Edited by board administrator September 26, 2016, 7:54 pm
Thank you for your inquiry about the sinking of SS WILLIAM PIERCE FRYE (note correct spelling) and the death of your great-uncle Rutledge L. Miller.
I am unaware of a photograph of the crew of the ship and it is highly unlikely that any exist. The ship was on her maiden voyage, barely one month after having left the shipyard at which she was constructed and with the members of the crew completely new to one another. Unlike naval vessels, where formal group portraits of the crew are common, group photographs of the crews of merchant ships are rare. Generally there was nearly a 100% turnover of a merchant ship’s crew at the end of a voyage so there was little sentimentality on the part of the crew members for their ship or even for their shipmates.
For sources of photographs of World War II-era merchant ships, see this web page at the American Merchant Marine at War website: http://www.usmm.org/photosource.html. On quick search on my part found that the Mariners Museum Research Library and Archives in Newport News, Virginia (the fourth entry on the above list), contains a photograph of WILLIAM PIERCE FRYE, taken by the U.S. Coast Guard on March 14, 1943. This would have been a few days before the ship joined convoy HX-230 in New York, destination Liverpool, and two weeks before the ship was attacked and sunk. The Mariners Museum identification number for this photograph is PB10624. You can contact the Museum library by e-mail at library@MarinersMuseum.org or call 757-591-7782 for more information.
Your great-uncle Rutledge Miller served aboard the ship as a utilityman. This was a position in the galley, in which he helped prepare and serve meals and clean up afterward.
You may already be aware of the story of the ship’s loss, in which she fell behind the convoy in which she was sailing and was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-610 in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. If not, see http://uboat.net/allies/merchants/2830.html. A VERY lengthy description of the ship, its sinking, and various related subjects, written by the grandson of another crewman lost in the sinking, is at http://scottguns588.blogspot.com/2009/02/alan-poole-story-of-his-grand-father.html.
WILLIAM PIERCE FRYE was constructed in 100 days between November 1942 and February 1943 by the New England Shipbuilding Company in South Portland, Maine. See http://www.shipbuildinghistory.com/history/shipyards/4emergencylarge/wwtwo/newengland.htm and scroll to hull number 212. William Pierce Frye (September 2, 1830 – August 8, 1911), after whom the ship was named, was a U.S. Senator from Maine, serving more than 30 years from 1881 to his death in 1911.
I hope this information is useful.
Ron Carlson, Webmaster
Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website