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First Sailing of the S.S. Smith Thompson

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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 2 Memoir Series
    • First Edition 2011
    • 22 photos, illustrations and drawings
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. One thing struck me that conveys the sense of urgency those many years ago, and that was the fact that within 30 days of the Smith Thompson’s completion, she was crossing the Pacific Ocean with her first load of war materiel!
The story that follows 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 being told here is by Al’s grandson, Steve Miller. The story set here 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.
When all is said and done with this story, I hope 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.”

  • Dedication
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Meet Albert F. Miller
  • Chapter 2: Al Gets His Opportunity
  • Chapter 3: The Smith Thompson Readies for Sea
  • Chapter 4: Time to Say Goodbye
  • Chapter 5: Issues and Comments to Consider as the Ship Puts to Sea
  • Chapter 6: The Smith Thompson’s First Day at Sea
  • Chapter 7: The Smith Thompson Settles in for a Long Voyage
  • Chapter 8: The Crew Gets to Know Each Other
  • Chapter 9: Working Together as a Crew
  • Chapter 10: Scuttlebutt Says the Ship Will Port in New Zealand
  • Chapter 11: Continuing the Westward Journey
  • Chapter 12: The Smith Thompson Moves Into the Indian Ocean
  • Chapter 13: Arrival at Bombay, India
  • Chapter 14: Time to Depart from the Long Stay in Bombay
  • Chapter 15: Arrival in Madras
  • Chapter 16: The Doldrums of Calcutta
  • Chapter 17: The Beginning of the Homeward-Bound Voyage
  • Chapter 18: Putting India in the Rearview Mirror
  • Chapter 19: The S.S. Smith Thompson Heads for Home
  • Chapter 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

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