Roy Walton Carter was born Sep. 12, 1920 and raised in Prince Edward Co., VA., the son of Cleveland & Pearl B. Carter. His early education was at the Worsham High School, near Farmville, Va. He enlisted in the Navy on 10 July 1943 and was assigned to the U.S.S. St. Augustine on 24 September 1943. His ship was sunk on 7 January 1944 while on escort duty off the coast of New Jersey.
U.S.S. St. Augustine (PG-54) was built by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. in Newport News, Virginia in 1929. She was originally a steel-hulled yacht named Viking. She was sold in 1938 to Norman B. Woolworth (of Woolworth Department Stores) and renamed Noparo. Subsequently the Navy acquired the ship on December 5, 1940 and she was sent to Bethlehem Steel Corp., Boston, Ma., where she was converted for Naval use. On January 9, 1941 the ship was renamed St. Augustine and a week later commissioned U.S.S. St. Augustine Patrol Gunboat 54 (PG-54).
Due to the threat of the German U-boats operating against Allied shipping in the Atlantic, the St. Augustine, based out of New York City, began making regular convoy escort runs between New York and several Caribbean ports. Northbound and Southbound vessels would gather at these locations to await escort.
Convoy NK-588 steamed south out of New York, on January 6, 1944. The convoy consisted of a tanker, the navy patrol gunboat U.S.S. St. Augustine (PG-54), the convoy’s escort command vessel; and the Coast Guard ships Argo and Thetis (WPC-115). The weather was stormy with almost forty mile-per-hour winds and waves reaching as high as twenty feet. Later that night around 10:00 p.m., the tanker Camas Meadows steamed out of Delaware Bay under blackout conditions. Its' Captain had retired to his cabin being ill, and the crew was green, some with no sea experience, and no one on the bridge who knew how to send or receive blinker signals as designated during blackout conditions.
According to the bridge watch on the Argo, miles in the distance, the tanker and the escort ship appeared to meet, but in reality the St. Augustine had altered course in front of the tanker on what was to be a fatal collision course. The St. Augustine was observed to rise bow first out of the water at a strange angle, then quickly fall back and disappear. Unknowingly the Argo had witnessed the demise of the St. Augustine, as the tanker rammed her amidship, cutting deep into the hull. In less than five minutes, the St. Augustine had flooded and slipped beneath the waves, taking with it 115 of the 145 crew members on board, off Cape May, New Jersey.
U.S.S. St. Augustine was officially struck from the Navy Register on 22 January 1944. She lies in 250 feet of water on an even keel, and is often visited by experienced divers. However it is designated as a war grave and it is illegal to remove artifacts from the wreck.
U.S.C.G. Military History