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Photo. City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-4270

Built 1939

Tonnage 5,011 / 8,560 tons

Cargo: Hides, manganese ore, coffee, and wool

Sunk 25 December 1942 by Italian submarine  Enrico Tazzoli on pos. 02º 02"S 35º 17"W

7 Dead


62 Survivors

After being built it appears as if the Dona Aurora was acquired by the WSA War Shipping Administration of the United and what date is unknown by the author and then ‘time chartered’ the vessel to De La Rama Steam Ship Corp.

The ship left Capetown, South Africa [date unknown] with master Natalio C. Ventoso, 47 crew members, 12 U.S. Navy Armed Guard, and 12 passengers, some of whom were survivors of the torpedoed American Freighter SS Excello. The Dona Aurora was transporting a mixed cargo of hides, manganese ore, coffee, and wool to Baltimore, Maryland. Well she wasn’t doing badly...steaming a zigzag course..nice leisurely sailing until about 1030 GCT on December 25, 1942, when the lookouts spotted a torpedo heading towards the ship on the port side.

Immediately the Captain ordered the wheel hard over to port, which was to put the Dona Aurora on a parallel course with the torpedo. Well that was certainly the right move on the Captain’s part, but as soon as the torpedo got abreast of the Dona Aurora it made a right turn and exploded dead on in the engine room. This explosion in the engine compartment wrecked the engines....and so the Dona Aurora was more or less ‘dead in the water.’ With this type of damage, the Captain knew he had to give the abandon ship order....and it didn’t take long for the ship to start fact it slid beneath the sea in approximately fifteen minutes.

During this time the survivors got away from the Dona Aurora in one life boat and three rafts. The life boat had 54 survivors onboard, four survivors, two crew members and two Navy Armed Guard were on the raft. After all the survivors got away from the sinking vessel the Italian Submarine Enrico Tazzoli surfaced near the one life boat with 54 survivors aboard.....which contained the master and some of the officers. An officer of the submarine addressed the individuals in the life boat asking for the Captain of the ship...then selected a mess boy and a seaman to come aboard the sub. As these two individuals started to make there way to board the submarine the Captain of the Dona Aurora went after them and informed the officer of the sub that he was the Captain, but the officer refused to believe him and pushed him back into the lifeboat.

Just after this incident the Sub Officer spotted the former Chief Officer of the Excello and decided he was the Captain. The Sub Officer then ordered the Chief Officer to come aboard his sub. Well the Chief Officer he stumbled around the lift boat from stem to stern trying to delay as much as possible. He kept this up so long the Italian officer became impatient and ordered the lifeboat away from the sub. The bad part of this whole lifeboat incident was the Italian sub never returned the two men....they were taken as prisoners......but the sub later picked up another survivor from the water....and took him as prisoner as well. So a total of three prisoners was taken from the Dona Aurora.

On the 27 of December the life boat was located by the British SS Testbank after a Navy patrol plane spotted the 50+ men and directed the rescue. Three of these wounded were transferred to the USS Moffett (DD-362). The SS Testbank landed the survivors at Port of Spain, Trinidad on January 3 1943. rd On 3 January, the USS Humbolt (AVP-21) rescued ten more men. Five other survivors reached the mouth of Pacatuba River in Brazil after thirty days on a raft. One of the men on the raft drowned trying to swim ashore. Two crew members and 1 Navy man were lost....another source reveals that seven men were lost....then another source states 7 men lost, 2 POW’s and 62 survivors. Authors Note: The figures for the number of casualties and POW’s conflict within the sources.

On top of this confusion of the number of casualties the Coast Guard has no list of any casualties and the Honor Roll at Kings Point do not list and of the names as well. If you wish further reading on this vessel and possibly a more detailed accounting try looking for the book ‘Nor Death Dismay’ by Samuel Duff McCoy. I’ve done extensive search for this book and have never been able to locate. There just may be a “casualty listing” in this publication....if MV Dona Aurora attack and sunk by Italian Sub Enrico Tazzoli 02º02"S/35º17"W anybody happens on to this book I would certainly like to have what data it has on the Dona Aurora. The Italian Sub Tazzoli was sunk in the Bay of Biscay on May 13, 1943

Author: Bud Shortridge