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To Ravnaas on the "Ships starting with R" page.
Owner: Agdesidens Rederi A/S
Built in Gothenburg in 1931.
Captain during the war was Thomas Eilertsen.
Related items on this website:
As will be seen when going to Page 1 above, Ravnaas was in Portland, Oregon when war broke out in Norway on Apr. 9-1940. Her 1941 voyages also start on this document and continue on Page 2.
Ravnaas departed Calcutta on Nov. 19-1941 bound for San Fransisco via Singapore and Miri (Borneo) with general cargo, including rubber. She had no armament. She arrived Singapore on Nov. 27 and after having taken on board some more cargo she left again for Miri the next day, with arrival on Dec. 2, leaving around midnight.
In the morning of Dec. 8*, when about 250 n. miles east of the southernmost point of the island Samar, Philippines she was bombed and shelled by Japanese aircraft. The aircraft came back several times, 8 bombs were dropped, and though there were no direct hits, the first 2 bombs fell so close by amidships on the port side that she developed a leak in the engine room, and she immediately started to sink, while listing to port.
2 of her crew members received minor injuries from shrapnel, namely Able Seaman Ole Throgrimsen and Ordinary Seaman Ragnvald Myhre (see also this Guestbook message). All 28 got in 2 lifeboats, 14 in each, and after about 3 days they reached Surigao (Mindanao) where the injured were given medical care. On Dec. 12 they went across to Cebu with a local ship, where they were able to get in touch with the Norwegian consul who in turn contacted Nortraship in New York in order to get some money transferred for them. 2 Norwegian ships were ready for departure at Cebu, but there wasn't enough time for them to get passage on any of these, so they ended up staying there while awaiting transport, though this never materialized. A couple of days after arrival Cebu the hotel in town was closed down due to continuous aircraft attacks, so the captain had to rent a house for them all to stay in.
When the Japanese forces attacked on Apr. 10-1942 Captain Eilertsen and most of his crew hid in the mountains in several groups. The captain's group had 5-6 men to start with, but later increased to 13. After a couple of weeks 2 men gave themselves up to the Japanese in Cebu, while the others remained together for a while longer, assisted by the locals and by the American military authorities. After about 4 weeks, 3rd Engineer Sigbjørn Olsen, who was 1 of the 2 who had given themselves up, returned to the camp with a message from the Japanese that they all had to give themselves up, adding that if they did so they would most probably be freed. The captain had no desire to surrender, but some of the others decided to do so, and when they had left with the 3rd engineer only 3 men remained with the captain. They withdrew further into the mountains where 4 others from Ravnaas were staying and where they had received supplies from the Americans. However, shortly afterwards they received a message from the commander of the American forces at Sydlon that he advised everyone to give themselves up, so the captain and the others from Ravnaas who were with him went down to Cebu where they were interned on May 17.
While at the camp in Cebu the Japanese continuously tried to get the seamen to man their coastal vessels, and some were forced to comply under threat, as was the case with 1st Mate Kristen Eltvedt and 1st engineer Hans Svendsen (or possibly 2nd Engineer Kjell Christensen - or both?) who did not return to the camp after that. They later came to Leyte after having escaped from Cebu. On Dec. 14 those who were in the camp at Cebu were moved to Santo Tomás, Manila, later to Los Baños and weren't freed until the Americans returned in Febr.-1945. See also Santo Tomás Artifacts and the Santo Tomás Newsletter - An 8 page newsletter containing info such as a chronological timeline, description of camp etc.
Meanwhile, Carpenter Jens Kristian Jensen (age 32 - see also this Guestbook message) and Ordinary Seaman Brynjolv Baardson (age 20) had volunteered their services to the American Army on Jan. 7-1942. They fought with them in the jungle for a while until they were all taken prisoners by the Japanese in May-1942. Baardson later came to the US, having the rank of captain in the US Army, and went on to become an American citizen. He wrote a book about his experiences as an American soldier and subsequent imprisonment, published in 1990 under the title "Kiotskee!", a word many a former prisoner will probably remember. Here's a Guestbook message from his grandson.
Related external link:
Again, see crew list.
