It was a very big deal and the announcement was spread quickly through newspapers large and small around the country. In the July 14th, 1918 edition of the Seattle Sunday Times ‘Along the Waterfront’ section they wrote: “CHINA WILL BUILD TWELVE VESSELS FOR U.S. – Chairman Hurley of Shipping Board Lets Contract to Be Executed in Shanghai – WASHINGTON, Saturday, July 13 – Chairman Edward N. Hurley of the Shipping Board today let a contract for the construction of 120,000 tons of ships in the Chinese government yards at Shanghai.
Washington officials regard this move by the chairman of the Shipping Board as a good business, a diplomatic stroke and an important factor in cementing and utilizing the strength that is really arrayed against Prussian autocracy.
China, with her teeming millions, has for many years found her best friend in the United States and is an ally of this nation and the others at war with Germany. Thus far only her moral support has been given to the Allies, but she has been anxious to play a useful part in the war and especially on behalf of the United States.
Modern Plant at Shanghai.
Chairman Hurley in his world-wide census of shipbuilding facilities which could be turned to account in building ships for the Allies faster than the German submarines could destroy them, found a great modern shipbuilding plant at Shanghai, owned and operated by the Chinese government, but near to idleness because the war had practically cut off the supply of iron and steel to China.
The plant is known as the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works and include the senior China government naval dock. The entire works are wholly owned by the Chinese government and are under the exclusive control of the navy. They were established in 1868 and in 1904 a foreign technical staff of shipbuilders, most of them from Scotland and under the direction of R.B. Mauchan, a master shipbuilder, took over the works and have been operating them ever since for the Chinese government.
Twelve Launching Ways.
There are twelve launching ways in the yard, each capable of turning out large steel ships of the most modern type, and both shops and plant fully equipped with modern machinery and capable of producing powerful marine engines and all ship accessories. The works had turned out more than three hundred ships, all completed in the one plant. There is a great drydock capable of docking ships up to 544 feet in length.
Chairman Hurley was anxious to keep this plant in operation at full strength for the benefit of the Allies. The first work of the war given to the plant was the rehabilitation of the German and Austrian vessels interned in China. These were made seaworthy and turned over to the United States, England, France and Italy as a part of China’s contribution to the war.
Before this work was completed chairman Hurley had negotiations under way by which ships could be built at Shanghai for the United States. He met a most hearty response from officials on behalf of the Chinese government. They were anxious to place all the facilities and resources of China controlled by the government at the disposal of the United States.
Twelve Modern Vessels.
Mr. Mauchan came to Washington and today contracts were signed by which as a first order twelve modern vessels of the cargo type will be built on account of the Shipping Board. The program of construction of vessels as now framed calls for the expenditure of about $30,000,000.
In return for this friendly act on the part of the United States, putting China practically in the same relationship to the United States as Japan in the matter of shipbuilding, the Chinese officials, through Mauchan have promised to show their desire to aid by setting out to break all records in rapid ship construction. Delivery of the first vessels will be made in about six months, and would be made much sooner but for the unavoidable delay in furnishing steel and iron from this country. As soon as the material I s on hand in quantities the shipbuilders will put thousands of men to work and rush the work night and day until they are completed.
The ships to be built in China will be from the standardized plans of the Shipping Board and engines will be built along standard lines as approved by the Shipping Board, and the vessels will be modern in every respect from top mast to keel.
Through the agreement negotiated by Chairman Hurley with the great shipbuilding concerns Japan is turning over to the Shipping Board a number of ships in exchange for steel in this country. The Chinese did not ask such an exchange, but will utilize the great Shanghai yard to capacity in building ships entirely for the United States so long as they may be required.”
According to Norman L. McKellar; “The Chinese contracts arose from an approach to Washington by the Superintendent of the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works in Shanghai. A canny Scot, he left the U.S. with a contract in his pocket for the building of 4 ships from steel to be supplied by the U.S. Government. These proved to be excellent vessels.”
When I first began researching this material I originally thought the ‘canny Scot’ McKellar referred was none other than Captain Robert Dollar (honorary title), who I’ll detail a bit later. While Dollar played a crucial role as an agent of the shipyard during the negotiations, in delivering material and delivering the finished products, I later learned from the above and other sources that the superintendent McKeller was specifically referring to was Robert B. Mauchan, a Scottish master shipbuilder who ran the Kiangnan yard. In fact, many Scotsmen had a role in the construction of these vessels as China had hired several shipbuilding experts from the renowned River Clyde area of Scotland, and even sent their own students there to train in Glasgow. Robert Dollar’s Scottish heritage was merely a coincidence.
Robert Buchanan Mauchan was born in Dumbarton, Scotland on May 25th, 1868. His parents were Andrew Altera Mauchan (1842-1923) and Catherine Downie Buchanan (1843-1919). He came from quite a large family and was the oldest of 10 children. His known siblings were Elizabeth (1869-unknown), Mary M. (1871-unknown), Catherine (1874-unknown), Andrew Clarke (1877-unknown), Colin B. (1879-unknown), John (1882-unknown), David B. (1883-unknown), Agnes H. (1885-unknown) and Charles (1886-unknown).He was educated at Dumbarton Burgh Academy and then Glasgow Athenaeum where it is believed he was taught Nautical Engineering as a trade.
His professional career began quite early, around 1882 when he was just 14 years old, with William Denny and Brothers, one of the largest River Clyde shipbuilders in Dumbarton. The firm was most famous for completing the legendary Clipper Ship, Cutty Sark.
Likely to seek his own fortune, he moved to China in 1887 at the age of 19 and settled in the bustling city of Shanghai with its large foreign population of French, British and Americans. He spent the next seven years with the China Merchants Steam Navigation Co. In 1894 at the age of 26 he took a position with S.C. Farnham & Co., the largest foreign (British) shipyard in Shanghai, which would eventually become the Shanghai Dock and Engineering Co., Ltd.
On April 30th, 1904, at the age of 35, he married 25-year-old Janey Helena Bruce Weir at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Church of England) in Shanghai. Miss Weir was born in Shanghai in 1879 to the Marine Superintendent of the China Merchants Steam Navigation Co., Thomas Weir (1845 – unknown) and his wife Cecelia (dates unknown). The Mauchan’s reportedly lived at 'Aulderwood', Route Dupleix, (present day Anfu Road), about two miles from the shipyard. This was in an exclusive area of Shanghai where a number of stately western villas were built. Many have survived to this day and are being used as shops, hotels and restaurants, although I have not yet been able to verify Aulderwood’s exact location or status to date.
