With a steady and calm voice, Edward P. Morgan behind the mike at ABC Radio in New York City told the nation about a horrendous collision between two large ocean liners — the SS Andrea Doria and MS Stockholm — 40 miles off Nantucket Island, Mass.
He never mentioned that his 14-year-old daughter, Linda, was on board the Andrea Doria and believed killed. She was traveling with her step-father, Camille Cianfarra, veteran foreign correspondent for the New York Times, her mother, Jane, and 8-year-old half-sister Joan.
The collision killed Joan instantly and mortally injured Camille. Linda’s mother was seriously injured but rescued by other passengers.
Just 3 years old, the Andrea Doria was Italy’s most elegant ocean-liner, considered “the largest, fastest, and supposedly safest,” designed by renowned Italian artists and described as “a floating palace, with elegant staterooms, stunning lounges, outdoor swimming pools, an air-conditioned 50-car garage and a chapel where Mass was said every day. Silver and gold graced the dining room table, where fabulous food was served.”
The ship was en route to New York from Genoa, Italy, with 1,766 passengers and crew.
Swedish American Line’s MS Stockholm — half the size of the Italian liner — was heading from New York to her home port of Gothenburg, Sweden, with 742 on board.
Traveling on the Andrea Doria that fateful voyage were actress Ruth Roman, Cary Grant’s wife Betsy Drake, Philadelphia Mayor Richardson, song writer Mike Stoller (“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog …”) — and Linda Morgan and family.
It was July 25, 1956. The following day, they’d be in New York, and guests were enjoying their last night aboard with dancing and drinks, when at 11:22 p.m. they felt a terrifying crunch followed by screaming passengers.
The Stockholm’s bow sliced into five passenger decks — killing six first-class passengers.
The Andrea Doria radioed, “SOS DE ICEH [this is Andrea Doria] SOS HERE AT 0320 GMT LAT. 40.30 N 69.53 W NEED IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE”
Stockholm’s Captain Harry Gunnar Nordenson also radioed for help.
Other ships including U.S. Navy vessels in the area heard the call and speeded to the rescue.
The Andrea Doria began tilting badly onto its starboard side, preventing the lifeboats on that side from being launched. As the ship was slowly sinking, passengers and crew scrambled into the remaining lifeboats or jumped into the sea.
The first rescue ship on the scene was the 390-foot freighter Cape Ann of the United Fruit Company, which was returning to the U.S. from Germany, followed by the U.S. Navy transport Private William H. Thomas, heading to New York, destroyer escort USS Edward H. Allen and tanker Robert E. Hopkins.
Finally, the luxury liner Île de France with 1,766 aboard heading for Le Havre, France, swung around and raced to help.
Once the Stockholm’s captain determined his ship wasn’t going to sink, they picked up survivors as well.
Most were taken to New York.
At 10:09 the following morning, the Andrea Doria, with its side at a right angle to the sea, sank forever to its watery grave.
Fifty-one were killed with the impact, or died later of their injuries or drowned. Five killed were crewmembers of the Stockholm — the rest were passengers from the Andrea Doria.
During maritime hearings in New York City that followed, Andrea Doria officers who were on the bridge during the collision described what happened:
“She’s bearing down on us … She’s coming right at us! But the Master had already appraised the situation: too late to swing to starboard. Collision was by now inevitable.
“We try to escape: ‘Hard to port,’ I hear the Master command. We signal our turn with the ship’s whistles.
“Franchini asks, ‘Captain, what about the engines?’
“‘No. Let them be! We need all the speed we’ve got now!’ the Master replies.
The Stockholm is, by now, coming full at us, right into us, without a signal. The Andrea Doria is beginning to respond to the helm, but it’s too late!
“Little more than a minute had passed, yet it seemed an eternity.
“The Stockholm rammed us right under the bridge, crushing more than 20 meters of the reinforced bow into our hull. She slid along the full length of our starboard side.”
After months of hearings, the investigation was abruptly terminated when an out-of-court settlement was reached between the two shipping companies and a fund set up for the victims.
When ABC Radio first learned of the tragedy, Edward Morgan was immediately told his daughter, Linda, was likely killed in the collision — but he still went on the air to report the news.
The next day, Morgan was back on the air. The text of his report was quoted in “Alive on the Andrea Doria,” a book by Pierette Simpson, a survivor on the ship:
“Within the space of 24 hours, this reporter has been pushed down the elevator shaft to the subbasement of despair and raised again to the heights of incredible joy, washed, one suspects, with slightly extravagant rivulets of some heavenly champagne.
“Last night, as far as the world at large was concerned, a girl, age 14 … nationality American, named Linda Morgan was dead. She happens to be this reporter’s daughter. She had been killed, by the incontrovertible evidence of an eyewitness…
“But Linda is NOT dead.
“The daughter of this reporter, Linda Morgan, accounted for one of the incidents of the tragedy which some would classify as a miracle. Sleeping in a stateroom on the starboard side of the Andrea Doria which bore the full brunt of the Stockholm’s crash, she was officially reported as killed.
“Instead, she was catapulted apparently onto the bow of the Stockholm, where a crewman found her alive in the wreckage. She was among the litter cases brought to New York today, not in critical condition …” (She suffered only a broken arm.)
