Tombs of Alden | Graves Registry: Linda Morgan’s longest night | Chroniclers
Italy lost its two luxury transatlantic passenger ships during World War II. The 880-foot Rex, launched in 1931, captured the prestigious Blue Riband for speed of westbound crossings in 1933 and held the record until 1935. The liner’s sister ship, the Conte di Savoia, slightly smaller , began its service in 1932.
Italy withdrew its prestigious ships from passenger transport when the war escalated in 1940. The Rex was anchored in Genoa until a bombardment of the city convinced authorities that it should be moved to a safer place. The giant ship was spotted by a Royal Air Force pilot while towed to Trieste on September 6, 1940 and was attacked by British and American planes in Caodistria Bay two days later. Flooded with rocket and cannon fire, the Rex capsized and burned in the shallows.
Conte di Savoia was moored in Venice. One side of the liner has been painted with landscape images as a camouflage. It was mistakenly set on fire by German planes in September 1943, burning for two days before being intentionally sunk to prevent capsizing. The hull was lifted in 1945 for the purpose of repairs and restoration, but plans were eventually scrapped and the ship was scrapped in 1950.
Transatlantic air travel was beginning to cast a shadow over the future of luxury passenger ships, but Italian Line was determined to reclaim a position in the still lucrative sea travel industry. The country was trying to rebuild its shattered economy and the two new ships commanded by the line would also serve as focal points of pride for a nation that had been decimated by war.
The first of the new liners is named after a 16th century Genoese admiral. Construction of the Andrea Doria (emphasis is on second syllable of first word) began at Ansaldo Shipyards in February 1950. She left her home port of Genoa on January 14, 1953 for her maiden voyage to New York.
It was considered one of the finest liners of its time with a jet black hull and brilliant white superstructure. Its only soaring funnel was painted in the Italian national colors of red, white and green. Each passenger class (first, second and tourist) had its own swimming pool and the Italian Line had spent over $ 1 million on works of art commissioned by some of the country’s most renowned designers and artisans for the interiors of the ship.
There was, however, a problem with the Andrea Doria. It was too heavy and the problem worsened when its fuel tanks ran out towards the end of a trip. She was due to dock the next morning in New York on July 25, 1956, completing her 51st westbound crossing, when the Swedish-American motor ship Stockholm emerged from a fog off Nantucket and struck the starboard side of the Doria.
The bow of the Stockholm, reinforced to navigate the icy waters of Scandinavia, penetrated 40 feet into the Italian ship. Thirty feet from the bow of the Stockholm fell into the Atlantic, but it remained afloat.
Thousands of tonnes of seawater spilled into the Doria’s five fuel tanks, which were punctured by the collision. The immediate list was so severe that the lifeboats on the port side of the liner were rendered unusable. Without half of the available lifeboats, the potential death toll might have matched that of the loss of the Titanic in 1912 had there not been other ships nearby.
The first lifeboats that pulled away from the wreck of the Andrea Doria were filled with a shamefully disproportionate number of her crew. But there were also tales of heroism that emerged from the tales of the next few hours heartbreaking.
When the harsh list made walking on bridges impossible, human chains were formed to guide people to evacuation points. Steward Giovanni Rovelli worked overnight with Dr. Thure Peterson in an attempt to extricate Peterson’s wife, Martha, from the wreckage of their cabin. (Ms Peterson died before they could free her.) Captain Piero Calamai intended to stay on his fatally damaged ship until his officers exited a lifeboat and told him they would not leave without him.
Of all the stories that resulted from the Andrea Doria disaster, none is more astonishing than that of Linda Morgan.
The 14-year-old shared cabin 52 at the Doria with her younger half-sister, Joan Cianfarra. Her stepfather, Camille Cianfarra, a reporter for the New York Times in Spain, and her mother, Jane, were in booth 54 next door. Most of the collision victims were killed at the point of impact. Cabins 52 and 54 were directly aligned with the bow of the Stockholm. Although Linda’s mother managed to survive with serious injuries, it was assumed that the other three family members had perished.
Linda’s father, Edward P. Morgan, a radio host for the ABC Network, relayed the shocking news of the sinking of one of the world’s most beautiful liners to his audience, knowing his own daughter was missing and most likely dead.
It was a terrible guess, but a logical one. Mr. Morgan was wrong.
Shortly after the two ships disengaged and the Doria returned in the fog, a 36-year-old crewman from the Stockholm walked over to a faint voice calling for his mother amid the tangled wreckage that remained at the bow of Swedish ship.
Linda Morgan asked Bernabe Polanco Garcia: “I was on the Andrea Doria. Where am I now? “
The bow of the Stockholm that killed her sister and her stepfather had miraculously slipped under Linda’s bed and lifted her out of the Doria. She had a broken arm, but was not injured otherwise. Even his father’s professionalism couldn’t hide his joy when he reported the incredible news on the radio. Her daughter will forever be known as the “miracle girl”.
Linda’s mother never fully recovered from her injuries and suffered from deep depression on the anniversary of the disaster. She died on July 25, 1969.
Alden Graves writes a regular column for the Banner.