Wednesday, March 13, 2013

TFH 3/13: LTJG Joseph Feeney, USNR

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, thousands of Americans answered their nation's call to arms and volunteered for military service. Many were too old to be drafted. A lot of them were assigned to stateside non-combat roles, to free up younger men for combat service. Some did see action overseas, or as in the case of today's honoree, on the seas.

Joseph Feeney was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on May 28, 1909. About all I know about him is that at some point, he wound up with an officer's commission in the United States Naval Reserve. I'm guessing he was one of the thousands of volunteers who decided the best way they could help the United States in war was with the United States Navy.

Many civilian transport ships were armed for self-defense from aircraft, and to a lesser extent submarines; the weapons themselves were manned by US Navy sailors. On March 13, 1943, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Joseph Feeney was the naval armed guard commander aboard the tanker SS Cities Service Missouri. They were en route to Curaçao, Venezuela through the Caribbean Sea in a convoy when the ship was hit by two torpedoes fired by a Nazi German U-Boat in the early morning hours.

The first torpedo struck the Cities Service Missouri at 0458 hours. The submarine surfaced nearby after sending the second torpedo into the wounded vessel's hull, and the armed guard under Feeney's command engaged the enemy with gunfire. The second torpedo blast severely injured the thirty-three year-old "JG". Despite his blast injuries, he remained in action until the Cities Service Missouri's master ordered the sinking ship abandoned at 0640.

LTJG Joseph Feeney received the Navy Cross for his heroism aboard the stricken and sinking Cities Service Missouri.

From Military Times' Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant, Junior Grade Joseph Feeney, United States Naval Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commander of the Armed Guard Crew aboard the tanker S.S. CITIES SERVICE MISSOURI, when that ship was torpedoed and sunk in the Caribbean Sea on the night of 12 March 1943. Proceeding aft to take his station with the gun crew after the first torpedo had struck the vessel, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Feeney was suddenly hurled into the air by the force of a second torpedo hit and was severely injured. Despite the incapacitating effect of this injury, and with heroic courage, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Feeney dragged himself to the bridge, where he manned the phones to the battery and continued directing the fire of the gun until the crew reported that the ammunition had been rendered ineffectual by water, and the order to abandon ship was given. His conduct throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Navy of the United States. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

What the life of Joseph Feeney held after the sinking of the Cities Service Missouri, I was unable to determine. May the service and sacrifices of all those citizen warriors who answered their nation's call from 1941-1945 be remembered always.

Of the 46 men aboard the tanker when she was sunk, 44 survived and were rescued by the destroyer USS Biddle (DD-151). The German submarine which fired the two torpedoes at the Cities Service Missouri, U-68, herself was sunk by American aircraft from the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) on April 10, 1944 near the island of Madeira.

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