Alvin Moscow added more detail in his book, “Collision Course:”
“She was alive because the Stockholm bow miraculously had swooped beneath her bed and had catapulted her from Cabin 52 on the Andrea Doria to the bow of the Stockholm.”
The press was quick to call Linda Morgan “the Miracle Girl.”
Whose fault was the Andrea Doria-Stockholm tragedy?
Both ships were equipped with the latest radar technology and were alerted to danger ahead — the Italian ship shrouded in thick fog.
Andrea Doria Captain Piero Calamai, 59, was saddled with most of the blame — though there was plenty of blame to go around — because he ordered his ship to be turned to the left (port), contrary to the standard maritime procedure of both ships turning right (starboard) when on a collision course.
Years later with the advent of computer technology, the collision was digitally recreated, and the final report concluded:
“Captain Calamai, realizing that he had no time to turn right (it was calculated later that he would have needed 11 more seconds to clear the other bow), made a permissible decision to turn left. A right turn would most likely have split the Stockholm in half, since the Andrea Doria was twice the size of the Stockholm.”
Nevertheless, Captain Calamai never commanded another ship.
With his distinguished 40-year career at sea dating back to World War I ended, he told his friends after the collision, “Before I used to love the sea. Now I hate it.”
Born in Walla Walla in 1910, Edward P. Morgan grew up in southwestern Idaho. After graduating from Whitman College, he became a prize-winning journalist, who with Howard K. Smith anchored ABC-TV’s coverage of the President Kennedy assassination, and the 1964 national elections.
He died at home in McLean, Va., in 1993 at age 82.
His daughter, Linda, married Phillip Duane Hardberger in 1968, Chief Justice of the Fourth Court of Appeals and later mayor of San Antonio.
In 1964, Idaho Sen. Frank F. Church read into the Congressional Record, “Anyone familiar with his daily commentary knows that Morgan is not a man who hits you over the head with a crisis — or bludgeons you with personal demagoguery. He uses his viewpoint to slide quietly into your confidence — sneaks up on you in a gentle, intellectual way — and before you know it, you’re trapped in logic.”
How journalism has changed.
• • •
Syd Albright is a writer and journalist living in Post Falls. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Auto collector’s loss…
Lost forever in the decaying bowels of the Andrea Doria at the bottom of the Atlantic is a treasure trove of cars being shipped from Italy to the U.S. Among them was a priceless one-of-a-kind Chrysler Norseman prototype built for Chrysler by Ghia in Italy. It was destined as a major attraction for the 1957 auto show circuit.
Miracle Girl’s words…
“I never understood the attention I got because I didn’t do anything, I just survived. I was once given a life-saving award, but I didn’t save any lives. I just survived. I couldn’t take credit for anything.”
— Linda Morgan Hardberger
More blame on the Captain…
“Captain Calamai of Andrea Doria was deliberately speeding in heavy fog, an admittedly common practice on passenger liners. The navigation rules required speed to be reduced during periods of limited visibility to a stopping distance within half the distance of visibility. As a practical matter, this would have meant reducing the speed of the ship to virtually zero in the dense fog…
“No determination of the cause(s) was ever formally published.”
“Capt. Piero Calamai, distraught, wanted to go down with the ship. The remaining crewmen said they wouldn’t leave without him. To save them, he agreed to abandon ship. He returned to his village in Italy a sad and broken man, and never went back to sea.”
— New England Historical Society
The unforgiving sea…
“The North Atlantic, like all oceans, is trackless and free, a no-man’s body of water beset by storms and ice in the winter and storms and fog in the summer. This mighty ocean has been made safe for travel by the genius of man. Yet in his frailty man must take care, for despite all the electronic wonders devised through the years of scientific progress, periodically the sea takes its toll.”
— Alvin Moscow, “Collision Course”
One lucky American sailor on board the Andrea Doria survived and had a story to tell the rest of his life: He slept through the entire collision and evacuation, before he was rescued from the sinking liner by the tanker ship Robert E. Hopkins.
Andria Doria wreck…
After more than sixty years on the ocean floor, the Andrea Doria is disintegrating in about 240 feet of water, snagged with old fishing nets and invisible nylon fishing lines. Many have photographed it, salvaged parts and retrieved artifacts — and eighteen divers have lost their lives.
Today, the wreck is called the “Mount Everest of Scuba Diving.”
On board the Stockholm, “There were crew quarters in the forward section of the ship and sadly five crewmembers were lost and others were injured. However, one 36-year-old Spanish cleaner Bernabe Polanco Garcia, felt he needed some fresh air and went up out on deck, and far forward, suddenly he heard a girl cry and calling for her mother. It seemed to come from near the wreckage on the bow section.
“He got onto his hands and knees and followed the sound and discovered a girl in yellow pyjamas. She looked at him and said in Spanish, ‘Dondé Está Mamá? — Were is she?’ He was amazed at her being there, for at the time he thought that she must have been one of the Stockholm’s passengers.
“It was only after she was taken to the ship’s doctor and nurse that it was discovered that she was not on the passenger list and that she was indeed a miracle having been transferred from one ship to another.”
Linda was Edward P. Morgan’s daughter — “The Miracle Girl.”
— Reuben Goossens, maritime historian