Affiliation: South Jersey Postcard Club
Written: September 2002
First: SJPCC Newsletter, October 2002
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While the war in Europe raged . . .
Generally, the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, is considered the beginning of World War II. When history students examine the early years of the war, they find that despite the events in Europe, life throughout the rest of the world proceeded in normal ways.
Here is an excellent example . . . North Americans were cruising the West Indies while Europeans were fighting the battles of their lifetime.
. . . this post card was mailed in Havana, Cuba, on October 28, 1940. The message reads: "Greetings from gay Havana. This is the last call on the S/S "America'' 12 day cruise which also included San Juan, St. Thomas and Port-au-Prince. Why not plan now to join one of the later cruises - Nov. 9 & 23, Dec. 7 & 21? Edwin Dison, Bartlett Tours."
The new United States Lines S. S. America, was built at the Newport News (Virginia) Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., in 1939. The original blueprint design called for a 723 x 93 foot, twin screw, turbine ship of 26,545 GRT that could sustain 22 knots. Launched on August 31, 1939, she was the largest, fastest and most luxurious ship ever built in the United States. S. S. America was delivered July 2, 1940, and set out on a first cruise from New York to the West Indies on August 10, 1940.
Naturally President Franklin Roosevelt and most of the American people were sympathetic toward the conditions in Europe from the very beginning, but the isolationists enjoyed a very firm grip on the American psyche, and their dominance did not wane until December 1941.
When at last America entered the war effort against the Nazi Government of Germany, the Europeans had all ready been fighting for over two years. It would take only 3½ years to defeat the Nazis, but how did the US armed forces achieve such a task? How did the Americans transport nearly fourteen million men and all the war materiél across the Atlantic?
The facts are . . . it was done using ships like America. Taken over by the U.S. Navy as a troop transport ship in 1941, it was renamed U.S.S. Westpoint, and crossed the Atlantic almost weekly until discharged from Navy service on July 22, 1946.
Too bad the America didn't fare well after the war. Returned to passenger service in 1946, America sailed proudly for eighteen seasons, but starting in 1964 she was bought and sold five times. The last time to be used as a hotel ship in Thailand. She suffered eight name changes and on January 17, 1994, under-tow, she went aground off the Canary Islands and two days later broke into two. And, remains there - untouched! The stern has since sunk, but the bow (as of the Spring of 2002) is still upright in the water.