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looks like P is NOT for President

January 30 2012 at 5:14 PM
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Nelson  (no login)
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Response to Ship Movement Cards-P-No's


I think we've wagered wrong that "P" stands for President (as in American PRESIDENT Lines). With the examples you've uncovered to date--President Grant, P-10; Boschfontein, P-926; and Tabinta C-980--it may be reliably supposed that "P" stands for Passenger and "C" stands for Cargo. Clearly not all of those vessels were historically American President Lines ships; rather the last two were Dutch-built and in Dutch service before the war. What they do share, and I think this is another valuable clue, is that given wartime occupation of the Netherlands (and later the NEI), a lot of Dutch vessels were taken over by the United States and served as troop transports and cargo ships under the aegis of the War Shipping Administration.

Now it MAY turn out that a certain block or certain blocks of numbers were assigned by the WSA to this or that shipping line--for painting on hulls wherever directed for ID purposes. If so, it may be that APL got the low lumbers simply because it began with the letter A or because it was an American shipping line or because of its association with the U.S. government. More details for you to find out!

Before the war, most of these liners carried both passengers and cargo hither and yon, so I imagine some decision based primarily on design and size was made on which ship would accomplish which wartime end, with some ships like President Grant and Boschfontein carrying mostly but not exclusively troops, and others like Tabinta carrying primarily or exclusively cargo. Shipyard modifications to each ship would have been made accordingly. We may not be quite there yet, but we're considerably farther along from your first spotting of P-10 on President Grant's movement cards. It would be good to know which agency assigned these numbers, and if such numbers were of exclusively American origin. If so, did the Brits have a similar numerical or alphanumerical scheme for their merchantmen?


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