American-Hawaiian Steamship Co. in WWII


Since Arkansan was owned and operated by American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, I thought it would be interesting to see how the other ships in their fleet fared during the war.

When Europe erupted into war on September 1st, 1939, American-Hawaiian Steamship Co. had 39 ships in their fleet.

The ships ranged in age from 17 to 37 years old, with the average coming in at just over 22 years old. Arkansan and her sister ships were 18 and so were some of the “newer” ships in the fleet. The reason for this was the sheer number of Merchant Ships available after World War 1. In fact, according to several sources: "In the fifteen years between 1922 and 1937, only two ocean going dry cargo freighters were produced in American shipyards. A few tankers and passenger ships were built."

As with all American shipping lines, American-Hawaiian’s ships were time chartered on an open ended basis by the newly formed War Shipping Administration soon after our entry into the war. The WSA controlled the movement of the vessels and paid for various modifications (i.e.; defensive equipment, hull strengthening for same, accommodation modifications for Armed Guards, etc...) The ships were covered by war insurance that paid out in the event of the ship being lost by an act of war. The owners were paid a monthly (presumably) charter fee which covered their costs of crew, bunkers and stores and maintained insurance for losses outside of war insurance as well as a health scheme for the crew. Included in this charter was a preemptive purchase right so if a ship was modified to be say as U.S. Navy store ship, the USN could purchase her outright with an agreed compensation formula.

The vessels were still operated by the original shipping lines, commanded by their original Masters who acted as the company's agent, and staffed for the most part by the shipping lines' junior officers.

As the war progressed, there was an influx of new officers that were produced by the newly formed national maritime schools such as King's Point, NY, Fort Trumbull, CT, etc. in addition to the State Schools. The unlicensed union crews would typically swap out after each voyage and go back into a general pool, where the men were selected for new voyages based on the requirements of their skill set on a roughly 'first in, first out' basis.

American-Hawaiian was generally known as one of the better shipping lines to work for, and it was not unusual for some of the union crew to arrange to stay onboard or to wait until an opening on an American-Hawaiian vessel became available. American-Hawaiian was sometimes referred to by the nickname “American-Haywire” by the union crews and I’m still trying to track down the origins of this.

American-Hawaiian’s headquarters were located in San Francisco at 215 Market Street in the “Matson Building” just a few blocks from their piers under the Bay Bridge. Their main East Coast office was located at 90 Broad Street in lower Manhattan, also close to the piers. Both buildings exist to this day (see below):

American-Hawaiian officer's hat badge that was a common field modification of their Maritime Service hat badge, removing all but the wreath and adding the company's flag pin device to the center. This was in lieu of using the official bullion-wreath and flag device shown below.

American-Hawaiian Steamship Company hat badge, courtesy of Ian Watts at:

American-Hawaiian Steamship Company Headquarters at 215 Market Street, San Francisco , CA - "The Matson Building" on the left, and their East Coast offices at 90 Broad Street, New York, NY in lower Manhattan on the right.

The image of the officer’s hat badge at the top right shows the American-Hawaiian house flag on Maritime Service eagle. The other shipping lines would have had a similar badge, only with their own flag , of course. I had the good fortune of stumbling onto this image by doing a periodic search on American-Hawaiian. A gentleman named Ian Watts collects maritime artifacts and started a very interesting blog called Hawspipe in 2009, including several nice summaries and photos on various shipping topics. I recommend you check out his blog when you get a chance, especially for the summary on American-Hawaiian which includes additional details of their history before and after the war.

Of the original 39 ships, 13 survived the war in American-Hawaiian service, 11 were lost to enemy action, 10 were sold or given to allies, 3 were scuttled off the coast of Normandy in the weeks after the invasion to reinforce an artificial breakwater, and 1 was wrecked.

This only tells part of the story, however, because over the course of the war other ships were bought and sold. As the US Maritime Commission’s Liberty ships, Victory ships and the new, modern C-Type ships became available later in war these were provided to American-Hawaiian and other shipping lines to operate.