Soon thereafter, his experience (and likely his connections) resulted in his working for the Chinese Government (Qing Dynasty) directly, when in 1905 he took a position with the Government owned Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works, formerly part of the Kiangnan Arsenal, taking with him a group of engineers, managers and experts from his former employer, S.C. Farnham & Co. According the ‘The Engineer’, he took the position on the condition that the Chinese open the yard to commercial contracts and not just government contracts, making the venture far more sustainable and wresting the monopoly away from the British owned yards. He was largely responsible for bringing the shipyard up to the most modern standards of the Europeans, Americans and Japanese.
It’s unclear what motivated Mauchan to leave S.C. Farnham & Co. beyond personal career and financial opportunities, but when you look at all the things he did, you could surmise he had it in for his former employer:
In an article written by Stephen Marshall in the September 1918 edition of ‘The Forum’, Mauchan spoke passionately about his work at Kiangnan and the Chinese people, saying “The action of the United States Shipping Board in awarding a huge contract to the Shanghai yard is going to produce remarkable results for America in China”. He went on to state “Do you realize the effect building American ships in China will have upon the young men of China? Knowing as they do the part shipping plays in winning this world war, can you not see the sentimental side of it as well as the economical? Closer commercial relations must result; a development of the vast opportunities for commercial relations between China and America. China is intellectually awake. Shipbuilding in China is not a new venture. It goes back hundreds of years. But building American ships there is new and novel. It has an appeal that strikes the Chinese mind with tremendous force at a time when all eyes are turned toward her.
After the war America must have an outlet for its surplus steel and machine tools, machinery and agricultural implements. Without a large export business built up with countries like China, America will be in a disadvantageous position. But the development of shipbuilding in China will in no wise effect America. The reciprocal relations will more than balance.”
Mauchan is believed to have stayed with Kiangnan for the next 28 years until his retirement when he moved back to Scotland.
On May 26th, 1933 Robert and Janey arrived in Greenock Scotland together aboard the Canadian Pacific Steamship Duchess of Richmond. They settled in a beautiful estate called 'Brincliffe' with Janey’s mother, located on Dhuhill Drive in the exclusive upper section of Helensburgh, Scotland, facing the ocean. Just around the corner is the famous Hill House designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
The timing of their move from their beloved Shanghai was likely due to what was known as ‘The January 28 Incident’ to the Chinese or ‘First Shanghai Incident’ to the Japanese which occurred between January 28th and March 3rd, 1932 when Japanese forces first attempted to take Shanghai by force. If the turmoil had not occurred he may have very well stayed in Shanghai until his dying day.
Robert passed-away three short years after their move back to Scotland, on March 11th, 1936 at the age of 67. Janey is believed to have passed-away the following year. Shanghai fell to the Japanese Empire in November of 1937, and with it, the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works he had worked so hard to develop for the Chinese.
He spent the majority of his life in Shanghai, nearly 46 of his 67 years. During that time he had a front row seat to the dramatic changes China, and especially Shanghai would face. From the fall the Qing dynasty, to the new Republic, Nationalist/Communist Civil War and finally the beginning of the invasion and occupation by the Japanese Empire. Shanghai grew rapidly during this tumultuous period.
For his service to China he was awarded the following:
Wen Hu - 2nd Class (1914), aka 'Order of the Striped Tiger'
Chai Ho - 3rd Class (1917), aka 'Order of the Precious Brilliant Golden Grain', based on the date, likely for his work securing the contract from the USSB for the Celestial and her sisters.
Pao Kong - 3rd Class (date unknown), details unknown.
According to Robert Dollar’s own memoir;
“I spent half of August [ES: 1918] either in New York or Washington. It was really hot but I got through with a great deal of business, principally in connection with the consummation of the contract for the Chinese Government to build steamers for the American Government. On closing the contract the Chinese Government through their Ambassador, Wellington Koo, conferred a very high honor on me by telling Mr. Hurley, President of the Shipping Board, that his Government requested the American Government to hand over to me all the money in payment for the ships, which would amount to many millions of dollars and not ask me to give either bond or agreement for the money. I cannot help but prize this confidence as one of the highest honors I have ever received.
For our part in this business the President of the Chinese Republic honored me with the Chia Ho, a description of which is herewith given in the following excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Order of the Chia Ho, China’s most prized decoration has been conferred upon Captain Robert Dollar, San Francisco capitalist, in recognition of his service during the war in securing from the United States Government for the Chinese Government a $14,000,000 contract for the construction of eight ships. Captain Dollar received the decoration – four stars, two gold and two silver overlapping, with a raised shock of wheat in the center – from the former President of the Chinese Republic, Li Yuanhong, Wednesday.
The distinction conferred upon Captain Dollar is one that rarely goes to foreigners, General John J. Pershing also is a member of the order.
Captain Dollar has extensive interests in China and his reputation for honesty and integrity is so well established that no bond or other security was required of him by the Chinese Government in handling the $14,000,000 shipbuilding contract. The money, secured from the United States Government, was turned over to the Chinese Government by Captain Dollar.
The Chia Ho in English takes the meaning of Bountiful Harvest. The decoration was brought to this country by officers of one of the ships of the Dollar Steamship Company.”
They were of Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works own design for a 10,000 Dead Weight Ton Steel Cargo Ship, which the EFC assigned the number 1092 (see plans below).
It would not surprise me if Dollar had some input on their design as well.
Celestial and her sisters were thoroughly modern ships for their day. They were designed from the start as oil burners (coal was being phased out), had a typical riveted hull, included accommodations for wireless ship to shore communications (telegraph only, not voice) and had three decks for more efficient distribution of dry cargo.
Her forward and aft masts each incorporated four steam powered loading booms, each with 5 tons capacity. The forward mast also included a 30 ton heavy lift boom. Her forward pair of king posts each had two 3 ton booms, and the aft king posts each had a single 3 ton boom. All designed to move cargo in and out of her 5 large holds efficiently.
As the work was about to begin, the significance from the Chinese perspective was provided in an Article in April 1919 edition of the Pacific Marine Review titled ‘How China Builds Ships for the United States’ by H.K. Kwong, Secretary, Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works, Kwong states: “The Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works will soon lay the keels of the four 10,000-ton steamers ordered by the American government. The significance of this event cannot be too strongly emphasized, since this is the first time that a great marine power has seen fit to ask of China assistance in shipbuilding. It comes as recognition of the immense progress this country has made in marine construction; and when the contract for four steamers with option of eight more is accompanied by the public statement of Mr. Hurley, chairman of the American Shipping Board, that he finds the Chinese government dockyard at Shanghai splendidly equipped and ranking as one of the most efficient plants of the world, it explains why the United States wants China to throw in her shipbuilding facilities for the cause for which the Associated Nations were fighting Germany. Nonetheless, America, in awarding the contract to the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works, acted not without a sincere desire for the friendship and with good-will toward this country.
