Thanks To The Infamous Fred Buck We Have Two Accounts From the Sinking Of Our Grandfather’s Boat The Ben and Josephine By German Sub in 1942

Article by Charles Dana Gibson, undated-

On June 2,1942, the Ben and Josephine, an otter trawl dragger, left Gloucester, Massachusetts, at 7 p.m., in company with another dragger, the Aeolus. Both were bound for the Seal Island fishing grounds off Nova Scotia. By 3 p.m. the next day, the two draggers were about 170 miles east of Cape Ann when the man at the wheel of the Ben and Josephine spotted a submarine on the surface proceeding on what appeared to be a parallel course. 

Although concerned, the wheelsman later stated that the opinion among his fellow crew members at the time was that the submarine was probably friendly. Whoever was up and about on the Aeolus, then four or five miles astern, seems to have had the same thoughts, since it also made no attempt to alter course. But friendly the submarine definitely was not: it was the U432, the same sub which had sunk Foam some days earlier.

When later describing to naval authorities what had transpired, the crew members of both the Ben and Josephine and the Aeolus stated that for an hour a number had periodically studied the submarine through binoculars.

During that time, nothing was seen to indicate that it spelled trouble; yet, the fact that its course and speed were continually altered to match the draggers produced a menacing atmosphere.  Around 4 p.m., the submarine suddenly changed its course as if to cross the bow of the Ben and Josephine, increasing its speed as it drew nearer. When approximately five hundred feet away, it swung parallel and a machine gun opened fire, bullets striking the water close to its prey. Guiseppe Ciarmitaro (Captain Joe our Grandfather), the Ben and Josephine’s skipper, had been taking a nap. Suddenly shocked awake, he ran for the pilot house to radio for help.

The Germans, spotting Ciarmitaro moving across the deck and apparently guessing what he was about, sprayed machine gun fire in his path. Escaping narrowly, Ciarmitaro decided against any further heroics and shouted the order to cut away both dories. At this point, U-432’s commander began showing solicitude for the fishermen’s safety, ordering further fire withheld until the dories were clear. When that was accomplished, the shooting recommenced in earnest. The crew of the Ben and Josephine would later estimate that between thirty-eight and forty-eight rounds were fired from the sub’s main deck gun. But the marksmanship was poor, and despite the short range few made contact. Enough did hit, though, to start the craft going down at the bow.

At this point the fishermen saw what the Foam’s survivors had also witnessed – someone aboard the submarine was taking their photographs for posterity. Thirty-six hours later, the dories landed at the light station on Mount Desert Rock, an island off Maine’s Acadia National Park.  Aside from being hungry and suffering from mild exposure, all hands were well.

The Aeolus had been on a parallel course about five miles astern of the Ben and Josephine when the latter was attacked. Upon hearing the fire directed against the other trawler, the master, John Johnson, altered his course to put as much distance as possible between himself and the submarine. However, as soon as the sub had finished with the Ben and Josephine, it rapidly overhauled Aeolus. Upon closing, the Germans fired a warning shot, quickly followed by shouted orders to stop engines and put over dories. By way of emphasis, the U-boat’s deck gunners fired off two rounds, one of which struck Aeolus squarely forward on her whale back. Since all the fishermen were aft at the time engaged in lowering the dories, this was probably meant only as a threat to dampen any idea of sending off a radio warning.

It was when the fishermen had pulled clear that the Germans reopened fire, with most rounds missing as they had earlier with the Ben and Josephine. When enough hits were made to start Aeolus sinking, the U-432 headed away. Taking stock of the situation, the survivors decided on a course for Seal Island, the closest land. But before long a brisk breeze came up, raising enough of a head sea to force a change of plan. They then reversed direction, heading this time for the coast of Maine. They arrived a day and a half later, also landing on Mount Desert Rock close on the heels of the crew from the Ben and Josephine.

Guiseppe Ciarmitaro later recalled the effect that the sinkings of the Ben and Josephine and the Aeolus had on the morale of Gloucester’s fishing community. When the full news became known, enthusiasm for the offshore fisheries declined sharply. It would be some weeks before the men of Gloucester again extended their voyages east of Cape Porpoise, Maine.

from the "Sou’west Harbor" Maine newsletter, Feb. 2010

This is a letter we received from Doug Norwood, who grew up in Southwest Harbor and is now a resident of Birch Bay in Bar Harbor. We felt you would all enjoy reading it as much as we did.  Thanks Doug

Sixty-seven years ago I was a freshman in Pemetic High School in Southwest Harbor.  It was June 4th, 1942. We were in World War II. German U-Boats were all over the Atlantic Ocean.  Some historians have called that time “The Deadly Summer of 1942’. German submarines were sinking many allied ships on their way to Europe carrying food, supplies, oil. They were sinking any boat that was on the waters of the Atlantic.

