About George Ryan

George J. Ryan is a 1957 graduate of the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY. He was the Chair of the American Maritime History Project during which time the team completed "Braving the Wartime Seas" the story of the Cadet-Midshipmen and Graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and Maritime Commission cadet programs who died during World War II.

Scarborough, VADM, USCG Robert ‘44

Scarborough, VADM, USCG Robert ‘44

Telcon 1/31/13

Bob sent photocopies of his continuous discharge book showing his merchant marine career. Bob took his Basic Training out of Pass Christian and in fact never spent any time at Kings Point while a cadet. When he had sufficient time to sit for his 3rd Mate license, he was sent back to Pass Christian as a Special for license prep school; he immediately shipped out in May 1944 as third mate on the T-2 SS Catawba Ford.


He said he spent much of his time at Kings Point later in life as a Parade Reviewing Officer. Many years later he was given a degree from Kings Point but in the early days the decision to give Specials a degree was mixed; during his time he was denied a degree while before and after that timeframe degrees were given. Nevertheless Bob always felt he was a Kings Pointer.


Bob had many stories to tell about his sailing days in the Merchant Marine, the Navy and the Coast Guard where in 1982 he signaled finished with engines after serving as Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard. We are limiting his tales to some from his Cadet days.


His first cadet trip was for 4 months on the new Liberty SS Black Hawk to South African ports. While there was considerable evidence of submarine activity, his ship was not torpedoed. His ship was held in Capetown for an extended period of time where he had the opportunity to attend several sponsored parties even one attended by Prime Minister Smuts. There were four Cadets on the ship and upon return to USA two of the cadets claimed it was not a good ship for cadets; Bob was not of that opinion but all four were assigned different ships.


Bob and his shipmate from the Black Hawk, Donald Eberly (who had been a Navy Petty Officer when appointed a cadet), were assigned to what the assignment people thought was the Army transport Seminole formerly a passenger ship operated by Clyde-Mallory Lines. However when Bob arrived at Brooklyn Arm terminal on a Saturday afternoon he observed that the ship was painted white with red crosses. It was the newly converted hospital ship USAHS Seminole. When he reported on board Bob told the mate on watch that he thought it could be a violation of the Geneva Convention for him, in training to be a Navy line officer, to serve on a hospital ship. The mate said they were not scheduled to sail until Tuesday and assigned a stateroom. That night he witnessed a long steam of medical doctors embarking followed by a large number of young nurses (somehow he remembers that the oldest nurse, the supervisor was 25). He had a few drinks ashore with some of them and returned on board for the night. At 0600 the next morning he was awaked by banging on the stateroom door and was told that the Chief Mate wanted him to go forward to help with “shifting berths”. To his amazement the ship steamed out of the harbor bound for the Mediterranean North Africa. They were ordered to follow up on the aftermath of Allied Forces invasion of Italy; starting with the first three landings in Sicily. They shuttled back and forth every three days across the Med from Italy to Tunisia on the North African Coast. German Messerschmitt aircraft honored the white ship with its Hospital ship marking in daylight or when lighted; only once was there a strafing from one plane when they were blacked out that caused no injury; but Bob examined carefully the bullet holes near his upper deck room. He calls that trip the “Agony and the Ecstasy” tour. The agony was the terrible task of hauling severely wounded and dead bodies on board and the burials at sea. The ecstasy was the off watch company of many beautiful young nurses. They returned to New York in September 1943 and Cadet Everly reported to the Academy but resigned shortly thereafter hoping to resume his affair with a nurse with whom he had fallen in love (a shipboard romance that was not to last a lifetime and Eberly then resumed military service in a Petty Officer capacity).


Bob, then assigned in the status of a “special”, shipped out for three more trips as a cadet (about 4 months) on the MS Brandywine. He then had enough time to sit for his license and within 4 months, the new third mate shipped out on the Cataba Ford and later on the Four Lakes, Beecher Island, Antietam, Opequon and Saguaro, these last two ships of the war years Bob served as Chief Mate. He then had the one year necessary to sit for and pass his Unlimited Master’s license exam.


On that last trip, on the way home from the Pacific after Japan surrendered, his ship provided transportation for 10-12 Marines who were granted emergency leave for family reasons. Many had been in the combat zones for years; when they got to Panama and were given brief shore leave some became roaring drunk. The Shore Patrol picked them up and brought them to the ship telling Scarborough that they would be locked up in the local brig. Bob was Chief Mate and vouched for them and asked that they be taken on board. The men were out of control so they were hand cuffed to parts of the ship and had to be water hosed to settle them down. One Marine was free and crawling around the deck with a hunting knife in his mouth. Bob called the Cadet Calvin Major and other crew members to help subdue him; he was handcuffed to a rail for the night and was fine the next day. Bob believes that when any of those Marines remember that event they must be thanking him.


Searby, Arthur ‘43

Searby, Arthur ‘43

My ship, the Santa Isabel, was in convoy with the USS Arkansas during Operation Torch. We were also loaded with munitions, drums of 90 octane gasoline, and a cargo of support machinery. We docked in Safi, 128 miles south of Casablanca, after the port was secured. The discharge of our cargo went very slowly and we were sent back up to Casablanca to complete it, but before we could completely offload the navy commodore ordered us to join his convoy back to the states. The skipper was quite upset as we had not had a chance to secure for sea; booms were not cradled, etc. The Jr. 3rd asst. engineer, Bob Miles, and I were on watch in the engine room and we could not get the main stop valve on the starboard boiler to completely open. As I recall it had a floating piston in it that was stuck. As a result we became the “straggler” just off Casablanca, a very inopportune time and place. A destroyer came back to keep us company until we were able to free the piston and build up steam and speed enough to rejoin the convoy. Deck cadet Bill Walsh and I went back to the academy after that. Bob Miles watched a torpedo go by nice and close on the next run the ship made.


Bonnabel, Henry ‘44

Bonnabel, Henry ‘44

Bonnabel served on board Liberty SS James Longstreet when ship went aground on 26 October 1943 in a gale and was declared a total loss.

Comments made by ‘Bonnie’ Bonnabel on 9/11/2014

I thumbed through your gift book … and happened to notice a picture of the SS Harry Luckenbach which caught my eye (page 480).  I recall that a Luckenbach vessel was in the same convoy that my vessel was in and my vessel was also bound for Liverpool (as we learned after arrival at that port).  Also so many things described in the paragraph relating to that vessel and ex Kings Pointer LeRoy Kernan leads me to believe that I was in the same convoy.  Several days out, my ship broke down, the convoy deserted us, our chief engineer made a temporary repair and within a day, we were able to catch up with our convoy and a number of other ships from another convoy.  All vessels crews were extremely surprised of how little cover we had for such a numerous convoy and how, if anything happened, there was little hope of help.  The few cover vessels would have never been able to assist any vessel or crew without exposing 100 ships.  The cover vessels appeared to be small Canadian destroyers whose main job was to keep the German subs at the greatest possible distance with depth charges so they could not target individual convoy vessels, but many headed torpedoes into the convoy from unusual distances.  I never learned how many vessels were lost out of that convoy but we saw a number of fires and black smoke emanating from the ocean surface for several days as we steamed along.