Has Built 316 Vessels
Hitherto China has been building vessels for her navy and merchant marine in America, England and Japan. The table is now turned. China is to show that she is herself capable of doing what she has been wont to get done abroad. A new chapter of her industrial history is thus begun. In the thirteen years since the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works was changed from a dockyard devoted entirely to repairs and building vessels of the navy to one that takes in also commercial boats, it has built altogether 316 ships. Beside the Chinese government, Chinese merchants and shipowners of other nationalities in China, it has constructed vessels for the Russian government. The largest steamer built in China up till 1912 was launched at the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works in the spring of that year, when the steamship Kiang Hwa (a 4100-ton boat) of the China Merchants’ Steam Navigation Company hit the water.
The 10,000-ton steamers which China is to build for the United States will be the largest ships ever undertaken in the Far East outside of Japan. Yard No. 317 – this will be the name of the first of the four sister steamers until she is christened at her launching – is 425 feet long, 55 feet beam, with a loaded draft of 27 feet 6 inches and equipped with a triple expansion engine. All the construction work, the engine and boilers will be built in China. The United States is, however, to supply the steel materials.
To Employ 2500 Men
Pending the arrival of steel plates to begin work, extensive preparations are being made to put the dockyard in readiness. More than 2500 laborers, skilled and unskilled, will be required, and steps have already been taken to ensure the enrollment of this number of men when they are needed. From the arsenal the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works has acquired several mow of land along the river front for ship-berths. This, together with the land bought from private owners, brings up the total area of expansion to more than twenty-five mow (one Chinese mow is equivalent to one-sixth of an English acre). The dockyard now has five ship-berths for steamers of 10,000 or higher tonnage, besides numerous berths for smaller vessels. A cofferdam is erected in front of the berths to keep the water from washing up on the ground and causing softness to it. The foundation of the berths is prepared by driving 16-foot piles into the ground at regular intervals. Cranes will be erected in the shipping yard to facilitate transportation. These cranes are now being made in the work-shops of the dockyard.
It is the plan of the dockyard official to erect a new boiler shop, machines for which are now being shipped from the United States. The machine shop will also be enlarged with tools bought from America. As a part of the scheme to convert the dockyard from a steam-run to electricity-run plant, electricity will be used to propel the new machines. A large number of pneumatic hammers and drills have been bought: thus the Kiangnan dock will do away with hand riveting, etc., and make use of the labor-saving machines which are now being generally employed in America [ES: This was not to be. Much of the riveting appears to have been done by hand according to other accounts, as the pneumatic tools were not well received by the workers].
New narrow gauge railroad tracks will be laid to connect all the workshops and principal go-downs (storehouses) in order to facilitate transportation of materials and parts of machinery from one part of the dockyard to another. When the whole scheme of extension and improvement is complete, the shipbuilding plant will be thoroughly modernized and brought into line with the best dockyards of America and England. It will undoubtedly be one of the largest and most modernly equipped shipyards of the Far East.”
Other than the abortive submarine deal of 1915, this was arguably the proverbial high water mark in U.S. - China relations. In China it was viewed as a vote of confidence for the Republic and a great show of respect for their abilities. It also provided much needed funds to allow them to continue their modernization efforts while gaining practical experience in the art of large shipbuilding. America would gain four fine freighters and the deal would catapult us ahead of our European rivals in our relations with the new Republic, potentially leading to better access to Chinese markets and resources and vice versa. It does appear to have initially been a win-win for both parties.
A common thread I noticed in many of the articles I found, was the mention of the sheer size of the ships and the fact that China had never built ships this large, in tonnage or dimensionally, especially four at the same time. This surprised me as ‘never’ is a long time and China was one of the oldest civilizations on the planet. After a little digging, however, it appears to be true. China had only attempted to reboot their shipbuilding industry late in the 19th Century in the waning years of the Qing dynasty and it was given a high priority by the new Republic. Most of the ships built during this period were smaller river and coastal craft ranging from 112 to 1,480 tons. The closest they had gotten to date at Kiangnan were as H.K. Kwong mentioned, the 3,692 ton passenger river steamer Kiang Wah in 1912, which was 340 feet long with a breadth of 47 feet and had an impressive top speed of 16-1/2 knots. Kiang Wah was an exception by far. Prior to that, you’d have to go back five centuries to the Ming Dynasty and the great treasure fleets commanded by Zheng He.
As far as the boilers, the plan to have them built by the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works apparently fell through for some reason. In an article in the October 1918 edition of the Pacific Marine Review there was a plan to utilize six boilers salvaged from the San Francisco and Portland Steamship Company’s S.S. Bear, which had run aground on the Northern California coast in June of 1916. This plan too fell through, and the boilers were eventually brought to Yokohama on the wooden motor ship Alabama. As they were shipped to Yokohama, the assumption is that they were eventually used in some of the Shipping Board vessels being built there.
Ultimately, twelve brand new boilers, valued at $300,000, ended up being manufactured by the Willamette Iron and Steel Works in Portland Oregon and were shipped in November of 1919 aboard the Dollar Steamship Grace Dollar. The Grace Dollar discharged the boilers to the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works on December 30th, 1919. The boilers were described as being “of a Scotch marine type, 15 feet 3 inches in diameter by 11 feet 6 inches long. They were designed and constructed for a working pressure of 200 pounds and each boiler weighs 65 tons.” Each of the sisters would be equipped with three of these.
SIXTEEN vessels, large and small, are at present under construction in the Kiangnan Dock & Engineering Works, Shanghai. These include four 10,000-ton deadweight steamers, contracted for the United States Shipping Board, and one shallow draft steamer for a local firm, to run between Ichang (a port in Hupeh province, about 400 miles up the Yangtsze River from Hankow) and Chungking- in Szechuen province, 400 miles further up from Ichang, to tap the vast resources of Szechuen. This is to state in a nut-shell the work the Kiangnan Dock & Engineering Works has at hand.”
The article then focuses for several paragraphs on the import and export trade along the Yangtze River by the Chinese Engineer, who is never actually identified by name, before it continues to describe the work on the four sisters at Kiangnan:
“Of the vessels now under construction in the Kiangnan Dock & Engineering Works, by far the most important ones are the four 10,000-ton deadweight steamers for the United States Shipping Board. These are the largest steamers ever attempted in China. The keels of all four were laid this spring, but on account of transportation difficulties the work was held up by delays in the arrival of steel materials. The frames of the first ship are now up, and those of the second are in the process of erection, while work is progressing satisfactorily on the tank bottoms of the other two. Good progress is also being made in the marine engines and auxiliary machinery -- in fact, practically all the auxiliary machinery is completed.
These four ships will be named Mandarin, Celestial, Oriental and Cathay, according to the decision of the United States Shipping Board, to denote the place of their construction. In them America will see for the first time ships constructed in China in accordance with modern science and practice.