On June 4th, 1942, my father came home early from work. He came into the house and told me not to go out anywhere as he wanted me to help him. He went to the phone and he called several people. I heard some of his conversation which wasn’t making much sense to me. He was talking about feeding fourteen fishermen, and getting some cots for men to sleep on, and dry clothes. When he finished his conversations, he told me to grab my jacket and follow him.

We got into his pickup truck and on the way to the high school he told me we were going to set up cots in the high school gym for fourteen fisherman who had had their boats shelled by a German submarine and watched them sink. He told me that the men were at the coast guard station in the Village. As the chairman of the American red Cross the Coast Guard had called my father to put into action a rescue operation.

When we got to the high school there was lots of activity by men and women of the community. Men were taking cots into the school gym, women were carrying baskets of food into the home economics class room. Women
were at work making fish chowder and biscuits, hot coffee and dessert. Some women were making up the cots for these fishermen to sleep on.

The fishermen arrived at the school. They were taken to the showers in the school, given fresh towels and then some men and women gave them clean clothing to put on. They were on their way to a fisherman’s
The fishermen were from two different trawlers which had been fishing in Nova Scotia waters. The first trawler was the Ben & Josephine. She had a crew of eight men. The boat’s home port was Gloucester in Massachusetts. The boat had been built in Thomaston in 1941. The German Submarine U-432 surfaced close to the fishing boat. The spokesman for the sub told the crew to get into a dory and row away. Then the sub shelled the boat until it sank. Those eight crewmen watched their boat until it sank. Those eight crewmen saw their boat sink out of sight.

Four miles away on the same day the same German submarine U-432 surfaced beside the trawler Aeolus. The spokesman for the submarine told the six man crew trawler to get into a dory and row away. The sub shelled the trawler seventeen times until it sank. The sub took moving pictures of the shelling and sinking of the Aeolus which sank in about twenty minutes. The Aeolus was 41 tons and had been built in Friendship, Maine in 1922. Its home port was Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The fishermen rowed their dories for 36 hours and twelve hours were rowed in a rain storm, arriving at Mt. Desert Rock Lighthouse. From the Rock the men were taken to the Southwest Harbor Coast Guard Station.  My father arranged transportation for the fishermen to Gloucester. After one night at the high school the fishermen boarded a bus the next day for home.
As a young fourteen year old I was very impressed by the men and women who worked so cooperatively in taking care of those fishermen who had escaped with their lives. I had a great sense of being proud of my community as I watched them taking care of those who needed clothing, food, and encouragement.

I don’t know if any of the adults who worked on this project of giving are still alive today. Perhaps there are one or two. I do not know.

A letter received from the engineer of the Aeolus sent to my father is attached to this writing.
I think that the members and friends of the Southwest Harbor Historical Society will be interested in reading about the sinking of the Ben and Josephine and the Aeolus. More important, I think, is the response of men and women from Southwest Harbor who gave of themselves for their neighbors.

Sincerely, Douglas M. Norwood
The original letter is on the following page.

Page Nine
The Sou’West Voyage
February 2010
The letter:
Dear Sir,
June 3, 1942 a German Submarine sunk a boat names Aeolus and also a boat named Ben and Josephine, they were sunk about 30 miles from Seal Island, N.S. I was engineer on the Aeolus. This boat was sent to the bottom in broad daylight by 17 shells from a deck gun and two Germans on the sub, had a moving picture machine. One fellow pointed it and the other cranked it. That boat was sunk just to get the pictures. The crews of both boats rowed for 36 hours to the Mt Desert Rock, we was taken from there to the Coast Guard Station in South West Harbor. The Coast Guard and the Red Cross sure took good care of us down there, we slept in the High School one night and we got our eats and the crew of both boats got a full outfit of clothes and on top of that the Red Cross hired a bus to take us to Gloucester and we sure appreciated it.

