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Dear Gramps,

I have heard that during WWII, there was a naval vessel named Joseph Smith, and another one named Brigham Young.  What can you tell me about these two ships, and how they came to receive their names?  Where are they now?  Also, were there any other ships named for LDS church leaders?  Thanks.

Robert

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Answer

 

Robert,

Interesting question.  I was aware and knew something of these ships but I had to do some additional research to form an answer for you.

During WWII there were approximately 2700 liberty ships built between 1941 and 1945.  Their primary purpose was to transport cargo, oil and troops.  They were manned by civilians with a small crew of military personnel on board who were assigned to man the gun posts.  Due to the mass production of these ships, many of them were lost due to hull cracks.  Only a handful still remain.  Any group that could raise $2 million in war bonds could propose a name for a ship.  Many of these ships were never officially naval vessels as they were never commissioned as a USS (United States Ship).

The SS Brigham Young was originally launched in August of 1942 as a liberty ship.  In March of 1943 she was officially acquired by the military and renamed the USS Murzim.  She was manned by U.S Coast Guard personnel and was mainly used as a cargo ship to transport ammunition to various locations around the world.  Her crew earned the distinction of being the only crew during wartime who were ordered to “abandon ship.”  While sitting dockside a fire broke out while fully loaded with ammunition.  The fire was controlled.  She was decommissioned in Pearl Harbor in June of 1946.  She was towed to Suisun Bay in 1947 and remained there until 1969 at which time she was sold for foreign scrapping.

Not much is known about the SS Joseph Smith.  It was launched in May of 1943.  In 1944 it broke up and was scuttled in the Atlantic.

As far as any other ships of this type, I am unaware of any.  I have perused the entire list of liberty ships and couldn’t find another named after a leader within the Mormon Church.

There was, however, one ship named the USS Bennion.  It was named after Mervyn S. Bennion.  While he wasn’t a church leader, he was a notable Mormon.  It was commissioned in 1943 after Bennion’s death in 1941 during the Pearl Harbor attack.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

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