The foregoing is in the main the amount and kind of work the Kiangnan Dock & Engineering Works is doing. The schedule is a heavy one, but then the Kiangnan Dock & Engineering Works has recently greatly enlarged and improved its plant, thus doubling its producing capacity, and so it is more than able to handle the work at hand.
The steamers are designed as cargo carriers, each with a deadweight of 10,000 tons and a displacement of 14,306 tons. The dimensions are: 429 feet between perpendiculars, 55 feet breadth molded, and 37 feet 11-1/2 inches depth to shelter deck, with a speed of 10-1/2 knots [Ed: they were later known to make 13 knots]. They are driven by triple-expansion engines of 2600 I. H. P., supplied with superheated steam from three large Scotch boilers.
The work is in full swing. With at least 60 per cent of the raw materials already here, the dockyard has no fear of being forced to slow down on account of lack of materials. And the weather has also relented, and will most probably stay clear for a good stretch of time ahead.
In the meantime, satisfactory progress is being made in the construction of the engines, parts of which are now being assembled. On the other hand, most of the auxiliary machinery has been finished and is ready for installation any time the vessels are launched. It is conservatively estimated that 45 per cent of the propelling machinery is completed.
Another factor which will materially assist dispatch in the construction of the vessels is the extension and improvement of the dockyard by the erection of several new shops and the installation of the latest labor-saving machines from America. On this account, the Kiangnan Dock & Engineering Works may lay claim to being one of the most modernly equipped shipyards in China. From America the Kiangnan Dock & Engineering Works have bought air compressors, pneumatic tools, electric furnaces, plate rollers, punching and shearing machines, traveling cranes, lathes, drilling and milling machines, etc., which are now filling up the new shops erected to house them.
Finally, mention may be made of the excellent relations existing between the Kiangnan Dock & Engineering Works and the special representative of the United States Shipping Board in the Far East, John A. McGregor, whose headquarters are located in Yokohama, Japan. His technical adviser, J. L. Luckenbach, makes visits to the Kiangnan Dock & Engineering Works to watch the progress and construction. With permanent offices at the dockyard, the local surveyor of the American "Lloyds" is surveying the ships as the construction progresses.
Without doubt, the construction of these four steamers has greatly strengthened the friendship of the two republics on the Pacific. Enlightened people are speaking of it as a concrete example of Sino-American co-operation, which is much desired by them. When these ships, with their Oriental names on their bows, are commissioned, sailing in and out of American harbors, it is to be hoped that they will awaken American interest in China and in Chinese industries, which are emerging into importance in the life of this country. -- Millard's Review.”
Based on the attribution at the end, the Pacific Marine Review article appears to have been provided by American journalist Thomas Franklin Fairfax Millard, or directly copied from his weekly; ‘Millard's Review of the Far East’.
Mandarin was launched June 3rd, 1920 and christened by Cornelia Workman Smith-Crane, the wife of America’s Minister to China (March 22, 1920, to July 2, 1921), Charles Richard Crane.
I was very fortunate to find a series of photographs showing the sequence of Mandarin’s launching, which of course, would also apply to her three sisters, including the Celestial, which had a cameo in one of the photographs. I stumbled across the pictures while scrolling through photographs of old Shanghai on the Virtual Shanghai website in March of 2016. I was hoping to find a few images on the Kiangnan yard to include with this story. As I scrolled through the images I came across several generically labeled and dated images of a ship being launched. I took me a second or two to realize what I was looking at, but then it struck me.
I immediately reached out to the University of Bristol's Historical Photographs of China Collection which was noted as the source. The next day I had a response from Jamie Carstairs, Project Manager/co-ordinator/Digitisation Officer, Department of History (Historical Studies) with the University of Bristol and we worked through the details. The photographs, as it turned out, came from a photo album provided to the University by a man named Jeremy Johns, whose grandfather, Thomas Joseph Rowett Johns (1882-1947) served in the Chinese Maritime Customs Service (from 1903 to 1937), in revenue cruisers, and most likely took the photos. Jamie was able to pass this information back to Mr. Johns as well as Christian Henriot from Aix-Marseille Université, Département d'Etudes Asiatiques, who administers the Virtual Shanghai website.
I highly recommend you visit the two websites noted above as they provide a remarkable glimpse into the lives of the people of Shanghai during this period.
Rees appears to have been working for the Shipping Board at this time delivering ships. Before the war he was the Master of the old steamship Portland with the Kerr Steamship Line and during the war he commanded Westbrook and Western Spirit with the United States Naval Reserve Force as a Lieutenant Commander.
Celestial was launched August 3rd, 1920 and christened by the wife of U.S.S.B. Inspector for Shanghai M.A. Perry.
The event was described in the periodical ‘The Far Eastern Republic’; “The launching ceremony of the Celestial was brief. A gathering of distinguished individuals, including consular, municipal, and Chinese officials, had been invited and from the raised platform witnessed the ship slipping down the ways into the yellow flood of the Wangpoo. A detachment of Chinese troops stood at attention while the launching took place. Among those invited by the Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Company to witness the ceremony were Edwin S. Cunningham, United States Consul-General; A.D. Eberhardt, United States Consul-General at large; Captain Eisler and S.L. Ware, representatives of the United States Shipping Board; Colonel T.D. Sun, representing the military Governor at Shanghai; Hon. S.C. Hsu, former Minister of Justice; K. Yamasaki, Japanese Consul-General, and J. Harold Dollar of the Robert Dollar Company, president of the American Chamber of Commerce.”
John Harold Dollar Sr. (1887-1936) was Robert Dollar’s youngest son. He controlled all of the company’s interests in China at this time, based out their impressive office building in Shanghai. All four of his children were born in Shanghai between 1912 and 1922.
Not much is known of M. A. Perry and his wife at this time. The ‘Far Eastern Republic’ account notes his name as A.M. Perry, but multiple other sources show it as M.A. Perry. What little is known is from various trade and newspaper articles here and there. Prior to his Shipping Board assignment, Perry was an Engineer with the Fore River Shipbuilding Company in Massachusetts. Perry and his supervisors were originally based in Yokohama, Japan. When the contracts in Japan were completed, MacGregor and Luckenbach moved back to America, Perry moved to Shanghai, and took over the supervisory responsibilities for the completion of the four sisters on April 17th, 1920. His work was considered complete by January 15th, 1922, at which time he moved back to America. In all he spent three years in Asia.
Of the four names assigned to the sisters, ‘Celestial’ stood out to me. All the other names; Mandarin, Oriental and Cathay, all had a clear connection to China. Searching on just the word 'celestial' resulted in the expected references to the heavens and the stars. Searching on celestial in combination with China revealed that China was called the Celestial Empire in the past. According to Wikipedia.org: “The Celestial Empire was a name used to refer to China. It was a translation of Tianchao (Chinese: 天朝; pinyin: Tiāncháo), a name for China. Accordingly, the name "Celestial" was used to refer to Chinese emigrants to the United States, Canada, and Australia during the 19th century. Both terms were widely used in the English-language popular mass media of the day, but have fallen into disuse later on.” At one point, the name 'Palanquin' was considered for the fourth vessel, until the name Cathay won out. A Palanquin is a type of covered sedan chair carried by bearers used in China at the time.
