Ocean liner in distress, soon to be scrapped: The historic SS United States sends out a final SOS

Despite valiant fundraising efforts and an imaginative public outreach, the caretakers of what has been called “America’s flag ship” say that unless they raise adequate money for her upkeep, the historic SS United States must be sold for scrap. The group seeks a permanent home for the 990-foot long vessel, and potential commercial redevelopment.

“The SS United States is the largest and most advanced ocean liner ever built in her namesake nation.  Launched in 1952, the United States was developed as part of a Top Secret Cold War project to build the fastest ship in the world. She still holds the transatlantic speed record.  The ship is an iconic symbol of America’s post-war power, pride and innovation,” the SS United States Conservancy in a plaintive public pitch for donations or any amount.

“We have achieved an extraordinary amount of progress in support of the SS United States’ potential redevelopment in recent months, including detailed plans, financial models, renderings, and engineering approaches with support from a number of major firms.  In so many ways, we’ve never been closer to saving America’s Flagship, but we have also never been closer to losing this irreplaceable piece of our history,” the board of directors of the non-profit group noted.

It costs $60,000 per month to care for the ship, which is currently docked on the Delaware River outside Philadelphia.

The history and style is certainly there. The ship played host over the years to, among many others, Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, Gary Cooper, Walter Cronkite,  Walt Disney, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The ship also carried four US presidents — Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Clinton. Caretakers say the vessel is the epitome of the suave and sleek “Mad Men” style.

But it’s tough in these times.

“If donors or investors step forward by the end of the month who are ready, willing, and able to help the Conservancy, America’s Flagship could still be saved.  However, if progress toward a new sales option or an infusion of funds does not occur by October 31, 2015, we will have no choice but to negotiate the sale of the ship to a responsible U.S.-based recycler,” the group states in an open letter.

“The sale of the vessel to a recycler is by no means inevitable. We remain hopeful that our developers can continue to advance their efforts or that additional financial support will be found in time. The SS United States is a unique and endangered historic landmark that has captivated the imagination of  millions.  We are determined to do everything possible during these final weeks to try to save her.”


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