Wreck of the Morro Castle

BobJohnson

Orangedale, FL, United States

Artist's Description

#On September 8th, 1934 the Morro Castle caught fire about eight miles off shore. It was cast adrift in a heavy storm, while being towed to New York. It came to rest 100 feet form Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ. With a Loss of over 125 lives
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The SS Morro Castle was the pride of the Ward line. Back in the day Cuba was a vacation paradise and the Morro Castle transported vacationers from Cuba to New York City and back.
There was a dark side of the ship and that was that the Ward line during the depths of the Great Depression paid the crew starvations wages and fed them slop.
Many ran side businesses smuggling anything from drugs to political asylum seekers.
The Captain, Robert R. Wilmott has a tenuous grip on the crew and spent much of his time breaking up these smuggling rings.
On September 7, 1934 the four year old, 11,520-ton steamship was just six miles form New Jersey. A nasty gale appeared out of nowhere and the Captain was nowhere to be found. Turns out he was in sickbay with stomach pains and in the midst of the gale died.
First Officer William Warms took over as acting captain and did his best to steer the ship to safety.
In the middle of all of this a mysterious fire broke out on the promenade deck and was quickly declared out of control.
Warms did his best but many of the crew members headed for the lifeboats and all hell broke out. It is said that of the approximately 100 people that first reached shore in the lifeboats only 6 were passengers.
Warms was later criticized for not issuing an SOS earlier and Radioman George Rogers acting on his own sent a distress call out at 3:15 AM. He was later hailed as a hero.
It was a horrible incident and 100 of the 134 lives lost that night were passengers; many elderly.
So the investigation began as the ship smoldered off the Asbury Park shoreline and was later towed for scrap.
Many theories abounded. Was the captain poisoned since he was about to break up a smuggling ring led by no other than hero George Rogers? An official investigation declared the loss an Act of God but many believed there was much more to the story.
Hero Rogers later opened his own radio repair shop and then joined the Bayonne, NJ police force.
He was sent to prison in the 1950s for mailing a bomb to the chief of police to speed along a promotion and after his release was convicted of murdering a few of his neighbors.
Someone also discovered that he liked to play with matches and had a juvenile record that labeled him a pyromaniac.
The acting captain, William Warms, was later convicted of negligence but released along with a few other officers.
In the end some good came out of the carnage.
The US Congress created the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy to ensure that commercial sailors were properly trained and lifeboat drills became mandatory.
Rogers took his secret to the grave.
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((Scan of a Penny Post Card.))
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Wreck of the Morro Castle placed in the TOP TEN in the “Nostalgic Art and Photography” Vintage Postcards Challenge.
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