Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Naming the Liberty Ships - Part Two

Note: This is part of a series of posts on odd bits of history as memorialized in the names of World War II Liberty Ships.  I am organizing them, after a fashion, around proposed artwork for imaginary "ships' insignia"  For a more complete explanation and background: Part One


Today's Liberty Ships have an unexpected connection.  As the only real requirement for a proposed name be that it was not that of a living person, you might well imagine that a prominent individual whose death was widely noted during the time frame of Liberty Ship construction would have a high probability of being nominated.

The S.S. Carole Lombard was laid down in December of 1943, but one assumes Miss Lombard's fans put her name forward long before that.  She was the highest paid star in Hollywood in the late 1930s, acting in a string of successful movies generally in the "screwball comedy" genre.  She was also married to Clark Gable after an earlier marriage to William Powell.

Ironically although naming rights to a Liberty Ship were often linked to conducting a successful War Bond Drive it was just such an event that contributed to Lombard's death.  On January 16, 1942 she was on her way back from appearing at a Bond appeal when the DC 3 on which she was a passenger slammed into the side of a mountain near Las Vegas.

Gable was said to be devastated by the loss, and subsequently joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as his wife had previously urged him.  He attended the christening of the S.S. Carole Lombard where Irene Dunne swung the ceremonial bottle of champagne.


Our next ship would appear to be entirely unrelated:

Frederick Banting was a Canadian medical scientist, and one of the co-discoverers of insulin as a treatment for diabetes.  He deservedly won the Nobel Prize for Medicine/Physiology for this accomplishment in 1923.  He was only 32 years old at the time, the youngest individual to date to win the Nobel for Medicine.

Banting was quite the Renaissance man.  A wounded and decorated World War I medic he resumed his medical training post war, actually specializing in orthopedics.  This did not stop him from also lecturing in anthropology and pharmacology.  He was also an accomplished painter.

By the time of the Second World War he was interested in the physiological challenges of high altitude flight and in developing suits to help pilots cope with them.

On February 21st, 1941 he was on his way to England to conduct operational tests on one such suit when his his aircraft crashed at Musgrave Harbor, Newfoundland.

The S.S. Fredrick Banting was laid down on  29 November of 1943 and was launched a mere 22 days later.

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