship and conduct my own memorial service. This is something that my family has always been denied.

I have a personal interest in what happened to the ship because the official MIA letter regarding my uncle, Stewart Andersen, lists the SS Samuel Heintzelman as the ship to which he was assigned. I too was a sailor in the US Navy (1976-1980) and after all, he is my Uncle, and an Uncle whose ultimate fate was wrapped up in a mystery.

 

  

  

  

Long ago 
the SS  Samuel  Heintzelman 
 set sail 
in a far off  sea...and 
was never 
heard from 
again. 

Debris 
including 
a plank  marked  
'SS Samuel  Heintzelman' 
was found 
washed up 
on a beach.
  

How could 
something 
as large 
as 
a ship 
just  disappear  without 
a trace?
 


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