Hernando County veteran remembers ship wreck

By Ferdinand Zogbaum, Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, December 22, 2012

A dark day in history haunts the memories of a Hernando County Army Veteran this time of year.

The holiday season is bitter sweet for 86 year-old Carson Kirk. He has some nice Christmas memories but usually the horrifying ones takeover.

“It is a terrible thing to think about,” Kirk said.

Sitting at his computer, Kirk floats back to Christmas Eve 1944. The S.S. Leopoldville was off the coast of France transporting about 2,200 soldiers and 18-year-old Kirk was on the ship.

“It seems like a longtime ago, but then at other times it doesn’t seem that long at all,” he said.

At around 6 p.m. a German torpedo slammed into the ship.

“Just a big thud but it bounced the ship," Kirk said. "It just rocked.”

By the time the ship disappeared underwater close to 800 soldiers were dead, drowning or freezing in the icy waters of the English Channel. Kirk was rescued before the ship went down and will never forget seeing all the bodies the next day.

“Frozen, one arm sticking out, one leg sticking out, all stacked," he said.

Ever since then Christmas hasn’t been the same.

“I feel a little bit guilty that I’m still here,” Kirk said.

Kirk went on to fight in the war for months after all of that. He has one buddy left who was on that ship with him and they talk every year around this time.