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A War Story By JIM DOYLE
(Reprinted with permission
of Jim Doyle)
This is a small World War II story, triggered by an inquiry from a veteran in Oregon about those old days, fleshed out by a
modern-day Internet web site in New York and bounded ‘round by some memories I’d like to share.
The Oregon gentleman is an alumnus of the University of Portland, a fine institution operated out there by the Congregation of the
Holy Cross. He was at a University reunion a few months back and walked up to talk to our son, Brian, who is editor of Portland, the University magazine.
“Wasn’t your Dad on the Mormacsea?” the man asked. “Yup,” replied Brian, and the man handed him a note that said: “History? What
happened to it? Should be burned to the water’s edge!” The Mormacsea was a WWII troop ship, and the man knew about my connection to it because Brian had written a piece about me once in the magazine.
The Oregon veteran had obviously not been a happy camper on the Mormacsea. He recalled his voyage on the ship as “probably the most
miserable trip I’ve ever taken. . . . We spent a lot of time locked in the bow of that ship, which was actually a converted Victory Ship, below the water line, with temperatures around 100 degrees +.” He spent 19 days on the
ship, he said, going from Pittsburg, California, to Brisbane, Australia. “We sure were happy to get off in Brisbane,” he wrote.
I don’t recall my trip to the Pacific on the Mormacsea as quite that bad. Hot, yes, and uncomfortable, yes, and long. I don’t think
we were locked in the hold, but it took 30 days or so, as I recall, as the ship zigzagged across the Pacific -- to avoid Japanese submarines, we were told. Eventually, my trip on the Mormacsea ended at Guadalcanal Island, after
the big battle there, and after some delay our unit continued on the ship up to Bougainville Island, where we joined the Army’s Americal Division.
Anyway, Brian sent me the man’s note and I decided to try to answer his question. Seemed like a good idea to learn what did happen to
that old tub on which we and thousands of other soldiers went to war in the Pacific.
And thanks to my computer and the wonderful world of the Internet, I learned a lot. I found a useful website for the Moore-McCormack
Steamship Co., which built and owned the ship, and in that website, an e-mail address for “Friends of Moore-McCormack.
I asked them about the Mormacsea and got, promptly, a wonderfully helpful response from Bill Vinson there at Friends of
“There were three Mormacsea ships,” he wrote. The one you sailed on during World War II was built in 1941. Sold in 196l as
‘Jacqueline Somack’ and sold again in 1964 as ‘National Seafarer.’ She was scrapped in 1968. . . . You might want to read about (on another website) how the Mormacsea brought $4,500,000 in gold from Norway at the start of the
I would, and I will someday soon check out that story. But in the meantime, I have sent all this information about the old Mormacsea
to the veteran in Oregon. She wasn’t burned to the water’s edge, I said, but she was eventually scrapped. That may make him a bit happier in his memories of that trip and time. I haven’t heard back from him yet. We shall
As for me, I am happy to have this information, but a little sad to know that the old ship is no longer sailing. She was a strong and
brave vessel doing great work in the noble struggle we all went through in those years – part of a unique time and our unique World War II generation. There’s never been anything quite like it, or us.
Copyright 2005 by James A. Doyle