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The Mathews Men


The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-boats, by William Geroux, will be published April 19, 2016, by Viking/Penguin/Random House. The book tells the story of the U.S. Merchant Marine’s heroics and sacrifices in World War II, through the experiences of merchant mariners from Mathews County, Virginia, a rural outpost on the Chesapeake Bay. Mathews had been a cradle of sea captains and other merchant mariners since before the American Revolution. When America entered World War II in December 1941, Mathews mariners were scattered on ships across the world’s oceans. Those in the Atlantic theater of the war immediately became prime targets for German U-boats trying to choke off the Allied supply line. The U.S. Navy initially lacked the forces and inclination to protect the unarmed merchant ships, even in U.S. waters, and the toll exacted by the German submarines was staggering. Mathews mariners faced U-boats in the North and South Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean, and Indian Ocean, and even the icy Barents Sea in the Arctic Circle. Some died terrible deaths. Others survived torpedo explosions, flaming oil slicks, storms, shark attacks, and harrowing lifeboat odysseys—only to ship out again as soon as they’d returned to safety. Nearly every family in tiny Mathews (population 7,500) had a personal stake in the U-boat war, and none had a greater stake than the family of Capt. Jesse and Henrietta Hodges and their seven sons. The Hodges family would experience the war in all its horrors and triumphs. Through the experiences of the Mathews men, the book tells the broader story of the Merchant Marine’s critical role in winning the war. Merchant mariners hauled the supplies that kept the Allies fighting. In the process, they suffered a higher casualty rate than any branch of the U.S. military except the Marines. But after the war they were forgotten by the government and the public, and denied veterans benefits for decades. The Mathews Men finally gives them their due.


S-IVB-206


Alan Lawrie, who is doing research for an upcoming book about the Sacramento Area Commerce & Trade Organization, contacted us with some unique information. In his research, he discovered some nearly 50 year-old photos that had been sitting in a guy's garage. They show the loading of Saturn rocket stages (S-IVB) aboard States Marine-Isthmian ships in California for transport to Florida and Louisiana. This was the beginning of the Apollo program. Click here to see the Isthmian photos.





In 1948, the S.S. Ensley City was sold to the Madrigal Shipping Co. of Manila, Philippines, and renamed the S.S. Susana. We were recently contacted by Capt. E.B. Villena, Jr. who had sailed on the Susana as a cadet officer in 1955. He and some old shipmates wanted to have a model built and they were in search of the 1920 plans and photos. Skip Lewis was able to help and sent his research findings to the Philippines. Click here to see some photos of the Susana model and some of Capt. "Bing" Villena's story.





The S.S. Steel Flyer, circa 1961. Skip Lewis has made contact with a photographer with an incredible collection of color photos of merchant ships. These original photos are from his personal collection, which he has built up over the years, and he has kindly offered to allow us to display some of them. Click here to see some of the Marc Piché collection.





The S.S. Howick Hall, New York City, circa 1914. Click here to read about the 1942 wartime sinking of the S.S. Raceland (Howick Hall) and the aftermath. The story is the kind contribution of Leif Myrhoej from Fejoe, Denmark. His uncle was one of the crew, but, unfortunately, not one of the 12 survivors.



Photo courtesy of C.F. Kozel © 2016 - All rights reserved.

Erie Basin, circa 1920

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Photo courtesy of C.F. Kozel © 2003 - All rights reserved.

Erie Basin Terminal

At the foot of Columbia Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY. Governor's Island and lower Manhattan Island in the background. Circa early 1950s? Before States Marine Lines bought Isthmian.
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Photo courtesy of Fred Kent © 2014 - All rights reserved.

Equator Crossing Certificate

S.S. Atlanta City
13 February 1936

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Photo courtesy of Alice Watkins and Tony Kopp © 2014 - All rights reserved.

