United Fruit Historical Soceity Discussion Board

United Fruit Historical Soceity Discussion Board
Start a New Topic 
SS San Pablo and the Great White Fleet

Hello all,

My name is Stewart Hood. I am a graduate student at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Fl. studying historic archaeology, with a focus on maritime archaeology. I am in my second year of graduate school and am currently beginning work on my thesis topic for graduation. For my thesis topic I have selected a vessel known as the SS San Pablo, known locally as the Russian Freighter. The vessel presently lies a few miles off the coast of Pensacola resting at about 85 feet. At present I have only done some basic research, and written a few short papers on the vessel which were used in a several classes last semester. I am currently looking for any additional information that my help me in my thesis completion. I know that the vessel was constructed by Workman and Clark and began operation for United Fruit in 1915. She seems to have operated up and down the east coast making runs to Central America and the Caribbean until here sinking in 1942. According to news reports she was sunk while docked at Puerto Limon on the night of July 2/3 1942 at the hands of a German U-Boat. However, I have heard other rumors that the vessel was intentionally sunk by the United States herself with the intent of bringing Costa Rica into the war. Some time after the sinking, there are varied reports as to exactly how long, the vessel was raised and made her way to Tampa and eventually Pensacola, where she was sunk as a target vessel for remote controlled missile boats. These "missile boats" were being tested by the United States Government as part of a secret project to infiltrate enemy harbors. I do have a fair bit of information as to the vessels service life, but less regarding the vessels initial sinking. Any information on the vessel itself would be very helpful. I am also more than happy to e-mail copies of the papers I have written if they can be of any assistance.

Thanks you,

Stewart Hood

Re: SS San Pablo and the Great White Fleet

My grandfather as a ship captain for united fruit his name was Alexander Reynolds my mother told a story that his ship was sunk by a German u boat while he survived he did loose part of his leg.

Re: SS San Pablo and the Great White Fleet

May name Is Axel Alvarado, I am historian of the University of Costa
Rica. I'm researching ss San Pablo.

The S.S. San Pablo was a refrigerated cargo steamer built in
1915 in Ireland. The ship had three decks and a steel hull. It's length was 315
feet and she had a 4- foot beam. Prior to World War II, the San Pablo was owned
by Central American merchants and mainly shipped fruit between Caribbean ports.
Like all other merchant vessels, during World War II the San Pablo became a
target for the German submarines who sought to disrupt commerce worldwide.

In May 1942, a U-boat intercepted and fired on San Pablo as
she sailed near the Yucatan Channel. The San Pablo was unarmed and so
frantically maneuvered in an attempt to outrun the submarine. Finally, the Key
West command center bluffed the Germans by radioing that air support was on the
way. The U-boat submerged which allowed the San Pablo to escape to safety in
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

Unfortunately, the San Pablo was not safe for long. While
unloading cargo at the same port in July, the German submarine U-161 fired two
torpedoes which struck the San Pablo midship. The ship quickly sank, killing
all 23 men aboard. The masts and superstructure remained above water.

In early 1943, the ship was raised and towed to Tampa for
repairs. However, the War Shipping Administration declared the San Pablo a
total loss. She was then towed to Panama City and sunk in September 1943 for
use in target practice. Later it was decided that the ship was a hazard to
navigation, so it was destroyed by explosives.

The wreck is now mostly debris, but the boilers and stern
section are somewhat intact. The wreckage sits in 75-85 feet of water less than
ten miles from Pensacola Pass. Many fishermen frequent the wreck which has
attracted a large marine community. Grouper, snapper, cobia, flounder, and
schools of baitfish frequent the wreck. Many consider the spot great for
photography and visibility of 100 feet has been reported at times.

I want to know if there is a document in his archives that he declared
as total loss to Saint Paul. I am interested to know what problems
they found to declare total order of the ship.

Thank you very much for your help.