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Feb 6, 2009

New members honored in National Maritime Hall of Fame

An heroic young merchant mariner of World War II and a decorated cargo ship from the Vietnam War were recently inducted into the National Maritime Hall of Fame at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.


Cadet-Midshipman Francis A. Dales, who bravely served in a dangerous convoy to relieve the island fortress of Malta in 1942, and the SS TRANSGLOBE, which carried more military supplies under fire during the Vietnam War than any other vessel, are the newest members of the National Maritime Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame is part of the American Merchant Marine Museum on the campus of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, Long Island, NY. The Hall was established at the museum in 1982 as a way to bring recognition to the great people and ships of American maritime history.

Francis Dales was a U.S. Merchant Marine Academy midshipmen assigned in 1942 to the SS SANTA ELISA for sea training. His vessel was selected to be part of a convoy to re-supply the island of Malta, a convoy that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered to "get through at all costs." At the time, British-held Malta, with its small but effective air and submarine force, greatly disrupted Axis efforts to supply German and Italian forces in North Africa.

The Malta convoy was under heavy Axis attack the moment it entered the Mediterranean. Dales' vessel, SANTA ELISA, was quickly sunk by an enemy torpedo boat, and Dales was rescued by a British destroyer.

Another vessel in the convoy, SS OHIO, with its most vital cargo of aviation fuel for Malta, was also hit and barely afloat. Two British destroyers lashed themselves to either side of the tanker to keep the vessel afloat and moving.

Dales was one of five seamen who volunteered to go aboard the abandoned and badly damaged OHIO to man her guns.

The OHIO was incessantly attacked for the remainder of the voyage. Wave after wave of enemy bombers dived on the vessel, two crashing into her decks. Bombs blew off her rudder and created a gaping hole in her side. Dales nonetheless resolutely manned his anti-aircraft gun, and in fierce action, helped keep the attacking aircraft and torpedo boats at bay as much as possible. The OHIO eventually limped into Malta with its vital cargo of fuel that would keep the island alive and fighting.

Dales received the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for his "heroism beyond the call of duty" aboard the OHIO.

You can learn more about the Malta Convoy of 1942 here or in the book At All Costs How a Crippled Ship and Two American Merchant Mariners Turned the Tide of World War II written by Sam Moses and published by Random House in 2007.

Francis "Lonnie" Dales died on March 29, 2003.



The SS TRANSGLOBE was launched in 1943 by Sun Ship, Chester, Pa., as the C5 cargo ship SS MARINE WOLF and posted a worthy wartime record of transporting GIs across the North Atlantic, shuttling troops between England and France and returning troops back to the U.S. after the war ended.

In 1966, renamed TRANSGLOBE, the ship was chartered to shuttle supplies for the Vietnam War from Okinawa up the Saigon River to Da Nang. Her twice-monthly trips on the Saigon River, with flack jacketed crew, sandbagged bridge, armed Marines at bow and stern, swift boats alongside and helicopters overhead made her a most desirable target for the Viet Cong.

TRANSGLOBE was hit many times by enemy cannon and rocket fire, but her crew always managed to get her through with needed military supplies. Between 1966 and 1972, TRANSGLOBE saw the most action and became the most decorated U.S. merchant vessel of the Vietnam War.

Inductees to the Maritime Hall of Fame are chosen annually by a Selection Committee of 19 individuals prominent in the fields of maritime history, education and preservation.

The National Maritime Hall of Fame is open to visitors during the regular visiting hours of the American Merchant Marine Museum: Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information about the museum, call: (516) 773-5515

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