It would take another nine months after her launching before Celestial was completed. In May 1921 she made her first successful trial outside Woosung. Below is a wonderful picture I obtained of Celestial from the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA. This is most likely during those sea trials off Woosung. Note the awning over her full width Flying Bridge, the number and size of the lifeboats, and the crew that can be seen in various places along the deck.
Celestial sailed from Shanghai on or about May 21st, 1921 and arrived in San Francisco on June 19th, 1921, where delivery was described as being “made by the Robert Dollar Company, representing the builder.” She sailed under the command of American Master, Fred E. Anderson, with a complement of six American and one Scottish officer* (an engineer, naturally) and 52 Chinese crew, as follows:
Unlike Master Rees of the Mandarin, Master Anderson was an employee of Dollar Steamship Company, and I’ve provided a brief summary of his life and career to the right.
Celestial was the first of the four sisters to make a voyage after delivery. “She sailed from San Francisco on September 24th, 1921 for Antwerp and other European ports laden with wheat, barley and other Pacific freights.”, making her the first of the four sisters to transit the Panama Canal and sail the Atlantic. This is the voyage on which she was operated by Williams, Dimond and Company, and while her Master is not known (Anderson was committed elsewhere), I did find a largely intact crew list which revealed that she interestingly also sailed with an American staff of officers and a Chinese crew. Celestial returned to San Francisco on April 20th, 1922 via Baltimore and San Pedro.
According to another article I found in the April 1922 edition of ‘The Weekly Review of the Far East – Formerly Millard’s Review’ on the Cathay, all four of the sisters eventually made a round the world tour. The route was described as leaving San Francisco then heading West across the Pacific with stops in Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, then across the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean through Gibraltar, into the North Atlantic and North Sea (perhaps even the Baltic Sea) where they made several stops in Europe before heading back across the Atlantic to Baltimore down the east coast into the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal up the coast to San Pedro and eventually returning back to San Francisco.
Due to Robert Dollar’s involvement in the project, one would have thought he would have been there for the launching of the first vessel. According to his diary, however, this does not appear to be the case. His memoir is somewhat difficult to follow as he rambles quite a bit and he does not date very many events. During the spring and summer of 1920 when Mandarin and Celestial were launched he appears to have been on a trip to the U.K. visiting, among several places, his ancestral home of Falkirk, Scotland.
Robert Dollar was actually in China in the summer of 1921 (Most likely June – he and his wife departed San Francisco on April 2nd, 1921 for Seattle) as the Oriental and Cathay were nearing completion, escorting a delegation of American businessmen. He wrote “I had planned to sail on one of the Dollar Company steamers from Vancouver to Japan; but received so many requests from various quarters to accompany the Commercial Commission from the Pacific Northwest on the Shipping Board steamer Wenatchee, that I finally decide to go with the Commission as far as Shanghai, and from there continue my journey on the Robert Dollar II.”
Dollar noted that the Commission filed a formal report upon their return, which read in part;
“Captain Robert Dollar, as a member of the visiting delegation and yet as a leader and pioneer in the development of American business at Shanghai and throughout China, spoke as one at home and at the same time as a guest. He reviewed what has been done in a few years, and urged the earnest effort of all to develop the full possibilities of trade between China and America, based on fair dealing and mutual respect.
Oriental was the third vessel completed and sailed from Shanghai on or about September 30th, 1921, also under the command of Master Fred E. Anderson.
All this was happening while China slowly started to spiral out of control. Shanghai was known as the ‘Paris of the East’ in the 1920’s. But her rapid growth was not without consequences as the different cultures mixed. Much of the wealth was contained in the western concessions, while many of the Chinese residents on the outskirts of the city lived in abject poverty. Shanghai was actually the birthplace of Chinese communism back in 1921. The first session of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China began on July 23rd, 1921 in Shanghai’s Bo Wen Girl’s School that was closed for the summer. This was just two months after the Cathay was launched and the Celestial had sailed for San Francisco. One of the 13 delegates was a 28-year-old revolutionary named Mao Zedong.
Besides Mandarin, Celestial, Oriental and Cathay being bought by Dollar, Luckenbach, like Dollar with unique insight into the quality of the vessels, scooped up most of the large Japanese built vessels:
Southbend, Marica (mis-spelled in advert) and Edellyn were all sisters originally designed for Luckenbach (other than the stern, somewhat similar to the design of EFC 1133, ie; the Honolulan with its extra deck and multiple pairs of kingposts), were taken over by the War Department upon completion and actually served before war’s end. After the war, they were returned to Luckenbach Steamship Company, where they operated as J.L. Luckenbach (aka John Lewis), Lillian Luckenbach and Dorothy Luckenbach, respectively. All saw service in WWII as well.
Eastern Merchant became the Robert Luckenbach
Eastern Trader became the Horace Luckenbach
East Indian remained under that name, operated by the Ford Motor Company. It was sunk off Capetown in 1942.
Eastern Shore – ownership unclear. Broken up in 1938.
Eastern Light became the Willkeno under Williams SS Co., and after A-H bought Williams, renamed first Isthmian then Illinioan.
Eastern Soldier became the Lena Luckenbach
Despite the slow-down in the U.S. shipping industry, and the withdrawal of the option to build eight more of the Mandarin design freighters, work continued at Kiangnan, just on a smaller scale. America kept its commitment to have Kiangnan build six river gunboats for the United States Navy’s Yangtze Patrol. These became the Guam (PG-43), Tutuila (PG-44), Panay (PG-45), Oahu (PG-46), Luzon (PG-47), and Mindanao (PG-48). Note: several of these links show the vessels being built at Kiangnan.
Turmoil in China at this time, however, and especially in Shanghai, resulted in many delays and these gunboats would not be completed until 1927-28. The story of these vessels is also a fascinating one and would one day be the backdrop for the 1966 classic film ‘The Sand Pebbles’ starring Steve McQueen. Too much to go into here, but I refer you to this website for the vessels fascinating real history.
As mentioned previously, Shanghai fell to the Japanese in November of 1937, and with it the Kiangnan yard. Large swaths of the city on the North side of the Soochow Creek were devastated, but the Kiangnan yard in the South appears to have survived largely intact. The Chinese had managed to evacuate their skilled shipyard employees further inland before the city fell.
