On 12 May, 1944, the JEAN NICOLT sailed independently from San Pedro, CA, to Colunbia, Ceylon, via Fremantle, Australia. The cargo ship departed Fremantle on 21 June. South southwest of Ceylon, the I-8 (Arizumi) fired two torpedoes, both striking at the #3 hold, starboard side. The ship immediately listed 30 degrees to starboard, and the watch below secured the engines and the fires. The master issued orders to abandon ship less than 15 minutes after the explosions. The ship's eight officers, thirty-three men, twenty-eight armed guards, and thirty (twelve civilians, eighteen military) passengers began abandoning ship in four lifeboats and two rafts. Forty-five minutes after the torpedoes struck, the I-8 surfaced and began randomly shelling the ship from 2,000 yards. The submarine fired twelve rounds at the freighter, setting her on fire, and she sank the following morning. The Japanese ordered most of the survivors on board the submarine. The Japanese searched the men, tied their hands behind their backs, beat and questioned some, and made others run through a gauntlet. They shot at least one man. As the crew was brutalized, the Japanese gun crews riddled the lifeboats with machine gun fire. Finally the I-8 submerged with the men on deck and their hands still tied. Fortunately, some men escaped and swam back to the burning vessel and launched life floats. The mext day, at 1330, a Catalina dropped some life preservers, a raft, and food rations. On 4 July, at 1100 the Royal Indian naval trawler HOXA (T-16) rescued ten armed guards, one officer, nine men, and three passengers on this raft and took them to the Maldive Islands. The Japanese took Captain Nilsson, the radio operator, and a civilian passenger as prisoners. The civilian Frank O'Gara is the only one among the three who survived the internment.
Sunday, July 2, 1944
United States Merchant Marine Casualties of World War II