USAT William Dawes, 7,176 gross tons, under the command of Captain Froberg, was one of 5 Liberty Ships carrying troops and cargo from Adelaide to Brisbane. Its cargo included ammunition, army stores, 82 quarter ton jeeps, 72 half-ton pickups, 60 one-ton trailers, 14 cargo trucks, 12 ambulances, 12 half-track vehicles and 33 half-ton CPR's.

At 5:30am on 22 July 1942, while 12 miles off Tathra, New South Wales, USAT William Dawes, was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-11 during its journey from Adelaide to Brisbane. The first torpedo struck on the port side and blew the rudder off and wrecked the stern which later separated. The ship caught fire and several explosions occurred. The ship was eventually abandoned. Shortly before dawn the Japanese submarine I-11 surfaced about 1,500 yards from the ship and submerged immediately firing another torpedo which struck the ship aft. The ship caught fire and eventually sunk at about 4:30pm.

25 year old Sergeant Gerald O. Cable, Service Company, 126th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Division, from Michigan. Sergeant Cable had volunteered during the voyage to be an ammunition passer with the US Navy gun crew. Sergeant Gerald O. Cable and  other gun crew members were killed in the attack. When the 32nd Infantry Division moved into their new camp at Tamborine they called it Camp Cable after the late Gerald O. Cable.

An RAAF Beaufort bomber spotted the I-11 on the surface about 3 miles south of the burning USAT William Dawes and dropped a pattern of bombs as the I-11 submerged. The wreck of USAT William Dawes has been located by divers using hook-up information from local fishermen. It now lies in 140 metres of water.


Operations Record Book V.A.O.C. Central Control, Sydney
20 / 7 / 42
Submarine sighted by Mr. Lattar, fishery inspector at Batemans Bay, reported by Moruya Control Post to H.Q. Intelligence. Test calls made to certain light houses by "air flash", on request of Commander Nickson A.C.H.

21 / 7 /42 Further tests as above carried out satisfactorily. Two submarines sighted off Wreck Bay, reported to H.Q. Intelligence.

22 / 7 / 42 Ship on fire reported from Moruya off Tathra Heads. Ship was burnt out from stern to midships. Passed to H.Q. Intelligence. Moruya Control arranged 60 ft. launch to go to scene of disaster - this ship was torpedoed. Moruya reported two trawlers standing by the burning ship. Tathra advised four boatloads of survivors leaving ship. Moruya now report ship was the "William Dawes". Gun crew killed, total five dead, several injured. Passed to H.Q. Intelligence.



"World War Two Shipwrecks and Submarine Attacks in NSW Waters 1940 - 1944", Office of Environment & Heritage, NSW Government


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This page first produced 8 March 2021

This page last updated 11 March 2021