SS PRESIDENT JACKSON
For actions on January 14, 1970
Gallant Ship Award Citation:
On late afternoon January 14, 1970, the PRESIDENT JACKSON having lost all radio antennas before dawn in full storm winds and mountainous seas, reestablished HF communications through a jury-rigged antenna and immediately received a U.S. Coast Guard AMVER distress message to aid the sinking Schooner TINA MARIA DONCINE approximately 120 miles NNE of Bermuda. Fighting winds of 55-60 knots and mountainous seas she arrived on scene as darkness was setting in. With hazardous sea conditions preventing the launching of lifeboats the Master of the PRESIDENT JACKSON skillfully maneuvered his ship directly crosswind so as to provide a lee along his starboard side. Although the PRESIDENT JACKSON was rolling 50 degrees and yawing heavily she was able to stop parallel to the schooner and only a few feet away. For nine minutes the PRESIDENT JACKSON held her position alongside the schooner as the crew provided nets, ladders, lines and lights to assist the survivors safely aboard.
The courage, initiative, expert seamanship and teamwork of her Master, officers and crew in successfully effecting the rescue of survivors from a sinking ship under extremely hazardous conditions have caused the name of the PRESIDENT JACKSON to be perpetuated as a Gallant Ship.
President Jackson, a C4-S-1a break-bulk cargo ship, was built in 1953 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Newport News, Virginia as Volunteer Mariner for the Maritime Administration (MARAD). After delivery, Matson Navigation Company operated the ship under a General Agency Agreement. In 1955, American President Lines purchased the vessel from MARAD and renamed it President Jackson.
On January 14, 1970, President Jackson was sailing through a severe storm while en route to New York when the U.S. Coast Guard alerted them that a schooner, Tina Maria Docine, was taking on water in the same storm. President Jackson immediately changed course and steamed toward the schooner and its seven-man crew, battling 60-knot winds and mountainous seas. President Jackson arrived on scene within three-and-a-half hours and successfully maneuvered abreast of the schooner to block it from the wind, despite the freighter handling, “like a peanut shell in a washing machine.” The seas were too rough to use their lifeboats and rafts, so President Jackson’s crew deployed lines, nets, and ladders to pull the schooner’s crew to safety in just nine minutes. As President Jackson started to leave the scene with the survivors, the schooner began to sink.
In addition to President Jackson receiving the Gallant Ship Award, the ship’s master, Captain Eugene A. Olsen, received the Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal. Captain Olsen had received the same medal for his actions while commanding SS President Buchanan when it came under enemy fire during the Vietnam War.
American President Lines sold President Jackson to Waterman Steamship Company in 1974 who renamed it Joseph Hewes. In 1980 the ship was sold to a Taiwanese company for scrap.