“Unfortunately, absolutely nothing has turned up, not an oil slick, a life jacket, a plank. Nothing.”

Coast Guard Official (1980)

A plaque memorializing the missing seamen of the SS Poet hangs in Gloria Dei Church in Philadelphia. Lottie Zukier Fredette, a congregant, organizes an annual service to honor the crew of this ship. Her son, Hans, was among those lost at sea. In our second curated exhibit, we explore the mysterious disappearance of this vessel.

This free exhibit is presented inside the Gloria Dei Church sanctuary, Tuesday through Sunday, 9 am to 4 pm. Here are some highlights:

Operational History

How does a ship twice the length of a football field completely disappear? The answer may lie in its service history.

Omar Bundy, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Originally named for distinguished serviceman General Omar Bundy, this troopship launched on Aug. 5, 1944 under a Maritime Commission contract.

Officers gathered on the  Bundy in 1945.

The Bundy carried troops for the U.S. Navy during World War II. It was transferred to the Army in 1946 where it remained in  service for 3 years.

An aerial view of James River by Martin Norman (1990).

In 1949, the Bundy entered the Naval Defense Reserve Fleet. It was docked in the James River and remained moored there for the next 15 years.

The Bethlehem Steel plant” by William H. Rau (1896).

In 1964, Bethlehem Steel Corp. converted the vessel into a cargo ship. For 16 years, it sailed for different companies as the Portmar and Port.

A plaque honoring the missing seamen of the Poet.

The Hawaiian Eugenia Corp. purchased the ship in 1979 and renamed it the SS Poet. A year later, the vessel vanished without a trace.

An Unsolved Mystery

It’s been almost 40 years since the Poet disappeared. Here are some theories about what happened to it:

Crushed by Politics

Portrait of President Reagan and Vice President Bush (1981).

The Poet was allegedly on a secret government mission on behalf of President Reagan. The crew was to deliver arms to Iran as part of a deal to free 52 U.S. hostages. The operation is said to have failed with all lives onboard lost.

Wrecked by a Storm

Graphic showing the location of the Bermuda Triangle.

While traveling through the Bermuda Triangle, the ship encountered an unexpected storm. The cargo allegedly got wet and expanded, causing the ship to capsize. It is said that vessel and its crew rest at the bottom of the ocean.

Marauded by Mobsters

Mugshot of mob boss Carlo Gambino (c. 1930).

Scotland Yard reportedly received intelligence that the ship was being targeted by South Jersey mobsters.  Gambino family operatives allegedly hijacked the vessel, sailed to Iran, and traded the ship and its cargo for heroin.

Immerse yourself in this mystery at “The Disappearance of the SS Poet.”

Honor the Crew

We’re creating a memory wall to pay tribute to the missing seamen of the SS Poet. You can contribute to this project by filling out this form below. Your tribute will be printed out and added to our memory wall.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Amy Grant

    Here’s to the memory of the missing seamen of the SS Poet. I hope that the sea will yet reveal what happened and provide closure to their loved ones.

  2. Peggy Buescher

    May the crew of the S.S.Poet Rest In Peace. They will never be forgotten. We will continue to honor them annually at Gloria Dei.

  3. Diane Myers

    My dear brother Mosel Myers was on this vessel. His parents are deceased now, never knowing what happen to their son, who was a father, a brother, a husband. May god bless his soul. Rest in peace brother. Gone but never ever forgotten. I will always remember you.

  4. Steven Massey

    In Memory of Radio Officer Joe Vyhnak from his 1979 classmates, Institute of Maritime Electronics St. Michaels MD.
    – Grafton Lee Brown, John Cerritelli, Kevin Coster, William Dailey, Norman Ebsary, Stan Gillette, Walter Kane, Jerry Lacomb, Steven Massey, Frank Matulewicz, Herman (Skip) Weber

  5. Lorraine McGinnis

    To the SS Poet Crew and their surviving relatives. My father was friends with AB Carl Goff since childhood. The loss at sea pushed me into Art History.

  6. Steven Taylor

    Leroy Warren – a man who loved life and lived big. He is missed as is all the crew.

  7. Roxan Chen

    May the crew members rest in eternal peace. Nod to Capt. Warren who had, earlier in life been involved w the lady that gave birth to me, regarding him affectionately.

  8. Andrew Henthorne

    My beloved brother and best friend was an engineer on the SS POET when she made her last fateful voyage overseas. He was educated, extremely smart and an all around true gentleman. Mark was the beloved and faithful son of Marjorie, our Mom, who unfortunately took her own life soon after Mark’s disappearance. By now, we all pretty much know what happened although the details are fuzzy, but no trace was ever found to this day.

    Mark would work on his 1968 Mustang at the family Ford dealership when he was home and frequently would come to me for help with his car. One October day, I was knee deep in a messy job and my back was turned. Mark came over to me and asked me something but I was frustrated and finally turned around, although begrudgingly, to answer him, but there was no one there. It was perhaps a week or more later that I realized it was Mark who had come to me to bid me farewell. I looked up the job and sure enough I was correct. It was a CRYSTAL CLEAR MOMENT THAT I’ll NEVER FORGET. He was strong, handsome and ALWAYS well dressed, neat as a pin, and a workhorse. He loved water and snow skiing, boating/sailing, fishing, his girl, Debbie who he was to marry upon his return from this, his last trip to sea. He loved music and good movies, just an incredible young man. I cannot say enough good things about him. I had a bad feeling when he left my home in mid-October that I wouldn’t see him again and I hugged him extra tight. My premonition, unfortunately came true.

    Farewell my brother. You are now part of the sea you so dearly loved and I am eternally grateful for the time we shared together. Fare thee well Mark. You are SORELY MISSED by ALL whose path you crossed. I will cherish your memory until I may see you again in God’s Kingdom.

  9. Scott Gregory Rickards

    I sailed from 79-83 out of Piney Point. I remember hearing onboard- in the Med.- [on a grain run enroute to Haifa, Israel] and then reading the news from the SIU s Log. Sad day for all mariners. It’s ashamed it took the “Marine Electric” to change the laws, scrape those rust buckets, protect mariners. The Overseas Traveller [1943] was my 1st ship, should have been scrapped long ago but as long as the USCG, companies passed inspections they ran those old girls. RIP sailors. Fair Seas, Calm winds – Scott Rickards

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