GUNNER’S MATE THIRD CLASS JOSEPH MICHAEL DRAGAN; U.S. NAVY

1921 or 1922 – December 3, 1943; 21 or 22 years old; unmarried
Last local address: 23 Quintard Avenue, South Norwalk
Service Number: 6421484
SS JOSEPH WHEELER

Awarded the Purple Heart Medal.

PO3 Dragan was killed on the SS Joseph Wheeler, December 3, 1944. The Joseph Wheeler had her starboard side blown out and was on her port side when her Armed Guard officer, who had been ashore arranging for the pay of his men, last saw her. The only Armed Guard survivors were the officer and twelve men who were taking a well-earned liberty in the town. There were 15 armed guards dead or missing and 26 of the merchant crew missing.

The German air attack on Bari, Italy opened at 1925 hours 2nd December 1943, with bombers (105 Ju-88s) hitting allied merchants unloading supplies for the forces engaged in the battle for Rome. Fire on ammunition ships John Harvey and bomb hits on John L. Motley caused massive detonations which shattered windows seven miles away. A bulk gasoline pipeline and supply were severed and the gushing fuel ignited engulfing other ships. Seventeen merchant ships laden with nearly 35,000 tons of cargo were destroyed (5 American, 5 British, 3 Norwegian, 2 Italian, 2 Polish, with another 7 vessels heavily damaged). The port area was closed for three weeks and was only back in operation by February 1944. In total, 800 crew and civilians lost their lives in the fire, explosions and poisoning by mustard gas that was on board John Harvey. List of ships lost: ALLIED MERCHANTS John Harvey (US Liberty, 7177 gt) John L. Motley (US Liberty, 7176 gt) John Bascom (US Liberty, 7176 gt) Joseph Wheeler (US Liberty, 7176 gt) Samuel J. Tilden (US Liberty, 7176 gt) Fort Athabasca (Canadian, 7132 gt) Fort Lajoie (Canadian, 7134 gt ) Testbank (British, 5083 gt) Lars Kruse (British, 1897 gt) Devon Coast (British, 646 gt) Bollsta (Norwegian, 1832 gt) Norlom (Norwegian, 6412 gt) Lom (Norwegian, 1268 gt) Lwow (Polish, 1409 gt) Puck (Polish, 1065 gt) Frosinone (Italian, 5202 gt) Barletta (Italian, 1975 gt) OTHER: Inaffondabile (Italian)

Published by jeffd1121

USAF retiree. Veteran advocate. Committed to telling the stories of those who died while in the service of the country during wartime.

One thought on “GUNNER’S MATE THIRD CLASS JOSEPH MICHAEL DRAGAN; U.S. NAVY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: