|Maryland, Delaware||Worker at U.S. Employment Service|
|U.S. Naval Reserve||7225712|
|Pacific||U.S.S. Mount Hood (AE-11)|
Early Life & Family
William Leonard Schrader was born in Elkton, Maryland, on September 15, 1924. He was the son of George Alvin Schrader (a farmer, 1889–1962) and Sarah Augusta Schrader (née Baker, 1887–1929). He had an older brother, George Vernon Schrader (1913–1968); an older sister, Allene Schrader (later Bramble, 1915–1988); and a younger sister, Eleanor Louise Schrader (later known as Eleanor Louise Schrader Voshell, after her marriage as Louise Kumpel, and eventually as Louise Kumpel Boyd, 1928–2017). Schrader, like many members of his family, went by his middle name.
Schrader initially grew up in Elkton near Chesapeake City, Maryland. After a long illness, Sarah Schrader died on the night of May 1, 1929. Either shortly before or just after his mother’s death, Schrader and his younger sister were taken in by their aunt and uncle, Mae Schrader Voshell (born Laura Mae Schrader, 1900–1981) and Claude Baymond Voshell (a farmer who eventually served four years as the county treasurer, 1894–1967). Their biological father never took them back, though he eventually remarried and had several more children. Schrader’s aunt and adoptive mother wrote in a letter to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission:
My husband and I took Leonard and his sister Louise when they were babies (4 yrs) and (10 month) and have been their sole parents and support ever since. They were my brother’s children, his wife dying at the time we took them. My brother never bothered to ever see them the entire time, we raised, educated them both in school & college until Leonard entered the service and now Louise a college graduate. So we are considered by all our friends, relatives and associates their only parents and have been considered so through Leonard’s enlistment and all through his service record. I was appointed his legal guardian, beneficiary, etc.
The Voshells lived the unincorporated area of New Castle County, Delaware, near the Summit Bridge over the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. Schrader and his sister were recorded on the census on April 30, 1930, living on the Voshell farm on Chesapeake City Road. Census records indicate that the family was living in Middletown, Delaware, as of 1935. They were recorded at 500 (West) 34th Street in Wilmington, Delaware, on the next census, taken on April 10, 1940.
Journal-Every Evening stated that “Before his enlistment he had been employed at the U. S. Employment Service office at Sixth and Shipley Streets. He was a graduate of Middletown High School and Beacom College.”
Schrader volunteered for military service, joining the U.S. Naval Reserve in Wilmington on December 11, 1942. According to his mother’s statement to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, Apprentice Seaman Schrader attended boot camp at the Bainbridge Naval Training Station, Maryland. She wrote that after completing boot camp, he was promoted to seaman 3rd class. Initially assigned to the V-12 Navy College Training Program, he attended Bryant Stratton College in Boston, Massachusetts, for 28 weeks. Mae Voshell wrote that he “graduated with honors” and was promoted to yeoman 3rd class, before spending the next 11 months attending Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. She wrote that he “finished as Yeoman 2nd, then assigned to U.S.S. Mount Hood and was station[ed] at Portsmouth Va. Until her completion[.]”
At the conclusion of his V-12 training, the Navy did not select Schrader for the next stage in becoming an officer, the V-7 (Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School) program. Instead he was reclassified as V-6 (General Service and Specialists) and earmarked for sea duty. It is unclear when he was promoted to yeoman 1st class, but it was prior to July 1, 1944.
Yeoman 1st Class Schrader officially joined the crew of the new ammunition ship U.S.S. Mount Hood (AE-11) upon her commissioning at Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, on July 1, 1944. That her class of ships were named after volcanoes was to prove ironic. After her shakedown, Mount Hood sailed for the Pacific Theater on August 21, 1944. The ship passed through the Panama Canal on August 27, 1944. The following day, her crew received orders to sail for Manus Island in the Admiralties, with an intermediate stop at Finschhafen, New Guinea. As a yeoman, Shrader would have presumably been involved only in administrative work rather than ammunition handling.
On September 22, 1944, Mount Hood arrived at Seeadler Harbor, Manus. There, the vessel served as an ammunition issue ship for the U.S. Third Fleet. During subsequent weeks, operations were often frantic as the invasion of the Philippines began, followed by the climatic Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 23–26, 1944. Two weeks later, on the morning of November 10, 1944, disaster struck the Mount Hood.
According to the board of investigation’s synopsis, at the time of the incident, the ship was already loaded with about 3,800 tons of ammunition and taking on more from smaller vessels alongside.
The ship’s sole surviving officer, Lieutenant Lester Hull Wallace (1915–2012), wrote:
When I left the ship at approximately 0825 to call for officer messenger mail at the transshipment mail office, I was informed by the officer of the deck that ammunition was being loaded into the ship in four holds. […] Conditions appeared to be normal when I left the ship.
The board of investigation’s synopsis stated:
At 8:55 a.m., November 10, 1944, an explosion, evidenced by flame and smoke, shot up from amidships near number three or four hold to more than masthead height. Within a few seconds at the most, the bulk of the ammunition aboard the U.S.S. MOUNT HOOD was set off, and a terrific explosion occurred, smoke obscuring the ship and the surrounding vicinity for a radius of approximately 500 yards on all sides.
