Crew list of Ships hit by U-boats

Ralph Lawrence Shields

USNR (6121971). American

Born  5 Jan 1921Dayton, OH

Photo courtesy of Keith Shields

Roster information listed for Ralph Lawrence Shields

ShipTypeRank / roleAttacked onBoat
African StarSteam merchantGunner’s Mate Third Class12 Jul 1943U-172 (1)

Personal information

Ralph Lawrence Shields later told his family that he had stood watch until midnight the night before African Star was sunk and went to the galley for a donut and milk before turning in around at 2 AM. A few hours later, he was rocked right out of his bed wearing only bell bottomed blue jeans. No shirt, no shoes or socks. Ralph recalled walking on the walls of the ship to escape as the ship had taken a list. He said that the U-boat commander addressed the lifeboats and explained, thru an interpreter, that he had spent time in New York City before the war and that he would spare their lives if they did not signal or make any noises for three hours. They abided by his orders and Ralph always was truly grateful that the commander of the U-boat spared his life as he was certain he would have been killed. After being returned to Rio de Janeiro for a week or so, he always spoke very fondly of the Brazilians who put them up in Rio de Janeiro for a week or so, saying that the young Brazilian women were quite taken with the US sailors and he had such a wonderful time while waiting to be redeployed.


  1. Personal communication

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Crew list for Ships hit by U-boats