SS WILLIAM MOULTRIE

For actions on September 12, 1942

Gallant Ship Award Citation:

Emerging victoriously from an extremely battered convoy, numbering many sunken ships, SS William Moultrie arrived at the scheduled north Russian Port and discharged her vitally needed cargo.  Expert maneuvering and coordinated gun control during the highly concentrated submarine and bombing attacks over a period of one week prevented crew casualties and brought the series of actions to a successful conclusion.

The stark courage of her heroic crew in defeating a relentless enemy caused her name to be perpetuated as a Gallant Ship.

SS William Moultrie, a liberty ship built by North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, was delivered to the U. S. Maritime Commission on June 11, 1942.  Operating under a general agent agreement with the Seas Shipping Company, its first mission was to participate in convoy PQ-18, slated to deliver war supplies from Loch Ewe, Scotland to Archangel, Russia.  In order to avoid the German-occupied Norwegian coast, the convoy sailed around the western and northern coasts of Iceland and crossed the Greenland Sea.

The convoy departed the Scotland on September 2, and first encountered German forces on September 13, while traversing the Barents Sea.  In the face of attacks from submarines and airplanes, the Naval Armed Guard assigned to William Moultrie performed admirably, destroying three torpedo planes and damaging six more, including one plane that attacked after dusk, with its engines silenced.

On September 14, German airplanes attacked again.  Early in the day, William Moultrie’s Armed Guard shot down two more planes, including one that crashed into SS Mary Luckenbach, a vessel carrying a cargo of TNT.  Mary Luckenbach exploded with such concussive force that many of the crew of William Moultrie who were one deck were knocked off their feet.  Despite this, the Armed Guards were able to shoot down two more planes and damage an additional five throughout the day.

On September 18, a final German air attack harassed the convoy.  Although the attack was repulsed, a plane launched four torpedoes at William Moultrie, one of which was destroyed while in the water by the vessel’s Armed Guard. 

Convoy PQ-18 arrived in Archangel on September 21, where William Moultrie successfully delivered its cargo.  For their actions during the running battle in the Barents Sea, William Moultrie’s Naval Armed Guard received letters of commendation from the Chief of Naval Personnel; the officer in charge of the Armed Guard was awarded the U.S. Navy’s Silver Star.

After the war, William Moultrie was laid up in the James River anchorage of the National Defense Reserve Fleet.  The vessel was briefly activated under the operation of Grace Lines in 1951 and 1952, but was returned inactive status and remained at the Mobile Reserve Fleet from that time until it was sold for scrap in August 1970.