Stuff You Should Know
The SS John Burke was an American Liberty Ship used during World War II as a cargo ship. The ship was named after John Burke, the 10th Governor of North Dakota. The ship was built at Kaiser Shipbuilding Company in Portland, Oregon and launched in December 1942. Like most other Liberty Ships, the SS John Burke carried war cargo and passengers between the US and the Pacific War areas such as Pearl Harbor, Australia, Guadalcanal, Hollandia, and Manaus. The ship’s last mission was to support the invasion on the island of Mindoro with munitions from Guam. As the 100-ship convoy codenamed (Uncle Plus 13) arrived at Leyte in the Philippines, the Japanese forces were alerted and, taking advantage of the lack of American air support caused by the unfavorable weather, 6 Japanese kamikaze bombers were sent from Cebu Island. Despite the heavy fire sent up by the American Ships, one of the bombers, although damaged, managed to crash directly onto the ship’s cargo bay. This caused the entire ammunition cargo to detonate which disintegrated the ship and damaged several others. All the crew, 68 men, lost their lives and the ship’s remains sank. The event was followed by 2 days of constant air attacks on the convoy, several more ships and hundreds of men having been lost. The convoy reached its destination regardless and successfully resupplied the US Forces for the Mindoro invasion.