24 men from Ravnaas had been interned, 4 managed to escape to the mountains together with some Philippinoes. They were Ordinary Seamen Tore Knudsen and Ragnvald Myhre, Able Seaman Ole Torgrimsen and Mechanic Arne Hansen. They hid in the mountains for about 3 weeks, then decided to steal some canoes to get away to the neighbouring island, but these vessels turned out to be useless so the attempt had to be abandoned. R. Myhre had a gun that an American had given him earlier before giving himself up to the Japanese. This gun was now exchanged for a sailboat owned by a native, and after 2 days of sailing they reached Negros, where they met other escapees, and for a few months they lived in the jungle with 2 American families. Eventually, the Japanese found out about them, but they managed to get away at the last moment, then split up into two separate groups, in order to find food more easily. On their regular menu were roots, fruit and monkeys. They had no shoes, so their feet were in a terrible state. Also, R. Myhre had an injured leg from the bombing of the ship, and this plagued him with each step he took. They wandered around in the jungle for about 6 months, but the Japanese were everywhere and again they had to try to get away.
Rumours reached them that a guerilla group had been formed on Mindanao, the large, southernmost island in the Philippines, so T. Knudsen and A. Hansen went there. The other 2 later managed to find a small boat and with the intent of getting to a nearby island to possibly find a larger boat in which to get to Mindanao, they set out one dark night, together with an American, but the boat capsized. The American was able to swim ashore to summon help for the other 2 who had spent 6 hours in the water. With the assistance of some natives they finally managed to get across to Mindanao, only to find that the guerilla group's headquarters had been attacked by the Japanese, forcing its members to scatter in the jungle. After a few weeks they met an American colonel who had refused to give himself up when the Philippines were taken and had subsequently formed this group. The leaders were European and American, while the "soldiers" were natives, and they carried out extensive anti-Japanese sabotage operations. The Norwegians volunteered their services, and to their surprise and joy they now met their 2 friends Tore and Arne, whom they hadn't seen for 6 months. However, they were separated again when the former 2 were sent to Leyte to assist an American responsible for another group there. But before they could get that far, they both came down with malaria, and were taken to a native camp in the jungle, where R. Myhre stayed for 2 months, extremely ill.
When they found out there were some Americans on the north point of Mindanao who were in radio contact with Australia, they managed, through inhumane efforts, to reach them. This group consisted of Philippino women and men under the leadership of the American Wendell W. Fertig who had been a mining engineer on the Philippines before the war, and therefore knew the culture and the area very well. On Nov. 16-1943, after 2 years in the jungle hiding from the Japanese as well as headhunters, they were picked up by a submarine and landed at Darwin 9 days later, after having been attacked en route by 6 American warships (Guri Hjeltnes says Arne Hansen was also with them when they were evacuated, so it's possible the other 2 Norwegians had already joined up with that particular group?). The next morning (Nov. 23?) they were taken by plane to the American military hospital at Brisbane (APO 923), where Myhre stayed for 4 months, while Torgrimsen had recovered sufficiently to be discharged on Dec. 14. He arrived Sydney on Febr. 3-1944 where he was able to get in touch with the Norwegian authorities. He still wasn't a 100 % well, but he was well taken care of by a Norwegian family.
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Torgrimsen and Myhre joined M/S Troja in May of 1944 while Hansen joined M/T Seirstad in June-1944. Tore Knudsen, meanwhile, stayed with the guerillas on Mindanao, promoted to lieutenant, then captain in the American Army. Eventually, in the spring of 1945 Knudsen was also evacuated when he became sick with Tuberculosis. In the 1948 edition of her book "Tusen norske skip" Lise Lindbæk included an interview she had with Tore Knudsen after the war. He had arrived San Francisco on a hospital ship from the Philippines the day before this interview took place, and had been admitted to Presidio Hospital. Like his shipmate Brynjolv Baardson, he later became an American citizen. The book was originally published in New York in 1943, but the 2nd edition has a few extra chapters. It was translated to English by Nora Solum in 1969, and the English version has most of the original chapters in it (though not the interview with Tore Knudsen), as well as some extra stories based on Lise Lindbæk's manuscripts, which are not included in the Norwegian version. See My sources for information on how to find a copy (link at bottom of this page).
