German U-Boat Sinks the Zam Zam – 144 missionaries on board
Florence Almen had gone from America in 1936 and had served for a term in French Equatorial Africa. After returning to her homeland for a year of furlough. Florence said her farewells to family and friends and boarded the Zam Zam on March 21, 1941, for her return to her labors. The ship carried 201 passengers, including 144 missionaries. They made their way to Baltimore and picked up additional crew and then continued on to Brazil. Leaving Brazil for Cape Town on April 9, they traveled without lights and maintained radio silence, for the German U-boats were very active. All seemed to go well until April 17, just two days from the arrival in Cape Town. A terrible vibration rocked the ship, and the screaming crash of shells awakened passengers and crew. The old ship was under attack.
They found that their lifeboat had been hit, but they finally discovered another. As the lifeboat pulled away from the listing Zam, they found that it, too, had been riddled with gun fire and was filling with water. Florence Almen did not know how to swim, but heroically to lighten the load, she jumped overboard. As she did so, she cried out to the Lord, “I’ll be seeing your face today, Lord Jesus.” She further testified, “I wasn’t alone. God was there. Underneath were the everlasting arms. I felt His Presence—really real.” In a short time, they heard a motor and discovered that the German captain of the raider (the Tamesis) had sent a launch to pick up those in the water.
Dr. Dale R. Hart: Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 156-157
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German U-Boat Sinks the Zam Zam – 144 missionaries on board
Few know the sacrifices of our missionaries
1942 – The S.S. West Lashaway, a ship on which the Shaw family, missionaries to French Equatorial Africa (now Central African Republic) was sunk by a German U Boat in the early days of WW II. The shipping lanes of the Atlantic were in constant danger of German subs, and later, for a while, the Japanese Navy ruled the Pacific in those awful days. Harvey and Carol Shaw had volunteered for missionary service in Africa in 1937 and now were forced to return with their three children. As the German torpedo ripped through the ship, Mr. Shaw, his daughter Carol (7) and son Richard (13) were thrown into the sea. Mrs. Shaw and daughter Georgia (11) were trapped in their cabin and went down with the ship. The survivors still had to survive fire from the German sub. When it left they found life jackets and rafts. Mr. Shaw didn’t make it, but the rest did after drifting for twenty-one days, and seeing the Lord wondrously provide food and fresh rain water. Finally they were rescued by a British destroyer after they nearly destroyed them with sixteen volleys of cannon, thinking that they were an enemy submarine. The sailors wept when they realized what they had nearly done. Other missionaries raised the Shaw children, and Richard later entered the ministry, and his sister Carol served the Lord as well. Few know of the sacrifices of our missionaries. [Polly Strong, Burning Wicks (Cleveland, Ohio: Baptist Mid-Missions, 1984), pp. 207-8. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. pp. 523-25]. Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon
Brookings, Oregon By: Norm Goyer
September 9, 1942, the I-25 class Japanese submarine was cruising in an easterly direction raising its periscope occasionally as it neared the United States Coastline. Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor less than a year ago and the Captain of the attack submarine knew that Americans were watching their coast line for ships and aircraft that might attack our country. Dawn was approaching; the first rays of the sun were flickering off the periscopes lens. Their mission; attack the west coast with incendiary bombs in hopes of starting a devastating forest fire. If this test run were successful, Japan had hopes of using their huge submarine fleet to attack the eastern end of the Panama Canal to slow down shipping from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Japanese Navy had a large number of I-400 submarines under construction. Each capable of carrying three aircraft. Pilot Chief Warrant Officer Nobuo Fujita and his crewman Petty Officer Shoji Okuda were making last minute checks of their charts making sure they matched those of the submarine’s navigator.
