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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

U.S. Navy Binnacle & Engine Order Telegraph From the Liberty Ship "JOSEPH PULITZER"

U.S. Navy Binnacle & Engine Order Telegraph from the bridge of the Liberty Ship "JOSEPH PULITZER"
In 1973, the Liberty Ship SS "JOSEPH PULITZER" was under tow, transferred from the James River to a salvage yard near Cape Henry, Virginia.  A survivor of WWII, the "JOSEPH PULITZER" was one of 200 Liberty ships that on  June 6, 1944 took part in the D-Day landings. Today, only a few parts and pieces of the ship survive to tell the story. The ship's binnacle compass and engine order telegraph from the bridge were removed from the ship before salvage and are now on display at Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery in Portsmouth, Virginia.

From the previous owner- "The telegraph and binnacle were a gift from the captain of the Polish salvage tug that towed the liberty ship "JOSEPH PULITZER" (the vessel from which they came) to the salvage yard in 1973. Her hull number was #0644, her keel was laid August 1942 and she was delivered in September 1942. She was active throughout the war in Europe and was laid up in the James River idle fleet after decommissioning at the end of WWII. I was the pilot that piloted the salvage tug towing the Joseph Pulitzer from the ghost fleet in the James River to Cape Henry, Virginia in 1973. Captain L.D. Amory III"

A typical Liberty ship crosses the ocean carrying cargo to a foreign destination. Photo from the Library of Congress.
As published in the book "THE LIBERTY SHIPS from A (A.B. Hammond) to Z (Zona Gale)" written by Capt. Walter W. Jaffee, the Liberty ships were the backbone of the Allied supply lines in World War II. Millions of tons of war material were needed on battlefronts around the world. The full might of U.S. industrial power was brought to bear and, “built by the mile and chopped off by the yard,” 2,710 Libertys sailed out of American shipyards to deliver the goods. From Murmansk to the great D-Day invasion; in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war; from Iwo Jima and the Leyte landings to the invasion of Okinawa, Libertys were the “bridge of ships” that helped the Allies win the war. Only two operational Liberty ships, the SS John W. Brown and the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, remain. 

Merchant Marine Heroes: Meritorious Service Medals Awarded "for Conduct or Service of a Meritorious Nature" during World War II

Bramble, Walter W. [H]  Able Seaman, SS Joseph Pulitzer 
In 1943, the SS Joseph Pulitzer, in which Bramble (then able seaman) was serving, transported troops, vehicles and Army supplies from a North African base to Gela, Sicily. This vessel, and others in the convoy, were subjected to many strafing and bombing attacks by enemy planes and also to bombardments from shore based artillery. During one of these attacks fragments from an anti-personnel bomb wounded all eight of the crew of the after three-inch gun, some so seriously that it was necessary to transfer them to a naval vessel for treatment. In this emergency, Bramble, who had some previous gunnery experience, volunteered and received permission to form a new gun crew composed of merchant seamen and Army personnel. For four days and nights this amateur crew performed valiant service in driving off enemy planes. It was credited with one plane shot down. Bramble's fine spirit, leadership and skill contributed materially to the safety of the ship and were in keeping with the high standards of the United States Mrchant Marine. [Bramble was from Baltimore, MD] Sep. 12, 1946.

Also noted:
A couple of hours after the Robert Rowan sank, four German planes attacked with fragmentation bombs, one of which wounded eight men inthe Joseph Pulitzer's 3-inch gun crew. The Pulitzer had a former Navy gun pointer in her civilian crew, so Captain Kingdon S. Thomas made him gun captain of a merchant seaman gun crew which "did some fine shooting." The new gun crew was drenched by water that night when raiding dive-bombers gave them some near misses. The third mate merely ended the log for the 8-to-12 watch with, "Army stevedores discharging cargo between bombs, bullets and barges." Walter Bramble.

Follow the link U.S. Navy Binnacle & Engine Order Telegraph From the Liberty Ship "JOSEPH PULITZER" for a complete description and images of these exceptional surviving instruments.