Thanksgiving History on the BROWN

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us stop and remember that more than 70 years ago our country was at war.  Liberty Ships were built to help in the war effort.  They carried much needed supplies and troops to the war areas.  Many of us are not old enough to have lived though that time and can only imagine how difficult it had to be for families that were apart, especially in a time without quick access to information, and with a lack of communication compared to what we have today. 

Our ship spent five Thanksgivings away from home.  The first Voyage stands out as it lasted 2 ½ months.  They carried over 8,000 long tons of supplies, most of it for the Russian Lend-Lease program.  We know that on most Thanksgivings the crew had a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  It may not have been like mom’s, grandma’s or the wife’s, but the best that could be produced in the galley aboard the ship.

Here are some facts from each of the voyage the JOHN W. BROWN made on Thanksgiving, along with some general WWII shots of the SS JOHN W BROWN during those years. 


First Thanksgiving...Voyage 1. at sea.  26 November 1942

The ship had departed the Canal Zone, Pacific side on 28-Oct-42 and would not arrive Saldanha Bay, South Africa until 29-Nov-42.  New York to the Persian Gulf -Steamed 15,400 miles. The trip took 2 1/2 months

 She was carrying 8,380.9 long tons of cargo. Most of the cargo, 8,084.3 long tons was for the Russian Lend-lease program, 233.7 purchased by the British and 62.9 for the British Lend-Lease.

 Mail: 22 sacks of US Army mail and 10 sacks of overseas mail

 Cargo: included motorcycles, trucks from 10 ton Mack to 1.5 Fords, armored scout cars, jeeps, canned pork product (Spam), dried beans, steel, railway cars axles,45-caliber submachine guns, and smokeless powder.

 On the deck were P-40 fighter planes, 10 Medium Sherman tanks, and 10 Canadian-built Valentine VIII medium tanks.  Note the wooden walkways/scaffolding (as seen in the above picture) that was used to walk on the 'deck', as the deck was too filled to enable much actual walking. 


Second Thanksgiving.  Voyage 3.  Docked Oran, Algeria- 25 Nov 1943

Arrived Oran, Algeria on22-Nov-43 and departed 30-Nov-43

Departed the Chesapeake Bay on15-Sep-43 to Oran, Algeria. 

Steamed 3,842 miles in 18 days & 22 hours. Average speed 8.46 knots.

Cargo: 7,854.5 Tons2500 items including: Sherman tanks, locomotive, Purple Heart medals, cigarettes, clothing, explosives, flammables & "hazardous articles"

Personnel: 36 officers & 303 enlisted men

 Around the Mediterranean-Moved large amount of cargo and troops from port to port in the Mediterranean.

 Arrived New York 18-Mar-44

Cargo: 274 pieces of equipment including: half-track, motorcycles & 61 tanks

 Personnel: 15 officers & 346 enlisted men of First Armored Division

Third Thanksgiving, Voyage 5, Naples, Italy- 23 Nov 1944

From Baltimore, Maryland 19-Oct-44.  Departed Naples, Italy on23-Nov-44; arrived Piombino, Italy on 24-Nov-44.  

 Cargo: general Army cargo, 11 bags of mail

 Personnel: 356 Army persons of the 758th Tank Battalion, one of the black units to fight in the European Theater

 Arrived New York 29-Dec-44


Fourth Thanksgiving.  Voyage 9.  New York 22-Nov-45

Departed Marseilles, France 22-Oct-45 and arrived New York 14-Nov-45.

Cargo:Had delivered 257,000 bushels of Wheat to Marseilles France.

 Personnel: 645 GI's came home on the BROWN.


Voyage 10

Departed New York on 26-Nov-46 for Italy

Cargo: Full load of wheat.

Fifth Thanksgiving.  Voyage 13.  New York 28-Nov-46

Departed London, England 1-Nov-46  and arrived New York on 15-Nov-46

Cargo to US: Ice skates, artist's colors, books for the library at Tufts College, musical instruments, tobacco, antiques, cologne, wine, gin,  rum,  woolens, linens, rabbit skins and dressed leather. There were cases of personal effects, trunks and miscellaneous items.

 On deck: Rockets & distress signals



As we all give THANKS this Thanksgiving 2015, remember to say thanks to all the men and women who did their part during WWII but say a little extra thanks to US Merchant Marines and Naval Armed Guard who served on Liberty Ships during the War.  As General Eisenhower said:

“The officers and men of the Merchant Marine, by their devotion to duty in the face of enemy action, as well as natural dangers of the sea, have brought us the tools to finish the job. Their contribution to final victory will be long remembered.”

Please have a Happy Thanksgiving from the members of Project Liberty Ship and the volunteer crew members on 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.

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