As mentioned under British Columbia Express, that ship was the first non-American ship to arrive at Bataan in March-1945. Some seamen in a prison camp outside of Manila (Santo Tomás) heard about her arrival, and with the help of a war correspondent they were allowed to visit the ship. The captain of British Columbia Express, Alf Paulsen could hardly believe his eyes when he realized one of them was his childhood friend and colleague, Captain Thomas Eilertsen of Ravnaas. It took him a while to recognize him; he had lost 48 kg. Captain Paulsen managed to arrange passage to Australia on board his ship for some of the prisoners, but en route she was redirected to Hollandia to pick up more troops for Manila, so the former prisoners had to disembark and were placed in Camp Walker, an American camp. When he again returned to Hollandia he found they were still there, and for the first time he took advantage of his friendship with General MacArthur (see British Columbia Express), and sent him a telegram about the plight of his friends. Only a few days later the Norwegian sailors were on their way to the U.S.A. on the American Liberty ship S. I. Reid (Note: I cannot find a Liberty ship by this name), arriving San Francisco on May 8-1945, on the very day Norway was liberated.
Here's a picture of some of Ravnaas' crew in San Francisco. I believe it's taken near the Norwegian Seamen's Home, where they stayed before being sent to New York, then home to Norway on Thorshammer, leaving New York for Larvik on June 5. Captain Eilertsen is in the middle of the picture (dark trousers). The maritime hearings were held in New York on May 22-1945, with Captain Eilertsen, 2nd Mate Knud S. Pedersen, Electrician Hans Byholt, and Ordinary Seaman Erling B. Pedersen appearing. (A complete crew list is available on this page). According to the captain's statement at the hearings 18 of Ravnaas' crew members had arrived the U.S. with him.
In the book "Sjøfolk i krig" by Leif M. Bjørkelund, based on interviews with seamen 50 years after the war ended there's a very interesting story included, told by one of the able seamen on Ravnaas at the time, Kristian Minde. He's also mentioned with the rest of the crew on my Prisoners of War page. (Keep in mind that this story was told from memory, 50 years after the fact. I have the author's permission to add summaries of the stories in the book to this site).
K. Minde places the Japanese air attack on Dec. 7-1941, saying that 2 bombs were dropped, hitting the sea nearby, injuring one of the men (shrapnel in the foot. This was Ragnvald Myhre). The explosion was so powerful that it knocked a large hole in the side of the ship. They were immediately ordered to ready the lifeboats, but the aircraft returned and dropped 2 more bombs which also landed in the sea. Due to the continuous machine gun fire (he says there was only 1 plane) the men had to leave the partially lowered boat and run across to the other side of the ship. Once they were again in the boats and some distance away the aircraft returned and dropped another couple of bombs which landed between the boats and the ship. When they rowed away in 2 lifeboats Ravnaas was listing, but they didn't stay to watch her sink.
Upon arrival Surigao they were placed in a hotel, and a couple of days later they travelled by passenger vessel to Cebu. When the Japanese invaded on Apr. 9(?) they escaped to the mountains where they joined some Philippinos and Americans. He says that after about a week 2 of the crew returned to Cebu, were captured by the Japanese but freed again and returned to the mountains with a message for the rest of them to come down, otherwise they would be shot. Instead they withdrew further into the mountains, believing that the Americans would soon come and free them.
Minde says that when they eventually did come down from the mountains on May 17 they were not bothered by the Japanese. They were placed in a schoolhouse at first, but after they had proclaimed their loyalty to London rather than to Quisling they were interned at Junior College, then transferred to Philippino Golf Club in Cebu where they stayed (in bamboo huts) until Christmas 1942, at which time they were transported to Manila on an old Japanese ship along with some Philippino prisoners, and were subsequently placed in the Santo Tomás camp (former university). Fortunately, they only had to endure the horrible conditions on board the ship for 3 1/2 days. He says the camp had a tall brick wall around it, and within the periphery of that wall poles with barbed wire had been erected, with guard huts at each corner. He describes it as a large camp, 600 meters each direction, with close to 4000 prisoners; men, women and children of all nationalities, mostly civilian Americans who had lived on the Philippines, as well as 500-600 English and others who had been evacuated from Shanghai (non civilians were housed in camps outside of town according to Minde). The only Norwegians were the men from Ravnaas. He says that towards the end of captivity they were all so skinny that they carried pillows with them when they moved about, so that they could sit more comfortably.
