Carl D. Bradley

Carl D. Bradley

Built in 1927, owned by, and flagship of, the Bradley Transportation Company of Rogers City, MI., a subsidiary of the Michigan Limestone Division of U.S. Steel Corporation, the Bradley was once called "The Queen of the Lakes." At 639 ft she was the largest carrier on the Great Lakes at the time of her loss and remains the second largest ever lost, the largest being the SS Edmund Fitzgerald which foundered in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975.

The Carl D. Bradley, Capt. Roland O. Bryan in command, departed Gary, Indiana, on Monday, November 17, 1958, en route to her home port of Calcite, Michigan in ballast on her 43rd and final run for the season. During the coming winter lay-up the Bradley was scheduled for extensive cargo hold renewal and replacement. Although not old as lake freighters go, the Bradley was showing serious signs of wear.

When the Carl D. Bradley left Gary the winds were brisk from the south with the weather forecast calling for gale winds of 50-65 MPH shifting to the southwest. The wind increased as she proceeded up the western shore, but sea conditions were not considered severe and the Bradley was riding smoothly. In the early afternoon of Nov. 18, in the vicinity of Cana Island, course was changed to cross Lake Michigan toward Lansing Shoal. The wind also shifted direction and increased to 60-65 MPH, with the seas about 20 feet in height, but the "Queen of the Lakes" was still riding smoothly with a heavy following sea.

At 5:30 p.m. a noise described as a heavy thud was heard, followed by a strong vibration. From the pilothouse her stern was seen to be sagging and a general alarm was sounded as the crew prepared to abandon ship. Distress calls from the Bradley, received at several radio stations, gave her position as 12 miles southwest of Gull Island Light. The Charlevoix Coast Guard reported hearing the Bradley's radio operator shouting "Get on your life jackets. We're going down." Then there was only silence.

The first rescue ship to reach the scene was the German freighter, Christian Sartori. The Sartori had not heard the distress call but did witness a sudden large flash of flame and, at the same time, the Bradley disappeared from Sartori's radar. Although only four miles away it took the Sartori almost two hours to fight her way through the storm to the Bradley's position. Her searchlight illuminated the death dealing monster waves, but found no sign of lifeboats or survivors. The Sartori was soon joined by the 180 foot USCGC Sundew from Charlevoix and the 175 foot USCG Buoy Tender Hollyhock from Sturgeon Bay. The search for survivors continued throughout the night, with flares dropped from Air Station Traverse City lighting up the scene, as the winds howled and temperatures dropped to sub-freezing. Also braving the maelstrom were the freighters TransOntario, Sylvania, Henry Ford II, John G. Munson, Johnstown, Robert C. Stanley and Elton Hoytt II.

By the next morning the winds had subsided enough for 3 Coast Guard helicopters, an Air Force Albatross and a Navy PV2 to be added to the search. At 8:25 a.m. the two lone survivors, deckhand, Frank Mays and First Mate, Elmer Fleming, were rescued by the USCGC Sundew. Four crewmen had managed to board the liferaft however two of them perished during the night, leaving only Fleming and Mays as the winds ripped across the lake. Although both mentally and physically exhausted both men refused to be taken to a hospital and chose to stay aboard the Sundew as long as the search for their lost friends continued.

The Coast Guard investigation into the sinking states that within minutes the Bradley heaved upwards amidships and broke in two; that the bow settled from aft, then rolled over and sank. The stern settled from forward, then plunged with a flash of flame and smoke as water reached the boiler room. Subsequent dives to the wreck provided evidence that, although there is a twenty foot gash in her port side, the Bradley is in one piece.

The investigation also noted that in the spring of 1958, and again in early November, the Bradley had rubbed bottom at Cedarville, the latter resulting in damage that required repairs which were done by the owners while afloat at Calcite. Neither incident was reported to the Coast Guard or Lloyd's; and the repairs were not reported to, nor approved by, the Coast Guard.

In 1959 U.S. Steel announced that identification of the wreckage had been made by putting down an underwater camera and claimed the Bradley was intact. The two lone survivors, Fleming and Mays, always swore that they saw the Bradley break into two pieces before sinking.

Almost all of the 33 men aboard the Carl D. Bradley were from Rogers City, Michigan; a small community with a population of less than 4,000. On November 22nd stores and businesses were closed as 12 of the victims were laid to rest, nine in a mass funeral at St. Ignatius Catholic Church. In all the victims of the Bradley left 23 widows, 50 living children and 3 yet to be born.

In April 2007 the bell was recovered from the Bradley and came home to Rogers City. A replica bell took its place aboard the wrecked freighter bearing the names of the men lost from her.

Crewmen Lost
(* = body not recovered)

  • *Roland O. Bryan - Captain
  • *John F. Fogelsonger - Second Mate
  • Carl R. Bartell - Third Mate
  • *Raymond G. Buehler - Chief Engineer
  • *John L. Bauers - First Asst. Engineer
  • Alfred F. Boehmer - Second Asst. Engineer
  • *Keith H. Schular - Third Asst. Engineer
  • *Douglas J. Bellmore - Porter
  • *Duane W. Berg - Deckhand
  • Richard J. Book - Deckwatchman
  • Alva H. Budnick - Watchman
  • William T. Elliott - Repairman
  • *Clyde M. Enos - Stokerman
  • Erhardt O. Felax - Stokerman
  • Cleland E. Gager - Oiler
  • *Paul A. Greengtski - Watchman
  • Paul Carl Heller - Stokerman
  • Paul Robert Horn - Oiler
  • *Dennis M. Joppich - Wiper
  • Raymond J. Kowalski - Wheelsman
  • Joseph Krawczak - Wheelsman
  • *Floyd A. MacDougall - Oiler
  • *Dennis B. Meredith - Deckhand
  • *Melville W. Orr - Watchman
  • Alfred G. Pilarski - Second Cook
  • Gary N. Price - Deckhand
  • Leo J. Promo, Jr. - Asst. Conveyorman
  • Bernard J. Schefke - Porter
  • *James L. Selke - Porter
  • Gary L. Strzelecki - Deckwatchman
  • *Earl P. Tulgetske, Jr. - Wheelsman
  • Edward N. Vallee - Conveyorman
  • John Zoho - Steward

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