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First Sailing of the S.S. Smith Thompson: Serving in the U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II

by Steve Miller

Merriam Press World War II Biography

eBook not available

Paperback - ISBN 9781716992056 - $17.99

Hardcover not available

The S.S. Smith Thompson was a World War II armed cargo ship built on an emergency basis by the U.S. War Shipping Administration.

The Smith Thompson was one of those “ordinary” Liberty ships that did her job during extraordinary times.

This story chronicles one man’s version of a typical voyage aboard a World War II Liberty ship.

The man at the center of the story is Albert F. Miller, or “Al” as he was called by his friends and family.

The story is told by Al’s grandson, Steve Miller and is intended to provide enjoyment and some nostalgia for the reader, not to be a textbook or reference manual.

The public then and now is ignorant about the Merchant Marine, in that merchant seamen in World War II suffered more deaths per capita than any branch of the U.S. military.

In fact, the War Shipping Administration deliberately refused to reveal the casualty figures during the war in order to avoid creating a shortage of volunteers.

My hope is that the reader will come to understand what it was like to serve aboard an armed merchant vessel, as it was for the vast majority of those that served.

They served quietly, without distinction, and felt no particular grandeur; they thought they were “just doing their job.”




1: Meet Albert F. Miller

2: Al Gets His Opportunity

3: The Smith Thompson Readies for Sea

4: Time to Say Goodbye

5: Issues and Comments to Consider as the Ship Puts to Sea

6: The Smith Thompson’s First Day at Sea

7: The Smith Thompson Settles in for a Long Voyage

8: The Crew Gets to Know Each Other

9: Working Together as a Crew

10: Scuttlebutt Says the Ship Will Port in New Zealand

11: Continuing the Westward Journey

12: The Smith Thompson Moves Into the Indian Ocean

13: Arrival at Bombay, India

14: Time to Depart from the Long Stay in Bombay

15: Arrival in Madras

16: The Doldrums of Calcutta

17: The Beginning of the Homeward-Bound Voyage

18: Putting India in the Rearview Mirror

19: The S.S. Smith Thompson Heads for Home

20: The Final Leg of the Journey

Appendix 1: Additional Sailing Information

Appendix 2: List of Non-Officer Merchant Personnel Aboard the Thompson on the First Sailing

Appendix 3: Crew Duties

Appendix 4: Status of the Liberty Ships and Victory Ships After the War

Appendix 5: Merchant Marine Radio School

Appendix 6: Port-to-Port Sailing Destinations of Al Miller’s Ships

264 6x9-inch pages, 22 photos

First Sailing of the S.S. Smith Thompson: Serving in the U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II

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