It was a little difficult to determine how many ships American-Hawaiian had in their fleet from year to year due to the lack of easily accessible records, but once again, other experts in the field were able to assist me. According to the US Merchant Marine site, War Shipping Administration Press Release No. 2029, dated September 24th, 1944 considered American-Hawaiian to be a 4 star company (highest level) with 75 to 100 vessels in its fleet. Initially my research was only been able to identify a low of 32 and a high of 43 vessels for any given year, but eventually I was able to fill in the blanks. Even though I believe the following summary is the most comprehensive list of American-Hawaiian Steamship Co. operated vessels during the war, it is possible some errors or exclusions were made, so this report should be considered a work in progress. Please let me know if you find any issues so I can make the necessary corrections.

Uniforms and Devices

Ian Watts provided some wonderful insight recently on the different hat badges and their history, which I wanted to share with you here:

"What usually happened prior to, during and after the Second World War in regard to shipping company uniforms is that a new licensed officer employee would go to a tailor to pick up his new uniform. In New York, the uniform shops were located in and around lower Manhattan and also in parts of the city around Union Square near steam ship company offices. These shops had an array of uniforms and headgear, and the new employee would state that he was working for such-and-such company. The tailors would have the various bits and bobs at hand, affix them to the hats, and off the mariner went. US Merchant Marine Academy graduates would recycle their uniforms and would (re)place buttons and devices on their uniforms with those of their new company."

"In regard to the hat badge; the bullion-wreath and flag device was worn by licensed officers. If they had a commission in the US Maritime Service (and if their shipping company did not take a dim view of it) they had the option of wearing US Maritime Service insignia at their discretion. What most did, especially those that had gone through the US Merchant Marine Academy, State Nautical Schools and US Maritime Service Officer Schools, was to deface their Maritime Service hat badges issued upon graduation with the company flag device commonly found with the bullion wreath. These defaced hat devices were not sold by tailors, but were rather on-the-spot modifications."

"After the war, and especially with the decline of US Maritime Service officer training programs by the mid-1950’s, this practice stopped. Licensed officers wore company devices, and life continued as before. More silk-embroidered hat badges started appearing, and stamped metal devices fell out of favor. The US maritime establishment had reached its zenith in the 1950’s (in terms of manned ships) and then began its precipitous decline resulting in the status quo."

"Both devices existed side-by-side; it depended upon the culture of the specific ship and the whims of the wearer."

American-Hawaiian advertisement from the late 1930's - courtesy of Larz Neilson

Just to be clear, this summary only includes vessels American-Hawaiian operated during the war. How I defined “during the war” is a bit subjective, but I settled on a start date of September 1st, 1939 when the shooting began in Europe which immediately put these vessels at risk, and an end date of September 2nd, 1945 when Japan formally surrendered. Any vessels sold prior to or delivered after this 6 year period were excluded.

On the eve of World War 2, American-Hawaiian had a movie produced which was essentially an early form of infomercial. It was called "Duty to Cargo" and was made in 'COSMOCOLOR'.

According to the March 1940 edition of the Pacific Marine Review magazine:

"Film Shows "Duty to Cargo"

On Tuesday, February 20, a new industrial motion picture entitled "Duty to Cargo" recently completed by the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, was shown to members of the Marine Exchange.

This film, which is in color and sound, was prepared under the supervision of Lewis Lapham. Its running time requires only twenty minutes. It denoted an entirely new step in institutional advertising by a shipping company. The first of the picture is concerned with the history of the company through its nine decades of intercoastal service, the balance with American-Hawaiian's conception of a shipowner's duty to his cargo."

It provides wonderful insight on American-Hawaiian's history and operations, including color video of several of the vessels I've profiled.

The following is a summary from year to year for the war years:


As mentioned above, at the start of war in Europe on September 1st, 1939 American-Hawaiian had 39 ships in the fleet. Most, if not all were employed in inter-coastal trade, meaning they ferried goods back and forth between the East and West coasts of America. These included:

They retained all of these ships through the remainder of 1939.

Note: Panaman is often incorrectly named Panamanian in other sources.


The fleet was reduced to its lowest level, 33 vessels in 1940 primarily due to the transfer of 5 vessels to our ally, Great Britain, who was suffering substantial losses and needed to supplement their fleet. These included:

Californian – Renamed Empire Seal, lost to German U-Boat U-96 on February 19th, 1942.

Delawarean – Renamed Empire Hawksbill , lost to German U-Boat U-564 on July 19th, 1942.

Indianan – Renamed Empire Eagle, then transferred to Norwegian Government in 1942 as Norjerv, eventually scuttled off Normandy with several other American-Hawaiian ships.

