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In Memory: Nicholas Landiak, SS United States Engineer

The SS United States Conservancy is deeply saddened to share that Nicholas Landiak, former engineer aboard the SS United States and dear friend of the Conservancy, peacefully passed away on December 7th at the age of 96.

Nicholas served as an engineer on the SS United States for the ship's entire service career. He was on board for her first sea trials in 1952, and was one of the last to leave when she was decommissioned in 1969. Over the years, Nicholas advised the Conservancy on a range of technical matters pertaining to the ship, and generously contributed important photographs and detailed accounts of his time aboard to the Conservancy's permanent archival collection.

Nicholas Landiak and his wife Marie with their three children at an SS United States crew reunion in 2004. Left to right: Marilyn, Mark, Marie, Nicholas and Karen.

Born on February 19, 1921, Nicholas Landiak grew up on a farm in New Jersey and attended Louisiana State University and Kansas State University before being appointed to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in August, 1942. After graduating in 1944, Nicholas sailed with United States Lines on both steam and diesel vessels, and in January of 1952, was assigned to the SS United States as Second Engineer in the forward boiler room.

Less than a year into his time aboard the Big U, Nicholas was promoted to First Engineer. He would serve as First Engineer and Relieving Executive Chief Engineer until the ship was retired from service, at which point he remained on board to assist with the permanent layup of the machinery and systems.

Nicholas maintained that the SS United States' advanced power plant and highly trained engineering crew were major factors in the ship's impeccable performance, safety record and record-breaking speed. He described the crew's sense of pride and accomplishment on the maiden voyage:

We operated the best designed ship that was ever built, and the best machinery that was ever installed in a merchant vessel. We had the most talented and best trained crew ever assigned to a ship. The machinery performed without problems, and this was very satisfying on our maiden voyage. The engineering crew was very happy with the performance of the machinery, and we could see that we had plenty of speed left to make the Blue Ribbon record even better if we so desired.

Nicholas was passionate about the SS United States, and we are profoundly grateful to him for sharing his knowledge of the vessel with us. In speaking about the ship, he offered these words of wisdom which we believe have a broader application:

To work on a ship, you have to have the knowledge and you have to have a game plan. With that, you can eliminate the possibility of a major breakdown.

The fact that the Big U sailed for 17 years without mechanical malfunction is a tribute to Nicholas and the rest of the ship's dedicated officers and crew. We are more inspired than ever to honor their contributions by redoubling our efforts on behalf of America's Flagship, the SS United States.

Photograph courtesy of Nicholas Landiak.

We offer our heartfelt condolences to all of Nicholas' family and friends. A moving tribute to Nicholas can be found in his obituary here. We are deeply honored that Nicholas' family has suggested that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the SS United States Conservancy.

We extend our deepest gratitude to Nicholas for tending to the Big U for so many years, and we wish him fair winds and following seas on his final passage.


The Big U touched thousands of lives over her 17-year service career. The SS United States Conservancy is dedicated to preserving the intangible legacy of America's Flagship through our Legacy Project, documenting the stories of those that lived and worked on board.

Did you or someone you know travel on the SS United States? Reach out at

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