Liberty Ship "SS James Eagan Layne" 1942

N50°19.579′ E4°14.659

The James Eagan Layne was built in New Orleans in 1944 as one of many Liberty ships produced in America. In 1936, the American Merchant Marine Act was passed to subsidise the annual construction of 50 commercial merchant vessels to be used in wartime by the United States Navy as naval auxiliaries. The number was doubled in 1939 and again in 1940 to 200 ships a year. Ship types included a tanker and three types of merchant vessel, all to be powered by steam turbines.
The James Eagan Layne was built by the Delta Shipbuilding Corporation, in 1944 and was operated by the US Navigation Company, of New York. She was named after the second engineer of the Esso Baton Rouge, who was killed when Esso Baton Rouge was sunk by Reinhard Hardegen’s U-123 on 8 April 1942.

She was on her way to Belgium from Barry in Wales with 4,500 tons of U.S.Army equipment including boats, when she was sighed 12 miles off Plymouth by the German U boat U-399 commanded by Heinz Buhse shown on the left. She was torpedoes and badly damages and was taken in tow by tugs Flaunt & Atlas and beached in Whisand bay. Fortunately there was no loss of life. U-399 was sunk five days later by sunk by HMS Duckworth.

Some salvage was done at the time of her loss before the forward holds flooded and much of the cargo in the stern section was salvaged by an Icelandic firm in 1953 with further salvage work completed in 1967.

Part of her cargo were radioactive disks which were removed.
A picture of a similar submarine is shown lelow:


SS James Eagan Layne


US Navigation Company, New York


Delta Shipbuilding Corporation, New Orleans, Louisiana

Yard number:


Laid down:

23 October 1944


2 December 1944


18 December 1944


sunk on 21 March 1945 by U-399 in Whitsand Bay Plymouth, England

Class & type:

Liberty ship


7,176 tons


422.8 ft


57 ft


27 ft 9.25 in


Two oil-fired boilers, triple-expansion steam engine, single screw, 2500 horsepower (1.9 MW)

Speed:  11 to 11.5 knots (20 to 21 km/h)



Read more about the James Eagan layne at promare