Saint Simons Island, GA

The Day World War II Came to Georgia: German U-Boats Sink Oil Tankers Off St. Simons Island on April 8, 1942

DeanLand

Just off the coast of St. Simons Island during the night of April 8, 1942, a darkened ship slid silently through calm waters on a dark night, silhouetted against the lights of the island. The oil tanker SS Oklahoma was making a delivery run, sailing north loaded with oil from a refinery in Louisiana.

Suddenly, just after midnight, an explosion erupted, as a torpedo struck the Oklahoma near the engine room. An hour later, the German submarine U-143 found the SS Baton Rouge nearby, sinking it also. Before the U-123 fled south, a third ship, steamship SS Esparta, also was sunk, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

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The Home Front Museum on St. Simons Islands recounts the story of German U-Boat attacks on April 8, 1942Photo: DeanLand/ OurTravelCafe.com

The explosions shattered windows on St. Simons. Rescued crew members were sheltered at the Coast Guard Station on St. Simons Island. Twenty-two sailors were dead, and five of the unidentified would be buried at Brunswick's Palmetto Cemetery in a grave marked "Unknown Seaman -- 1942."

World War II had come to Georgia, and rumors spread that German troops were landing on the coast, according to contemporary newspaper reports.

Today, the story of those attacks and other stories of Georgia's role in World War II are memorialized in multiple museums around the state. On St. Simons Island, the Home Front Museum occupies the former Coast Guard Station and houses relics, photos and verbal history from those dark days in the 1940s.

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The SS Oklahoma, an oil tanker traveling off the coast of St. Simons, was the first ship sunk on April 8, 1942Photo: Standard Oil Company, 1946

A project of the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, the vintage 1950 Coast Guard station houses an outstanding museum that documents all the community activities undertaken in support of the World War II effort. Filled with immersive galleries and interactive exhibits, visitors of all ages can pilot a blimp, spot airplanes and learn about the 99 “Liberty Ships” built at the shipyards in neighboring Brunswick.

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A life ring, the ships bell and other artifacts from the Esso Baton Rouge are on display at the Homefront MuseumPhoto: DeanLand / OurTravelCafe.com

For information on the Home Front Museum and other activities on St. Simon's Island, visit OurTravelCafe.com

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I'm a trained journalist, global traveler and retired business executive who worked for more than 20 years with some of the world's best and largest restaurant enterprises. I left the business world behind, living in Northwest Georgia and writing about avocations including outdoor excursions, family-friendly travel, road trips, exploration ideas for active seniors and some of my community passions. I've traveled to 47 states and nearly as many countries, and I'm still counting up. I'm a traveler, hiker, cyclist, blogger, marketing consultant, community volunteer and local high school band nerd who previously has lived in Florida, Ohio, Indiana and Mississippi. I'm a South Louisiana-born French Cajun whose great-grandparents were sugar farmers, bar owners and reputed bootleggers. My upbringing in food-rich Louisiana and my restaurant industry career affirmed my status as an over-qualified eater. That also inspired the name of my blog, OurTravelCafe.com. There, I offer up a complete menu of our my own experiences, explorations and adventures, organized by geography and always sprinkled with some spicy, tasty tidbits and food notes.

Acworth, GA
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