The Japanese re-opened the yard in 1938 under the control of Mitsubishi Industries. Besides using it as a repair facility, they produced about 27 small vessels ranging from 435 to 3222 tons between 1941 and 1945, mainly small freighters. According to information I found on fold3.com, Kiangnan was on the target list of the US Army Air Corps in June of 1945, but it’s unclear if it was ever actually hit before the Japanese surrendered in August.
After the Japanese were defeated, the US Navy used the yard for a time as a repair facility before handing it back to Chinese control. Only one vessel was known to be built in 1947 and one in 1949.The Chinese Civil War picked up right where it had left off and Shanghai fell to the communists in 1949. The Nationalists reportedly bombed the yard at that time, causing extensive damage.
Ten vessels were known to be produced there between 1958 and 1968. It was not until 1965, nearly 45 years after the four sisters, that Kiangnan launched a ship exceeding their scale, the 13,488 DWT Dong Feng, followed by the 14465 DWT Chao Yang in 1968. At the time the yard was renamed Jiangnan. In 2009 production was shifted over the massive main Jiangnan yard on Changxing Island, at the mouth of the Yangtze River, north of Shanghai city. The original yard shifted back to more of a dry dock and repair facility and appears to still be in use today.
On the evening of July 29th, 1937 Arkansan was about to depart Chesapeake Bay when Master Jones noticed the nearby Chesapeake Steamship Company’s excursion steamer City of Baltimore (Not to be confused with the vessel by the same name operated by The Baltimore Mail Steamship Company) was on fire and raced to the rescue.
As described by reporter Jerry MacMullen in his article ‘BLAZING STEAMER LEAVES MARKS IN ARKANSAN’S SIDE’ – “Struck by a steamer ablaze from stem to stern – a steamer heading aimlessly about Chesapeake Bay, and whose frantic people she was trying to rescue – was the experience of the American-Hawaiian’s big freighter Arkansas [sic], which arrived here yesterday afternoon.
Dented plates in the Arkansan’s starboard side told their own tale of her encounter with the flaming City of Baltimore, in which five persons perished [Note: later downgraded to three] the evening of July 29. The Arkansan, San Diego bound from New London, Conn. was only some 1500 feet from the City of Baltimore when the latter vessel burst into flames, and Capt.Paul Jones immediately headed for the doomed ship, now out of control and belching sheets of flame and smoke. Six minutes from the time the alarm was given, the Arkansan was close alongside, and one of her boats in charge of Fourth Officer F. Van Syckle of San Francisco, was in the water, seeking survivors who had jumped from the flaming excursion steamer. Five of those saved owe their lives to the alertness and daring of the Arkansan’s officers.
So close to the City of Baltimore did the Arkansan go that they could clearly see the terror-stricken faces of those huddled in the bow. Then, in some unknown manner, the burning vessel took a sheer toward them. Quick orders to the helmsman – jangling of bells below! The Arkansan tried to get out of her way, but was unsuccessful. The City of Baltimore crashed into her starboard side, almost below the bridge. The Arkansan’s huge bulk reeled from the blow, and the City of Baltimore slid away, to run aground on a mud bank.
Her rescue work ended – the bay now was swarming with smaller craft – the Arkansan went on to Norfolk. Here the inspectors ordered that a cement patch be placed behind the damaged plates before she was allowed to proceed to the west coast.
Quick work was made of the Arkansan’s cargo here. It was 4:30 in the afternoon when Capt. H.C. Meriwether, port pilot, put her alongside Pier 1, and she was reported as sailing at 10 for the north.”
The City of Baltimore was a 297-1/2 foot long excursion steamer operated by the Chesapeake Steamship Company. There were 96 people aboard and according to modern day reporter Rafael Alvarez of the Baltimore Sun; “The fire erupted about an hour out of Baltimore, off Anne Arundel County near Seven Mile Knoll and Bodkin Creek. Within three minutes, all of the steamship City of Baltimore was ablaze and passengers on a Summer of 1937 cruise down the Chesapeake were leaping into the bay. Most of the passengers were in the salon or the dining room when the fire was discovered by a 21-year-old kitchen helper named James Johnson. Buckets of galley water had no effect.”
Alvarez also stated; “An exact cause was never established, but investigators believed a lighted cigar or cigarette got caught under a load of 100-pound bags of sugar before the City of Baltimore left the Chesapeake Lines' Pier 19 terminal on Light Street. The ship's captain, Charles O. Brooks, had his license suspended because he failed to immediately sound a general alarm and was lax in getting passengers into lifeboats. Second Engineer Albert Neil was also found guilty of negligence for not using all available pumps to bring water on the fire. By midnight, the City of Baltimore lay grounded in 13 feet of water some 500 feet east of Bodkin Point, its hull still burning.” She burned to the waterline and you can see old videos taken at the time here.
On the morning of September 19th, 1937, Arkansan, under the command of Paul Jones, entered San Pedro Harbor (Los Angeles) and proceeded slowly along a jetty. Suddenly they spotted another vessel, the Isthmian Lines Knoxville City, appear from a behind a group of anchored vessels moving in their direction at high speed. There was no time to react, and the Knoxville City sliced into the port bow of Arkansan, causing a massive amount of damage to both vessels. According to a newspaper article at the time, damage to the Arkansan was estimated at $100,000.00, and to the Knoxville at $60,000.00. Beyond the physical damage to each vessel there was also the matter of their cargo, both vessels being fully loaded.Judge William Denman presiding.
In the press the collision was described as follows: “Colliding with a rending crash heard throughout the San Pedro waterfront, two freighters were badly damaged yesterday in the main ship channel of Los Angeles Harbor. All hands aboard both vessels escaped death or injury, and managed to dock their craft before inrushing water waterlogged the vessels.The ships are the Isthmian Line freighter Knoxville City, 3450 tons, bound for Yokohama, and the American-Hawaiian freighter Arkansan, 4319 net tons, from San Francisco. The collision occurred at sunrise almost exactly in the middle of the 2200 foot fairway entrance between the two Los Angeles Harbor breakwaters. The weather was clear.
Both ships were making approximately twelve knots [Note: not true, Knoxville City was making 12 knots (Shanahan said 8 knots), but Arkansan had already reduced speed to 3-4 knots] and approached on a collision course for several hundred yards without apparent attempts to change course or alter speed, eyewitnesses said [also not true based on evidence submitted in court].Two fortunate factors contributed to the fact that no lives were lost or injuries caused to the crews, waterfront observers said. One was that the crews’ quarters are located midships instead of in the bows. The other was that no one was on duty on the forecastle where full force of the impact was felt.
The Knoxville City’s sharp prow knifed through the port bow of the Arkansan, ripping and buckling huge steel plates and hull frames in a space thirty feet high and twenty feet wide. As the Knoxville City’s bow was withdrawn from the gapping hole, water poured into the Arkansan’s forward holds so rapidly that within a few minutes she had settled deeply by the bow.
