William J.


United States
Walk of life:
Biographical details:

(October 2, 1942) — Mrs. Mary Donohue, 70 years old, and a widow for 23 years, still has hopes for her sailor son, although the navy department this week announced he was lost when the oil tanker on which he served was torpedoed and sunk last January.
The tanker Astral was reported hit by a torpedo and sunk on Dec. 2, 1941, killing all 37 aboard.

"Bill was a rover and he knew his way around," she said bravely yesterday, displaying spirit that belied her age. "You can bet that if there was a way a man could save himself, Bill found it."

She explained that since not one man from the tanker had been found either dead or alive, it was possible all had made their way to some uninhabited island and were there now, unable to contact civilization.

"Or maybe they were captured and are aboard one of them submarines somewhere in the Atlantic," she suggested hopefully. "I read about that happening lately, and you never can tell."

She revealed that since news of the tanker’s sinking in Central America reached her last midwinter, even the Vatican in Rome had been enlisted in an attempt to trace the seamen in prison camps.

Nothing was learned, however, so Mrs. Donohue, who lives with her daughter and son-in-law (Tom Cafone) at Shepard place, is operating on the old theory that "no news is good news."

Navyman In Last War

The missing man’s record shows much evidence that he would, indeed, know his way around even in Nazi haunts. Thirty-nine years old, and a native of Portchester, N.Y., William J. Donohue, entered the navy during the last war and had followed the sea ever since.

He held one or two shore jobs, but his feet always "itched" and he returned to blue water, his mother said. His father was an undertaker.

He had been on his last vessel, a Socony-Vacuum Oil company tanker, for two years and was able-bodied seaman and quartermaster.

His last letter, a few penciled notes, came from Central America just before his final voyage last December. "I can’t tell you where we’re going, but I won’t be home for Christmas," he wrote.

Mrs. Donohue said Bill sometimes mentioned the danger of a tanker in wartime, "but never let that bother him." He’d been in plenty of tight spots all his life and "always knew where to go and what to do in any emergency," she declared proudly.

Never a permanent resident here, Donohue listed his mother’s address as his home and had visited here.

His loss was reported by the navy in a casualty list that included 18 New Jersey merchant seamen dead and 76 missing from Sept. 27, 1941 until the present. The national total was 2,300 dead or missing.

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