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Lawn and St. Lawrence pause to remember Truxtun and Pollux disaster


The communities of Lawn and St. Lawrence each remembered the 74th anniversary of the tragic loss of two American navy ships off the Burin Peninsula Feb. 18.

On that day in 1942, over 200 American sailors died when the USS Pollux and USS Truxtun ran aground during a winter storm – the former off Lawn Point and the latter in Chambers Cove near St. Lawrence.

The two ships, also accompanied by the USS Wilkes, were headed for Argentia, carrying war supplies for the American navy base there.

Due to the rescue efforts of the people of Lawn and St. Lawrence, 186 men survived the ordeal.

In Lawn, the Royal Canadian Legion was filled to capacity with men, women and children as the Memorial Trail of Heroes Committee held its first memorial service to commemorate a somber but important day in the history of the two neighbouring towns.

Beth Drake, president of the memorial committee, read Eileen Mahoney’s fitting poem, “In Waters Deep.” A moment of silence and wreath laying ceremony followed.

The tragedy was a life-altering event for residents of the area, Lawn Mayor John Strang said in his remarks.

“Although our families were faced with insurmountable circumstances, they rose to the challenge, and as a result, many American sailors were able to return to their families and live long prosperous lives,” he said.

“Today, we remember lives lost, lives saved and the tremendous courage.”

Drake also read a letter recently sent to her by Terri Strauss, daughter of Henry Strauss, a USS Pollux survivor who remained close to the people of Lawn and St. Lawrence up until his death.

In it, she eloquently spoke of the bonds formed because of the tragedy.

The annual ecumenical service in St. Lawrence was held at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Church and officiated by Rev. Terry Caines of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church.

The response by local residents to the disaster echoed the parable of the Good Samaritan, Caines said.

“On that cold, windy day on Feb. 18, 1942, residents from Lawn and St. Lawrence and surroundings area lived out this parable in showing love and compassion for others, understanding that our neighbour is anyone that we encounter,” he said.

The service featured readings from members of both parishes, as well as music by the St. Thomas Aquinas Choir and the St. Lawrence Academy Choir.

St. Lawrence Mayor Paul Pike also addressed the impact the tragedy has had on the area.

“This event has touched the lives of so many people and has illustrated how the men, women and children of two small communities on the south coast of Newfoundland forever changed the course of history with courage, determination, respect and kindness,” he said.

Lisa Barry, health, safety and environment manager with Canada Fluorspar Inc., made a donation on behalf of the company during the service. The funds will go towards the newly proposed monument at Chambers Cove. It’s hoped the memorial will be erected during next year’s 75th anniversary of the disaster.

Following the laying of wreaths, Emily Pittman sang “O Canada,” while Heather Clarke performed the American national anthem.

The service concluded with Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps 269 Endeavour playing the Last Post and a reflection hymn by the St. Thomas Aquinas Choir.

On that day in 1942, over 200 American sailors died when the USS Pollux and USS Truxtun ran aground during a winter storm – the former off Lawn Point and the latter in Chambers Cove near St. Lawrence.

The two ships, also accompanied by the USS Wilkes, were headed for Argentia, carrying war supplies for the American navy base there.

Due to the rescue efforts of the people of Lawn and St. Lawrence, 186 men survived the ordeal.

In Lawn, the Royal Canadian Legion was filled to capacity with men, women and children as the Memorial Trail of Heroes Committee held its first memorial service to commemorate a somber but important day in the history of the two neighbouring towns.

Beth Drake, president of the memorial committee, read Eileen Mahoney’s fitting poem, “In Waters Deep.” A moment of silence and wreath laying ceremony followed.

The tragedy was a life-altering event for residents of the area, Lawn Mayor John Strang said in his remarks.

“Although our families were faced with insurmountable circumstances, they rose to the challenge, and as a result, many American sailors were able to return to their families and live long prosperous lives,” he said.

“Today, we remember lives lost, lives saved and the tremendous courage.”

Drake also read a letter recently sent to her by Terri Strauss, daughter of Henry Strauss, a USS Pollux survivor who remained close to the people of Lawn and St. Lawrence up until his death.

In it, she eloquently spoke of the bonds formed because of the tragedy.

The annual ecumenical service in St. Lawrence was held at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Church and officiated by Rev. Terry Caines of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church.

The response by local residents to the disaster echoed the parable of the Good Samaritan, Caines said.

“On that cold, windy day on Feb. 18, 1942, residents from Lawn and St. Lawrence and surroundings area lived out this parable in showing love and compassion for others, understanding that our neighbour is anyone that we encounter,” he said.

The service featured readings from members of both parishes, as well as music by the St. Thomas Aquinas Choir and the St. Lawrence Academy Choir.

St. Lawrence Mayor Paul Pike also addressed the impact the tragedy has had on the area.

“This event has touched the lives of so many people and has illustrated how the men, women and children of two small communities on the south coast of Newfoundland forever changed the course of history with courage, determination, respect and kindness,” he said.

Lisa Barry, health, safety and environment manager with Canada Fluorspar Inc., made a donation on behalf of the company during the service. The funds will go towards the newly proposed monument at Chambers Cove. It’s hoped the memorial will be erected during next year’s 75th anniversary of the disaster.

Following the laying of wreaths, Emily Pittman sang “O Canada,” while Heather Clarke performed the American national anthem.

The service concluded with Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps 269 Endeavour playing the Last Post and a reflection hymn by the St. Thomas Aquinas Choir.

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