Minde says that some of the sailors were put to work on Philippino vessels in service along the coast. When they went ashore they were equipped with arm bands with their names on them, but later on, contact with the outside world stopped completely. At first, those who had a family outside the camp, for instance Americans who had married Philippino women and had their wives and children outside had food brought to them, but this was stopped towards the end of the war. In the beginning they had also received newspapers, and though these were censored they were able to pick up some news on how the war was going by "reading between the lines". News were sometimes smuggled in with the food delivered to the camp by the Philippinoes, for instance hidden in fried fish. They received some Red Cross parcels around Christmas 1944, including 25 kg of food items per man, which helped considerably. The last Christmas in Manila 10 men were taken outside and shot, having tried to exert pressure on the Japanese to give them more food. Another time 3 English sailors escaped, but when they went to a bar in Manila they were reported to the Japanese authorities and promptly shot.
Minde remembers the first American bombing raids in Sept.-1944, and how they would stand in the window and watch them bomb the harbour and the airport outside Manila. He says some of the interned prisoners ended up as soldiers in the American invasion forces, having been part of the "exhange program" in which Japanese diplomats in America were exchanged for prisoners (the Swedish ship M/S Gripsholm was used for this purpose; ref. external link below). Notices had been put up on the walls at Santo Tomás declaring that a certain number of prisoners were to be sent back to the U.S. At one point there was talk of the Norwegians being included, but that never materialized. He also remembers the morning of Febr. 3 when an aircraft came in over the university area and dropped a small case (the kind that holds reading glasses) containing a note saying to prepare for a party that night. That evening they heard tanks approaching, and when the prisoners realized they were American the cheering was deafening. The Japanese refused to give in and it took 3 days before they did so. According to Minde he and his shipmates stayed in the camp for a while, but were later sent out on a ship.
Minde's story confirms the details I have added under the paragraph with the heading "Some additional tidbits related to Ravnaas" above, saying that British Columbia Express arrived in the harbour after Manila had been freed. By then the Norwegians had been placed in a house. He says the captain was a good friend of Ravnaas' captain, and it was arranged for them to be taken to Australia aboard British Columbia Express, but on arrival New Guinea the ship was ordered back to Manila so the Norwegians had to be placed in an American military camp meanwhile. After about 3 weeks a Liberty ship stopped by en route from Manila, picked them up and took them to San Francisco where they arrived May 8-1945, as mentioned.
2 crew members from Ravnaas are still alive when this is written.
Some sources say that Ravnaas was raised by the Japanese in 1942, renamed Ikutagawa Maru and sunk on Jan. 12-1945 by USN carrier-based aircraft, 10 45 03N 106 43 29E - however, this appears to have been another Ikutagawa Maru, according to a thread on my Ship Forum, starting here. In other words, it looks like Ravnaas was not raised by the Japanese.
Related external links:
Gripsholm - Has more about the exchange and repatriation program.
Hyperwar - The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II by Robert J. Cressman. Linked to 1945. Position given in the text under Jan. 12 for the sinking of Ikutagawa Maru by TF 38 planes is 10 20N 107 50E, but again, note that this was not the ex Ravnaas.
Back to Ravnaas on the "Ships starting with R" page.
The text on this page was compiled with the help of: "Nortraships flate", J. R. Hegland, "Handelsflåten i krig" Book 4, Guri Hjeltnes, "Sjøfolk i krig", Leif M. Bjørkelund, "Tusen norske skip", Lise Lindbæk, misc. issues of the Norwegian magazine "Krigsseileren", E-mails from Roger Mansell, E-mails from Ragnvald Myhre's son Ronald, "Sjøforklaringer fra 2. verdenskrig", Norwegian Maritime Museum, Volume II. (My sources page has more information on the books listed here).