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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

SS NATHANAEL GREENE

For actions on September 12, 1942

Gallant Ship Award Citation:

During a long voyage to north Russia, SS NATHANAEL GREENE was under incessant and violent attack by enemy planes and submarines. In most gallant fashion, and in spite of many crew casualties, she consistently out-maneuvered and out-fought the enemy, finally discharging her vital cargo at the designated port. After effecting temporary repairs to her battered hull and rigging, she took part in the North African campaign. Bound for her last port, with limited cargo, she was torpedoed, and in a sinking condition was successfully beached.

The stark courage of her heroic crew in battle against overpowering odds caused her name to be perpetuated as a gallant ship.

SS Nathanael Greene was a Liberty ship built by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company and delivered to the U.S. Maritime Commission on March 12, 1942. Operated under a general agent agreement by United States Lines, the vessel participated in Convoy PQ-18, which transported war supplies from the United Kingdom and Iceland to the Russian Arctic port of Archangel.

The convoy departed Loch Ewe, Scotland on September 2, 1942, sailed around the northern coast of Iceland and crossed the Greenland Sea en route to Archangel. This circuitous route allowed the convoy to stay far away from the German-occupied Norwegian coast until it entered the Barents Sea. On September 13, the convoy encountered German submarines and bombers. Over several days of fierce fighting, the Naval Armed Guard aboard Nathanael Greene reported eight planes shot down.

On September 14, the vessel was severely damaged in an explosion. At the time, Nathanael Greene had been traveling in the convoy just to the port side of SS Mary Luckenbach, a cargo ship laden with tons of TNT, when that ship was struck by aerial torpedoes and exploded with incredible force. The explosion was so powerful that Nathanael Greene‘s crew thought that their ship had been struck. Most of the cargo on the deck of the ship was smashed, as were many doors, port holes, and the hospital aft. The concussive force of the exploding Mary Luckenbach even knocked the ship’s compasses out of adjustment. Two Armed Guard gunners and five merchant crewmen were injured. An additional crewman was washed overboard, although he was recovered alive. Despite the severe damage, Nathaniel Greene‘s engine was still functional and it was able to deliver its cargo to Archangel.

On February 23, 1943, while sailing in a convoy in the Mediterranean Sea, the German submarine U-565 launched two torpedoes into Nathanael Greene.  Dead in the water after being hit, the ship was struck again by a torpedo launched by a German bomber. Although their vessel was severely damaged and sinking fast, Nathanael Greene‘s crew, with the assistance of HMS Brixton, was able to beach the ship at Salamanda, Algeria. A constructive total loss, Nathanael Greene was scrapped in 1948.

Last updated: Wednesday, October 6, 2021