The explosion obliterated Mount Hood, sending small fragments flying over a mile away and carving a trench in the harbor floor. The disaster was compounded by the fact that no ammunition handling berth had been designated at the port, and the ship had a central berth to facilitate distribution to other vessels. The explosion inflicted hundreds of casualties aboard 10 nearby ships and numerous smaller craft. Over 300 men were killed or died of their wounds.
No trace of any of the men aboard Mount Hood at the time of the explosion, including Yeoman 1st Class Schrader, was ever found. The only 18 members of Mount Hood’s crew to survive the day were not aboard the ship.
The board of investigation was unable to determine exactly what caused the disaster, but concluded “The most likely force to have caused the explosion was a load of ammunition set off by dropping into, or by striking the hatch of, number three or number four hold.”
The board of investigation painted a damning portrait of conditions aboard the ship:
The U.S.S. MOUNT HOOD had a relatively inexperienced crew. There was a lack of leadership among the officers, and lack of discipline among the crew. This condition was reflected in rough and careless handling of ammunition and lack of enforcing prohibition of smoking in boats alongside the U.S.S. MOUNT HOOD. The stowage condition of boosters, fuzes and detonators in number one hold was dangerous. In holds number two and three there were stowed broken rocket bodies from which some of the powder was spilled. […] Pyrotechnics and napalm were stowed in an open temporary wood and tar paper hut on deck under hazardous conditions near the hatch to number four hold.
The report added: “There was a general lack of posting safety regulations for handling ammunition, and instruction of the crew therein.”
In December 1944, one month after the disaster, the board of investigation concluded: “From the evidence appearing in the record the most likely cause of the explosion was careless handling of ammunition aboard the U.S.S. MOUNT HOOD. Definite responsibility for the explosion has not been fixed and is probably impossible of ascertainment.”
The board also criticized an officer at the port for berthing Mount Hood so close to other vessels.
The Bureau of Ordnance denied any responsibility for the disaster, though the investigation report included a circular dated March 7, 1945, that the bureau distributed shortly after the accident, which listed several changes in handling procedures and documented several cases in which ordnance detonated accidentally from only slight mishandling, such as
A TNT-loaded depth bomb dropped only 2 feet on a rounded corner produced a partial low-order detonation, and a warhead detonated when accidentally struck with a sledge hammer used for removing pieces of a crate, with no possible fuze action being involved in either case.
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (1885–1966), commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, did not dispute the facts presented by the board of investigation but argued
that the question of negligence is not involved but rather that the technical mistakes made by the above named officers were errors in judgment resulting from a keen desire to meet necessary military commitments and move on with the progress of the war.
Journal-Every Evening reported that Schrader’s adoptive parents were notified that he was missing on November 30, 1944, and learned of his death on February 14, 1945. In a letter to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission two years later, Mae Voshell wrote that her son “was loved and highly respected as one of the outstanding young men of this community […] The blow of his death has been the worst one we have ever endured.”
Schrader is honored on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines and at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle, Delaware.
One of the photos on this page was digitally enhanced using tools on the genealogy website MyHeritage. This software is useful in instances where the only known photograph is of limited resolution (in this case, because the original photo was blurry). I believe this to be an accurate reconstruction, but the software could potentially introduce errors by misinterpreting fuzzy details in the original photograph. A comparison of the original and enhanced versions of the photos can be viewed below.
Special thanks to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photos.
Delaware Marriages. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hall of Records, Dover, Delaware. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS7K-R9C4-S
“The Explosion of the U.S.S. Mount Hood Seeadler Harbor, Manus Is 10 November 1944.” Armed Services Explosives Safety Board, June 6, 1951. https://www.jag.navy.mil/library/investigations/MT%20HOOD%20EXPLOSION%2010%20NOV%2044.pdf
Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531891_00893, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4606970_00088
“George A. Schrader.” Evening Journal, February 19, 1962. Pg. 20. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/108469558/obituary-for-george-a-schrader/
Index Cards Birth 1920 – 1930 incl. Maryland State Archives. https://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/stagserm/sm1/sm27/000000/000041/pdf/msa_sm27_000041.pdf
“Lester Hull Wallace.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/90861950/lester-hull-wallace
“Louise Kumpel Boyd.” The News Journal, August 29, 2017. Pg. 12A. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/108477533/louise-kumpel-boyd-obit/
“Mae S. Voshell.” The Morning News, July 9, 1981. Pg. C6. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/108476485/mae-voshell-obit/
Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 1/1/1939–1/1/1949. Record Group 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/image/304697123, https://www.fold3.com/image/304697176
“News of Delaware and the Eastern Shore as Told by Our Correspondents.” Wilmington Morning News, May 2, 1929. Pg. 3. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/108469852/sara-schrader-death/
“Seaman Dies In Explosion In Pacific.” Journal-Every Evening, April 9, 1945. Pg. 1 and 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/108471533/schrader-killed-1/, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/108471825/schrader-killed-2/
Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00551-00076, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00545-00497
Voshell, Mae S. Letter to the Public Archives Commission, March 10, 1947. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/20706/rec/1
Voshell, Mae S. William Leonard Schrader Individual Military Service Record, c. 1947. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/20702/rec/1
Turner, H. A. “U.S.S. Mount Hood War Diary August 1944.” September 4, 1944. World War II War Diaries, 1941–1945. Record Group 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/image/287100645
Last updated on September 10, 2022
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