SS Marcus Daly
For actions on December 5, 1944
Gallant Ship Award citation:
In October 1944, the SS Marcus Daly was one of the first United States merchant ships to dock at Tacloban, Island of Leyte, during the initial invasion of the Philippines. For six days and nights her guns, manned by a skillful and courageous crew, defeated vigorous attacks by enemy planes in a series of heroic actions. In December 1944, she again engaged enemy bombers and suicide planes and emerged victorious.
The stark courage of her stalwart crew against overwhelming odds caused her name to be perpetuated as a Gallant Ship.
The liberty ship Marcus Daly was built by Permanente Metals Corporation in Richmond, California. Completed on August 5, 1943, the vessel was immediately placed into operation under general agent Sudden & Christenson, Inc. During World War II, Marcus Daly operated in the Pacific theater.
In the fall of 1944, Marcus Daly participated in the allied invasion of the Philippines, docking at Tacloban, Leyte on October 25th. Alongside another Liberty ship, Adoniram Judson, Marcus Daly was one of the first merchant vessels to arrive at the port, where it quickly found itself under near-constant attack by Japanese bombers and fighter aircraft.
During the ship’s unloading, Marcus Daly acted as one of the primary anti-aircraft platforms around the city docks. According to the commander of the vessel’s Naval Armed Guard, Marcus Daly was subject to countless fighter attacks and about 30 bombs fell near or beside the ship; one fell so close that merchant mariner Richard G. Matthiesen, who was assisting the Armed Guards, was injured by bomb fragments. During the unloading, Marcus Daly’s Armed Guards shot down three Japanese bombers. The vessel’s anti-aircraft fire proved so effective during the defense of the Tacloban docks, that General Douglas Macarthur, Supreme Allied Commander in the Southwest Pacific, sent a personal commendation to the ship’s crew.
Marcus Daly returned to the Philippines on December 5, 1944 to deliver more cargo. Japanese bombers attacked the ship was again, one of which, after being shot down, exploded underneath one of the vessel’s gun platforms. Among those serving at the gun were merchant seamen Alvin R. Crawford, who was killed immediately and Richard G. Matthiesen, who was severely burned and injured by the explosion. Despite his injuries, Matthiesen returned to the burning gun platform and rescued at least two and possibly three Armed Guards, including one who was unconscious. As a result of his burns and injuries, Matthiesen died the next morning. For their heroism, Matthiesen, Crawford and vessel master A. W. Opheim were awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal. Matthiesen was further honored when in 1986, the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command named a T5 tanker (T-AOT-1124) USNS Richard G. Matthiesen.
After the war Sudden & Christenson continued to operate the ship in government service until October 21, 1948, when it was laid up in the U.S. Maritime Commission’s National Defense Reserve Fleet’s (NDRF) Suisun Bay, California anchorage. (The U.S. Maritime Commission is the Maritime Administrations direct predecessor). It remained there until August 1951, when it was briefly activated with the General Steamship Corporation as general agent.
Marcus Daly returned to Suisun Bay on May 19, 1952. On June 14, 1968 it was sold for scrap to National Metal and Steel Corporation. The vessel departed the fleet and was withdrawn from the NDRF on July 15 of that year.