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We’ll Meet Again

June 2024
1min read


Our column “History Happened Here” in the July/August 1993 issue described the steamboat Delta Queen ’s World War II career ferrying troops from Sacramento to San Francisco. This rang a bell with Alan Hall of Hopkinton, New Hampshire: “The lively article on the Delta Queen solved a minor mystery that has plagued me since 1946,” he writes.

“Returning from the Pacific at the end of World War II, I was transferred, after the decommissioning of the destroyer tender USS Denebola (AD-12), to USS PC-788 based at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. The 788 spent the spring and early summer of 1946 in leisurely maneuvers with submarines and blimps beyond the Golden Gate Bridge while most of us aboard waited for our discharge points to accumulate.

“The bay was filled with an ever-changing population of naval craft returning to off-load ammunition or salvageable hardware like guns, to submit to the indignities of mothballing, or to accept the terminal diagnosis of decommissioning. Many of the vessels, like the Denebola (which originally had been commissioned in 1921, mothballed, and recommissioned in 1940), were elderly auxiliaries or tired amphibious veterans of too many Pacific campaigns—not hard to understand why they were headed for the scrapheap.

“Near our Treasure Island berth was docked a vessel unlike any I had ever seen in the Atlantic or the Pacific (and as a repair and supply ship the Denebola had entertained some odd customers along the way). Painted dark gray, surrounded by other ships that were clearly ‘Navy,’ she looked to me, a native of northern New Jersey, a bit like a very out-of-place fugitive from the ferry slips of Hoboken. But that huge paddle-wheel housing at the stern! That was not from Hoboken! That was something out of Mark Twain and Life on the Mississippi . Could it be that the U.S. Navy had mothballed this antique at the end of the Civil War?

“It seemed unlikely, but our curiosity level that spring was aimed at civilian life, not at this anomalous oddity, whose name I never bothered to learn. And anyway, surely a paddle-wheel steamer was not going to survive the weeding-out process of the post-World War II fleet requirements. Who would want a stern-wheeler!

“Now I know.”

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