SS City of Flint (1919)

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Name: City of Flint
Builder: American International Shipbuilding[1]
Yard number: 1510[1]
Launched: 27 December 1919[1]
Completed: 28 February 1920[1]
Fate: Sunk by U-575, 23 January 1943
General characteristics
Class & type: Design 1022[1]
Tonnage: 4,963 tons[1]

SS City of Flint, a Hog Islander freighter of the United States Merchant Marine, was the first American ship captured by the Germans during World War II.

The Athenia[edit]

The City of Flint, under the command of Captain Joseph A. Gainard, first became involved in the war when she rescued 200 survivors of the torpedoed British passenger liner SS Athenia on 3 September 1939. The Athenia had been torpedoed by the German submarine U-30 (1936) that afternoon, and sent out a distress signal. Several ships responded, including the City of Flint.

The Captain of HMS Electra, LCDR Sammy A. Buss, took charge as Senior Officer Present. He sent the destroyer HMS Fame on an anti-submarine sweep of the area, while Electra, another destroyer HMS Escort, the Swedish yacht Southern Cross, the Norwegian cargo ship Knute Nelson, and the City of Flint rescued the survivors. Between the ships, about 980 passengers and crew were rescued. 112 people were lost, and Athenia sank the next morning.[citation needed]


In October 1939, City of Flint was carrying a cargo of tractors, grain and fruit to Britain. On 9 October, the German pocket battleship Deutschland seized the City of Flint, declaring her cargo to be contraband and the ship a prize of war. A German prize crew was put on board the ship to sail her back to Germany.[2]

To avoid the Royal Navy, the prize crew headed for Tromsø, arriving on 20 October 1939. The Norwegians, neutral at the time and disturbed by the sinking of the merchant SS Lorentz W. Hansen, refused entry to the Germans, giving them 24 hours to leave. The Norwegian destroyer HNoMS Sleipner escorted the City of Flint out of Norwegian territorial waters at 1620hrs the next day.[3]

The prize crew then sailed for Murmansk, claiming havarie (the privilege of sanctuary for damage caused at sea). The ship lay in Murmansk harbor under the control of the German prize crew for several days and was eventually sent out by the Russians, who stated that if the Germans claimed havarie, the American crew could not be prisoners of war.[citation needed]

In the several weeks that elapsed, the United States ordered many US merchant ships to register with other countries, so as to continue supporting the Allies without violating the US's nominal neutrality. The Royal Navy began closing on the captured ship.[citation needed]

The prize crew then tried Norway again, the port of Haugesund. The Norwegian government again refused entry, describing the German crew as kidnappers.[citation needed] The approaching Royal Navy left the prize crew no choice, though; on 3 November they entered the harbor.

The ship anchored in Norway, and no one could claim the ship was making her right for passage. By consequence the Norwegian Admiralty dispatched the minelayer HNoMS Olav Tryggvason and boarded the City of Flint with its second in command, captain B. Dingsør and thirty armed sailors, who on 6 November returned City of Flint to Captain Gainard's command. He unloaded his cargo in Bergen and set sail in ballast for the US. The German prize crew was interned at Kongsvinger Fortress.

City of Flint continued in service in the Atlantic until she was sunk on 23 January 1943 by the German submarine U-575.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "City of Flint (2219614)". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 24 May 2011. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Bjørnsson, Nils (1994). Å være eller ikke være – Under orlogsflagget i den annen verdenskrig (in Norwegian). Haakonsvern: Sjømilitære Samfund ved Forlaget Norsk Tidsskrift for Sjøvesen. p. 23. ISBN 82-990969-3-6. 
  3. ^ Steen, Erik Anker (1954). Norges sjøkrig 1940–1945. Bd. 1, Sjøforsvarets nøytralitetsvern 1939–1940: Tysklands og vestmaktenes planer og forberedelser for en Norgeaksjon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Gyldendal. pp. 38–42. OCLC 186039825. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°47′N 31°10′W / 34.783°N 31.167°W / 34.783; -31.167