In the light of Queen Mary’s upcoming 80th birthday in Long Beach, California, CBS News America showed a short broadcast about Queen Mary called ‘A Salute to the Queen Mary’ together with an article on their website, which you can read here as well.
Fortunately for those who do not live in the States, the film has been published on YouTube:
CBS News Article September 21, 2014
he “Salute to a Queen” was once a newsreel staple . . . the queen in question being the fabled ocean liner “Queen Mary.” Long since retired, her many voyages still deserve a salute. Tracy Smith does the honors:
September 26, 1934: launch day for the pride of the British commercial fleet.
In the depths of the Great Depression, she was a symbol of hope.
The Queen Mary set a new standard for elegance, and was a favorite among the A-List: Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, Clark Gable.
She was the last word in comfort and style, and capable of crossing the Atlantic in record time.
And at the dawn of World War II, the Mary’s speed would, in a way, become a weapon.
Historian Everette Hoard, the Queen Mary’s Honorary Commodore, said, “Her top speed is about 32.5 knots.”
Compared to a surfaced U-Boat, whose speed would be 13-14 knots, or 8 knots submerged. “The Queen Mary was even faster than the torpedoes themselves, which traveled along about 25 knots,” said Hoard.
And so the world’s largest ocean liner became the world’s largest troop ship.
Bigger than the Titanic and faster than any German submarine, the Queen Mary was just the thing the Allies needed to take American soldiers to Europe. On one trip alone, she carried more than 16,600 troops — a record that stands to this day.
Every other week, the Queen — clad in drab gray war paint — would haul an average of 15,000 American GIs to Europe.
“It was very, very cramped,” said Hoard. “The men ate in two shifts down in the Grand Salon. A ham-slicing machine worked 24 hours a day trying to keep up with the demand for ham and eggs. Eggs were boiled in 55-gallon drums, with steam jetted up from the boiler rooms.”
The passage took about seven days, after which the Queen would head back to New York, and do it all again.
The Nazis were not amused. Adolf Hitler offered $250,000 to any submarine captain who could sink her . . . but she outran them all.
“Every U-Boat commander in the German navy would like to have sunk the Queen Mary,” said Hoard.
But, he said, she was never even fired upon.
In the buildup to D-Day, the Queen Mary carried nearly half a million GIs to Great Britain, among them Army Private Arnie Boots.
Like so many GIs far from home, Boots met an English girl, and promptly married her.
June Allen was 16 when she married Boots shortly before he shipped out for D-Day.
Smith asked, “And what was it about this guy?”
“I don’t know. There was two million GIs stationed at Cheltenham during the war. And you know, you’d see so many, but there was just something about Arnie,” she replied.
She wouldn’t see him again . . . that is, not until after the war ended, and the U.S. Army started shipping around 60,000 British war brides to their new lives in America.
June and her young son came to the U.S. aboard the Queen Mary.
“I was only 18 years old, and I had never been on a ship,” she said. “And I had never seen a ship that size in my life. I got out of the bus and I looked up, up, up and up. It took my breath away! I couldn’t believe the size of it.”
And instead of the cramped quarters their husbands endured, the war brides who came over on the Mary sailed in high style.
Allen said it was “a little scary,” but also exciting for the young woman to go to a new country. “Plus, being on the greatest ship in the world. It was so thrilling.”
For June, the voyage was an absolute dream. The reunion with her husband — not so much.
“I had never seen him out of uniform, and I didn’t know him,” she told Smith. “I thought, ‘Is that him?’ I’d been married to the man almost three years, and I didn’t recognize him. I thought, ‘Is that Arnie? Or isn’t it?’ That’s what wartime does.”
They settled in Indiana, and as you might guess, life in the U.S. took some adjustment.
“He was kind of a stranger to me when I first came over here, to be honest about it,” Allen said. “We were married 37 years. And like all marriages, it has its ups and downs. We didn’t have the happiest marriage in the world. We were kind of opposites in so many ways, ’cause we never got the chance to know each other that well.”
Her late husband is now just a memory. So, too, the Golden Age of ocean liners.
By the 1960s, jet aircraft had all but replaced ships for transatlantic travel, and in 1967 — with great reluctance — the Queen Mary was taken on her final voyage by Captain John Treasure Jones.
“In the older days the only way of getting around the world was to go by sea,” Capt. Jones said at the time. “But now you hop in these damn wind machines and you can go anywhere in no time almost.”
The city of Long Beach, Calif., bought the Queen Mary for $3.5 million, and on December 9, 1967, she tied up there for good — after having crossed the Atlantic 1,001 times.
Today, the Queen Mary is a floating hotel and museum.
But, for a ship that hasn’t sailed in nearly 50 years, she still has the power to move.
When asked what the ship means to her, June Allen replied, “It’s like me, it’s gotten old. But the ship is beautiful. I’m getting old, but the ship is still beautiful!”
And to others who sailed on her (or wish they had), the Queen Mary is not so much a ship as a shrine.
“The Queen Mary, being like any small town or city — children were born on board, and people have passed away, especially during the ravages of the Second World War,” said historian Everette Hoard. “It’s truly hallowed ground, she is.”