James “Jim” Dodson Kearns

James Jim Dodson Kearns

James Jim Dodson Kearns, retouched

James “Jim” Dodson KEARNS, son of Rhett Goode Kearns and Susan Crabtree, was born August 9 1922 in Mobile Alabama and died May 28, 1942.

The Kearns family provides birth and death dates being 1922 to 1942. C. Pollman provides dates of 1919-1942 as being on James’ tombstone, Section D, Lot 29, Catholic Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama. As James was twin to Dorothy Elizabeth it does seem likely that he would have been born on the same day she was. James Dodson Kearns is given as dying in 1940 at the age of 18 by one family report. His mother, Susie also gave him alternatively dying in 1942 at the age of 20, which coincides with the date given by C. Pollman. James Dodson was a WW II casualty in the Merchant Marines. Jack reports his boat was torpedoed in Mobile Bay by a German U-Boat, but Susie wrote, “He was lost in the war in 1942, Caribbean sea.” His brother, Selden wrote, “Ship was torpedoed out of Mobile Bay (coming home) in World War II, 1942, in the Caribbean sea. Merchant Marines, Liberty Ships to Russia. The ship was empty.” He noted the ship was torpedoed in waters “near South America.”

I have found on the web that James was on the oiler, Alcoa Pilgrim, when it was sunk May 28 1942 by a torpedo.

Alcoa Pilgrim, Caribbean, Torpedo, Sunk, 05/28/42, Freighter, Crew 31

28 May 1942 Alcoa Pilgrim FRT 6759 U-502 16.28Nx67.37W

The Alcoa Pilgrim, loaded deep with 9,500 tons of bauxite for Mobile, caught a “tin fish” and went down in 90 seconds with heavy loss of life.

Uboat.net reveals that James’ boat was sunk by U-502 which was captained by Jürgen von Rosenstiel. He sank 14 ships and damaged 2 others between 1941 Oct 7 and 1942 July 6 when his U-502 was sunk and he died.

Sunk 6 July, 1942 in the Bay of Biscay west of La Rochelle, in position 46.10N, 06.40W, by depth charges from a British Wellington aircraft (Sqdn 172/H). 52 dead (all hands lost).

On the Alcoa Pilgrim:

Name Alcoa Pilgrim
Type: Steam merchant (C-1 type)
Tonnage 6,759 tons
Completed 1941 – Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp, San Francisco CA
Owner Alcoa SS Co, New York
Homeport New York
Date of attack 28 May 1942 Nationality: American

Fate Sunk by U-502 (Jürgen von Rosenstiel)
Position 16.28N, 67.37W – Grid ED 1769

Complement 40 (31 dead and 9 survivors).
Route Port of Spain, Trinidad – Mobile AL
Cargo 9500 tons of bauxite ore
Notes on loss

At 02.00 hours on 28 May, 1942, the zigzagging, unescorted and unarmed Alcoa Pilgrim (Master Leon Roar Petersen, lost) was hit by a torpedo from U-502 on the starboard side just below the waterline in the engine room. The ship sank in 90 seconds about 150 miles south of the Mona Passage. The crew of nine officers and 31 men had no time to launch a lifeboat and only nine managed to get on board of two rafts. U-502 came alongside one of the rafts and an officer inquired about the name of the ship, her nationality, tonnage and cargo. He also asked if the rafts had sails and wished the men luck. Six days later, the American steam merchant Thomas Nelson picked up the surviving three officers and six men and landed them at Port of Spain on 5 June.

Where the Alcoa Pilgrim wa sunk:

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Where U-502 was sunk:

View Larger Map

In the photo of Jim on this page, he is holding a preserver from the Wacosta.

In the summer of 42 the S.S. Wacosta was part of a convoy in which 32 of 60 ships went down. The Wacosta was the only one without any loss of life. I don’t know if he was ever on the Wacosta.

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