For actions on September 12, 1942
Gallant Ship Award Citation:
Emerging victoriously from an extremely battered convoy, numbering many sunken ships, SS WILLIAM MOULTRIE arrived at the scheduled north Russian Port and discharged her vitally needed cargo. Expert maneuvering and coordinated gun control during the highly concentrated submarine and bombing attacks over a period of one week prevented crew casualties and brought the series of actions to a successful conclusion.
The stark courage of her heroic crew in defeating a relentless enemy caused her name to be perpetuated as a Gallant Ship.
SS William Moultrie, a Liberty ship built by North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, was delivered to the U.S. Maritime Commission on June 11, 1942. Operating under a general agent agreement with the Seas Shipping Company, its first mission was to join convoy PQ-18 and transport war supplies from Loch Ewe, Scotland to Archangel, Russia. In order to avoid the German-occupied Norwegian coast, the convoy sailed around the western and northern coasts of Iceland and crossed the Greenland Sea.
The convoy departed Scotland on September 2. On September 13, while traversing the Barents Sea, German submarines and bombers attacked the convoy. William Moultrie‘s Naval Armed Guard destroyed three torpedo bombers and damaged six more, including a bomber that had silenced its engines to attack after dusk.
On September 14, German bombers attacked again. Early in the day, William Moultrie‘s Armed Guard shot down two more planes, including one that crashed into SS Mary Luckenbach, a vessel carrying a cargo of TNT. Mary Luckenbach exploded with such concussive force that many of William Moultrie‘s crew were knocked off their feet on deck. Despite this, the Armed Guard was able to shoot down two more planes and damage an additional five throughout the day.
On September 18, German bombers attacked the convoy again. Although the attack was repulsed, a bomber launched four torpedoes at William Moultrie, one of which was destroyed in the water by the vessel’s Armed Guard.
Convoy PQ-18 arrived in Archangel on September 21, where William Moultrie successfully delivered its cargo. For their actions during the running battle in the Barents Sea, William Moultrie‘s Naval Armed Guard received letters of commendation from the Chief of Naval Personnel and the Naval Armed Guard’s officer-in-charge was awarded the U.S. Navy’s Silver Star.
After the war, William Moultrie was laid up in the James River anchorage of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF). The vessel was briefly activated and operated by Grace Lines in 1951 and 1952, but was returned to inactive status and remained at the NDRF’s Mobile, Alabama Reserve Fleet until it was sold for scrap in August 1970.