This is a picture of the USS General Hersey, the ship that brought my late husband to this country.
On 16 November 1949 USAT General M. L. Hersey left Naples with 1,283 displaced persons from Europe and arrived in Melbourne, Australia on 6 December 1949. This voyage was one of almost 150 “Fifth Fleet” voyages by some 40 ships bringing refugees of World War II to Australia. General M. L. Hersey made two more such trips, arriving in Melbourne with 1,336 refugees on 27 April 1950, and in Fremantle with 1,370 passengers on 2 November 1950.
It was interesting to me to find the ship manifest when the ship landed in Boston in 1949 and that my late husband was on that passenger list. My father had worked at the Kaiser Company in 1942 helping to rebuild the navy. I thought it would be a coincidence if he worked on the General Hersey, but he didn’t.
When my late husband arrived in America, he was 11 years old and had never been to school. He had been on the run from the German and Russian armies since he was 5 and his orphanage picked up and left Latvia. They hid in fox holes, dodged bullets, got food from farms and soldiers they would meet. They walked, took trains, were on ships and eventually made it to a safe place in Germany after the war was over. He was 9 by then. Four years on the run. Four years which set the tone for his whole life, never feeling that he belonged, never being sure what was going to happen next. Always on the move.
But he got here. He became a naturalized citizen. He was a productive member of society and the first 11 years of his life did not color his outlook on the world. He was quite a guy.