I was talking to a soildier that was over in Germany a short while ago and he said he would not be surprised if those moving pictures could be found somewhere in Germany, they may be hidaway and some Red Cross department over there may locate them. They would sure be valuable to you
Chapter if you could capture them. That boat Aeolus was built in Maine and I think if your Chapter could get hold of these pictures they would belong to your Chapter.

The sinking of an American boat by a foreighn Battleship just to get moving pictures was sure a Historical event. I got crippled up on this memorial day. I hurt my hip when I fell into the dory from the rail of the boat and I had to do my turn at the oars for 36 hours and the last 12 hours we was in a pouring rain.

I got a 90% disability out of that racket and the Government has not done anything yet towards financial aid, but I think they are going to soon as they have confiscated German and Japanese assets in the U S and are going to pay some claims to persons that was not in the U S Service.
A letter from your Chapter to the Red Cross in Germany may capture those moving picture reels.

What do you think  If they are located and the Government grabs them we can put up a battle for them I remember that fish chowder I got down there from the Red Cross ladies. It sure was good. We never even got a cup of hot coffee from the Red Cross when we arrived in Gloucester from that memorial trip.  Yours Truly, Everett Gallagher

There were two men from the Intelligence department from Washington that laughed when we told them the Germans took moving pictures of the sinking of the boat, a stenographer took down all the stories from the crews of those two boats and they must have it in Washington. I had a card from those two
fellows that they give me down there but I have lost it.

Editor‟s note: I feel we still have the same community caring that we had back then. When there is a time of need, the people of our town are there to help as they can. Whether it be to provide clothing, food, Christmas gifts, a temporary home and or other things that are needed. We take great pride in
our community and the people who reside in it. If anyone knows of this event and the names of people who helped in the effort, please let us know so we can preserve their names, along with the stories.

Thank you very much Doug for sharing this with us.

Chelsea Berry “Live in the Moment” House Recording Session.




Last night Chelsea Berry recorded her next CD, which will be released on January 27 when she headlines Shalin Liu.  It was a magical evening.  About 50 close friends and adoring fans participated in the recording as Chelsea took us all to a place we have never been before!

Thank you, Chelsea

Darby – Pet of the Week

Darby – Pet of the Week


I am Darby, a 8 month-old female Boxer/Shepherd mix.  I am at the Cape Ann Animal Aid in Gloucester and the veterinarians discovered that I have an irregular heartbeat (premature ventricular contractions).  I am a happy, active and fun pup in spite of this.   This condition may alter my life expectancy, but I am planning on staying in good shape.

I require yearly exams with a veterinarian, etc.  My current medication of Mexiltine 250mg (taken 3 times a day) costs about $52. a month.  It you met me, I think you would think I am worth it.

For me, I hope the New Year will bring me a family I may love. I might have an irregular heartbeat, but I have a pure heart full of love.

Judy Beavers Has Some Nice Things To Say

Hi Joey!

We got to visit ‘home’ during Christmas week. Spent time in our favorite place, Gloucester, & walked Wingaersheek, & took some great tide pool pics. Also, made a stop at the Fisherman’s statue — always a ‘must do’. Surf was up, on a very windy day. Beautiful!

And, the lobsta trap tree was wicked pretty.

Made a stop, for a short walk, at Good Harbor, too, before we had to head to Logan.

Left our hearts & souls in Gloucester. Always there ……

Reading GMG, after we returned, your New Year’s tribute to your mom was absolutely outstanding. As a mom, it brought tears to my eyes.

Wow! Your mother has to be glowing.

Thanks for GMG — & keeping Gloucester close — for those of us who don’t live in Mass at this time.

Maybe this is the year we’ll get to return, God willing.

Happy New Year!

Judy & Family

"Time spent wasted at the beach, is not time wasted." T.S.Elliot

Did You Know? (Welcome Signs are So Much Nicer than No Trespassing Signs)

While on a recent walk I decided to take a peek down Dorset Drive, almost across Washington Street from Leonard Street.  The road had always intrigued me because of all the huge rocks you can see lining it on either side.  I have always loved rocks of all shapes and sizes, but especially the huge ancient looking ones.   As I walked down the road, I noticed no houses, only massive rocks and morraine until the road came to a fork and there was a Conservation Land Welcome sign.  I walked past the gate and found a lovely pond, brook, beaver’s dam and more rocks.  For anyone who loves to explore and photograph nature, welcome signs are so much nicer than no trespassing signs.  You’d never know there was conservation land down there unless someone told you or you just wandered in – and now you know.

