|SS Stephen Hopkins|
Picture of Stephen Hopkins at her launch.
|Name:||SS Stephen Hopkins|
|Builder:||Permanente Metals Corporation|
|Fate:||Sunk in battle September 27, 1942|
|Class & type:||Liberty ship|
|Displacement:||7,181 gross tons|
|Length:||441.5 ft (135 m)|
|Beam:||57 ft (17 m)|
|Draught:||27.75 ft (8 m)|
|Propulsion:||triple expansion, 2,500 ihp (1,860 kW)|
|Speed:||11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)|
|Armament:||1 × 4 in (102 mm)/50 caliber gun (Mark 9) 2 × 37 mm cannon; 6 machine guns|
She was built at the Permanente Metals Corporation (Kaiser) shipyards in Richmond, California. Her namesake was Stephen Hopkins, a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Rhode Island.
Action of 27 September 1942
She completed her first cargo run, but never made it home. On September 27, 1942, en route from Cape Town to Surinam, she encountered the heavily armed German commerce raider Stier and her tender the Tannenfels with one machine gun. Because of fog, the ships were only two miles (3 km) apart when they sighted each other.
Ordered to stop, the Stephen Hopkins refused to surrender, and the Stier opened fire. Although greatly outgunned, the crew of the Hopkins fought back, replacing the crew of the ship's lone 4 inch (102 mm) gun with volunteers as they fell. The fight was fierce and short, and by its end both ships were wrecks.
The Stephen Hopkins sank at 10:00. The Stier, too heavily damaged to continue its voyage, was scuttled by its crew less than two hours later. Most of the crew of the Hopkins died, including captain Paul Buck. The survivors drifted on a lifeboat for a month before reaching shore in Brazil.
Captain Buck was posthumously awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for his actions. So was US Merchant Marine Academy cadet Edwin Joseph O'Hara, who single-handedly fired the last shots from the ship's 4-inch gun. O'Hara was the second cadet to receive this award, and the first to receive it posthumously. Navy reservist Lt. (j.g.) Kenneth Martin Willett, gun boss for the 4-inch gun, was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.
The Liberty ships SS Paul Buck, SS Edwin Joseph O'Hara, and SS Richard Moczkowski, and the destroyer escort USS Kenneth M. Willett (DE-354) were named in honor of crew members of the Stephen Hopkins, and SS Stephen Hopkins II in honor of the ship itself.
- Campbell 1985 p.143
- Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.
- The Gallant Liberty Ship SS Stephen Hopkins Sinks a German Raider from American Merchant Marine at War – U.S. Maritime Service Veterans
- Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia from Houghton Mifflin.
- Tribute to Paul Buck and an account of the battle.
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