The R.P. Resor was built in 1935 by Federal Ship Building Co. in Kearney, New Jersey, she was launched on Saturday, November 13, 1935. She was a 445 foot long, 66 foot wide tanker and was owned by Standard Oil Company ( now Exxon Corp. ) the R.P. Resor was the first vessel built in the United States on the Isherwood Arcform hull design. The Resor was also the first new ship to be fitted with a Contra Guide propeller and rudder, which instead of being symmetrically streamlined is warped. This system claims to add more speed and better maneuverability at the same power. She displaced 7,451 tons and was under the command of Captain Frederick Marcus.
On February 27, 1942, the R.P. Resor was traveling from Houston, Texas, to Fall River, Massachusetts, with 78,729 full barrels of crude oil in her holds. Seaman Forsdale was on lookout duty. He spotted a ship off the port bow with its running lights on. Forsdale thought it was a fishing smack and reported his sighting to the bridge. This, however, was just a ruse allowing the German submarine U-578 (Rehwinkel) to maneuver to within 200 yards, before firing a torpedo which exploded amidships. The U-boat then fired another torpedo which ruptured the Resor's oil tanks, setting fire to her, and to the oil covered waters around her.
As flames enveloped the tanker, men leaped into the water or tried to launch lifeboats. Out of a crew of 41 plus nine naval armed guards, only two survived, one being a crew member and the other a Navy guard. The two that survived her initial explosion and fire were almost lost while being rescued. Crude oil from the sinking vessel had covered both men, making them heavy and extremely slippery. Chief boatswain's mate John Daise, commander of the Coast Guard picket that rescued both survivors, said that the men were coated with thick, congealed oil and weighed over 600 pounds. The Coast Guard cut the men's clothes off to lighten them. Daisy went on to say that even the survivors mouths were filled with a blob of oil. Fortunately, the rescuers were diligent and finally did succeed in lifting the half-drowned exhausted men to their safety.
The Resor stayed afloat for two more days, burning the whole time. Crowds thronged to the beaches at Asbury Park to watch flames billow up on the horizon. The USS Sagamore made a futile attempt to tow her ashore for salvage, but the sinking ship's stern bottomed out in 130 feet of water. Soon after, the Resor rolled over and slipped beneath the waves. The Resor was the 24th ship and 15th tanker sunk or damaged in U.S. coastal waters since the U-Boat campaign had begun.
The Resor is now a prominent offshore dive site. Her stern, which is intact, rests on an angle in 130 feet of water. Her stern deck gun, still in place, points to the clean sand bottom. Most of her remains are scattered and low lying. The wreck is known for holding big lobsters and for the amount of brass cage lamps found in her stern section.
While writing this text, I received a letter from Mrs. Judy Baird. Judy's grandfather was Mr. Reuben Perry Resor, treasurer of Standard Oil. Judy went on to tell me that her grandmother had christened the vessel and the family still has the broken champagne bottle used in the christening ceremony which was mounted on a plaque by Standard Oil and presented to Judy's grandmother.
Excerpted from Wreck Valley CDROM by Dan Berg