Louisianan – Renamed Empire Gannet and survived the war.

Tennessean – Renamed Empire Penguin, then transferred to Netherlands Government in 1942 as Van De Velde, which survived the war.

In addition to the five transfers noted above, one of the more unusual stories of ownership during the war involves the SS Canadian. Some sources erroneously state that Canadian was captured by the Japanese, but in fact she was legally purchased by them. In 1940 American-Hawaiian sold her to a European broker called Credimus Mij tot Deelneming in Industriele Bedrijven NV, who in turn sold her to a Panamanian company named Cia Transatlantica Centroamericana SA who then sold her to the Japanese company Kitagawa Sangyo Kaiun KK in 1941. After a sale to another Japanese company, Nissan Kisen in 1941, who renamed her Nikkin Maru, she eventually had the misfortune of being sunk by the American Submarine USS Tang (SS-306), commanded by ace Richard O’Kane off the Southwestern tip of Korea on June 30th, 1944. Special thanks to Roger Haworth of Miramar Ship Index.

As far as I can determine, no new ships joined the American-Hawaiian fleet, so the net loss for 1940 was 6 vessels.


The fleet remained remarkably stable in 1941 and only increased to 34 vessels. It’s important to remember that the United States did not enter the war until the December of this year.

The one increase of 1941 was the addition of the Colabee, which has an interesting history. She had only been bought in May of 1940 by a company called Illinois Atlantic Corporation from the Colabee Steamship Co., managed by American Range Lines.

Colabee SS Co was one of four single-ship companies owned by John C. Rogers & Co. of Philadelphia. In 1937 they had bought Colabee and three Submarine Boat design ships (Marsodak, Plow City, and Suwied – all lost during the war), registering each under a single-ship company. Rogers used American Range Lines Inc. as his management vehicle and it operated from 860 Drexel Building, 5th and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia. The individual companies, however, were all registered at 110 West 10th Street, Wilmington DE.

SS Colabee, circa 1939 while in Colabee Steamship Co. service. Note "Neutrality Flag" painted on side of hull under deckhouse and rolls of paper on deck and ramps. Photo courtesy of the E.B. "Skip" Gillham Collection via Bowling Green State University Library.

Colabee was purchased by Illinois Atlantic to transport newsprint from the Great Lakes to New York City, and ironically, was acquired to replace Canadian vessels that had been requisitioned by the British for the war effort. Illinois Atlantic Corp. was managed by Edward P. Farley & Co Inc., which operated from the same address on the east coast as American-Hawaiian, from 90 Broad Street, New York. At the time, Edward P. Farley himself was also a member of the Board of Directors of American-Hawaiian SS Co (since 1926) and became its chairman in 1944.

American-Hawaiian apparently took over management in 1941 of Colabee, but did not formally buy her from Illinois Atlantic, therefore her name was not changed to American-Hawaiian’s usual naming convention. This despite the fact that the names of the six ships transferred in 1940 were up for grabs (Californian, Canadian, Delawarean, Indianan, Louisianan, and Tennessean) as well as a few others they had used in the past (Arborean, Artisan, Isthmian and Scranton). Special thanks to Rainer Kolbicz of and Roger Haworth of Miramar Ship Index for getting to the bottom of this.

In other news, the reality of the looming conflict hits home on September 11th, 1941 when the first American-Hawaiian vessel to see action, Arkansan, is damaged by a near miss during a German bombing raid on the port of Suez. Two men are injured. If you haven't already done so, you can read a first person account of the attack as well as additional information I have researched on the Arkansan Info page, under the 'Suez Incident' section.


This was a horrible year for American-Hawaiian as it was for most US shipping companies because America was now officially at war. A war we were clearly not adequately prepared for. The following is a chronological list of losses for the year. Unless otherwise noted, these ships were traveling unarmed and unescorted despite the lessons learned from our allies the previous 2 years.

Texan (Master Robert Hugh Murphy) was sunk by U-126 (Ernst Bauer) on March 11th, 1942 north of Nuevitas, Cuba. 10 dead and 37 survivors. See my detailed Texan page for more information.

Colabee (Master Lee Merchant Morgan) was torpedoed by U-126 (Ernst Bauer) 10 miles off Cape Guajaba, Cuba and ran aground March 13th, 1942. 23 dead and 14 survivors. Colabee was salvaged and eventually returned to service in September of 1942. See off-site summary here for more information.