S.S. Chickasaw City


"My name is Tony Kopp. My Mother (Alice Watkins) got to be close friends with a retired Merchant Marine Captain (Fredrick Schloss) and his wife somewhere back in either the late 1960's or perhaps the 70's. He apparently at one point was the Captain of the S.S. Chickasaw City. I'm not sure of the years he was it's Captain. I see in what little history I can dig up that the ship was torpedoed and sunk by a U-boat near Cape Town in 1942 while under the command of Capt. John Monton. But sometime during Captain Schloss's command, while he was in port in North Vietnam, a North Vietnamese person approached him and asked him if he wanted him to build a model of his ship. And Captain Schloss said yes, but he was only going to be in port a couple days. The N. Vietnamese person said no problem, he'd have it ready by the time he's ready to set sail. And he did in deed. The ship is highly detailed and is made of what appears to be a thin metal. Captain Schloss had his ships carpenter(s) make a nice display case for it. Well, Captain Schloss passed away in 1983 and willed that ship model to my Mom. The ship itself is about 31" long and is in a 33" long display case."
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Photo courtesy of Gary W. Willis © 2013 - All rights reserved.

Certificate of Discharge

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Photo courtesy of Gene Lewis © 2011 - All rights reserved.

Isthmian Lines Cap

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Photo courtesy of Skip Lewis © 2003 - All rights reserved.

SS Steel Age

Thanksgiving Menu 1963

Raymond E. Macy, Master
Woodrow G. Lewis, Chief Officer
John C. Fennel, Chief Engineer
Egbert W. Goulding, Chief Steward
Conrado I. Navarro, Chief Cook
Felixardo T. Motus, Cook & Baker
Alfred Salem, Third Cook
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Photo courtesy of Skip Lewis © 2003 - All rights reserved.

SS Steel Traveler

Schedule
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Photo courtesy of Skip Lewis © 2003 - All rights reserved.

SS Steel Vendor

Ship's Foreign Mailing Addresses
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Photo courtesy of Ted Vargas © 2008 - All rights reserved.

Crew Passes

Collection of crew passes from 1949 cruise aboard the S.S. St. Augustine Victory, courtesy of Ted "Tee Vee" Vargas. The ports were Penang (Maylasia), Surabaya (Dutch East Indies), Colombo (Ceylon), Tandjong Priok (Batavia, D.E.I.) and Singapore.
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Photo courtesy of Jamie Ryan © 2006 - All rights reserved.

1954 Masters
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Photo courtesy of Jamie Ryan © 2006 - All rights reserved.

1954 Chief Officers
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Photo courtesy of Jamie Ryan © 2006 - All rights reserved.

1954 Chief Engineers
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Photo courtesy of John Pearson © 2006 - All rights reserved.

SS Steel Age

Here is a picture of the wall hanging made for Ernst Pearson commemorating his round-the-world sail aboard the Steel Age in 1925.
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Commodore Flag

Photos of a rare Isthmian Commodore Flag, courtesy of Jamie Ryan. It belonged to his grandfather, Capt. Charles A. Ryan, Fleet Commodore.

Photos courtesy of Jamie Ryan © 2006 - All rights reserved.
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Photo courtesy of Christine Wood © 2009 - All rights reserved.

War Service Certificate

27 Sept 1944

Awarded to the Isthmian Steamship Company "IN RECOGNITION OF MERITORIOUS SERVICE TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN TIME OF WAR."
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Photo courtesy of Christine Wood © 2007 - All rights reserved.

SS Anniston City

Sailing Record

Mobile to Seattle and back to New Orleans, 9 Jun 1921 to 25 Sep 1921. Photocopy courtesy of Christine Wood. The card belonged to her mother, whose name was Ilse M. Schmidt at the time she worked for the company, circa 1940-1954.
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S.S. Steel Seafarer

A model of the Steel Seafarer that was given to Capt. Kenneth N. Greenlaw by the ship's carpenter. The model was recently restored by Roger Greenlaw, one of the captain's sons.

Photos courtesy of Roger Greenlaw © 2004 - All rights reserved.
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Philadelphia Wharves

Piers #39 and #40, South, Philadelphia, PA. Isthmian Steamship Co. is on left.
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Photo courtesy of John Millard © 2005 - All rights reserved.

Letter Appointing Master

Letter, dated 20 May 1946, appointing Captain Randall Millard Master of the S.S. Thomas Cresap, relieving Captain G. Sundberg.
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SS William H. Allen

Menu, Christmas, 1947.
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The information on this web site is the kind contribution of our Historian, Skip Lewis, © 2003. Skip, whose dad sailed for Isthmian, is an avid collector and researcher of everything Isthmian and States Marine. In his quest, he has used many sources and publications including Lloyd's of London and Imperial Steel by John Atherton.


If you have any questions about, or information for, this website, please contact us.

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