U.S. and Brazil Commemorate World War II Submarine Tragedy

U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Brazilian Navy participate in WWII memorial wreath-laying ceremony. (Courtesy Photo U.S. Coast Guard District 7)

Sailors from both nations hold ceremony honoring those from the United States and Brazil who died off the coast of Florida in 1943

Brasilia, 18 November 2020 — The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton (WPC 1108), the coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr and the Brazilian training ship Brazil held a memorial wreath-laying ceremony at sea Sunday, November 15, in honor of the Brazilian navy officers and U.S. Navy military members who died in a World War II submarine accident involving the USS R-12 (SS 89) submarine off the coast of Key West, Florida.

The Charles Sexton crew and partners held the ceremony near the last known location of the R12 submarine. The ceremony included brief remarks, a minute of silence, and the laying of two wreaths by the Brazilian crew, representing each country participating.

U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman stated, “The United States and Brazil have an unforgettable history together. A history marked by advances and victories, yet also marked by occasional tragedies. We share these together as partners and allies. The incident of R12 may not capture headlines anymore, but the legacy of shared sacrifice in the face of tyranny cannot be forgotten.”

The submarine R12 departed Key West on June 12, 1943, for routine training operations with 45 U.S. Navy sailors and two Brazilian navy observers embarked. At 12:23 p.m., the collision alarm was sounded, and it was reported the forward battery compartment was flooding. In an estimated 15 seconds, R-12 sank, taking 42 officers and enlisted crew members with it, including the two embarked Brazilian officers. Only the bridge watch, which included the commanding officer, survived. The five surviving men were picked up by the submarine chaser SC-449 around 6 p.m. the same evening.

R12 was located on June 23, 1943, in 93 fathoms of water at 24°23’50″N, 81°38’30″W. The official cause of the sinking is still unknown.

On Nov. 6, 2020, the training ship Brazil and crew moored at Station Mayport, Florida, and the commanding officer and crew met with Coast Guard crews from the cutters Maria Bray, Hammer, Tarpon, and Heron.

This engagement allowed the Brazilian navy and Coast Guard crews to interact and develop stronger partnerships offering relationship building for both countries. This was the first port call for the Brazil crew, and it also allowed them to experience U.S. culture and the diversity America offers.

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For further information on this Press Release, please contact the U.S. Embassy Press Office in Brasília at BrasiliaEMBEUA@state.gov or on (+55 61) 3312 – 7367 / 7350 / 7364. Follow us on Twitter and Flickr.