During the final years of World War II, the cargo vessel V.A. Fogg — then named the SS Four Lakes — made 30 trips, including 24 trans-Atlantic voyages to bring supplies of fuel oil to the troops in the European theater.
Despite close calls with German U-boats and other enemy vessels, the ship returned home safe time and time again and even after the war found a new life as a chemical carrying vessel for the oil refineries in Texas City.
But 40 years ago today, after dropping off a load of benzene in Freeport, the ship was in the Gulf of Mexico for cleaning of its tanks when, for reasons investigators could never confirm, it exploded. All 39 crew members aboard were killed, and the ship sank in 100 feet of water about 50 miles off the coast between Galveston and Freeport.
Manuel “DILLON” De La Cerda never served aboard the V.A. Fogg but had seen the ship plenty as a pipe fitter for Todd Ship Yards in Galveston.
“It would come into the yard and we would sand blast it, repaint it and put on new props,” De Le Cerda said of the ill-fated vessel.
When he heard of the fatal explosions, De La Cerda said he was moved to create some type of memorial to honor its crew. Even though he had never built a model ship before, he said he challenged himself not only to create a small replica of the Fogg, but to build a ship in a bottle.
It’s a memorial he keeps to this day.