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)
From The Norwalk Hour January 19, 1944
Gunner’s Mate Third Class Joseph M. Dragan, son of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Dragan of 23 Quintard Avenue, was today officially listed as missing in action by the Navy Department. Word that he was missing was first received by his parents on December 12, 1943. Prior to joining the Navy on April 8, 1942, he was employed by the Hat Corporation.
From The Norwalk Hour May 16, 1945
Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Dragan, 23 Quintard Avenue, have received the Purple Heart Medal awarded to their son, Joseph Michael Dragan, gunner’s mate third glass who was killed in action at Bari Bay, Italy, on December 3, 1944 during an engagement.
Memorialized at Tablets of the Missing, Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy