Mr. Joseph Lewis Myers

Joseph Myers Saloon Passenger Saved
Joseph Myers image: Michael Poirier/National Archives
Born 1 February 1867 Broome or New York City, New York, United States
Died Please provide date and location
Age on Lusitania 48
Ticket number 46154
Cabin number B 59
Lifeboat overturned lifeboat
Rescued by Westborough (Katrina)
Occupation Businessman (lace manufacturer)
Citizenship United States
Religion Jewish (later Catholic)
Spouse(s) - first wife (? - ?) - Marie Van Geert (? - ?, presumably his death)
Joseph Myers, 48, was a United States citizen from New York City, New York. He was a lace manufacturer traveling to Europe. On the day of the Lusitania sinking, he saw the periscope of the submarine just before the torpedo was fired. Myers was on the port side of Lusitania during the disaster and was critical of how the port side lifeboats were handled. He had witnessed the crew ordering the passengers out of the port side lifeboats, after which no further effort to lower the lifeboats was made. Myers was washed off the deck and survived the disaster. For his injuries he was hospitalized in Cork, Ireland.

Life and family


Joseph Myers was born on 1 February 1867 in either Broome, New York, United States, or in New York City. He was the son of Lewis A. Myers of Baltimore. His family was Jewish with German ancestry. Thus, Joseph spoke English with a slight German accent. Myers was a lace manufacturer, merchant and importer at 1279 Madison Avenue in New York City. He was twice married, and had a daughter from his first marriage. His second wife was a French woman and Catholic, Marie Van Geert. With Marie, Joseph had two children. Roger Lewis Myers was born in Paris on 27 December 1912, and Yvette Sallie Myers was born in 1915 in New York City. The Myers family split their time between New York City and Paris, France. As of 1915 they lived at 176 Madison Avenue, but from 1908 to 1914 they lived in Paris. Having homes on both sides of the Atlantic and his business concerns meant that he had made over 100 round trips during the course of his career.

Lusitania


Myers had originally booked American Line's St. Paul, but transferred to Cunard's Lusitania because the Cunarder was the fastest ship in service. Myers had hoped to reach Europe by Friday, 7 May, but wartime economy measures meant that Lusitania would be traveling at reduced speed of 21 knots instead of her top speed of 25+ knots. Lusitania would not be scheduled to arrive in Liverpool until Saturday, 8 May. Myers had not heard anything about the German warning to passengers on British ships, printed the day Lusitania sailed from New York. Myers' ticket was 46154 and he stayed in cabin B-59. Myers saw the crew swing out the lifeboats on Thursday, 6 May, when the ship entered the war zone. He critiqued the crew as being inefficient and "not equal to" the task necessary of them in case of emergency. He said, "they looked more like day laborers than seamen." On Friday, 7 May, Myers lunched with Francis Kellet of Tuckahoe, New York. Subsequently they went on deck. Myers stated that he could see the Irish Coast "very plainly" and believed that before luncheon they were 10 to 12 miles from land and getting closer. He could see the Kinsale lighthouse. To his recollection, this was the closest Lusitania had approached land except for when reaching Fastnet. Myers thought that Lusitania's course seemed as if the ship were going to make port. Myers and Kellett were discussing a conversation they had had with another party at lunch when Myers saw the periscope and called attention to it to Kellett, saying, "My God, Frank, there is a periscope." Myers, having been on other ships that had been chased by submarines before, readily identified the object. Myers saw that the periscope was about in line with the bridge. As the periscope remained stationary while the ship moved forward, Myers said, "My God, Frank, they have put off a torpedo. My God, Frank, we are lost". The torpedo struck the ship. Myers saw coal dust and debris blown up into the air, coming through the funnel and up and alongside the side of the ship. Myers and Kellett ran into the Verandah Café to avoid the debris that were falling down. As Myers felt two explosions, he was sure that they had been torpedoed twice. In a letter to his mother, he stated that he saw the first torpedo leave the submarine and saw the submarine dive and saw the torpedo strike the ship. Myers went forward into a companionway while Kellett went aft, both to obtain lifejackets. They did not attempt to go below decks to find lifejackets, fearing that if they went down they would never come back up. Myers tried two or three stewards lockers and tried to see if there was a room that had a lifebelt in it, but was not successful. Kellett, who was aft, called to Myers, stating that he had a lifejacket for Myers. They helped each other with their lifejackets, however, they had put them on wrong. There had been plenty of printed notices how to put a on a lifebelt in each room, but Myers, and perhaps most passengers, did not anticipated any trouble on the Lusitania. Myers witnessed much confusion and excitement aboard the sinking ship. People were pouring out from belowdecks. Second cabin passengers were moving forward into the first class deck. One woman from second cabin came up to Myers with a boy and asked if he would help her and the boy into a lifeboat. They were on the port side. To get into the port side lifeboat that Myers assisted the woman and her son into required walking over a collapsible boat attached to the deck. The port side boat was already swung out, and Myers recalled, "She had plenty of room to go down if there was anybody there to lower her." Myers assisted the woman and her son into the lifeboat, and the woman pleaded with Myers to enter the boat with her as there were not many men in that boat. She begged, "We really will require some men; for God's sake come in and help me with my boy. Please don't let this boy drown." Myers and Kellett entered the lifeboat, but no one was around to lower it. A bathroom steward that had given Myers a bath that morning came aft, "a big fat fellow with a lifebelt on" Myers recollected, and called out, "Everybody out of the lifeboats. We are hard aground we are not going to sink." Based on that erroneous information, people in the lifeboats got out. Myers saw the crew attempt to lower some lifeboats on the port side, only to have these lifeboats fall. "I think it was the boat opposite 15 that I saw fall, that is (it) ran down on one side and the passengers were all dumped out." Later, Myers would have this to say about how the lifeboats were handled as the ship was sinking:
I think that if the Cunard Line had practiced the manning and getting away of the boats, and the proper assignment of officers and crew to the lifeboats the loss could not possibly have been one third of what it was. It is nonsense to say there was no confusion. There was panic. There was no discipline at all. Worst discipline I ever saw.
Of the situation, Myers would later write, "all the officers lost their heads, boats could not be launched. Only two got away safe, all the rest were lost." Myers and Kellett stayed in place on the port side deck until the crowd of people from fore and aft surrounding them made them feel uncomfortable. Myers turned to Kellett and said, "Frank, the best thing we can do is get into this boat again and wait until she goes over." Myers reentered the lifeboat and waited for the ship to go down, but due to the angle of the ship as she sank and how far aft their lifeboat was, the people inside the lifeboat were thrown out during the sinking. The ropes holding the lifeboat to the ship wrapped around Myers and dragged him down, as he was sitting in the bow of the lifeboat with the block and tackle of the davit above him and ropes beneath him. In his struggle to free himself he had three ribs on his front and back left side broken and two ribs on his right, had his right leg broken, left leg torn to where the nerves under the thigh were exposed and badly tore his arm. While in the water fighting for his life, he thought of his wife and son and told himself to survive for their sake. While in the water, he prayed and promised to become a Catholic like his second wife Marie if he was saved. The New York Times of 31 August 1915 reported the final moments differently as thus, "I was blown into the air when the boilers exploded and fell into the sea, where I floated about for nearly four hours clinging to some wreckage." In the water, he saw friends and acquaintances float by dead, or almost so. As Myers himself was too weak, he could not offer any assistance. Of the horrific conditions in the water he wrote to his mother, "It almost drove me mad."

Rescue


Myers laid in the water until he saw an overturned lifeboat approaching. Even with his injuries, he managed with his left hand get to the lifeboat and hang on. Myers was in the water for four hours before he was pulled aboard the rescue vessel Westborough at 6:30 p.m., then disguised as a Greek steamer named Katrina. Only then did he feel his broken leg and ribs hurt. Myers recalled that he was the last one saved of 52 survivors picked up by that vessel. His rescuers saw the bad shape that he was in and thought that he was not going to make it. They took off his clothes and turned him over to find out where he was hurt. They put him in the engine room for warmth without anything on. They arrived in Queenstown at 2:30 in the morning, twelve hours after the sinking. Myers was placed in a naval hospital until Sunday evening, when he was transferred to Golding’s Nursing Home, 18 Patrick Place, Cork. Even though he sent Cunard his name at 3 a.m. on Saturday, Cunard did not report him as saved until Monday, when he was visibly recovering. Francis Kellett was lost in the disaster. Myers followed through with his promise and converted to Catholicism after his rescue. His wife Marie and daughter crossed from the United States to Ireland to be with Joseph as he was recovering. Marie wrote Joseph's mother a letter while she was there. A week later, on 22 May 1915, when he wrote his letter to his mother, Myers was still recovering in the nursing home.

Later life


Myers, his wife, and his daughter, returned to New York aboard the French Line's Espagne, which sailed from Bordeaux in August 1915. From February to July of 1923, the family lived in Paris. Myers took his Lusitania case to the Mixed Claims Commission, which awarded him $15,000 for damages and $4,000 for lost property. His son Roger lived until 2 September 1996 when he died in Palm Springs, Florida. His daughter Yvette lived until 2005 and died in Labenne, France.

Related pages


Joseph Myers at the Mixed Claims Commission

Links of interest


Encyclopedia Titanica - Lest We Forget Part 2: As the Lusitania Went Down
Contributors Jim Kalafus, USA Daniel Moucheboeuf Michael Poirier, USA Zachary Schwarz Judith Tavares References Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005) Lest We Forget Part 2:  As the Lusitania Went Down ET Research. <http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/lusitania-lest-we-forget-2.html> "Joseph L. Myers Returns: New Yorker Was Badly Injured When Lusitania Was Blown Up." New York Times, 31 August 1915.

About the Author