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615' x 81' x 52'
USN October 26, 1942
J Tranape 2001
Built by The Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Newport News, Virginia. Laid down April 22, 1930 with yard number 340 as one of two ships for Dollar Steamship Lines, her sister ship was SS President Hoover. Launched February 21, 1931 as SS President Coolidge named in honor of 30th U.S. President Calvin Coolidge sponsored by his wife, Mrs. Calvin C. Coolidge. Completed and delivered October 1, 1931.
As a luxury liner, the ship had a first class section for 305, tourist class of 133 and steerage class of 402 passengers. Amenities staterooms, lounges, telephones, two saltwater swimming pools, a barber shop, beauty salon, gymnasium and soda fountain. The liner once set a speed record from San Francisco to Japan.
Operated by Dollar Steamship Lines until 1937 when they company collapsed and was taken over by the U.S. Government and became the American President Lines (APL).
On July 19, 1939 tied up at Shanghai in the Whangpoo River when Nissan Maru accidentally collided with the ship without injuries aboard either vessel.
During 1940 helped evacuate Americans from Hong Kong. During June 1941, the liner was impressed into U.S. Army service and made voyages from Hawaii and Manila.
On December 7, 1941 President Coolidge with transport A. T. Scott escorted by USS Louisville (CA-28). was en route from Tarakan to Pearl Harbor. At the start of the Pacific War, diverted to California where it was converted into a troop transport capable of carrying 5,440 personnel and was painted gray and armed with anti-aircraft weapons.
In her first voyage as a troopship, the Coolidge transported troops and equipment overseas to Melbourne, Wellington, Auckland, Bora Bora, and Suva then returned to California.
On October 6, 1942 departs San Francisco via New Caledonia bound for Espiritu Santo under the command of master Mr. Henry Nelon. Aboard were 5,440 personnel, mostly soldiers from the U.S. Army 43rd Infantry Division. Also aboard was the 2nd Battalion, 54th Coast Artillery (Negro). The ship was loaded with military cargo including equipment, armaments and supplies.
On October 26, 1942 while approaching Segond Channel off Espiritu Santo, the vessel collided with two U.S. Navy (USN) sea mines, laid a month earlier by U.S. Navy destroyers. Damaged, Captain Henry Nelson attempted to run the ship aground and ordered an abandon ship. Those aboard were told to leave all of their belongings behind under the impression that they would conduct salvage operations over the next few days.
Two were killed in the sinking. Fireman Robert Reid was working in the engine room and was killed by the initial mine blast. Captain Elwood J. Euart, U.S. Army Artillery Corps from Pawtucket, RI had safely gotten off the ship when he learned that there men were still in the infirmary who could not get out. Euart voluntarily went back aboard and into one of the sea doors. After successfully rescuing the men, he was unable to escape and he went down with the ship.
Over the course of the next 90 minutes, 5,340 men got safely off of the wreck and to shore. There was no panic as the troops disembarked, many even walked to shore. However, the captain's attempts to beach the ship were unsuccessful due to the coral reef. The Coolidge listed heavily on her side, sank, and slid down the slope into Segond Channel. She now rests on her port side with her bow at a depth of 70' and her stern at 240'.
After the sinking, there were three official Court of Inquiry investigations about the sinking. The first preliminary Court of Inquiry convened November 12, 1942 aboard the USS Whitney at the behest of Admiral Halsey. The Court of Inquiry recommended additional charges be laid against Captain Nelson. The matter was referred to a Military Commission which convened December 8, 1942 in Nouméa. This commission acquitted Captain Nelson of guilt. From the Commission of Inquiry it came out that Merchant Marine vessels were not given all available tactical information, most notably regarding the placement of mines. This simple precaution would have prevented the sinking. This outcome did not please the Navy, and he was referred to a Coast Guard Investigation Board upon his return to the United States on February 6, 1943 but that investigation Board took no further action.
On December 12, 1942 the sinking was reported in a U.S. Navy Communiques with the headline: "S.S. President Coolidge Lost on War Mission; Very Few Casualties"
The two individuals killed were officially declared dead the day of the sinking. Posthumously, he earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Euart is memorialized at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at the court of the missing, court 7. He also has a memorial marker at Saint Francis Cemetery in Pawtucket, RI at section 3. A memorial to Euart is located on the shore of Espiritu Santo, the nearest shore point to the Coolidge.
During November 20-30, 1942 the USS Ortolan ASR-5 salvaged war supplies and materials from the shipwreck.
Postwar, salvager divers removed her propeller blades, bunker oil, brass casings of shells, electric motors, junction boxes and copper tubing. On November 18, 1983 the Republic of Vanuatu government declared that no salvage or recovery of any artifacts would be allowed from the President Coolidge shipwreck.
President Coolidge ship sank off southeastern edge of Luganville (Santo) on Espiritu Santo. To the east is Million Dollar Point. The shipwreck rests on her port side at a depth of 70' at her bow to 240' at her stern. At a depth of 147.6' / 45m inside the in the first class passengers lounge smoking room is "The Lady".
President Coolidge is often visited by recreational SCUBA divers. Those with a dive master and enough experience are able to be penetrated the interior rooms and cargo holds. Over the years, several SCUBA divers have died inside the shipwreck that became disoriented
divers inside the cargo hold
We arrive in the room of the trucks. It is very dark. The last divers who find the death were lost in the Coolidge. When they were found by the rescues, it was too late, they still have air in there bottles - they paniced.
allowing divers to explore the cargo holds and interior rooms.
The shipwreck lies on her port side with her bow at 70', only a short walk and swim from the southeastern tip of Luganville (Santo) on Espiritu Santo.
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) Navy Department Communiques 1-300 and Pertinent Press Releases December 10, 1941 to March 5, 1943 pages 144 (December 12, 1942 S.S. President Coolidge Lost on War Mission; Very Few Casualties), 190 (index Coolidge, U.S.S. AP), 193 (index transports U.S.S. President Coolidge)
National Geographic "Ghosts of War"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Elwood J. Euart
"Captain Euart died while rescuing soldiers on board the USAT President Coolidge when it sank at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. Partial remains were recovered by a civilian diver in 2012. A JPAC underway recovery teams discovered additional remains in 2014. CAPT Euart remains were identified. His remains are interred at a private cemetery in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. His name is permanently inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific."
FindAGrave - Capt Elwood Joseph Euart (photos, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Elwood J Euart (memorial marker photos)
The Lady and the President - The Life and Loss of the SS President Coolidge via Wayback Machine June 11, 2000
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