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Pearl Harbor Bombed Matson Liner SS Lurline heads for San Francisco
Matson Line's SS Lurline heading to San Francisco

Pearl Harbor Bombed Matson Liner SS Lurline heads for San Francisco

Matson Lines SS Lurline was halfway from Honolulu to San Francisco on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

  • The liner arrived safely in San Francisco with passengers from California and the USA on December 11th.

The liner arrived safely in San Francisco with passengers from California and the USA on December 11th,


  • The SS Lurline missed the Pearl Harbor attack and made her destination safely, cruising at maximum speed, and soon returned to Hawaii with her Matson sisters SS Mariposa and SS Monterey in a convoy laden with troops and supplies.

  • December 7, 1941, was a turning point in the history of the United States, which had been teetering on a decision between isolationism and intervention.
  • It can be argued that every USA military engagement since then has been affected by what happened when America learned that it was not possible to stand by and watch war among strangers without being at risk of becoming involved whether they wished to be or not.

What about all the American ships that were at sea on December 7th? The United States Lines, Grace Line, and Alaska Line steamships.

  • Over 100 US flag passenger ships were at sea when World War 2 was declared.

Video taking a look at the SS Lurline sailing from San Francisco to Hawaii in 1930s.

  • The SS Lurline was the third Matson vessel to hold that name, and the last of four fast and luxurious ocean liners Matson built for the Hawaii and Australasia runs from the West Coast of the United States. Lurline’s sister ships were SS Mariposa, Mariposa, and SS Monterey.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin Matson Lines Display Ad – November 27, 1941 

Just over a week before the SS Lurline sailed from Honolulu to San Francisco

 

Matson Lines and the Lurline…

212b_2.JPGWilliam Matson first came to appreciate the name in the 1870s while serving as skipper aboard the Claus Spreckels family yacht Lurline (a poetic variation of Loreley, the Rhine river siren out of San Francisco Bay.

Matson met his future wife, Lillie Low, on a yacht voyage he captained to Hawaii; the couple named their daughter Lurline Berenice Matson.

  • Spreckels sold a 150-foot brigantine named Lurline to Matson so that Matson could replace his smaller schooner Emma Claudina and double the shipping operation, which involved hauling supplies and a few passengers to Hawaii and returning with cargos of Spreckels sugar.
  • Matson added other vessels to his growing fleet, and the brigantine was sold to another company in 1896.

Matson built a steamship named Lurline in 1908, one that carried mainly freight yet could hold 51 passengers along with 65 crew members.

  • This steamer served Matson for twenty years, including a stint with the United States Shipping Board during World War I. William Matson died in 1917; his company continued under a board of directors.

Lurline Matson married William P. Roth in 1914; in 1927 Roth became president of Matson Lines. That same year saw the SS Malolo (Flying Fish) enter service inaugurating a higher class of tourist travel to Hawaii.

  • In 1928, Roth sold the old steamship Lurline to the Alaska Packers’ Association. That ship served various duties including immigration and freight under the Yugoslavian flag (renamed Radnik) and was finally broken up in 1953.
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SS LURLINE – 1930s

In 1932, the last of four smart liners designed by William Francis Gibbs and built for the Matson Lines’ Pacific services were launched: the SS Lurline christened on July 12, 1932, in Quincy, Massachusetts by Lurline Matson Roth (who had also christened her father’s 1908 steamship Lurline as a young woman of 18).

  • On 12 January 1933, the SS Lurline left New York City-bound for San Francisco via the Panama Canal on her maiden voyage, thence to Sydney and the South Seas, returning to San Francisco on 24 April 1933. She then served on the express San Francisco to Honolulu service with her older sister, who shared appearance, the Malolo.

The SS Lurline was half way from Honolulu to San Francisco on 7 December 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. She made her destination safely, cruising at maximum speed, and soon returned to Hawaii with her Matson sisters SS Mariposa and SS Monterey in a convoy laden with troops and supplies.

  • She spent the war providing similar services, often voyaging to Australia, and once transported Australian Prime Minister John Curtin to America to confer with President Roosevelt.
lurline32.jpg

SS LURLINE – 1940s to 1960s

THE NEW LURLINE

Lurline was returned to Matson Lines in mid-1946 and extensively refitted at Bethlehem-Alameda Shipyard in Alameda, California in 1947 at a huge cost of $US 20 million. She resumed her San Francisco to Honolulu service on 15 April 1948 and regained her pre-war status as the Pacific Ocean’s top liner.

6011_1.JPGHer high occupancy rates during the early 1950s caused Matson also to refit her sister ship SS Monterey (renaming her Matsonia), and the two liners provided a first-class only service between Hawaii and the American mainland from June 1957 to September 1962, mixed with the occasional Pacific cruise. Severe competition from jet airliners caused passenger loads to fall in the early 1960s, and Matsonia was laid up in late 1962.

  • Only a few months later, the Lurline arrived in Los Angeles with serious engine trouble in her port turbine and was laid up with the required repairs considered too expensive.
  • Matson instead brought the Matsonia out of retirement and, characteristically, changed her name to Lurline.
  • The original Lurline was sold to Chandris Lines in 1963.
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