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Passengers Leslie and Patti Thomas Share SS United States Memories

Sisters Leslie and Patti Thomas, then ages 16 and 13, sailed aboard the SS United States on December 18, 1963. They crossed from Le Havre to New York City with their parents, Mrs. Nicoletta Thomas and Sergeant Arthur Thomas.

Here, Leslie and Patti share their memories and photographs:

Sgt Arthur Thomas in Air Force uniform, next to Leslie Thomas. Walking behind are Patti Thomas and Mrs. Nicoletta Thomas. Photograph courtesy of Christina Hoffman.

Patti: I remember that we played organized board games, and, of course, ran around the ship with other military brats like we owned the place – except that I was so worried we would get caught! I remember the bunk beds in our stateroom.

Leslie: I’m sure I got seasick, I usually do.

Patti: Yes, you were definitely seasick, as was Mom, so on the night of the “Captain’s Dinner” only Dad and I went. I was almost done in by the Turtle Soup, but Dad and I made it through! Also, the ship was officially in mourning [following President Kennedy’s assassination] so the dinner that night was without the normal festivities. Onboard the ship was the very first time I had prosciutto and melon, and I remember the melon was call “Persian” and I thought that made it pretty special!

Patti Thomas (center) on deck with Ralph Lange and Kathy (last name unknown).

Photograph courtesy of Christina Hoffman.

Leslie: It was either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day when we arrived in New York. By the time Dad got the car and we were on our way to Norwich it was dark, cold, and snowy.

Patti: I remember well how I felt when seeing the Statue of Liberty...very patriotic! I remember I began to sing “America the Beautiful!” It was such a moving experience, sailing past the statue and back into the US, especially knowing that JFK had just been assassinated...

Statue of Liberty seen from the deck of the SS United States.

Photograph courtesy of Christina Hoffman.


The Conservancy is preserving the intangible history of America's Flagship through our Legacy Project, capturing the incredible stories of passengers and crew members who traveled aboard the SS United States. Do you have your own SS United States story to tell? Send us an email at

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