Commander Robert F. Turney, United States Navy (Ret)
A highlight of my thirty year naval career occurred in June, 1945, when I received orders to proceed to Bremerhaven, Germany, to become a part of the U.S. Navy Prize Crew manning the captured German â€œBlue Ribbonâ€ liner, the S.S. Europa. This duty consisted of the Navy crew supervising the rehab of the third largest ship in the world, and the largest naval prize in history. Our goal was to have the ship in New York before winter in 1945. We supervised over 2000 German shipyard workers, who in just over three months time, had the ship, now renamed the U.S.S. Europa AP 177, ready for sea. In mid-September 1945, we sailed her from Bremerhaven, and with the U.S.S. Philadelphia in band as a fireguard (it should be noted that the Navy considered that this ship a very unsafe ship because of itâ€™s electrical system; she was a fire risk).
On arrival in New York, we were greeted by a fireboat parade up the harbor, and upon docking we were greeted by a U.S. Marshall, who claimed the Europa as a naval prize of war, and the property of the United States. She remained in U.S. custody for ten months, making four magic carpet voyages, returning U.S. troops to American soil. Following a fourth trip, she remained in port for a period for which her disposal was being determined. It was finally decided that the Europa could not become a U.S. merchant ship, since she did not meet United States maritime standards. With that decision we sailed her back to Bremerhaven, and officially turned her over to the French government as a reparation of war. She subsequently was extensively rehabilitated and put to sea again as the French liner S.S. Liberte. She remained in the landing passenger service for the following ten years.
To complete this story, on the second voyage of the Liberte (the former Europa), a group of members of the prize crew were invited to visit the ship to see her in her new refurbished role. Some thirty former crewmembers were given a tour of the ship by the captain, who was very proud of her. We presented him with a German Nazi flag that had been found on the ship when we took it over. He was very pleased with this gesture. In every respect, this tour of duty, from the beginning to the end was the most memorable of my service in World War II.