Looking for history of merchant marine ships SS Plaudit and SS Harry Luckenbach during WWII

I am looking for history on the use of merchant marine ships by the US Navy in the Atlantic during WWII. Two ships in particular. The SS Plaudit and SS Harry Luckenbach.

  • Tom,

    It looks like neither ship served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  The Plaudit sailed under the Panamanian flag for the War Shipping Administration.  German submarine U-181 sank the Plaudit on 8 November 1942. The only Navy connection to the freighter was the provision of a U.S. Navy Armed Guard to protect the ship.  The Harry Luckenbach sailed under the U.S. flag during the war, again under the auspices of the WSA. U-91 torpedoed the Harry Luckenbach on 17 March 1943.  The ship also carried an Armed Guard detachment.  Both ships acted as freighters and took their cargoes where needed as part of merchant convoys.

    Now the Luckenbach did have a Navy role; however, this took place in the aftermath of World War I.  After her completion in 1919, the ship was commissioned as USS Sol Navis and assigned to the Navy’s Cruiser and Transport Force.  Built as a freighter, Sol Navis was equipped with temporary berthing to transport troops back from Europe after the Armistice.  The Sol Navis was decommissioned later in 1919 and sold to the Luckenbach Shipping Company in 1920.

    I hope you find this information useful.

    A. J.

  • Thanks again, Alex, for your help. I'm researching a US Navy Armed Guard officer who died when the Luckenbach was sunk in April 1943. However, he was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal posthumously for his actions while serving as the gun crew officer-in-charge on the Plaudit after it was torpedoed on 11 August 1942. Plaudit was sunk in November 1942.

    So it looks like LTjg Burr was on the Plaudit in August 1942 but the Plaudit did not sink.

    He must have been transferred to a different ship thereafter.

    The Plaudit, without Burr, was then sunk in November 1942.

    Burr was assigned to the Luckenbach and was killed when it sank in March 1943.

    He was awarded the NMC Medal for actions on Plaudit on 11 August 1942. He must have been one of the first to be awarded that medal since it was first authorizd by Congress on 7 August 1942.

    Are there Muster Rolls for Navy Armed Guards? ancestry.com does not seem to have them on their website.

  • Tom,

    I did not work with muster rolls during my NARA years, so I’ll defer to my former colleagues as to the extent of their Armed Guard holdings.

    There is a website for Armed Guards that provides a variety of information.  Here is an entry for the Plaudit:


    The website has not been updated in a while, so there’s no telling how much longer it will be up.

    Again, good luck on the research!

    A. J.

Reply Children
  • This was interesting. It said ENS Burr survived the November sinking of the Plaudit in November yet his NMC Medal citation was for "heroic action on 11 August 1942 while serving...on board S.S. Plaudit when that merchantman was torpedoed."

    Let me know if you have any thoughts about the discrepancies in dates.

  • Tom,

    I looked at a Norwegian website dealing with World War II merchant ship casualties here:


    Its ship history mentions torpedo attacks and whether the attacked ship sank (“ Senket” is the term in Norwegian).  I figured if the website listed torpedo attacks in that fashion, then the Plaudit may not have been attacked in August—there’s no mention of an attack in August.  To me the timing is off.  The ship is on the South Atlantic run.  If she was torpedoed in August, I’m not sure the repair capacity was available in that part of the world in the summer of 1942, at least in time to be ready for another cargo run in November.  So the Plaudit may not have been torpedoed in August.  The Navy-Marine Corps Medal is not usually a combat award.  It usually is awarded for bravery displayed in saving the lives of others.  So Burr could have won the medal in saving lives in Plaudit’s crew or his own Armed Guard detachment.  There could have been a man overboard incident, a gangway falling in the water, an accident in handling cargo, or any of a hundred other ways seamen get hurt or killed aboard ship.

    A second point is that Burr may not have been aboard the Plaudit for the medal action—he could have been aboard another ship that was torpedoed, thus winning the medal.  The Armed Guard muster rolls—if available—will clear that up.

    That’s the best I can come up with….

    A. J.