Washingtonian (Master Colman Raphael) was sunk by Imperial Japanese Submarine I-4 (Hajime Nakagawa) on April 6th, 1942 in the Eight Degree Channel (Maliku Kandu). See my detailed Washingtonian page for more information.

Ohioan (Master Frank H. Roberts) was sunk by U-564 (Reinhard "Teddy" Suhren) on May 8th, 1942 about 10 miles off Boynton Beach, Florida. 15 dead and 22 survivors. See my detailed Ohioan page for more information.

American (Master Robert M. Pierce) was sunk by U-504 (Hans-Georg Friedrich "Fritz" Poske) on June 11th, 1942 off Honduras in the Western Caribbean. See my detailed American page for more information.

Arkansan (Master Paul R. Jones) was sunk by U-126 (Ernst Bauer) on June 15th, 1942 off Grenada in the Southeastern Caribbean. 4 dead and 36 survivors. See my Arkansan Info page for the vessel's unique history, The Attack page for details on her loss and finally my Aftermath page for all the people and vessels connected to her loss.

Columbian (Master Edwin E. Johnson) was slightly damaged in a gun duel with the Italian submarine ARCHIMEDE (Gianfranco Gazzana-Priaroggia) on the evening of June 16th - 17th about 750 miles Northeast of the Amazon Delta in the Mid-Atlantic. At dusk the enemy submarine was sighted on the horizon off the starboard bow. Course was immediately changed to put it astern, and various courses were set during the night to enemy's superior surface speed, and at midnight the submarine was sighted on the port bow heading directly for the ship and opening fire with all its deck guns as it came in. In an adept maneuver, the ship was swung bringing the submarine close astern. Then the order was given for hard left rudder to check the swing and the ship's stern chaser gun went into action. The first shot was a direct hit just below the submarine's conning tower at point-blank range of not more than 200 yards. Quickly reloaded, the stern gun registered another hit. From then on there was no response from the submarine-- when last seen it was lying at right angles to the ship's course and settling low astern. ARCHIMEDE was only slightly damaged in the action. Columbian's Master, Edwin E. Johnson, was awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for his alert leadership and expert seamanship in defending his ship.

Honolulan (Master Charles N. Bamforth) was sunk by U-582 (Werner Schulte) on July 22nd, 1942 about 400 miles south of the Cape Verde Islands in the Mid-Atlantic. 0 dead and 39 survivors. See my detailed Honolulan page for more information. See also:"Iron Jaw: A Skipper Tells His Story - Captain Charles N. Bamforth (1895-1975)", Charles A. Bamforth and Richard A. Bamforth, Editors, Published in 2002, Dorrance Publishing Co. (Pittsburgh, Pa), ISBN 0805954171. Currently out of print but new signed copies are now available both online and directly from Richard A. Bamforth, P. O. Box 5068, Augusta ME 04332,

Oregonian (Master Harold Willard Dowling) was torpedoed and sunk by German aircraft on September 13th, 1942 about 120 miles Southwest of Svalbard in the North Atlantic while part of Convoy PQ-18 to the Soviet Union. She was the first ship in the starboard column of the convoy and was hit by 3 torpedoes on the starboard side, completely destroying that side of the ship and flooding the engine room. The ship took a heavy list to starboard, capsized and sank immediately. 22 crew were killed, including the Master, plus 7 of the Armed Guard. The 14 survivors were picked up by escort vessels and taken to Scotland, eventually arriving in Boston on October 15th aboard the Queen Mary. Oregonian was armed and traveling in convoy which was overwhelmed by attacks by U-boats, as well as bombers and torpedo planes flying from occupied Norway.

Coloradan (Master Robert H. Murphy - previously of the Texan) was sunk by U-159 (Helmut Witte) on October 9th, 1942 about 200 miles southwest of Cape Town, South Africa. See my detailed Coloradan page for more information.

Alaskan (Master Edwin Earle Greenlaw) was sunk by U-172 (Carl Emmermann) by torpedoes and gunfire on November 28th, 1942 East of Brazil in the Mid-Atlantic. See my detailed Alaskan page for more information.

