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Ship That Would Not Die

USS Queens, SS Excambion, and USTS Texas Clipper

Stephen Curley; Afterword by J. Dale Shively

Publication Year: 2011

Starting its life as an attack transport in World War II—and one of the last five left afloat by war’s end—the USS Queens saw action at Iwo Jima and other hot spots in the Pacific theater. After the war, the ship became the SS Excambion, one of the “Four Aces” of American Export Lines: the only fully air-conditioned ships in the world at the time. In 1965, the versatile Excambion underwent yet another transformation—into a floating classroom. Recommissioned as the USTS Texas Clipper, the ship began a third life as a merchant marine training vessel with its home port in Galveston. For the next three decades the Texas Clipper would be home to merchant marine cadets, and by the time it was retired in 1996, it was the oldest active ship in the U.S. merchant marine fleet. Finally, the Texas Clipper, after protracted bureaucratic wrangling, was designated to be sunk in the Gulf of Mexico as an artificial reef to provide habitat for marine life. In 2009, the ship was towed to its final resting place, seventeen nautical miles off the coast of South Padre Island. Now, 136 feet below the surface, the venerable Texas Clipper lives on as the home to a wide variety of underwater species. Filled not only with meticulously researched technical and historical data about the ship’s construction, service record, crew procedures, and voyages, The Ship That Would Not Die also features lively anecdotes from crew members, passengers, and officers. More than 140 color and black-and-white photos illustrate the ship’s construction, its wide variety of shipboard life, the exacting process of making the Texas Clipper ready to become an artificial reef, and its final sinking in the Gulf of Mexico.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Contents

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pp. ix-

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Preface

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pp. xi-xiv

In Joseph Conrad’s short story “Youth,” Marlow remembers his old ship, now sunk beneath the sea on which she had once sailed: “I think of her with pleasure, with affection, with regret—as you would think of someone dead you have loved. I shall never forget her.” Amen, I say. Conrad’s two sentences convey agreeably (with the help of a sexist but satisfying pronoun...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-

While I was researching my book on the history of Texas A&M University at Galveston, I kept coming across material related to its first training ship, Texas Clipper. I always knew the ship’s story was a tale worth telling and could barely contain my enthusiasm when Texas...

Part One. USS Queens, 1944-1946, an Attack Transport: Serving in the Pacific War and Its Aftermath

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Chapter 1. Getting It Ready

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pp. 3-32

In 1944—for good or evil—giants directed the fate of the world: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, and Hirohito. FDR had just been elected to an unprecedented fourth term, this time with a new vice president, Harry Truman. Allied Forces sustained their increasingly successful offensive against the two remaining...

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Chapter 2. Off to War

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pp. 33-43

On January 19, at 0901, Queens, escorted by Traw (DE 350) and operating as Task Unit 29.6.3, departed Pier 4, berth 44, Naval Operations Base, Norfolk Virginia. Finally, the men learned the content of secret sailing orders: they were headed, via the Panama Canal, for service in the Pacific....

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Chapter 3. Peacetime

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pp. 44-62

On August 5, Queens picked up 1,651 passengers (1,094 navy enlisted, twenty marine officers, and 537 civilians) and steamed westward. The military complement was mostly “boots and replacements,” that is, new recruits and those...

Part Two. SS Excambion, 1948-1959, a Cargo-Passenger Liner: Plying the Mediterranean Trade for the American Flag Fleet

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Chapter 4. Reconversion

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pp. 65-81

In 1948, U.S. president Harry S. Truman held up an issue of the Chicago Daily Tribune with its famously erroneous headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Now in his first elected term, Truman faced off against Soviet premier Joseph Stalin in the Cold War (a phrase coined by Truman’s advisor Bernard Baruch)...

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Chapter 5. The New Four Aces

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pp. 83-105

The Four Aces—“staunch, sturdy and steady ships” (American Export Lines, 1951)—were scheduled to make their maiden voyages in 1948 in the same order as their prewar predecessors. But late deliveries from the shipbuilding yard, technical glitches, and labor unrest combined to delay their announced Tuesday sailing dates. AEL generally...

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Chapter 6. Troubled Waters

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pp. 106-116

Two major maritime incidents in 1956 would alter the shipping world forever. On the positive side, a little-heralded voyage in the spring would have far-reaching implications for the future of cargo handling technology. Here it was efficiency and not speed that set a new standard. On April 26, 1956, the converted...

Part Three. USTS Texas Clipper, 1965-1996, a Floating Classroom: Teaching Merchant Marine Cadets

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Chapter 7. On-the-Job Training

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pp. 119-141

The social revolution people generally think of when referring to the 1960s really didn’t begin until about 1965. That was the year that the miniskirt, developed by British designer Mary Quant, made its first startling appearance in mainstream fashion. Kids glided along on something called a skateboard (an improved version would be introduced...

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Chapter 8. A Changing Role

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pp. 142-162

Texas Clipper had a stimulating piece of recreational equipment installed in its after bar: foosball, a table soccer game in which each team manually spins rods to make miniature players propel a ball toward the other team’s goal. While the ship was docked, its deck had...

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Chapter 9. Going Out in Style

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pp. 163-174

In March 1989 university officials had to face facts: the ship was dilapidated. They appeared before a subcommittee of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee to ask that the aging Texas Clipper be replaced. MARAD came up with a money-saving counterproposal that two newer ships...

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Afterword. Navigating a Sinking Ship, 1996-2007: From Bureaucracy to the Bottom of the Gulf of Mexico

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pp. 175-197

The sun was beginning to peek over the horizon in the Gulf of Mexico as I stood on the after deck of the tugboat El Jaguar. It was dawn on November 17, 2007, and we were towing the seven-thousand-ton USTS Texas Clipper to its new home seventeen nautical miles off the coast of South Padre Island. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Appendix: Queens/Excambion/Texas Clipper Timeline

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pp. 199-205

Notes

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pp. 207-210

Bibliography

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pp. 211-217

Index

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pp. 219-235


E-ISBN-13: 9781603444699
E-ISBN-10: 1603444696
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603444279
Print-ISBN-10: 1603444270

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 69 color, 48 b&w photos. Line art. Map. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University