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SS Leopoldville Fallen Remembered

763 US WWII fallen were lost when SS Leopoldville sank on Christmas Eve 1944. 
We are telling the stories of all of them.

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Little known Christmas Eve sinking of SS Leopoldville claimed 763 American lives

The SS Leopoldville, a converted 11,500 ton Belgium passenger ship, left the harbor of Southampton on December 24, 1944, with over 2,000 men of the 66th Infantry Division. Just five miles from its destination of Cherbourg, she was torpedoed by the U-486. HMS Brilliant came alongside to rescue as many soldiers as possible. She was only able to take 500 but when she returned, nothing was left. Of the 2,235 souls it was presumed that 515 went down with the ship. Another 248 will die from injuries which include hypothermia. 


Many of the men from the 262 Medical Department, on the sinking ship, stayed to care for the wounded instead of being rescued. From the medical group there were only eight survivors, of which three of them needed to be hospitalized. 19 bodies from the medical detachment were never found.


Surviving soldiers of the 66th were ordered not to tell anyone back home about the incident. Their mail was heavily censored and after the war they were told if they mentioned anything their benefits would be cancelled. The documents about the attack remained classified until 1996.


Volunteers with Stories Behind the Stars wrote the stories of all 763 Americans lost in the sinking.

Read some of these stories here:

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SGT Richard A. Claybrook

Story by Thomas La Padula, New York

A Princeton University graduate from a well-to-to family who worked as a broker. Married the day before he joined the army. Read full story here.

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2LT Donald A. Baker

Story by Judith Skillings, Pennsylvania

Married truck driver from Maine with two children. Read full story here.

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PVT George Washington Paden

Story by John Rutherford, Virginia

Joined Army at age 37. Father of two. Gave life jacket to other soldier.

Read full story here.

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TSGT Luther M. Lawrence

Story by Anna Cross, Minnesota

Twenty year old who stayed on ship to help those trapped below decks.

Read full story here.

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CPT Harold Crain

Story by Jack Chisum, Arizona

West Point graduate. Posthumously awarded Silver Star for saving many men from his company.

Read full story here.

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PVT James S. Scribner

Story by John Rutherford, Virginia

Nineteen year old husband and father who stayed on ship to rescue men trapped below decks.

Read full story here.

All of the SS Leopoldville US Army fallen stories can be found on Fold3.

 See here.
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Download the Find A Grave smartphone app to read these stories at gravesites


Thanks to our
volunteer story writers

John Avis, Project Director 

John Avis, New Jersey

Thomas Bowers, Virginia

Jack Chisum, Arizona

Anna Cross, Minnesota

Molly Green

Mary Hanjes, Georgia

John Haskins, Texas

Tom La Padula, New York

Chris Moyer, Pennsylvania

Elizabeth Shaw, South Carolina

Judith Skillings, Pennsylvania

John Rutherford, Virginia

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