SS America

1955

by John J Gelke

My name is John J. Gelke, and I am a retired U.S. Navy Captain. I am a graduate of the the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. class of August 1955. I made four round trips in the America during my" Sea Year' at the academy. I have very fond memories of the officers and crew of America as well as the wonderful ports of call. Southampton, LeHarve, Bremahaven, and Kobh (Spelling?). I particularly remember Captain Alexanderson who was the Staff Captain, as well as a Captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve. The America had its' own Reserve unit and he was the C.O. The skipper of the ship, Captain Gald, was a Commander in the reserve I worked four hours with the Bos'n and four hours on the bridge, where I picked up some valuable skills. Captain Alexanderson took particular interest in the Cadets training and would quiz me whenever he came up on the bridge. He was a very pleasant, but professional man7 and I respected him very much. The Bos'n locker was located in the Forepeak of the ship (As far forward and below as you could get). I was seasick all the timell However, I also learned all about Rope Chocking" from an experti My more pleasant duty was to assist the Navigator in posting the ship's position on large charts located in all three passenger class lounges. I felt rather more important doing this. I played four years of football and baseball at the Academy and weighed about 215 when I came aboard. The food was great—the cadets were berthed and ate with the officers and I consumed everything I could. I gained about 20 pounds while aboard. I paid for that when I reported back to the academy—the coach was disgusted with me because I gained another 20 pounds on my next ship, the 5.5. Moremacyork. I also learned some history of the ship, particularly about her original skipper Giles Steadman, who rose to the rank of Rear Admiral in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He established a trophy at the academy, in his name, which is awarded annually to the Cadet/Midshipman recognized for athletic achievement and general sportsmanship. I was awarded the honor upon graduation in 1955. John J. Gelke, Captain, U.S. Navy(Ret)


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