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Remembering the Last Captain of the SS United States, Commodore Leroy Alexanderson

The story of the SS United States is a story of the many extraordinary men and women who traveled and worked aboard her. The last captain of the United States was Commodore Leroy John Alexanderson, who was master of the ship for the last five years of her service career.

Alexanderson passed away on the 28th of February, 2004, at the age of 93. He was buried in the uniform he wore as commodore and captain of the SS United States.

Commodore Leroy Alexanderson of the SS United States.

Image courtesy of Oceanliners Magazine.

In a 2017 profile in Oceanliners Magazine, author John Edwards writes:

"Alexanderson was born to Swedish immigrant parents. He graduated from the New York Merchant Marine Academy at Fort Schuyler in the Bronx in 1930 and was commissioned in both the Naval Reserve and the Maritime Service.

In 1934, Alexanderson joined United States Lines. As the US’s entry into World War II approached, he volunteered for destroyer escort duty. His first command, the attack transport Gage, landed Marine elements on Okinawa and saw heavy action. The vessel later carried thousands of home-bound troops.

Returning to United States Lines after the war, Alexanderson served on various ships before becoming executive officer and, in 1955, captain of the liner America. Alexanderson was master of United States for the last five of her 17 years in service.

In 1966, United States Lines made Alexanderson its fleet commodore. As such he was in overall command of the line’s 52 ships and was entitled to run the commodore’s silk ensign up the halyard of the radar mast of any of the line’s ships he happened to be on."

Read the full profile HERE.

Commodore Leroy Alexanderson in an aftershave advertisement.

Image courtesy of Oceanliners Magazine.

Conservancy supporter Brian Abbott had the honor of accompanying Commodore Alexanderson during a visit Alexanderson made to his alma mater, now SUNY Maritime College, in the fall of 2002.

Abbott recalls:

"As a young Cadet, I was in awe as I listened to the Commodore tell stories of what it was like to command the most impressive ship ever built. We walked through the Maritime Industry Museum on campus, and his eyes lit up as he saw some of his old items from the ship that he had donated to the school."

Commodore Alexanderson is presented with a plaque. Photograph courtesy of Alex Rodmell.


The SS United States has always been a soaring symbol of ingenuity, innovation, and the nation's ability to join arm-in-arm to advance common goals. It is inconceivable that she has endured all of these years, only to be lost now.

Become a member of the SS United States Conservancy today, and follow us on Facebook to help spread the incredible story of the SS United States!

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