S/S Ankara

In Turkey, in 1950s there was a passenger ship called “ANKARA” In the immediate post-WW II era it served as the flag-ship of the Turkish Maritime Lines. It plied the Mediterranean between Istanbul and Athens, Naples, Marseilles and Barcelona. In those days’ standard she was a “luxury liner”, comfortable, containing all the amenities, and with an excellent cuisine.

This ship had an interesting story that relates to the U.S. Navy and the World War II. She was built in 1927 by the Newport News Shipyard in Virginia to serve in Antilles. Her original name was S/S IROQUOIS. Later, the U.S. Navy purchased it to use as a hospital vessel for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, it was renamed S/S SOLACE. In 1941 she was stationed in Oahu, Hawaii.

In the U.S. history there is a “Day if Infamy” in which Japan, on December 7, 1941 attacked Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Naval Base in Honolulu, Hawaii, out of the blue, without any declaration of war, nor any warning. Nine ships of the U.S. Fleet were sunk, 21 ships were severely damaged, and 2,403 Americans were killed, including 68 civilians, 1,282 wounded. In all this turmoil one ship was spared by the Japanese kamikazes, it was S/S SOLACE, because she carried an insignia of red-cross on her deck. She was a hospital vessel; her mission was not to kill, but to save life. Throughout WW II, S/S SOLACE rendered valuable service. She carried 25,000 young men from the war zone to the safety of the mainland. At the end of the war, all those young men who owed their lives to S/S SOLACE formed a society, and created a medallion with a raised picture of her, and carried those medals with pride.

When the time for retirement came for this ship the U.S. Government did not know what to do with her. In those days, the most popular solution for the out-of- service ships was to sell it to a scrap dealer, who dismantled them to make razor blades. However, to sell her for salvage value would be a waste. The economy was struggling to revive. The ship was in good shape and unimpaired as she never took part in active war. With a measure of face-lift she could still have rendered service in the years to come; may be some countries would have been interested in buying her.

In fact, that country turned out to be Turkey. In 1949, The Turkish Maritime Lines showed interest in the ship and purchased her. With some further cosmetic and renovation she was converted to a luxury liner. She was renamed “S/S ANKARA”, and served long years in the Mediterranean, she was a sought after cruise ship not only in Turkey, but in Southern Europe and in the Middle East as well.

In 1981, S/S ANKARA was put out of service, and was sent to Aliaga demolition yard, where she eventually met her destiny; she was converted to razor blades!

 

Ayhan Ozer 

Pennington, NJ 

January 14, 2012