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As a young Lt (jg.), Ed Mack was gunnery officer aboard a very unusual tanker, the SS GULF DAWN, an old, beat up tanker of the Gulf Oil Company - or so she was meant to appear.  This tanker was actually a "Q" Ship of the U.S. Navy named USS BIG HORN.  She was loaded with heavy guns, 20mm automatic guns and other assorted weaponry plus radar, sonar and above all - HuffDuff, the High Frequency Direction Finder.

The old tanker would always ride in the "coffin corner" of the convoy, hoping to lure a U-Boat into a surface attack.  She carried no oil or gasoline was instead was filled with ping pong balls to keep her afloat in case she was torpedoed.  The plan was for her to come to a stop if torpedoed, appear to be sinking with fires set in tubs on the deck and the crew, known as the "panic party", would abandon ship in the boats and pull away as quickly as possible.  That's because another crew was waiting on board, hidden until the proper moment, to spring to the guns and to the controls, bringing the ship back to life as a submarine killer.

SS GULF DAWN/USS BIG HORN never was attacked by a U-Boat and so never was really used in her designed capacity.  Maybe that was just as well - the only other times that USN "Q" ships tangled with U-Boats, the "Q" ships were lost with all hands.

I met Ed Mack at the famed Adventurer's Club in Chicago when we were both members.  He was instrumental in giving us history of the "Q" ships.

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