Robert F. Burns (Merchant Seaman)

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Robert F. Burns (Merchant Seaman)'s Geni Profile

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Robert F. Burns

Birthdate: (22)
Birthplace: Decatur, Georgia, United States
Death: August 29, 1942 (22) (Freighter S. S. Topa Topa torpedoed by German Sub in the Caribbean Sea)
Place of Burial: Caribbean Sea
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Burns and Leah Burns
Brother of Virginia Burns and Margaret Burns

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Robert F. Burns (Merchant Seaman)

Robert Burns was a Merchant Seaman, serving as a water tender, who died when the S. S. Topa Topa was torpedoed by a German sub (U-66) in the Caribbean on August 29, 1942 during WWII. U-66 was commanded by Kapitänleutnant Friedrich Markworth.

Robert had survived the torpedoing of two other ships in the same area unharmed. In one of these instances, he saved the life of the ship's Captain. The Liberty ship S. S. Robert F. Burns was named in his honor. It was launched in Panama City, FL. on August 29,1945 exactly three years after Robert's death.

Robert spent most of his life in Savannah, GA. He attended Marist Brother's School in Savannah and graduated from Savannah High School in 1937. He played cornet and trumpet in the ROTC band.

Robert's natural inclinations eventually lead him to the sea, first as an ordinary seaman on the Atlantic Steamship Company's S. S. Sundance. He preferred the engine room, or "black gang," and soon held papers as fireman, oiler, and water tender. At one time, he was said to be the youngest oiler on the Atlantic. He preferred what the mariners called the "deep-water" runs and circled the globe many times.

Robert was a member of the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Savannah; the American Federation of Musicians; and the Seafarers International Union.

In August 1945, Robert's parent's, Samuel and Leah Burn's, received the Mariner's Medal, accompanied by a letter of commendation written by Admiral Emory S. Land head of the United States Maritime Commission and War Shipping Administration.

Details of the sinking of the S. S. Topa Topa:

At 02.37 hours on 29 Aug 1942 the unescorted Topa Topa (Master Clarence Edward McCoy) was hit on the starboard side by two torpedoes from U-66 about 350 miles north of Cayenne, French Guiana. The vessel had been spotted at 17.23 hours the day before and her zigzag course at 12 knots prevented a first attack, but due to a rain squall they stopped zigzagging. The first torpedo struck at the #2 hatch and blew off the side of the bridge, while the second hit the #5 hatch. The cargo of gasoline drums caught fire, forcing the eight officers, 34 crewmen, 15 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 5in, one 3in, four .50cal and two .30cal guns) and three Canadian passengers to abandon ship in three lifeboats. The burning ship sank at 04.02 hours. The master, two officers, 15 crewmen and seven armed guards were lost. The chief officer was taken aboard by the U-boat, questioned and then returned to the lifeboat. The survivors were picked up the next day by the British steam merchant Clan Macinnes and landed at Port of Spain, Trinidad on 9 September.

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Robert F. Burns (Merchant Seaman)'s Timeline

October 19, 1919
Decatur, Georgia, United States
August 29, 1942
Age 22
August 29, 1942
Age 22
Caribbean Sea