The Knoxville City also was leaking so badly it was believed she must be dry docked for repairs before officials will permit her to resume her trip to the Orient. The prompt arrival of tugs, which towed the Arkansan to a Long Beach wharf for discharge of cargo, prevented the ship from sinking in the harbor. The Knoxville City also was docked by tugs. Neither Capt. Paul R. Jones of the Arkansan nor Capt. George Shanahan of the Knoxville City would comment on cause of the crash.”
As Judge Denman would state in his decision; “This is a proceeding in admiralty in which are consolidated appeals from three decrees all based on a holding that the steamer Knoxville City was solely in fault for a collision with the steamer Arkansan. The collision was the result of maneuvers by the Knoxville City in navigating from her anchorage in the outer harbor of San Pedro to proceed to sea through the westerly opening of the San Pedro jetty and by the Arkansan which was steaming to pass through the opening to enter the harbor. The colliding point was inside the harbor to the northerly of the opening.
The Isthmian Steamship Company, owner of the Knoxville City, has three appeals, one from an interlocutory decree in favor of the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, owner of the Arkansan; one from a final decree dismissing its libel against the Arkansan; and a third from an interlocutory decree in favor of libelants Aiken Country Stores and others owning cargo on the Arkansan, for its damage as a result of the collision. The only questions raised by the appeals are concerning claimed errors in navigation on the part of each of the steamers.
The testimony was given in part at the hearing and in part by depositions. The depositions exceeded the number of viva voce witnesses, but the two principal witnesses, the captains on each steamship, were heard by the court.The master of the Knoxville City in his testimony at the inquiry before the federal investigating body, the "B" board of the United States Steamship Inspection Service, gave an account of ship movements just before the collision highly favorable to his vessel. Their detail and significance are later considered. None of these movements occurred, as was shown by the Knoxville City's Sperry gyroscope recorder. His second officer then on the bridge testified before the B board to the identical non-existent maneuvers. Likewise did the helmsman both as to the orders given to him and executed by him. Other testimony before the B board fitted into the helpful misrepresentation. Obviously, such conduct throws doubt upon all the ship's nonmechanical records. There is no suggestion that any proctor participated in what occurred before the inspectors.
In the district court the proctors for the Knoxville City, faced with the alternative embarrassments, not infrequent in admiralty practice, of the strong inferences against the ship if those concerned in her navigation are not produced and of offering witnesses who have so testified in the federal administrative proceeding investigating the collision, chose the latter course. They attempted to show by other testimony that the claimed actual maneuvers, some of which her officers had misrepresented to the inspectors, demonstrated that the Arkansan was solely in fault.
We feel that the lower court was fully justified in rejecting the contentions of the witnesses from the Knoxville City. It considered the other evidence and properly accepted as true the testimony it heard from the captain of the Arkansan. This finds support in the Arkansan's log and in other viva voce testimony from witnesses not connected with either vessel, though differing from the testimony of other such witnesses.”
You can find a full transcript of the appeals verdict here.
Regardless of the lengthy legal proceedings, the false accusations by Master Shanahan against Master Jones, and Shanahan’s eventual guilt, neither career seems to have been affected by the incident. Repairs to each vessel were completed, and everyone moved on, each man remaining in command of their respective vessels.
In an interesting coincidence, less than five years later both the Arkansan and Knoxville City, still commanded by Jones and Shanahan respectively, were sunk by U-boats in the Caribbean within days of each other. Shanahan’s Knoxville City was sunk June 2nd, 1942 with torpedoes and gunfire by U-158 (Erwin Rostin) about 50 miles southeast of Cape Corrientes, Cuba. Arkansan, of course, was sunk June 15th, 1942 by U-126 (Ernst Bauer) as described in the rest of this site.
Special thanks to the Blackett family for sharing their father's (Geoffrey Blackett) photos and newspaper clippings of the Knoxville City/Arkansan collision.
As I mentioned on the 'Bernard Bio' page, I ran across an interesting piece of "trivia" years ago while searching for more information on the Arkansan. On the Newspaper Archive site I found that the Arkansan was previously damaged on September 11th, 1941 while in Suez, Egypt. This was during a German Luftwaffe bombing raid on the port. She was one of several ships that were in Suez re-supplying British forces in Egypt that were under extreme pressure from the Germans at this stage of the war in North Africa. The famed Afrika Korps commanded by General Erwin Rommel had pushed the British across North Africa where the British were putting up a last stand of sorts West of Cairo, Egypt.
I had no idea how interesting and non-trivial this story was until just recently. In fact, I wasn't even sure this was the same ship at first. Ships are traded all the time, and it's not unusual to have two or more ships with the same name in service around the world at any given time. Add to that the confusion caused by the names being recycled for newer ships replacing their obsolete predecessors.
From an Associated Press report I found in the Sunday, September 14th 1941 edition of The Helena Independent, Helena Montana of all places, I was able to find details on the Arkansan's sailing dates, her crew, as well as the damage. The sailing dates are noted on Bernard's page. Her crew at the time of the attack was listed as 38, which was comprised of 36 Americans, one Briton and one Dutchman. Their names were:
And this is where my search took an interesting twist. Shortly after launching the website I contacted Captain George W. Duffy who I met a few years ago. This was to inquire about his new book 'Ambushed under the Southern Cross' and ask him some questions about the Mass Nautical School. George had graduated there 10 years after Bernard had. I also invited Capt. Duffy to visit my site and let me know what he thought. While reviewing the site he comes across the crew list above and two names jump out at him: Rodman L. Dickie and John G. (aka: Jocko) Carlson. As it turns out George knows both of these men and they are both living here in New England. George and Rodman have been friends for some sixty years and George had no idea Rodman was aboard the Arkansan when she was bombed. George being George, he immediately got to work trying to organize a meeting. As luck would have it George and Rodman were having a regularly scheduled luncheon with a group of other former Merchant Mariners the following week and George cordially invited me and my wife as guests.
Needless to say we had a great time. As I mentioned in the section above, Rodman has been working on a book of his own, detailing his experiences aboard the Arkansan as well as subsequent action aboard the American-Hawaiian SS Samuel Chase as part of the infamous Convoy PQ-17 to Russia.
Rodman has generously permitted me to include a summary of his time aboard the Arkansan, which I present here:
When Arkansan was on her way back to New York from the West coast they received word that the Arkansan had been chartered to the US Government to load “lend-lease” cargo. When they arrived in New York they found that most of the cargo was unknown except for a few identifiable vehicles and four twin-engine bombers. The aircraft were placed on top of Arkansan’s hatches, wheels chocked and lashed down to her decks. Soon after loading they found out they were headed for the Middle East.
Arkansan left New York for Cape Town South Africa on July 19th, 1941. Once there they dropped off a sick crew member (Englishman James McKee - diabetic issues), refueled and sailed within a few hours. They rounded the Cape of Good Hope, past Port Elizabeth, then Durbin, and then North past Madagascar.
