CBS Sunday Morning: Salute to a Queen
Sunday Morning revisited the Queen Mary ocean liner, a resplendent and retired ship that has been pressed into service for a new use. Tracy Smith shared the story for CBS Sunday Morning.
“In the depths of the Great Depression, she was a symbol of hope,” Smith said. The ship launched on September 26, 1934. The Queen Mary was a popular spot for the A-list in its day.
She set new standards in elegance and crossed the ocean in record time.
Sunday Morning: Queen Mary History
The Queen Mary even went on to become a weapon of sorts. Historian Everette Hoard, the ship’s honorary commodore, reported that she can travel at 32 1/2 knots, which was more than double the speed of U-boats and torpedoes of its day.
It was even pressed into service to transport troops in wartime. Smith recalled that it was perfect for transporting US soldiers to Europe during World War II, taking a record of more than 16,600 troops in a single trip.
Since the ship was busy ferrying troops across the ocean, passenger loads of 15,000 at a time found themselves in close quarters. The men ate in shifts, and a ham-slicing machine worked around the clock to keep up with demand. Eggs were boiled in 55-gallon drums, according to the ship’s historian.
CBS Sunday Morning: Queen Mary War Brides
“The passage took about seven days,” Smith said, and then the ship would turn around and head back for more. Adolph Hitler offered a large reward to any captain who could sink the boat, but she was never fired upon.
Army Private Arnie Boots was one of half a million passengers who made that trip prior to D-Day. He met and quickly married a 16-year-old English girl, who shared her memories. June Allen married Arnie before D-Day, but she did not see him again until after the war was over.
Later, the Queen Mary would ship June and her young son, along with 60,000 British war brides, courtesy of the US Army. June made that voyage at age 18. She said the ship’s size took her breath away. This time, the war brides got to enjoy high style on their trip.
Sunday Morning: Queen Mary Long Beach Hotel
After the voyage, June’s reunion with her husband was anticlimactic. She had never seen him out of uniform and she did not recognize him at first! The couple settled in Indiana, and despite those early qualms, they were married 37 years, not all of them happy.
Her husband has since passed away, and the golden age of ocean liners has faded as well. Jet airplanes supplanted ships by the 1960s, and in 1967, the Queen Mary took her final voyage.
The city of Long Beach, California, purchased the boat for $3.5 million, after it had made 1,001 trips across the Atlantic. These days, it is a floating hotel and museum. It has seen births, deaths, and countless stories in its time, which does not seem to have come to an end quite yet.