E.J. Lefavour

East Gloucester Cultural District

There is a Public Hearing before the City Council on Tuesday, January 10,  at 7:00 pm at City Hall concerning the East Gloucester Cultural District.  What it’s about:

The Massachusetts Cultural Council is in the process of designating areas of the state’s cities and towns as Cultural Districts.  The City, the Rocky Neck Art Colony, the Gloucester Stage Co., and the Gloucester Writers Center are, in partnership, applying to MCC to have a sizable section of East Gloucester designated as a Cultural District.

In MCC’s words:  Cultural districts can help local arts, humanities, and science organizations improve the quality and range of their public programs so that more local families can benefit from them. They can enhance the experience for visitors and thus attract more tourist dollars and tax revenue. And they can attract artists, cultural organizations and entrepreneurs of all kinds – enhancing property values and making communities more attractive.
One of the distinct attributes of Massachusetts is the authenticity of its communities. From urban centers and fishing ports in the east, to rural hamlets and older industrial centers in the west, the Commonwealth incorporates a wide range of distinctive places.

The Cultural District Initiative will encourage Massachusetts communities to strengthen this sense of place, while stimulating economic activity, improving the experiences of visitors to our communities, and creating a higher quality of life.

The proposes district runs from Cripple Cove to Niles Beach and includes East Main St. and Mt. Pleasant Ave.

Karen Ristuben
Rocky Neck Art Colony

Flynn’s Beach Swan

On that balmiest of all January Saturdays, Tom and I walked along the Rocky Neck beaches. The Flynn’s Beach swan did not at all appreciate the interest shown by our curious pooch.

Mute Swan Hissing

The Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) is native to Europe and Asia and is an introduced species to North America. Called “mute” because they are less vocal than other swan species, the Mute Swan is also distinguished from other swan species by its prominent knob atop the bill. The male swan is called a cob, the female, a pen, and the young, cygnet. The female is slightly smaller than the male, and her knob is less pronounced.

Sand Bath ~ Note the grains of sand around the swan’s bill (click photo for larger view); the swan appeared to be using the sand as an aid in cleaning it’s feathers.

Wool & Grant gimmesound Artist of the Week


Peter introduces Wool & Grant, gimmesound’s artist of the week.  Ina May Wool (who had a band with Gloucester’s legendary Dave Brown in the mid 70’s) and Bev Grant have joined forces to create extraordinary music.  Check them out here.

And be sure to see them on Local Music Seen with Allen Estes this Wednesday at 6:30pm on Cape Ann TV Channel 12.

Tonight head over to the Rhumb Line for the Bandit Kings Open Jam.  There is a lot of music happening this week so plan ahead check out the schedule here.

Quote of the Week from Greg Bover

“The statistics on sanity are that one American in four suffers from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they are okay, it’s you.”

  Rita Mae Brown  (1944-     )

After obtaining degrees in cinematography, classics and English, Brown went on to doctorates in literature and political science. She began her writing career as a poet but gained much notoriety for her first novel Rubyfruit Jungle in 1973, which dealt with lesbian themes in an unusually frank manner for the time. Since the sixties she has been active in the fight for racial and gender equality, and was an administrator in the National Organization for Women for several years. She continues to write in the mystery genre, to ride to the hounds, and to play polo.

Greg Bover


Gregory R. Bover
VP Operations, Project Manager
C. B. Fisk, Inc
978 283 1909

Former Gloucester Music Teacher Nominated for a Grammy!

About a month ago Debbie and Friends played at the Old Sloop Coffee House in Rockport, and put on a really great show for the kids. It turns out that Debbie used to be a music teacher from the Gloucester Public Schools – primarily at West Parish from 1987-1991. She then taught in Manchester from 1991-1993 before moving on to bigger and better things – like having a song on an album about bullying called “All About Bullies…Big and Small” that was nominated for a Grammy in 2011! The song is called “Walk Away”. Watch the video here:

Now she’s a pretty major talent in the world of Children’s Entertainment and has a wonderful repertoire of original music that engages kids that makes them want to sing and dance. Her videos are great, and cover some familiar ground by telling favorite children’s stories with music. Check out her You Tube channel here:

 Check it out! >

Bill O’Connor
North Shore Kid