SS Montebello - Sinking


The Montebello, a Union Oil Co. tanker, was torpedoed after leaving for Vancouver, British Columbia, from the small Central Coast seaport of Port San Luis.

The officers and crew were aware there had been several attacks on American shipping off the West Coast. The risk was so high that Montebello's skipper had refused to take the ship to sea and he quit. After replacing the captain with the chief mate, Olaf Eckstrom, they set off at midnight. By 5:45 am, off the coast of the small town of Cayucos, CA, just north of Morro Bay, two torpedoes hit the ship, said Dick Quincy, 91, who was a seaman on board, but one was a dud. The torpedo responsible for the sinking struck forward in the pump room and dry storage cargo hold.

The crew was unarmed, and as the men jumped into lifeboats, the submarine surfaced and fired at them with its deck gun. By 6:30 am, the ship had stood on her bow and slid under, according to a report published the next day. No one was killed. "You held your breath," Quincy said. "It was a wild time."

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