Sinking of a US Corp of Engineers Pontoon Barge - Charlie Lake, British Columbia
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 56° 16.713 W 120° 57.263
10V E 626651 N 6238963
Quick Description: The Sinking of a US Corp of Engineers Pontoon Barge Memorial overlooks Charlie Lake where the tragedy happened on May 14, 1942.
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 8/1/2021 10:19:56 AM
Waymark Code: WM14NJV
Views: 1

Long Description:

May 14, 1942
This monument is dedicated to the memory of the United States soldiers lost with the sinking of a US Corp of Engineers Pontoon Barge on May 14, 1942 at Charlie Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor
on December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved a plan to build an inland supply route from Canada to Alaska. Construction of the Alaska Highway began in March 1942 and brought -nearly 11,000 American soldiers to northern British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. As the work began, many soldiers were stationed in the Fort St. John area.

Shortly after 8 a.m. on May 14, 1942, a pontoon boat left the 341st Engineer Regiment landing at the south end of Charlie Lake to deliver equipment, supplies, and personnel to Company E's bivouac site at the north end of the lake, a distance of about 12 miles (20 km). There were seventeen men on board. Major John Marvin Turvey, in charge of the expedition, had overseen the loading of the equipment, which included a radio command car, a bulldozer, drums of oil, and other supplies.

The two-bay, three-boat raft had been built the previous day under the supervision of Lt. John Langendorf, of the 74th Engineer Company. The front compartments of the pontoons were fitted with canvas covers to keep the water out.

When they started out from the south end of the lake, the water was choppy, with one-foot (0,3 m) waves. Powered by two 22 horsepower motors, the boat proceeded north in increasingly rough water and stronger headwinds, with waves soon reaching two to three feet (0.6-0.9 m). By 11:15 a.m., the boat was about two-thirds of the way to its destination and in the middle of the lake. The men then discovered that a plug had come out of the gas line of one of the motors and gasoline was draining out. They had just rounded the headland when Major Turvey ordered a turn to the west shore. As the boat started to turn, two waves hit it in succession, flooding the right pontoon, which went under, and tipping the raft at a precarious angle. Then it settled and went under, all in less than two minutes.

A mile and a half (2.4 km) away in his cabin on the northwest shore of the lake, homesteader and trapper Gustaf Albin Hedin watched the pontoon ferry making its way up the lake as he cooked his breakfast. He checked its progress through his field glasses, returned to his stove, then checked the lake again. This time, the boat was nowhere to be seen. Instead, he saw men bobbing up and down in the water. Within two minutes, he had launched his 14-foot (4.25 m) rowboat. It took him about 15 minutes to reach the men.

At the accident scene, he found nine men afloat. They were hindered in their own efforts to rescue themselves by their heavy winter clothing and boots. Some of them couldn't swim. He hauled two survivors ashore, then returned to help the others, even though his own small boat was in danger of being swamped by the waves. Two more were rescued during the second trip, and on a third trip, he saved one more man.

The following men were rescued from the freezing waters of Charlie Lake:

PFC Pedro R. Ramirez, 39067026 74th
Engineer Company (Light Pontoon)

PFC Don P. Smethurst, 39081661
74th Engineer Company (Light Pontoon)

Pvt. James G. Eberle, 35170512
74th Engineer Company (Light Pontoon)

Pvt. Daniel P. Galli, 39085932
341st Engineer Regiment

Pvt. Robert 0. Wooldridge, 37048058
341st Engineer Regiment

A military investigation concluded that the accident was not caused by any misconduct. Gustaf Hedin received a medal from the Humane Society of Canada and was also honored by the Canadian military and the U.S. military

These memorials honor the men who tragically lost their lives on May 14, 1942 at Charlie Lake
Type of Marker: Cultural

Type of Sign: British Columbia Tourism Sign

Describe the parking that is available nearby: Parking lot

What Agency placed the marker?: The Charlie Lake Conservation Society

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