Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Wreckage of the World War II Tanker - Pan Pennsylvania Found

The large, intact stern section of the WW2 tanker Pan Pennsylvania has been located and dived by a team led by Joe Mazraani aboard the research and dive vessel Tenacious.  Pan Pennsylvania was a 516-foot long, 11000-ton special variant T3 tanker, built by the Welding Shipyard in Norfolk Virginia, and delivered to National Bulk Carriers in November 1943.  At the time of her sinking she was one of the world’s largest tanker.  The tanker was struck by at least one torpedo fired by the German submarine U-550 on April 16, 1944, approximately 130 miles SE of Montauk, NY. U-550 was in turn attacked and sunk two hours after torpedoing the “Pan Penn” by the US Coast Guard and Navydestroyer escorts Joyce, Gandy, and Peterson. The Pan Penn suffered 25 fatalities from a crew of 9 officers, 41 seamen and 31 Armed Guardsmen, who were on board to man protective deck guns.



During the anti-submarine engagement, Pan Pennsylvania was set on fire by stray shellfire from the DE’s.  The tanker soon turned upside down and floated as a derelict for two days until sunk on April 18 by US Navy aircraft and shellfire.  The wreck of Pan Pennsylvania, then thought to be whole, was first dived in 1994 and was found lying partially upside down on the ocean bottom in 240 fsw.  The newly found stern section lies on its port side in 340 fsw, and is separated from the wreck site of the bow section by a considerable distance.  The team located the new wreckage while searching for U-550.  The team undertook two side-scan sonar expeditions to search for the elusive German submarine in 2011 and 2012.  In addition to finding U-550, one of the search trips yielded an unknown large contact, which was subsequently dived as part of a 2013 expedition and determined to be the stern of Pan Pennsylvania.

Confirmation of the wreck’s identity is based on it’s close proximity to contemporary Eastern Sea Frontier positions, the approximate ship’s beam and unusually tall hull with two additional decks, as well as china plates marked “Made in USA” with the dates “1942” and “1943.”  








The dives were conducted from Mazraani’s 45-foot vessel Tenacious.  The dive team included Steve Gatto, Joe Mazraani, Harold Moyers, Mark Nix, Tom Packer, Brad Sheard, Eric Takakjian, and Anthony Tedeschi.

A seminar on the discovery of U-550, being presented at the 2014 TEKDiveUSA conference in Miami on May 17-18, will include new details of the Pan Pennsylvaniawreckage.

Author Randall Peffer’s book about the team’s discoveries, tentatively titled Diving the Last U-boat, will be forthcoming from Berkley/Caliber of the Penguin Group in June 2015.

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