In addition, Oklahoman (Master James McKenzie) ran aground in dense fog on July 7, 1942 while passing by Dassen Island, South Africa on her approach to Cape Town. She was refloated but later sank. All crew survived. According to Arthur Moore's 'A careless word...A NEEDLESS SINKING', Oklahoman was one of 37 American flagged vessels that were lost as a result of grounding or stranding during the war. Add to this 11 more that foundered in heavy seas, 24 lost in collisions, and finally 6 lost to cargo explosions or fire. These 78 vessels illustrate the dangers these crews faced even when they were not being shot at. Keep in mind that these were only American flagged vessels and not include British, Norwegian, etc. allies or neutrals.

Despite the loss of these 10 ships, the fleet increased to 48 with the addition of the following 24 known Liberty ships (Type EC2-S-C1), delivered in the following sequence:


Although only 3 ships were lost to enemy action, one, the Puerto Rican was especially tragic, and one, the Cape San Juan, although bad, could have been much, much worse. A few ships were transferred to the Soviets, and one to the US Navy. Once again American-Hawaiian benefited from a U.S. Maritime commission which was in high gear. I believe all ships were finally armed by this point.

The following is a chronological list of losses for the year:

Puerto Rican (Master Ralph Albert Oliver) was sunk by U-586 (Dietrich von der Esch) on March 9th, 1943 about 100 miles northeast of Iceland. 64 dead and 1 survivor. She was armed and was a straggler from Convoy RA-53. The main contributing factor for the high loss of life was primarily the weather (30° below zero air temperature, 21° water temperature and rough seas). The lifeboats were frozen in place and the one boat they managed to release before the ship went under capsized upon entry in the water. All men ended up in the frigid water, with only 8 making it to a raft. 2 days later only one remained alive, fireman August Wallenhaupt, and he ended up losing both legs below the knees and most of his fingers to frostbite. See off-site summaries here and here for more information.

Montanan (Master Charles Harry McGahan) was sunk by Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-27 (Toshiaki Fukumura) on June 3rd, 1943 150 miles South of Masirah Island, Oman in the Arabian Sea. See my detailed Montanan page for more information.

Harrison Gray Otis (Master Roy Moyes), a new Liberty ship just added to the fleet, was damaged by an Italian limpet mine near Gibraltar on August 4th 1943. There were two known casualties; John M. Lawson (F/W) and Carl H. Regan (2nd Engineer). She was later scrapped.

Cape San Juan (Master Walter M. Strong) was torpedoed at 0530 by Imperial Japanese Submarine I-21 (Hiroshi Inada) on November 11th, 1943, approximately 300 miles Southeast of the Fiji Islands. See my detailed Cape San Juan page for more information as well as multiple sub-pages.

In addition to the losses from enemy action above,

Stephen Johnson Field (Master Pierce Powers) was damaged by bomb fragments from near-misses by Japanese planes alongside Lyle Wharf, Milne Bay, New Guinea on January 23rd, 1943. At 0530 two Japanese planes approached the ship from the port side and dropped 8 bombs which straddled the ship as close as 20 feet. The hull was badly holed on both sides between number 4 and 5 holds (aft of deck house), with numerous smaller holes in other parts of the hull. Army personnel were working in the holds at the time. The holes were plugged in Milne Bay until permanent repairs were made in Brisbane, Australia. One Armed Guard sailor and two merchant crewman were injured, but there were no other casualties among the 19 Armed Guard and 41 merchant seamen.

Albert Gallatin was slightly damaged by U-107 (Volker Simmermacher) on August 28th, 1943 off Savannah, Georgia. Only 1 of 3 torpedoes hit, and it failed to detonate. All her crew survived. She was armed and escorted by a blimp. See off-site summary here for more information.

Daniel Boone was transferred to the US Navy on December 3rd, 1943 for conversion to the USS Ara (AK-136). She survived the war.

The following 4 ships were transferred to the Soviet Union and all survived the war:

Dakotan was renamed Ziryanin.

Iowan was renamed Tashkent.

Nebraskan was renamed Sukhona.

Nevadan was renamed Jan Tomp.

Despite the loss of these 9 ships, the fleet expanded to at least 69 with the addition of the following 30 ships:

26 Liberty ships (Type EC2-S-C1):

4 C-Type ships:

CAPE SAN JUAN (Type C1-B, Troopship) – August 6th + or -*

CAPE ISABEL (Type C1-B) - August 8th

MARINE EAGLE (Type C4-S-B1, Heavy Lift, Tank Carrier) – September 18th

SEA DEVIL (Type C3–S-A2, Troopship) – November 30th

* Cape San Juan was a C1-B Type delivered June 6th, but spent the next two months being converted to a troop transport.

