Pfc. Malcolm Christopher Killed Aboard Torpedoed Troopship

Pfc. Malcolm Christopher of Nutley, NJ, was KIA died aboard troopship Leopoldville Dec. 24, 1944. (Jan. 19, 1945) -- Pfc. Malcolm Christopher, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry C. Christopher of Chestnut street was reported missing in the European area. In March 1945, he was reported killed in action.

Christopher was aboard the Belgian troopship Leopoldville when it was sunk by a German submarine on Christmas Eve,, Dec. 24, 1944,  killing 802 men of the 2,235 aboard.

Christopher served in the 264th Infantry Regiment, 66th Infantry Division. He received the Purple Heart. He is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Normandy American Cemetery, St. Laurent-sur-Mer, France. S. Sgt. Gilbert Stueble of neighboring Belleville served in the same regiment and perished on the Leopoldville.

According to the 66th Division website:

The 66th Infantry Division was activated April 15, 1943 at Camp Blanding, FL. The 66th Division was part of the Sixth Army Group and participated in the Northern France campaign.

The 66th Infantry Division has not been without tragedy. On Christmas Eve 1944, one of their troopships the SS Leopoldville, a Belgium passenger ship converted into a transport, was crossing the English Channel and was hit and sunk by a German U-Boat. They were on our way to replace the troops at the Battle of the Bulge. That night they lost 14 officers, including two battalion commanders, and 784 enlisted men.

Two days later they were assigned to fight 60,000 Nazis in the pockets along the French Atlantic coast, the Black Panther Division, the 66th Division entered combat with grim determination - to avenge those who died in the English Channel.

SS Léopoldville was an 11,500-long-ton passenger liner of the Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo. She was converted for use as a troopship in the Second World War, and while sailing between Southampton and Cherbourg, was torpedoed and sunk by the U-486. As a result, approximately 763 soldiers died, together with 56 of her crew.

Prior to the attack, the Léopoldville had made 24 cross-Channel crossings, transporting more than 120,000 troops. She sailed as part of convoy WEP-3, a cross-channel convoy from Southampton to Cherbourg. The Léopoldville was in a diamond formation with four escorts; the destroyers HMS Brilliant and HMS Anthony, the frigate HMS Hotham, and the French frigate Croix de Lorraine, and another troopship the SS Cheshire.

On the day of the attack, the Léopoldville was carrying reinforcements from the 262nd and 264th Regiments, 66th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army towards the Battle of the Bulge. While in the English Channel on 24 December 1944, approximately five miles from the coast of Cherbourg, the convoy was attacked by U-486 and at 17.54 hours the Léopoldville was hit by one of two torpedoes fired from the U-boat. She finally sank by the stern at 20.40 hours.

Of the 2,235 American servicemen on board, approximately 515 are presumed to have gone down with the ship. Another 248 died from injuries, drowning, or hypothermia. Captain Charles Limbor, one Belgian and three Congolese crewmembers also went down with the ship. An unknown number of British soldiers died. Documents about the attack remained classified until 1996.

Pvt. Christopher Pfc. Christopher has been in service nearly two years and was formerly an Army Specialized Training Program student at the University of Wisconsin. The young soldier had spent a leave with his family over Armistice Day and left for overseas shortly afterward. He is a graduate of Nutley High school, class of 1942. Before entering service, he was employed at Hoffman-La Roche.

Nutley sons Sgt. Charles W. Katt and Pfc. Frederick Comer were killed when their troopship HMT Rohna was destroyed in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Algeria on Nov. 26, 1943.

From The Nutley Sun

January 19, 1945: Pfc. Malcolm Christopher, Thurston Woodford Missing

American Battle Monuments Commission

American Legion Post 70 Memorial

Belleville Sons Honor Roll, Gilbert Stueble

Leopoldville: a Tragedy Too Long Secret, By Allan Andrade

Leopoldville, 66th Division

Leopoldville Troopship Disaster

Wikipedia contributors. "SS Léopoldville (1929)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 Dec. 2018. Web. 30 Apr. 2019.

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