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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

American Merchant Marine Museum Takes Delivery of New Ship Model

SS President Harrison

KINGS POINT, N.Y., January 5, 2021 – On Dec. 3, 2020, The American Merchant Marine Museum, located on the McNulty Campus of the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, took delivery of its newest ship model, the S.S. President Harrison.

Professor Joshua M. Smith, Ph.D., Director, American Merchant Marine Museum said, “the ship is highly representative of the federal government’s commitment to a commercially viable merchant fleet that could serve in peace and war after the passage of the Jones Act of 1920. Initially built as a troopship, it had a long and profitable career as a commercial carrier until captured by the Japanese at the outset of World War II.”

The President Harrison, originally known as the SS Wolverine State, was part of the seven-ship 502 class built at New York Shipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey. While not very attractive ships, they were very practical. The 502 class had twin oil-burning triple-expansion engines that typically moved the ship at fourteen knots. Recognizing their potential, the Dollar Steamship Line of San Francisco bought all seven of the 502s. After reconfiguring the passenger spaces, adding the distinctive Dollar logo to their single stacks, and renaming them after famous U.S. presidents, the company used the ships for its novel around-the-world service, carrying both cargo and passengers on voyages lasting roughly 110 days. The Dollar Line found the 502s were reliable money-makers in the 1920s, good sea boats that operated at an economic fourteen knots. The Great Depression of the 1930s, however, hurt the global shipping trade. Dollar Lines could no longer operate the ships at a profit, and the federal government took possession of the entire fleet in 1938, and renamed it American President Lines.

Before the United States entered World War II, the Navy chartered President Harrison to remove American personnel from mainland China.  On the morning of Dec. 8, 1941, the master of the ship, Captain Orel A. Pierson, received news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. With Japanese warships and aircraft pursuing his vessel off Shanghai, Pierson intentionally grounded the vessel to deny its use to the enemy. Pierson and the crew spent the entire war in captivity.

The Japanese eventually repaired the President Harrison and renamed it Kachidoki Maru. The American submarine USS Pampanito torpedoed the ship on Sept. 12, 1944. Tragically, it carried one thousand British POWs, half of whom died in the sinking.

The American Merchant Marine Museum commissioned master model shipwright Daniel Pariser to construct this handsome model to inspire midshipmen with the history and traditions of the merchant marine it represents. The model, which took approximately 8 months to build, displays the President Harrison during its peak years as a passenger-cargo liner in the late 1920s.

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ABOUT USMMA

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, located in Kings Point, N.Y, educates and graduates leaders of exemplary character who are inspired to serve the national security, marine transportation, and economic needs of the United States as licensed Merchant Marine Officers and commissioned officers in the Armed Forces. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Academy, which was established under the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, as the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 1943. It is administered by the Maritime Administration under the auspices of the Department of Transportation.

Last updated: Tuesday, January 5, 2021

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