**Thaddeus S. C. Lowe was original shown here as "1943 WSA, damaged while discharging cargo into landing craft by heavy seas, CTL. Towed USA and laid up Suisun Bay." based on the UK Mariners Liberty Ships site. It was assumed by me, incorrectly, that the damage occurred in 1943, but the damage in fact occurred in 1945. Most likely during the Makurazaki Typhoon that sank or damaged many ships in Japanese waters and passed close to Okinawa on or about September 16th, 1945. Thaddeus S.C. Lowe arrived back in San Francisco from Okinawa on October 11th under her own power, George H. Lee, Master (son of Ole Lee). The large volume of surplus tonnage at war's end made repairs uneconomic, but she enjoyed a productive life, solely in the Pacific, during her brief lifespan. Thanks to Peter Cundall for getting to the bottom of this.


Losses continue to decline and in addition to the continued influx of Liberty ships and C-Type ships, the Victory ships start arriving as well.

The following is a chronological list of losses for the year:

Albert Gallatin (Master Cyrus Lee Brown) was sunk by Imperial Japanese Navy Submarine I-26 (Toshio Kusaka) on January 2nd, 1944 about 40 miles off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea. All her crew of 43 Merchant Seamen and 28 Navy Armed Guard survived.

Some sources such as Jaffee state that management was transferred from American-Hawaiian to Isthmian SS Co, NY at the beginning of 1944, however she was clearly sunk at the beginning of the year in a position several weeks away from New York, which is problematic for this actually occurring since it is unlikely they would have changed management mid-voyage. Moore originally notes management as Isthmian, but in a later addendum changes this to American-Hawaiian.

William L. Marcy (Master Graham Griffiths) was damaged August 7th, 1944 by German Dackel torpedo off Juno Beach. See my detailed William L. Marcy page for more information..

William D. Burnham (Master Emil Rosol) was torpedoed by U-978 (Günther Pulst) on November 23rd, 1944 five miles off Barfleur, France. 18 dead and 50 survivors. She was armed but missed a rendezvous with Convoy TMC-44 and was being escorted by the British armed drifter HMS Fidget (FY 551). All the casualties were in or near a lifeboat awaiting abandon ship when a homing torpedo known as a FAT hit nearby. She was towed to shore but considered a total loss. William D. Burnham would be the last American-Hawaiian ship lost to enemy action in the Atlantic, and specifically the last lost to a German U-boat. See off-site summary here for more information.

In addition to these 3 losses, several American-Hawaiian Liberty ships were engaged in heavy enemy action in support of US forces in the Pacific. These included:

Benjamin Ide Wheeler (Master Dan J. Coughlin) was attacked by Japanese aircraft on three separate occasions between October 26th, 1944 and November 17th, 1944 while anchored between Palo and Tacloban, Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. She had sailed from Hollandia, New Guinea on October 18th carrying equipment for US Army Engineers and about 250 troops. Luckily, most of the troops had been disembarked by the time of the first attack. The first attack occurred at 0205 on the morning of October 26th when a Japanese plane dropped its bombs about twenty feet from the port side of the deck house. Shrapnel penetrated the hull and holed the port side boats. According to one source, 3 of the troops were wounded in the attack. The second and most devastating attack occurred later that morning when at 1045 a single engined Japanese plane came in and dropped it's bomb then crashed into the No. 5 hold, its engine continuing on and punching a hole about 9 feet in diameter in the port side of the hold. It is unclear from the various accounts whether this was an intentional kamikaze attack or the result of accurate anti-aircraft fire. The gasoline cargo ignited and Master Coughlin ordered the after magazine and No. 4 hold flooded. Several Navy craft assisted Wheeler's crew in fighting the fire including the USS Cable (ARS-19) which came alongside with foamite. The fire was eventually brought under control at about 1500. The flooded stern of the ship settled on the bottom until, when on November 11th, she was pumped out and moored next to the sunken SS AUGUSTUS THOMAS, which had been lost on the 24th. The third attack occurred on November 17th at about 2330 when a Japanese plane dropped about 50 anti-personnel bombs. One hit the starboard boat deck, but most fell into the water around the ship. On December 22nd she was moved to the inner harbor of Tacloban and used as a depot ship. Her crew had numbered 42, with 29 Armed Guard. One Able Bodied seaman and one Armed Guard were killed in the second attack. She was later towed to Suisun Bay, California and never sailed again, eventually getting scrapped in 1948.

