Our blog this week is a bit like stepping back in time. We'll be going to Thanksgiving Day 25 November 1943.
There was a man named Paul Baran who was a member of the US Navy Armed Guard (they were the ones who manned the guns to protect the ship). Paul was aboard on the SS JOHN W. BROWN’s third voyage and we have lots of information about this because Paul kept a journal of each day he was aboard. The info we have is in the form of letters to his girlfriend. The ship departed the Chesapeake Bay on 15 Sep 1943 for Oran, North Africa. She carried Sherman tanks, Locomotive, Purple Hearts medals, clothing, and hazardous materials. The voyage took almost 19 days.
From Paul Baran’s journal:
Oran NAfrica day 65 Nov 24, 1943
Well today is my liberty day so I guess I go up to the Red Cross to see a couple of movies. I hope you don’t mind, it’s the only enjoyment there is over here. I don’t know what I’d do with myself if they didn’t have the Red Cross. This will be short for I’m going ashore soon. I hope I meet someone I know today. I hear that some of my friends are over here now. Well tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. They brought some turkeys board today, so I guess will have a good meal for a change. Well honey! I guess I better sign off. I wrote you another Vmail today. I hope you get them all soon. So long Darling & God Bless you & have a wonderful time on Thanksgiving for both of us. Love xxx
Oran, Africa day 66 Nov. 25, 1943
Hello !!! Honey!!!
Well I sure did meet someone I know of all persons, Stinky Margie’s boyfriend. We had a nice long talk & departed. Well today is a day to be thankful & believe me honey! I’m plenty thankful. One reason is to still be alive & fighting for what I believe is right & to come home to my love one Josephine. Oh! Yes! I went up to the Fleet Post Office while I was ashore yesterday & sent you a cablegram & one to Mom Baran. I hope you get them soon. I saw two good movies yesterday. “Zigfield Follies” & “This is The Army” two good pictures. Well I wrote you another letter today. Be pulling out of here soon almost all loaded up with the French mechanized unit. So long now, God Bless you. Love & Kisses, Paul xxx
Paul did not write about the Thanksgiving Day dinner, but we know that most Thanksgivings the crew had a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
This is a sample menu from a Liberty Ship during the war:
Roast Turkey with Oyster stuffing
Fruit & assorted nuts
The SS JOHN W BROWN spent five Thanksgivings away from home during the war. Holidays are a time for people to gather with family and friends, but for merchant marines and other enlisted men, they had to work through holidays and spend extended periods of time away from their loved ones. As we gather tomorrow with friends and family, let us be thankful for those past and present who keep us safe. Happy Thanksgiving from the crew and members of Project Liberty Ship and the SS JOHN W BROWN!
Project Liberty Ship, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization engaged in the preservation and operation of the historic ship JOHN W. BROWN as a living memorial museum. Gifts to Project Liberty Ship are tax deductible.