A Night to Remember
On the night of July 25th, 1956, the Italian luxury liner, the Andrea Doria, was on the final leg of a routine westbound transatlantic crossing. One of the last of the major passenger vessels prior to the dawn of commercial aviation, the Andrea Doria carried a wide variety of passengers on this particular voyage that ranged from immigrants to the mayor of Philadelphia to Hollywood movie stars, the latter of which included the actresses Ruth Roman and Betsy Drake, wife of Cary Grant. Having left Genoa over a week earlier, the Doria was scheduled to dock in New York harbor the following morning. Earlier that same day, however, the Swedish liner, the Stockholm, departed New York on an eastbound route to its home country. Due to a highly unlikely series of events, neither ship would arrive at its destination.
As Andrea Doria passenger Julianne McLean (mother of C. Angela Addario) recalls, the final evening had been plagued by a dense fog, and the Doria’s fog horn sounded continuously. A concert pianist, the American had been studying in Rome and was enroute back to the States for a vacation. It was her second voyage aboard the Doria. At approximately 11:10 p.m., while relaxing with newly made friends in the lounge, Julianne was suddenly thrown across the room as there was a tremendous jolt to the ship, accompanied by the sound of “a million pots and pans being thrown around.” Instantly the Doria listed at a sharp angle, and water began filling the hallways of the ship. Not knowing what had happened, the passengers had to listen to radio broadcasts from New York to learn, eventually, that they had been struck by the Stockholm.
Although a much smaller ship than the Doria, the Stockholm had a prow that was reinforced for breaking through the icy waters of the north Atlantic, a feature which also allowed it to slice deeply into the Doria’s side. To make matters worse, the Stockholm directly hit the Doria’s fuel tanks, which were nearly empty by the end of the voyage and which took on water rapidly, accounting for the sharp, immediate and irreparable list.
Not far away, Alfred Morasso, Jr. was serving aboard the destroyer escort Edward Allen, one of the several ships that responded to the S.O.S. signals of the sinking Doria. While most passengers, including Julianne McLean, were rescued by the French liner, the Ile de France, it was the Edward Allen that rescued Captain Calamai and some of his crew from the Andrea Doria. By 10:00 a.m. on the morning of July 26th, the Andrea Doria sank, approximately 50 miles off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Miraculously, out of more than 1,700 Doria passengers and crew members, only 52 people died: 47 from the Doria, and 5 from the Stockholm. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the various rescue ships, and the inexplicable lifting of the fog in the middle of the night, this maritime disaster is remembered today as the greatest peacetime sea rescue in history.
Pastpresident Morasso, Julianne McLean, and C. Glenn Bauer – who had been an attorney with the firm representing the Stockholm – joined author and historian Bill Miller in 2006 for an evening honoring the 50th anniversary of the Andrea Doria’s sinking. Reunions of surviving passengers continue to be held on major anniversaries of the sinking at Al Morasso’s alma mater, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, Long Island, where extensive research has been conducted into the cause of the collision. After repairs were made to the damaged ship, the Stockholm has continued to sail over the years under a variety of operating companies and names, most recently the Athena and (renamed in 2013) as the Azores.
– by C. Angela E. Addario