SS Stephen Hopkins

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Name: SS Stephen Hopkins
Namesake: Stephen Hopkins
Builder: Permanente Metals Corporation
Launched: May 1942
Fate: Sunk in battle September 27, 1942
General characteristics
Class and type: Liberty ship
Displacement: 7,181 gross tons
Length: 441.5 feet (135 m)
Beam: 57 feet (17 m)
Draught: 27.75 feet (8 m)
Propulsion: triple expansion, 2,500 ihp (1,860 kW)
Speed: 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)
Armament: 1 × 4 in (102 mm) gun[1], 2 × 37 mm cannon; 6 machine guns

The SS Stephen Hopkins was a United States Merchant Marine Liberty ship that served in World War II. She was the first US ship to sink a German surface combatant during the war.

She was built at the Permanente Metals Corporation (Kaiser) shipyards in Richmond, California. Her namesake was Stephen Hopkins, a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Rhode Island.

Action of 27 September 1942

She completed her first cargo run, but never made it home. On September 27, 1942, en route from Cape Town to Dutch Guiana, she encountered the German commerce raider Stier (German for 'bull') and her tender the Tannenfels. Because of fog, the ships were only two miles (3 km) apart when they sighted each other.

Ordered to stop, the Stephen Hopkins refused to surrender, and the Stier opened fire. Although greatly outgunned, the crew of the Hopkins fought back, replacing the crew of the ship's lone 4 inch (102 mm) gun with volunteers as they fell. The fight was fierce and short, and by its end both ships were wrecks.

Action of 27 September 1942
Part of World War II
Date September 27, 1942
Location off Dutch Guiana, Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean
Result German pyrrhic victory
22x20px United States 22x20px Nazi Germany
22x20px Paul BuckTemplate:KIA 22x20px Horst Gerlach
1 liberty ship 1 auxiliary cruiser
Casualties and losses
1 liberty ship sunk 1 auxiliary cruiser scuttled

The Stephen Hopkins sank at 10:00. The Stier, too heavily damaged to continue its voyage, was scuttled by its crew less than two hours later. Most of the crew of the Hopkins died, including captain Paul Buck. The survivors drifted on a lifeboat for a month before reaching shore in Brazil.

Captain Buck was posthumously awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for his actions. So was US Merchant Marine Academy cadet Edwin Joseph O'Hara, who single-handedly fired the last shots from the ship's 4-inch gun. O'Hara was the second cadet to win this award, and the first to win it posthumously. Navy reservist Lt. (j.g.) Kenneth Martin Willett, gun boss for the 4-inch gun, was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

The Liberty ships SS Paul Buck, SS Edwin Joseph O'Hara, and SS Richard Moczkowski, and the destroyer escort USS Kenneth M. Willett (DE-354) were named in honor of crew members of the Stephen Hopkins, and SS Stephen Hopkins II in honor of the ship itself.


  1. Campbell 1985 p.143
  • Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4. 

External links

es:SS Stephen Hopkins fr:SS Stephen Hopkins ja:スティーヴン・ホプキンス (リバティ船) pl:SS Stephen Hopkins