5 Replies Latest reply on Jul 12, 2019 4:03 PM by Mason Stewart

    Seeking WWII Army units and casualty lists

    Mason Stewart Wayfarer

      On March 10th, 1944, the liberty ship William B. Woods was torpedoed off the coast of Sicily. On board were 407 African American soldiers. Fifty-one of the soldiers were killed in the torpedo attack and went down with the ship when she sank. According to records, the troops had been picked up in Sicily and were being transported to Italy. I have been unable to find out the name of the Army unit that these soldiers belonged to, and I have also not been able to locate any casualty list. Any information on this African American unit appreciated.

        • Re: Seeking WWII Army units and casualty lists
          joan stachnik Scout

          HI, I did a quick search in one of the newspaper archive services. There were a few newspaper articles on the William B. Woods and the torpedo attack, but no mention of any US army personnel being on board. Only a small group of armed military (Navy?) being on the ship a the time of the attack. Not sure if this was typical for the time, not to report casualties among African-American soldiers. Or if there could be some type of error in the original source regarding US army aboard the ship? The references I found online about the William B. Woods Liberty ship all gave the same description (51 of 407 US Army killed in the attack) with none having additional information.  Hope this is of some help to you. joan

            • Re: Seeking WWII Army units and casualty lists
              Mason Stewart Wayfarer

              Thanks. As far as I know there were only two African American units in the area at the time: the 92 Infantry Division, and the 2nd Cavalry Division. I think the 2nd Cavalry Division may be the most likely, as it was being disbanded and the soldiers were being reassigned to other units. So, the troops on board may have been transitioning to another unit and, and as such, somehow not show up on any casualty lists. Documents do show that they boarded the William B. Woods in Palermo, Sicily on March 10th, 1944, bound for Naples. Official testimony from the sinking says that they were African American soldiers. It is a mystery.

              Thanks again, Mason

                • Re: Seeking WWII Army units and casualty lists
                  joan stachnik Scout

                  Hi Mason, have you considered checking if there are morning reports for the 2nd Cavalry Division? I do not know how the division was organized, but morning reports should contain transfer orders for any soldiers transitioned to another unit. That might be a starting point for you. Just a thought. Also, wondering what documents you were able to find? The newspaper articles cited the War Shipping Administration as the source for news on the sinking of the ship.  joan 

                  • Re: Seeking WWII Army units and casualty lists
                    Becca Simons Scout

                    Dear Mr. Stewart,

                     

                    Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!

                    We searched the series titled Armed Guard Files, 1934 - 1946 in the Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (Record Group 38) that includes a file unit William B. Woods, 3/30/1942 - 5/17/1944. There is a lengthy report about the incident by the Commander. For access to and/or copies of these records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) via email at archives2reference@nara.gov. In addition, we searched a series entitled Armed Guard Logs, 1943 - 1945 in the Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel (Record Group 24) but were unable to locate logs of the SS William B. Woods for 1944.

                     

                    We also searched the casualty lists of World War II U.S. Army divisions for the 92nd Infantry Division and the 2nd Cavalry Division but were unable to locate any dates of death around March 10, 1944.

                     

                    We hope this is helpful. Best of luck on your research!

                     




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                • Re: Seeking WWII Army units and casualty lists
                  Mason Stewart Wayfarer

                  Thanks all for the help and suggestions. I have sent a request to Nara in Maryland regarding the Chief of Naval Ops records of the William B. Woods. I have the Captain's testimony of the sinking, as well as all the logs (I think), but the last one. The last logbook, which might have info on the African American Soldiers on board, was put in the "overboard box" along with other classified documents and thrown overboard, per instructions just prior to her sinking. I'll see what the CNO records have. Thanks again. Mason

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