SS Benjamin Ide Wheeler after being bombed in Leyte Gulf, Philippines on October 28th, 1944. Her flooded stern rests on the bottom. Photographed by T/4 Harry S. Young. Courtesy of U.S. National Archives via Frank A. Gerhardt at

Matthew P. Deady (Master Kenneth P. Frye) was heavily damaged November 3rd, 1944 while at anchor in Tacloban Bay, Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. At 0535 on the morning of November 3rd a plane dropped bombs and strafed the ship. The plane came over the stern to the port side and flew down that side of the ship. Deady's gunners claimed hits before the plane crashed into the No. 2 gun tub. Parts of the plane hit the No. 1 gun tub. Under the No. 2 gun tub was stored gasoline as well as acetylene and oxygen tanks on deck. An explosion and large fire followed the crash. Casualties were heavy. Approximately 26 Army personnel were killed, with more missing or wounded. Armed Guard casualties included two killed, and five injured. Within 15 minutes, five Japanese planes came in to strafe and drop anti-personnel bombs on the men swimming in the water. The Armed Guard accounted for one plane and probably destroyed another. On November 5 a phosphorous bomb landed 25 feet astern. On November 12th the ship hit a plane which barely missed the bridge and crashed 30 feet off the port beam. In the afternoon another plane missed the ship by 100 feet, while three other crashed nearby, all within 150 to 300 feet of the damaged ship. In 44 raids the ship accounted for six Japanese planes. She was able to leave the area under her own power on November 22nd, arriving in Hollandia, New Guinea on the 27th. She left for San Francisco on December 6th, arriving there on January 4th, 1945.

Elwood Haynes (Master not known) suffered a near miss from a Japanese bomb on November 16th, 1944. She went into action soon after her arrival and accounted for one plane on November 12th. Between this date and January 10th her Armed Guard went to battle stations during 223 alerts and spent 191 hours at general quarters. Enemy planes came near 43 times.

John Carroll (Master not known) received credit for no planes destroyed although she may have had a part in the destruction of one plane. She experienced 44 alerts and 20 raids in the ten-day period from November 12th to 22nd.

Lyman Beecher (Master not known) fired nine times during 83 alerts at Tacloban, Leyte. One bomb landed 200 yards from the ship. Her Armed Guard officer claimed one plane destroyed, one probable, and damage to three other planes by his gun crews. No planes were officially credited because of the lack of sufficient information.

In addition to the losses from enemy action above, three ships were scuttled off the coast of Normandy to help reinforce the breakwater protecting the storm damaged Mulberry A artificial harbor off Omaha Beach that allowed us to pour more men and material into France. These ships included:

Illinoian (Master Dana H. Smith) scuttled July 28th to reinforce Gooseberry 2.

Kentuckian (Master Edson Baxter Cates) scuttled August 4th to reinforce Gooseberry 2. Cates would later be lost on the Logan Victory.

Pennsylvanian (Master Edwin Earle Greenlaw) scuttled July 16th to reinforce Mulberry A.

With the loss of these 7 ships, the fleet continues to expand anyway to at least 78 with the addition of the following 16 known ships:

3 Liberty Ships (Type EC2-S-C1):

ELWOOD HAYNES – January 31st

HENRY L. GANTT – January 18th

WILLIAM B. LEEDS – January 22nd

8 C-Type Ships:

5 Victory Ships (Type VC2-S-AP3):






Nebraskan (Sukhona) was returned by the Soviets in 1944, but she was operated by the government and is not believed to have been managed by American-Hawaiian.


The war winds down, but American-Hawaiian’s ships and crews are not out of danger just yet. Although German U-boats remained a threat until the German surrender in May, American-Hawaiian’s ships faced their greatest threat while continuing to support the American advances through the Pacific. Operations in the Philippines and Okinawa would put them at risk from an increasingly desperate foe, using suicide kamikaze attacks.