September 9, 1942: Nebraska forestry student Keith V. Johnson was on duty atop a forest fire lookout tower between Gold’s Beach and Brookings Oregon . Keith had memorized the silhouettes of Japanese long distance bombers and those of our own aircraft. He felt confident that he could spot and identify, friend or foe, almost immediately. It was cold on the coast this September morning , and quiet. The residents of the area were still in bed or preparing to head for work. Lumber was a large part of the industry in Brookings, just a few miles north of the California Oregon state lines.
The aircraft carried two incendiary 168 pound bombs and a crew of two.
Aboard the submarine the Captain’s voice boomed over the PA system, “Prepare to surface, aircrew report to your stations, wait for the open hatch signal” During training runs several subs were lost when hangar door were opened too soon and sea water rushed into the hangars and sank the boat with all hands lost. You could hear the change of sound as the bow of the I-25 broke from the depths, nosed over for its run on the surface. A loud bell signaled the “All Clear.” The crew assigned to the single engine Yokosuki E14Ys float equipped observation and light attack aircraft sprang into action. They rolled the plane out its hangar built next to the conning tower. The wings and tail were unfolded, and two 176 pound incendiary bombs were attached to the hard points under the wings. This was a small two passenger float plane with a nine cylinder 340 hp radial engine. It was full daylight when the Captain ordered the aircraft to be placed on the catapult. Warrant Officer Fujita started the engine, let it warm up, checked the magnetos and oil pressure. There was a slight breeze blowing and the seas were calm. A perfect day to attack the United States of America . When the gauges were in the green the pilot signaled and the catapult launched the aircraft. After a short climb to altitude the pilot turned on a heading for the Oregon coast.
Johnson was sweeping the horizon but could see nothing, he went back to his duties as a forestry agent which was searching for any signs of a forest fire The morning moved on. Every few minutes he would scan low, medium and high but nothing caught his eye.
The small Japanese float plane had climbed to several thousand feet of altitude for better visibility and to get above the coastal fog. The pilot had calculated land fall in a few minutes and right on schedule he could see the breakers flashing white as they hit the Oregon shores.
Johnson was about to put his binoculars down when something flashed in the sun just above the fog bank. It was unusual because in the past all air traffic had been flying up and down the coast, not aiming into the coast.
The pilot of the aircraft checked his course and alerted his observer to be on the lookout for a fire tower which was on the edge of the wooded area where they were supposed to drop their bombs. These airplanes carried very little fuel and all flights were in and out without any loitering. The plane reached the shore line and the pilot made a course correction 20 degrees to the north. The huge trees were easy to spot and certainly easy to hit with the bombs. The fog was very wispy by this time.
Warrant Officer Fujita is shown with his Yokosuka E14Y (Glen) float plane prior to his flight.
Johnson watched in awe as the small floatplane with a red meat ball on the wings flew overhead, the plane was not a bomber and there was no way that it could have flown across the Pacific, Johnson could not understand what was happening. He locked onto the plane and followed it as it headed inland.
The pilot activated the release locks so that when he could pickled the bombs they would release. His instructions were simple, fly at 500 feet, drop the bombs into the trees and circle once to see if they had started any fires and then head back to the submarine.
Johnson could see the two bombs under the wing of the plane and knew that they would be dropped. He grabbed his communications radio and called the Forest Fire Headquarters informing them of what he was watching unfold.
The bombs tumbled from the small seaplane and impacted the forests, the pilot circled once and spotted fire around the impact point. He executed an 180 degree turn and headed back to the submarine. There was no air activity, the skies were clear. The small float plane lined up with the surfaced submarine and landed gently on the ocean, then taxied to the sub. A long boom swung out from the stern. His crewman caught the cable and hooked it into the pickup attached to the roll over cage between the cockpits. The plane was swung onto the deck, The plane’s crew folded the wings and tail, pushed it into its hangar and secured the water tight doors. The I-25 submerged and headed back to Japan .
This event ,which caused no damage, marked the only time during World War II that an enemy plane had dropped bombs on the United States mainland. What the Japanese didn’t count on was coastal fog, mist and heavy doses of rain made the forests so wet they simply would not catch fire.