Yes, I have some information ...
SS CHARLES WILLSON PEALE was constructed in 34 days by the Oregon Shipbuilding Company, Portland, Oregon, in November-December 1942. She survived the war and was scrapped in Baltimore in 1960. See http://shipbuildinghistory.com/shipyards/emergencylarge/koregon.htm and scroll to hull number 605. Also see http://www.mariners-l.co.uk/LibShipsC.html#CharlesW; the ship is the first entry on the page. She was named after Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), a noted American painter, soldier, scientist, inventor, politician and naturalist.
With your father aboard, CHARLES WILLSON PEALE departed New York on March 21, 1944, in convoy HX-284, a convoy of 77 merchant ships plus warship escorts. Her cargo included explosives. The convoy reached Liverpool on April 6, 1944; no ships were lost to the enemy from this convoy. During the next months she made short voyages in convoy to and from various British ports. Then, between June 15 and November 29, 1944, she made at least 20 voyages between Britain and the Normandy beach head in support of the D-Day invasion. On January 7, 1945, CHARLES WILLSON PEALE departed Plymouth, England, and joined convoy ON-277 (54 merchant ships plus escorts) to return to North America. One ship was torpedoed and lost during the voyage. CHARLES WILLSON PEALE arrived New York on January 23, 1945. On this voyage your father, Mervyn J Kellum, served as the deck engineer, maintaining and operating deck machinery including the anchor windlass, mooring winches, cargo winches and other cargo gear. He was described as 21 years old, 5 feet 8 inches and 165 lbs. Interestingly the record indicates he had two years of sea time as of the end of this voyage.
I don’t know, of course, whether you have additional information about your father’s merchant marine career but I did find him on two earlier ship and four later ships, details of which follow.
On January 15, 1943, a man named M J Kellum, age 21, joined the crew of SS RICHARD HENRY DANA in New York, serving in the engine room as an oiler. (As the job title suggests, an oiler lubricates machinery in the engine room, in many cases while the engine is in operation.) It is difficult to reconstruct this voyage but it appears that after departing New York on or about January 25, 1943, RICHARD HENRY DANA presumably passed through the Panama Canal, then called in Fremantle, Australia; Khorramshahr, Persia (now Iran); Durban, South Africa; Bahia, Brazil; and Port of Spain, Trinidad, presumably in that order. She arrived New York on September 3, 1943, thereby completing an around-the-world voyage. Interestingly, at least nine members of the crew were “left in custody of U.S. Army in Khorramshahr” as of June 7, 1943, and did not continue the voyage. I have no idea what may have happened. In addition, four crewmen were discharged in Freemantle, one seaman deserted in Freemantle, three crewmen were hospitalized and left behind in Durban and another in Bahia, and two more men failed to join the ship when it departed Bahia. Four more men were “ordered held on board,” presumably for disciplinary reasons. In short, 24 men were discharged, hospitalized, deserted, failed to join the ship upon departure, left in military custody, or held on board, out of 66 men who were part of the crew at one time or another. It sounds like one hell of a voyage. Apparently M J Kellum was able to stay out of trouble.
It appears that Mervyn Kellum joined the crew of SS ANTHONY WAYNE on November 2, 1943, in Boston. However, the record indicates that he was hospitalized with a lacerated hand, possibly before the ship departed Boston. It is unlikely that he was aboard for the voyage, in which ANTHONY WAYNE made a two-month round trip from Boston to Cardiff, Wales, and return to New York between November 1943 and January 1944.
Merwyn (sic) J Kellum next appears joining the crew of SS HOLLYWOOD in New York in December 1943. (This date supports the assumption in the preceding paragraph that he did not make the two-month voyage aboard ANTHONY WAYNE.) I have no additional information about HOLLYWOOD or its voyage. This may have been your father’s only other ship and voyage prior to his voyage aboard CHARLES WILLSON PEALE described above, which began on March 21, 1944.
After his voyage in CHARLES WILLSON PEALE, Mervyn J Kellum joined the crew of SS ROBERT F STOCKTON on May 14, 1945, in Philadelphia. His position was that of engine maintenance. The ship departed Philadelphia on or about May 21, proceeded to Cardiff, Wales, and Le Havre, France, departing Le Havre June 28, and arriving New York on July 10, 1945. By this time World War II had ended in Europe.
I next find your father joining the crew of SS JOSEPH N TEAL in New York on September 19, 1945, as electrical maintenance. The ship departed New York on or about September 24 and proceeded to Kingston, Jamaica, departing there on October 1 and arriving New Orleans on October 9, 1945.
The next record I find is for M J Kellum joining SS THEODORE FOSTER January 8, 1946, in Galveston, Texas. On this occasion he sailed as third assistant engineer, an officer position in the engine room; all his prior voyages were in non-officer positions. The ship departed on or about January 16 and proceeded to Bremen, Germany, arriving February 12. She departed Bremen on March 5 and arrived New York on March 21, 1946.
The last record I can find is that of your father joining the crew of SS ROBERT WATCHORN in Galveston, on January 14, 1947, sailing again as third assistant engineer. The ship departed Galveston on or about January 21. I find in the ship in Karachi, Pakistan, as of March 6, 1947, after which she arrived New York on April 25, 1947.
Of the ships named above, all except SS HOLLYWOOD were Liberty ships, the largest single class of ships ever built, with more than 2,700 constructed immediately before, during and immediately after World War II. Liberty ships were the most common Allied merchant ships used in the war; many continued in commercial service into the 1960s.
It is possible that your father sailed in ships other than those I discuss above. If you wish to research your father’s service further, you should be able to obtain his merchant marine service record by contacting the U.S. Coast Guard. See this web page from the website I manage: http://armed-guard.com/searchmil.html. In particular see section A.2. Records of Individuals – Merchant Marine. You will have to contact the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The Coast Guard was and is responsible for issuing certain documents (“seaman’s papers”) and officers’ licenses to U.S. merchant mariners, so they should have information about your father. His record would likely include information on training, the ships to which he was assigned, any serious injuries or illnesses, applicable dates, etc. You will need to provide as much identifying information as possible about your father. There will be a fee for this service but the Coast Guard would not begin work without informing you of any charges.
I hope this information is useful.
Ron Carlson, Webmaster
Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website