President Coolidge Sinks – Accidentally

President Coolidge Sinks – Accidentally


On 26 October 1942 President Coolidge (the liner, not the politician) was accidentally sunk by mines. No lives were lost, but a tourist attraction was born.

President Coolige Postcard
President Coolidge during her Dollar Line years in the Pacific.

In 1942, President Coolidge, formerly of Dollar Steamship Lines and American President Lines, was a troopship serving in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. On 26 October 1942, she entered the harbor of Espiritu Santo, at the time a military base in the South Pacific. Sadly, vital facts concerning safe entry into the harbor had been accidentally omitted from Coolidge’s sailing orders. As the vessel approached the harbor, a “friendly” mine struck the ship’s hull near the engine room. Soon thereafter, a second mine exploded near her stern. The captain, acting quickly and decisively, intentionally ran President Coolidge aground and ordered the troops to abandon ship.

Troops abandoning the listing President Coolidge.
Troops abandoning the listing President Coolidge.

During the next 90 minutes, 4,998 men disembarked safely. President Coolidge then slid down an underwater slope and sank into deeply the channel. Never removed because she poses no threat to shipping, President Coolidge now rests on her port side with her bow at a depth of 20 meters (65.6 feet) and her stern at 70 meters (229.6 feet). The wreck remains a popular attraction for recreational divers visiting Vanuatu.  Perform a quick Web search  you’ll find many fascinating photos of her interior.

Coolidge Troops Ashore

President Coolidge was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company in Newport News, Virginia, which also built United States, America and many other important American liners.

Coolidge Troops Abandon
News of Coolidge
Due to wartime censorship, news about President Coolidge sinking wasn’t released to the public until December, nearly two months after the event. This story omits the fact that the vessel was sunk by “friendly” mines.

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