They arrived in Port Sudan on September 5th. The port arranged to have an ancient steam powered crane on a barge pulled up alongside the Arkansan the next day to unload the aircraft. The first plane was lifted from Hatch #3, but the sling broke and the plane belly-flopped back down onto the deck. Luckily, no one was injured, and the Arkansan apparently sustained no serious damage. The bomber was ruined but at least it could be salvaged for spare parts. The other three planes were unloaded successfully once the new wire sling was rigged up. Arkansan left Port Sudan on September 8th for Port Tawfik, Suez, Egypt. The planes they had unloaded the day before flew over them and dipped their wings in thanks.
When they arrived in Port Tawfik they were warned about a possible air raid that night. It sounded like a routine event. The sirens sounded long after nightfall. 3rd Mate Dickie, Capt. Jones and seaman Joe Martin were on the open port bridge wing during the attack. There they caught an occasional glimpse of one the German planes in the search lights, watched the ack-ack (anti-aircraft fire) rise up, and the bombs falling and exploded throughout the port. Then, a cluster of 3 bombs bracketed the Arkansan. 2 exploded on the solid quay on their starboard side, and one exploded on the port side just when it made contact with the water. Shrapnel from this last bomb pierced the port side of the hull above the water line in several places. Joe Martin was slightly wounded on his hand, and they left to get him medical attention. It was a very close call for all three men. A repair gang patched the holes in the port side of the number 3 hold the next day.
Arkansan’s pre-war white Deck House stood out like a beacon during the raid. One hundred painters were hired the next day to paint all the white areas gray. The crew had a day or two to explore, some of them visiting the pyramids, and then Arkansan departed for India in ballast. They sailed past Mecca and made a brief stop at the Port of Aden for refueling. From there they continued Southeast and went through the passage between Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the Southern tip of India. Next they docked at the port of Vizagapatam and loaded 3000 tons of Chromite ore. They planned to fill the ship with jute (bales of burlap) at Calcutta.
When they finally reached Calcutta no mooring was available, so they had to tie up to a large buoy. The crew had to disconnect the anchor and move about 90 feet of anchor chain to do this. Very difficult work, as each link weighed nearly 50 pounds. The next day when a dock opened up they had to reverse the whole process. As they were finishing, the anchor chain was accidentally dragged over Chief Mate Lewis’ feet, causing serious injury and requiring immediate hospitalization.
This last paragraph becomes the key to why Bernard ended up on the Arkansan. Bernard came on board in Calcutta to replace the injured Lewis. He transferred over from the Hawaiian, as detailed on the 'Bernard Bio' page.
Unfortunately, Mr. Dickie doesn’t remember Bernard at all. He had picked up a case of dysentery in Egypt, and while he managed to stand all his watches, he spent the rest of his time in his cabin.
George B. Eaton was added as 4th Asst. Engineer in Calcutta October 18th, 1941, followed by Bernard as Chief Mate on October 20th. Once I was able to locate a crew list for the Arkansan on the voyage she was lost on, I was able to determine only 7 men stayed with Arkansan after this voyage:
The same evening that the Arkansan is bombed, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gives one of his most famous in a series of "fireside chats" over the radio to the American people. It concerned the attack on the USS Greer, an American destroyer that was fired upon by a German U-Boat off Iceland, as well as numerous other attacks on neutral American and Panamanian shipping, including the Robin Moor, Sessa, and Steel Seafarer. It builds the case for protecting our vessels by force if necessary and the freedom of the seas in general from an increasingly aggressive foe. It would informally become known as the "rattlesnake speech" for the analogy Roosevelt draws between the German U-Boat and a dangerous serpent that needs to be crushed before it can do harm. You can read a full transcript of the speech and even listen to the full 28 minute recording here.
The Steel Seafarer was another American ship that was traveling to Suez with supplies for the British. It was sunk by a German bomber equipped with torpedoes on the evening of September 5th in the Red Sea, while Arkansan was docked in Port Sudan, and along the route Arkansan would travel to Suez. I have noted the location on the map above with a yellow symbol.
As far as the newspaper article of the Suez attack, it states; "While the legation's communication spoke of the missiles striking the Arkansan as "shell fragments" officials here said the official who sent the message was not a military man and concluded that the vessel might have-been hit by fragments from a bomb, an anti-aircraft shell, an aerial torpedo, or from a shell fired by a cannon-carrying plane." They went on to say it was substantial enough to "pierce her plates".
From another article I discovered that two of the crew were injured slightly, although their names were not provided. I now know from the crew list that Rodman provided these were Able Bodied Seamen Joe Martin and Bill Lewis. Yet another search uncovered a lawsuit by Lewis charging that Captain Jones and American-Hawaiian were liable for his injuries because the ship was blacked out, and alleged that if the American flagged ship had only had its lights on to identify it as a "neutral", then it would not have been targeted. A charge the judge found laughable and so do I. Joe stayed on for the voyage home, but Bill Lewis was discharged in Suez. He was replaced by John Paenlo in Capetown on November 15th, 1941.
The Suez attack was carried out by the Luftwaffe's X Fliegerkorps Division, Unit III. / LG 1 operating from Derna in the eastern desert of Libya, known as Cyrenaica (see red symbol on map above). X Fliegerkorps was commanded by Lieutenant-General Hans Ferdinand Geisler at this time. The planes involved were most likely Junkers JU-88 A-4/Tropical.
I also looked into the type of planes that Arkansan delivered to Port Sudan. Rodman could not recall which type, but thought perhaps B-25 Mitchells. However, a little research on my part discovered those weren't given to the British until a year later. After looking at all the other American aircraft that would fit the "twin-engine bomber" description, the Douglas DB-7/Boston III was my primary candidate. Again, while reading "Iron Jaw: A Skipper Tells His Story - Captain Charles N. Bamforth (1895-1975)" (see Credits and Tools for more information on the book) I found another clue. On page 266, Bamforth talks about his outbound voyage that following March on the Honolulan and states "March 30, with the crew doing repairs to the running rigging aloft, one of them accidentally dropped a marlin spike, and it went through one of the nine partially-assembled Boston Bombers on deck." and then later "On the seventh we docked and started discharging the nine Boston Bombers via a floating crane and then discharged grain to the dock." and then goes on to tell an amusing story about a little graffiti performed on the planes by one of the crew members. Again, no guarantee, but an example that another American-Hawaiian ship delivered Douglas Bostons from New York to British forces in the Middle East around the same time.
As a result of the Suez attack, the Arkansan was thrust into another conflict, this one political, as there was much impassioned debate at this time as to whether we should arm our merchant ships to protect them. I came across several newspaper articles citing the Arkansan attack as further evidence that we needed to arm and defend our ships: