The Kassandra Louloudis
Sunk March 17th, 1942
feet Length, 52 feet Beam, 28 feet Depth
Owner: Goulandris Brothers - British Ministry of Shipping
Builder: W. Gray & Company, Ltd, West Hartlepool, England
Depth: 80 feet
The new moon night is
black as ink,
Off Hatteras the
While sadly Roosevelt
counts score –
Some fifty thousand
tons – by MOHR!
After composing this clever couplet, Kapitanleutnant Jochen Mohr (U-124)
radioed it to the German Command as notification of his success in American
waters off the coast of Cape Hatteras. But not all of the nine vessels torpedoed by U-124 were sunk
and not all were tankers. Some 5106
tons of the shipping Mohr claimed in his radio message home was for the sinking
of the Greek Freighter, SS Kassandra Louloudis.
The SS Kassandra Louloudis was owned by the Goulandris Brothers of
London, and was chartered by the British Ministry of Shipping.
Sailing from New York on March 15, 1942, she was heading south along the
coast, bound for Panama with a cargo of war materials going to the Pacific
theater. Captain Themis Millas,
master of the freighter, maintained radio silence and a zig-zag course, and by
the evening of March 17th approached the Diamond Shoals, off Cape Hatteras.
At 1750 the radioman aboard the Kassandra received an "SOS"
from the American tanker SS Acme. The
Acme, also southbound, had just been torpedoed by the U-124 and was being
abandoned by her crew. Millas
decided that being ten miles away, the Kassandra was the closest vessel to the
stricken tanker and he set a zig-zag course toward the Acme. He decided that by the time his ship arrived at the spot
where the Acme was going down he could assist the survivors as the submarine
would be well out to sea. Certainly
it was probable that the U-boat would not stay to invite reprisals after it's
attack this close to shore. Unfortunately, Millas did not know that several other vessels
(Australia, Olean, Ario) had been recently attacked in this same area.
Apparently, the U-boat lurked nearby.
The Kassandra arrived in the vicinity of the Acme in approximately one
hour, and through the poor visibility Millas could see the Acme and her
lifeboats. Nearby the Coast Guard
Cutter Dione was already attempting to pick up the survivors.
As soon as the Kassandra cleared the Diamond Shoals light buoy, the ship
turned west to a course of 270 at a speed of ten knots.
In the poor visibility, the Captain continued his lookout for other
vessels. About three miles from the
buoy he spotted a patrol plane through the haze.
Then his attention was diverted to a frightening sight;
A periscope suddenly emerged just one hundred yards off his port bow, and
almost simultaneously, he could see the frothing wake of a torpedo running
towards his ship.
Millas quickly turned his ship to starboard. The torpedo barely missed the bow - passing just twenty feet
in front of the Kassandra. At that
same moment, he realized there would be no escape as he saw a second torpedo
headed straight for his ship. The
second torpedo struck the Kassandra on the port side forward, between the No. 2
hold and the bunker hatch, three feet below the water line.
Even though the Kassandra was armed with two heavy machine guns there had
been no opportunity to use them - they were attacked without warning (though
four lookouts patrolled constantly on the bridge).
The explosion that followed was terrific and almost immediately the
Kassandra listed 40 degrees to port.
Millas ordered the ship turned toward land, some 15 miles away, but she
was doomed and would not respond. Soon
after the torpedo struck an order had been given to standby the lifeboats, and
practically all 35 of the crew were already on deck. The radioman broadcast "SOS torpedoed off Diamond
Shoals, abandoning ship", but he received no replies. The list to port worsened and the Kassandra was abandoned by
all hands. The Captain left in the
last lifeboat at 1950 hours, 35 minutes after the torpedo had struck.
Immediately after the lifeboats cleared the wreck, another airplane flew
by. Within 20 minutes the USCG
Dione arrived and retrieved Kassandra's entire crew. Not a man was lost or injured during the attack, unbelievably
fortunate for the crew; U-boat attacks often resulted in death for many merchant
The Kassandra Louloudis went to the bottom with only her masts and
funnel reveling her position on the Diamond Shoals. Her Captain, when debriefed by the Navy, stated "the
waters around Cape Hatteras and Diamond Shoals are a hotbed of enemy
marauders." How true his
words, not just for Hatteras, but for the entire east coast during 1942.
Diving the Kassandra
Ironically, the Acme was later salvaged and rebuilt in New York but the Kassandra Louloudis was declared a total loss and abandoned. She now lays upon the NE side of outer Diamond Shoals within 3 miles of the Diamond Shoals light tower. Having made many dives on this freighter I’ve found conditions on her to vary widely dependent upon the direction and speed of the prevailing current. If the current is from the northeast the wreck will be covered in predominantly green and cooler water, and if from the south the waters will generally be blue - but often the current will be greater (this is true for most all the wrecks on the Diamond Shoals) with currents sometimes topping 2.5knts. The southern current is the one usually encountered and though the current may be high, the wreck provides quite a bit of relief for the diver to hide behind once down the anchor line.
The wreck lays with the stern pointing inshore to the west and the bow toward the light tower and in the prevailing southern current the water flow is almost directly across the wreck from the starboard side to port. The Loulou may have had a port side list when she went down but she has a starboard list now and the actual starboard rail is under the sand with the port side rising above the sand for most of the length of the wreck. The stern piece is the most defined section and is quite intact with the top blades of the prop and hull sides clearly visible and rising apx 15’ from the sand. Just forward are the two stern cargo areas. In the center of the rear cargo holds are two overhanging areas created by the railroad track that was part of the deck load. Searching underneath these overhangs has produced US army mess flatware and medicine bottles for many of our divers. The center line of the ship is clearly defined by the shaft alley, the tunnel which houses the prop shaft and runs from the very stern to the engine room. Continuing forward, you will find the engine on its side and heavily encrusted in coral growth, then two large boilers. Forward of the boilers about 40’ is another pile of railroad tracks underneath of which is a collection of cargo including china dishes and stainless mess plates. Forward of this area the wreck becomes lower to the sand and covered with coral until she disappears beneath the sand. Usually, no actual bow can be seen but it has been observed after large storms barely protruding from the sand several yards forward of where the main wreck debris ends. Off the port side from the bow and running almost to the stern is a scattered debris field of beams and various cargo including jeep and truck engines, axles, batteries, spools of wire and various other junk.
Though the Loulou still contains a varied cargo of war goods, a big attraction for divers is the wide variety of life found on this wreck. We have seen incredible numbers and variety of fishes on this wreck, including manta rays, turtles, and sharks (black tips, sand tigers, nurse, and true tiger sharks have all been seen here). It is a great dive which doesn’t get visited often, so don’t miss it if conditions allow a dive on the shoals.
Some additional information and excellent photographs of this wreck site can be found at Paul Hudy's BFDC NC wreck diving site.
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Copyright © 2003 Dive Hatteras LLC Last modified: July 07, 2012