Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Service to honor anniversary Tues.

The first American merchant ship to be attacked by the Japanese during World War II broke apart on the sea stacks of Crescent City 70 years ago.

Many Del Norters already know the story of the S.S. Emidio, which was attacked 200 miles north of San Francisco by a Japanese submarine.

A ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of this attack will be held at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Beachfront Park, next to a section of the S.S. Emidio's hull, which marks where the ship's bow landed in the harbor.

"It's not really too well known that the Japanese had submarines

working on the coast in the weeks immediately following Pearl Harbor,"

said Guy Towers, president of the St. George Reef Lighthouse

Preservation Society, which is hosting the event.

The history of the ship will be shared with presentations by

representatives of the Merchant Marine Association, the city, veterans

groups and members of the lighthouse society.

The S.S. Emidio was a general petroleum tanker. It was tracked by a

Japanese submarine on Dec. 20, 1941. After the ship spotted the

submarine, it tried to maneuver out of harm's way, but the sub was too

swift. Five of the sub's six 5 1/2-inch shells hit the target, damaging

several lifeboats, taking out the tanker's radio and knocking three

sailors overboard.

The radioman was able to send a distresss call before the radio was

damaged, and a U.S. Navy patrol bomber arrived, sending the sub below

the surface.

The captain and most of the crew abandoned ship and started searching

for the overboard men.

When the bomber disappeared, the sub resurfaced and shot a torpedo at

the tanker, drowning two of the 11 men still on board. The two

lifeboats recovered the nine others.

In all, five men died in the attack.

The Emidio did not sink, but drifted north to Crescent City, where it

garnered much attention from locals.

Since 2007, the lighthouse society has been working on the memorial

site, refurbishing the Emidio's hull remains and installing a new flag

pole and Merchant Marine banner.

The event will also mark the release of a series of stamps honoring

the Merchant Marines. Commemorative envelopes will be postmarked and

released as a "First Day of Issue" and sold for $7.

If there is bad weather, the event will be rescheduled for after the

holidays.

The public is invited. For more information, contact Guy Towers at

707-464-8299.

Reach Adam Spencer at aspencer@triplicate.com .

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