Harold Frank Schmidt

Merchant Marine

     Harold Frank Schmidt - Merchant Marine - Born in Jersey City , N.J. on July 23,1927. Orphaned shortly after birth and spent 14 years in an orphanage in Jersey City until early 1941 when it was forced to close for lack of funds to operate. I was then farmed off to a family in the western part of the state, where I was put to work helping to pick up and deliver 20 gal. milk cans from farmers in the are to several creameries. Was denied furthering my schooling as was promised or even being given any moneys for my own use. Told that it cost too much to keep me and if I didn't like it their I'd be sent someplace else. Also that if I could run faster that the bullet from the 22 rifle in the corner, I could have some money to spent on myself. I ran away only to end up someplace else where I was put through something similar whereby I was asked to help with the family moving business and also get a job to pay for my keep.

       In June of 1944, I heard radio reports that the Merchant Marine needed men and boys willing to operate our merchant ships, that were used to carry everything needed by the military during World War II. So I went to the recruiting office and signed up to join the Merchant Marine. I was still only 16 and had only one-eye. I was born blind in my left eye and had it removed while at the orphans home at about 5 years of age in this home when they found I was blind in it. I was accepted and with flying colors and was in early October 1944 was sent to the maritime Training Center at Sheepshead Bay, N.Y. where I was trained in several capacities, and graduated with the following credits; Mess man, 2nd Cook & Baker, Ordinary Seaman, Wiper and a Lifeboat mans certificates. I also received basic gunnery training. Most merchant ships had U.S. Navy Gunners and we were required to assist them when needed.

     We received gunnery training because during World War II, ALL merchant ships and crews were placed under military control, as stated by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, which designated them as "Ships of War." This provided the military control over ships needed to bring the supplies and manpower necessary to fight and win the war from American factories and training bases to the front lines to face the enemy.  It also acknowledged the fact that these vessels laden with the tools of war would be priority targets to the enemy and would be regularly be in harms way.  When I graduated from training in April of 1945 I joined the over 250,000 men and boys who were willing to do whatever we could to help our country in time of need, the American Merchant Marine.

       After I graduated I was assigned to my first ship, a brand new T-2 tanker docked in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the SS Logans Fort. The T2's were the finest and fastest ships that I served on.

      After serving on the Logan's Fort for a short while, I then got jobs on an old Hog Islander named, SS Wolverine.  The Wolverine was an old WWI Liberty built in Chester, Pennsylvania outside of Philly. When it was first built it was called the Wolverine state. Then during WW II it was re-commissioned as the Wolverine and put to work, she was a well built ship and rode out hurricanes well down in the Caribbean area.

       From the Wolverine I served on various Liberty Ships, and a Victory Ship. The Liberty ships, dry cargo vessels, were the John Clarke, Pontus Ross, Henry Hadley, Harriet Tubman, Martin Berman and the Thomas Bullfinch.  All good ships but no match to the Bates Victory, the Victory class ship I also served on which was a faster version to the Liberties. I also served twice more on the Logans Fort, though once with her name Changed to Redstone. I ended my sailing service on the Coalings Hills, another fast T2 Tanker.

Merchant Marine Service Summary
Vessel Type Period of Service
SS Logans Fort T-2 Tanker 1st Cruise (4/13/45 - 6/2/45)
SS Wolverine # Hog Islander                  (8/15/45 - 4/5/46)
SS Pontus Ross Dry Cargo Liberty Ship                  (5/17/46 - 8/7/46)
SS Bates Victory Victory Ship                  (1/18/47 -4/25/47)
SS Logans Fort T-2 Tanker 2nd Cruise(6/5/47 - 8/9/47)
SS Henry Hadley Dry Cargo Liberty Ship                   (8/20/47 - 10/1/47)
SS Harriet Tubman Dry Cargo Liberty Ship                   (10/10/47 - 1/11/48)
SS Thomas Bullfinch Dry Cargo Liberty Ship                   (3/19/48 - 4/27/48)
SS Martin Berman Dry Cargo Liberty Ship                   (5/11/48 - 7/27/48)
SS Redstone* T-2 Tanker 3rd Cruise (8/3/48 - 11/24/48)
SS Coalings Hills T-2 Tanker                   (12/28/48 - 9/17/49)

# Previously Wolverine State in World War I

* This was also the Logans Fort which had been renamed for some reason

       We delivered all sorts of things to many seaports, such as, Tanks, Airplanes, Locomotives, Boxcars, Corn, Wheat, Cement, Ammo, Guns, Fuel, plus the Troops. Several times we even took shiploads of Coal to Venice, Italy. On one trip on the SS Pontus Ross, she had her Number Three hold made over with bunks etc. to bring troop back home in from Antwerp, Belguim. We as crew-members never really knew what was put into the holds of those ships, or most times where we were going to take them, until we got there. It was all worthwhile.

        I served for some 5 years, retiring my papers in Dec. 1949. By that time there were very few jobs for American Seamen left anymore as our government was giving many of our ships to foreign countries, which had lost all of their ships during the war years. Also many shipping companies were re-registering their ships under foreign flags. That put an end to many jobs for the American Merchant Marine Seaman.

       I enjoyed my years at sea in that service, getting to a number of places I never knew even existed. But mostly I appreciated the time spent being made a man. As a young kid I was raised in a sheltered environment of a Orphanage, where I didn't have to worry about the workings of life (even during the depression years).  When I went to sea I was a complete greenhorn, a young whippersnapper, just out into the world knowing little to nothing about it.  I was looked after by many of the older men on every ship I served on. I considered myself very lucky with what I went through and always credited those old timers with making a man out of me. These guys were great. 

     I made myself a promise back then and have attempted to keep it that I would do everything I could do if and whenever I could to tell the world of the havoc which these men endured. This was and still is today what drives me to attempt to get our story out for all to see. I do believe that I have accomplished much of that, as over the years I have endeavored and been involved in not only getting most every state governor to issue Proclamations in their respective state designating May 22nd as National Maritime Day, plus have worked non-stop to seek Veterans Rights within a number of states for those who served in our branch of service.

     This past year I even bought myself a computer which for years I said I would never own and have been very successful in assisting in getting our Veterans Status date changed to the Dec.31,1946 like all the other veterans of WW II.

     I am now also the President of the, Juan de Fuca Chapter, American Merchant Marine Veterans here on the Olymipic Peninsula in Wash. State. We have some 35 members presently. I am also the web master of our Home-page on the internet which can be found at: (the Internet Archive Wayback Machine)

     Anyone having interesting materials can send them to me at; Harold F. "BUD" Schmidt Sr. 472 El Camino Dr. Sequim, WA. 98382-9456 (360) 683-1550 or at our chapter at; P.O.Box 246 Carlsborg. WA. 98324-0246. Our web-site can be seen in some 10 countries and is also linked onto some 75 other sites throughout the country. I intend to keep it going as long as I can. One of our members is, for those who might remember the name, Shannon Wall, who was the president of the National Maritime Union (NMU) for awhile.

----- Harold F. "Bud" Schmidt

       Unfortunately, Harold F. "Bud" Schmidt crossed over the bar on October 14, 2005. "He has sailed into his last safe Harbor."

Also see Mr. Schmidt's new home page, and this page as well, and a third website dedicated to the Merchant Marine (These are archived on the Internet Archive, the sites are inactive but some of the content can be found through the link).

LINKS

American Merchant Marines, Juan De Fuca Chapter, Website by Mr. Schmidt for and about Merchant Mariners

Back To Justin Oral History, Navy Biographies

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