Posted by Ron Carlson on January 13, 2015, 9:25 am, in reply to "Re: Grandfather "
Dear Tracy, |
I have had some success in finding information about your grandfather although I have not found enough to address the story behind your grandfatherís watch. But what I have found may at least provide some context to his experiences in the U.S. Navy.
First, let me take a shot at interpreting what is engraved on your grandfather's watch. The initials "CCCP" are the English letters that correspond to the Russian abbreviation for the USSR (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), also known more simply as the Soviet Union. "US NAG" refers to the U.S. Navy Armed Guard, in which your grandfather must have served.
By way of background, the Soviet Union was of course an ally in World War II. During the war the Soviet Union was desperately in need of food and military supplies and equipment. The Allies could not resupply the USSR through Europe or the Black Sea since Germany and Italy controlled so much of that territory. One of the alternative supply routes was the "Murmansk Run" over the northern end of Norway to the ice-free Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel. This route was incredibly dangerous due to attacks from German airplanes, submarines and surface warships based in Norwegian ports after Germany invaded Norway. Add to this the extreme cold and bad weather, the nearly 24 hours of darkness during winter and nearly 24 hours of daylight during the summer. Scores of convoys set out from Iceland or Scotland to make this voyage, at great cost in ships and men. On U.S. merchant ships, gunners of the Navy Armed Guard defended the ships from attack while civilian merchant mariners operated the vessels. Many ships were lost, especially in the early years of the war, but even in later years, when most ships made it through safely, the voyage there and back was nonetheless very dangerous.
I apologize if you are already familiar with the above, but after the passage of 70+ years, this history is increasingly forgotten or overlooked -- hence the need for resources like the Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website, if I may say so.
To continue, the inscription "1943-44 Murmansk Run #2" I take to mean that your grandfather may have been aboard a ship that made two Murmansk voyages in 1943-1944. Or he was aboard two ships, each of which made such a Murmansk voyage in that time period. So I did a search, namely identifying all of the ships in all of the convoys in 1943 and 1944 that made the Murmansk Run. My hope was to find just a small number of ships that made two voyages, thereby narrowing down the possible identity of the ship in which your grandfather may have served. Here I was stymied, in that several dozen ships made at least two such voyages, and three ships actually made three Murmansk Run voyages in 1943-1944. So in reality I did not get any closer to identifying the ship(s) in which he may have sailed.
I made one last approach and in this I finally succeeded; in fact I should have done this first of all. Quite a few years after the end of World War II, an Armed Guard veteransí group was formed by an Armed Guard veteran in North Carolina. Over time he was able to locate several thousand former Armed Guard sailors including, if I am not mistaken, your grandfather. (By no means have all Armed Guard sailors and officers been identified or listed, either by the veteransí association or by any other means. Nearly 145,000 men served in the Armed Guard during the war. Probably only a very small proportion of Armed Guard veterans ever knew about the Armed Guard veteransí association and chose to join it.) The Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website has a list of members of the U.S.N. Armed Guard World War II Veterans Association (the date of the list is unknown and it is now out of date). The list includes a Louis C. Jones, whom I wager is your grandfather. Apparently he identified three ships in which he served, with those ships appearing below his name in the list: SS EDWARD L. GRANT (in 1943-1944), SS WILLIAM CUSHING (in 1944), and SS JOHN W. BROWN (in 1945). See http://armed-guard.com/jjjj.html and scroll down.
Researching further, I determined that EDWARD L. GRANT did in fact make two Murmansk Run voyages in 1943-1944; the other two ships never made such a voyage. So, bingo, I believe I have identified the ship in which your grandfather sailed while making two Murmansk Run voyages. (For what itís worth, the ship was named after Eddie Grant, a baseball player for the New York Giants who was died heroically in World War I, the first major league ball player to die in a war.)
