Down Memory Lane

Trail of Heroes - USS Pollux


Published on February 13, 2017

©Allan Stoodley Photography

This weekend residents of St. Lawrence and Lawn, like they have done for decades, will pause in their daily routine to pay their respects to the more than 200 United States Navy officers and men who lost their lives 75 years ago.

They were the crews of the destroyer USS "Truxtun" and the supply ship USS "Pollux" that rammed into the cliffs of the Burin Peninsula on Feb. 18, 1942, during a blinding snowstorm.

The two ships were part of a convoy of vessels bringing men and supplies to Argentia from the Canadian mainland. Their route was to sail along the southwest coast of Newfoundland, then skirt the tip of the Burin Peninsula and head for Argentia. 

A blinding snowstorm was at its height during the early morning hours of Feb. 18, 1942, when the Truxtun and Pollux together with another destroyer, the Wilkes, went astray from the other ships in the convoy.

At 5 a.m. the Pollux struck Lawn Point and 30 minutes later, the Truxtun rammed into the 400 feet high cliffs of Chamber Cove, three and a half miles from St. Lawrence. 

The captain of the Truxtun, thinking the cliffs were an iceberg, tried to maneuver the vessel back away from the "Pinnacle", only to have the destroyer catch fast on a reef about 200 feet from land.

Meanwhile, the Wilkes had struck between the Truxtun and the Pollux, but her water-tight compartments kept her afloat until she freed herself. 

The 187 men who survived the sinking of the two ships owed their lives to the heroic rescue operations carried out by the entire population of the mining town of St. Lawrence and to eight men from Lawn. 

This small band of rescuers with their five horses and slides had trekked more than 15 plus miles through the most rugged terrain and weather conditions to make it to Lawn Point where the Pollux had been sighted. They were successful in managing to haul 137 American sailors up a steep cliff from the rocky, icy perch of Little Lawn Point that they managed to get to when they abandoned ship. 

In 2013 the Memorial Trail of Heroes committee was formed to honour the memory of these eight men and other men from Lawn who took part in the Truxtun rescue efforts as well as to pay homage to all of the men of the United States Navy who were shipwrecked on our shores on Feb. 18, 1942.

 

Oberservance

The Lawn Memorial Trail of Heroes committee has a full schedule planned for this coming weekend to observe the 75th anniversary of the Truxtun and Pollux disaster. 

Special guests for the weekend include a son of one of the survivors of the USS Pollux; Fred Brehm and his wife Carrie from the USA. They will be taken to Lawn Point on ATVs so they can have a close up view of the site where the doomed vessel met her fate and so many U.S. servicemen lost their lives.

According to Betty Anne Drake, chairperson of the Memorial Committee, there will be a Memorial Prayer Service at 3 p.m. on Feb. 18 followed by the unveiling of a new commemorative sign and the "laying of wreaths" at the Memorial Plaque by the Canadian Legion.  There will be a dinner to follow which will feature a narrative entitled "One Sailor's Story".  Musical entertainment will be provided by local talent. 

Also, the St. Lawrence History Advisory committee has several events planned for this week including a Memorial Service at St. Aquinas Church on Feb. 18 at 2 p.m.

Allan Stoodley resides at Grand Bank. He can be reached at amstoodley@hotmail.com and welcomes any comments on this article or any other articles he has written.