The S.S. North Haven
Construction & Aviation Supply Ship

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'Short S 23 "Empire" boat Calypso at Mombasa, Kenya'
Water Color By
IAN MARSHALL, Flying Boats, The J-Class Yachts of Aviation


Why a Supply Ship?

      Pan American Airways leased the S.S. North Haven to establish flying boat bases on remote Pacific Atolls. The great flying boats did not have sufficient range to reach the distant Pacific destinations without places to refuel and refit.

      Life aboard the North Haven was Spartan. Before the ship was pressed into service by Pan Am, she was used to house fishermen off the coast of Alaska. One Pan Am employee complained that, "The entire ship smelled like an old can of tuna left too long in the sun."

     Unloading the North Haven on the open ocean was back breaking work and extremely dangerous. The man in charge of getting the cargo to the remote islands was Bill Grooch. His military discipline, and emphasis on safely, avoided many injuries and deaths.

     It wasn't all bad. For the most part, the men believed in the job and they were treated well. The pay was excellent, as were the meals - at least on the ship. There were few amenities on the uninhabited desert islands. However, in the depths of the Great Depression, the men faired better than most and the eyes of the nation were upon them.

Click on the S.S. North Haven images below...

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San Francisco Arrival at Pier 22,

San Francisco Harbor

Hosting a lighter aboard at Pier 22

San Francisco Harbor

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Hosting a aboard fuel tank headed for Guam Tossing in the swells off Midway
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Loading a lighter of Midway View from Wilkes Island, Wake
S.S. North Haven "Three Island Steamer" schematic

S.S. North Haven crew

1st Officer Pederson

standing - second from right

Photographs courtesy of Jon Krupnick.  Jon Krupnick's Website,

like his book, it is filled with terrific information.

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"Decades before the space race with the Soviet Union, the United States was in a race with the Japanese to control the air routes across the Pacific. It was a time of intrigue and adventure." 

2008 Ann Marie Martin, The Huntsville Times. All rights reserved.


Created on ... February 09, 2007

Updated on ... March 28, 2009

Copyright 2007 - 2009 by Jamie Dodson.  All rights reserved