More specifically, SS EDWARD L. GRANT:
Departed New York December 22, 1943, in convoy HX-272, carrying cargo that included explosives
Arrived Liverpool January 6, 1944
Arrived Loch Ewe, Scotland (northern Scotland) unspecified date
Departed Loch Ewe January 22, 1944, convoy JW-56B
Arrived Kola Inlet (i.e., entrance to Murmansk) February 1, 1944
Departed Kola Inlet March 2, 1944, convoy RA-57
Arrived Loch Ewe March 10, 1944
Departed Loch Ewe unspecified date
Departed Liverpool March 15, 1944, convoy ON-228
Arrived New York April 1, 1944
Departed New York July 17, 1944, in convoy HX-300, carrying cargo that included railroad locomotives
Arrived Liverpool August 3, 1944
Arrived Loch Ewe, Scotland (northwest Scotland) unspecified date
Departed Loch Ewe August 15, 1944, convoy JW-59
Arrived Kola Inlet August 25, 1944
Departed Kola Inlet September 28, 1944, convoy RA-60
Arrived Clyde (near Glasgow, Scotland) October 5, 1944
Departed Clyde October 7, 1944, convoy ON-258
Arrived Baltimore October 25, 1944
You can find this information on the excellent website ConvoyWeb (http://convoyweb.org.uk/hague/index.html), by searching for each convoy identified above.
Of course this is only the bare outline of when and how your grandfather participated in the Murmansk Run. It does not shed any light on the story behind your grandfatherís watch. But there must be a story. Why did he receive it? Was he the only one to receive a watch or did others as well? Did he receive it because he (and perhaps other Armed Guard sailors) had made and survived two dangerous voyages? I can find no indication that EDWARD L. GRANT had any unusual experiences in its Murmansk voyages. From whom did he receive it? The captain of his ship? The commanding officer of his Armed Guard detachment? (Probably not, as the Armed Guard commanding officer would have been a junior naval officer with a modest salary.) From the Russians? Or did he simply purchase the watch himself at some point and had it engraved as a personal momento? Itís very hard to say.
One thing you might consider is to try to obtain a copy of your grandfatherís military service record. Please see this page from the Armed Guard website: http://armed-guard.com/searchmil.html. In particular see section A.1. Records of Individuals - U.S. Military. You will have to contact the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO, a facility operated by the U.S. Archives. Provide as much identifying information as possible about your grandfather. The links on the web page noted above will take you to the necessary pages of the Records Center web site. There may be a fee for obtaining the information but the Records Center staff will not begin research without informing you of any charge. His military service record may contain such information as the ships to which he was assigned, applicable dates, training, illnesses or injuries, any decorations or medals earned, etc. Whether it would give any hint of the story behind the watch, I cannot say. Note that someone such as yourself, who is not next of kin to your grandfather, may not be able to obtain his full service record. (Next of kin = parent, spouse, sibling, child.) If there is someone still living in your family who is next of kin to your grandfather, presumably your grandmother, mother/father or an aunt/uncle, it would be best if the request to the Records Center was submitted by that person. You can do the legwork of research, completing forms and otherwise preparing the request but the request should be signed by that person. If there is no longer a person who is next of kin still living, then make the request yourself and hope for the best. Good luck.
Let me make one final observation. Among the three ships that Louis C. Jones identified in his listing in the Armed Guard veteransí association is SS JOHN W. BROWN. This ship, believe it or not, is still in existence and is still operational. It is a museum ship in Baltimore (see http://www.ssjohnwbrown.org) and I serve as a member of its volunteer crew. Each year the ship makes several day cruises on Chesapeake Bay for which the public can purchase tickets. The ship is also open for dockside visits two days per week, without charge. If you are within reasonable driving distance of Baltimore, I urge you and your family to visit this ship, in which your grandfather served. If you ever plan to do so, let me know in advance and I will be happy to provide a guided tour of the ship. And be sure to bring your grandfatherís watch.
Ron Carlson, Webmaster
Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website