Losses for the year include the following:

John M. Clayton (Master Nels E. Nelson) escaped the shelling of a small Japanese surface force reportedly consisting of a battleship, a cruiser, and six destroyers sent to attack her convoy heading for Mindoro, Philippines on December 26th, 1944. She was hit by a torpedo near midnight on December 26th, but this torpedo did not explode. A second torpedo struck John M. Clayton on December 30th, but it too, failed to explode. Her luck did not hold out. On January 1st a skip bomb hit the No. 3 hold. The attacking plane also strafed the ship. Casualties were heavy, four Armed Guards were killed and two were wounded. Two merchant crewmen were killed and two more wounded. The fire was extinguished in about ten minutes and the ship was beached on January 2nd.

Otis Skinner (Master Geoffrey Blackett - former 2nd Mate on Arkansan) was heavily damaged when a kamikaze crashed into the No. 2 hold at about 1253 ignited the cargo of gasoline in drums stored there. This was during the Lingayen Gulf landings in the northern Philippines on January 12th, 1945. Fire raged for 36 hours, but she continued toward Lingayen Gulf as her crew fought valiantly to save the ship on their own. One Armed Guard, seaman 1st class Donald C. Lambert was injured. Repairs were completed on February 4th and the ship left for Leyte on February 8th.

Logan Victory (Master Edson Baxter Cates) was sunk by Japanese kamikaze aircraft at Okinawa on April 6th, 1945. The first merchant ships in the Okinawa area arrived at Kerama Retto. These ships were the Pierre Victory, the Logan Victory, the Hobbs Victory, the Halaula Victory, and the Green Bay Victory. Enemy planes heavily attacked the first three ships, which were loaded with ammunition, and an LST, all of which were in the outer anchorage on April 6. First a kamikaze crashed into the LST-447 at about 1620. The next ship to be hit by a suicide plane was the Logan Victory at about 1647. The Logan Victory had already shot down one plane and assisted in destroying another. The plane approached from behind Kuba Island, zigzagging 100 feet off the water. The pilot opened fire with his machine guns when off the port bow and hit just aft of Logan Victory's deck house on the port side at the boat deck level. A large explosion followed and shrapnel and burning aviation fuel were sprayed over the surrounding area. Wooden deck houses added to the intensity of the flames, and the fire was fed by three bunker fuel tanks located below the point of impact. Steam and water lines were broken and the conflagration grew out of control with secondary explosions from the cargo of ammunition. Many acts of heroism followed. The ship was abandoned about 10 minutes after the kamikaze hit. Twelve merchant crew members were killed including the ship's captain, Edson Baxter Cates. Three Armed Guard were killed and nine were injured. Logan Victory would be the last American-Hawaiian vessel to be lost in the war.

Czechoslovakia Victory reportedly took part on the Okinawa campaign as well; however, I have not yet found any description of her experience there.

In addition to these losses, Columbian was transferred to the Soviet Union and renamed Kapitan Smirnov.

3 C-Type Ships were added to the fleet:

MARINE ARROW (Type C4-S-B5) – June 18th

MARINE STAR (Type C4-S-B5) – July 28th

MARINE FALCON (Type C4-S-A3) – August 18th

13 Victory Ships were added to the fleet (Type VC2-S-AP2):

SS Alabaman in Sydney Australia on or about August 14th, 1945 decorated to celebrate the end of the war. Chief Mate Dennis R. Beaumont can be seen in the lower right-hand corner. Photo courtesy of his son, Walter Beaumont.

At the time of the formal Japanese surrender on September 2nd, 1945, the 4 losses and 16 additions put the number of ships at 90. These included the following:

The 13 survivors of the original 39 are shown in bold text above.

Officers of Arkansan's sister, the SS Alabaman, celebrate the end of the war on her flying bridge in Sydney, Australia circa 1945. Left to right are; Chief Mate Dennis R. Beaumont, Second Mate Robert Graveley and possibly Jr. Third Mate James Murchison. Note speaking tube on the right, engine telegraph on the left and Aldis signal lamp and covered gun mount behind the men. Photo courtesy of Dennis' son, Walter Beaumont.

When it was all said and done, American-Hawaiian had lost 20 vessels over the course of the war, with another 6 that had been damaged. Some records are incomplete, but from what I have been able to determine so far these actions resulted in 376 men killed in action. They were comprised of 42 American-Hawaiian SS Co. Officers, 126 Merchant Seamen crew members, 52 Navy Armed Guard, and 156 passengers.