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From the WNYC Archives: An Interview with Commodore Harry Manning and Ship Designer William Francis

On the 66th anniversary of the record-breaking maiden voyage of the SS United States — the world's fastest ocean liner — check out a radio interview recorded in 1952 with the vessel's captain, Commodore Harry Manning, and ship designer William Francis Gibbs.

This interview has been made available by the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection, and was recorded on July 15, 1952 at a reception following the ship’s triumphant return to New York.

Listen below:

The SS United States arrives in Europe after setting a new transatlantic speed record, July 1952.

In the recording, William Francis Gibbs comments, following the record-breaking success of the vessel that he designed:

"It is with a great sense of humility that I am here today representing the thousands of people who with head and heart and enthusiasm have designed and built this ship."

New York's Commissioner of Marine Navigation also emphasizes:

"There is one feeling that I'm sure everyone has, and that is...the great feeling of security. Having a ship of this character, built to these specifications in our great merchant marine, means a great deal towards the security of all of us."


Just how fast was the SS United States?

On her maiden voyage, the SS United States departed New York on July 3, 1952, fully booked with 1,700 passengers. When she tore past Bishop Rock at 6:16am on the morning of July 7, this extraordinary vessel officially captured the Blue Riband from the Cunard liner Queen Mary, marking the first time an American ship had done so in a century. During her crossing, the Big U achieved an astonishing average speed of 35.59 knots, with a sailing time of 3 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes.

After rapturous welcomes in Le Havre and Southampton, the SS United States departed for her westbound return voyage on July 10th. During this trip, she also shattered the Queen Mary’s westbound record — this time by nine and a half hours — setting a westbound speed record of 3 days, 12 hours, and 12 minutes that she holds to this day!


You can help ensure a brilliant second act for this global ambassador and All-American record-breaker. CLICK HERE to make your donation today, and join the fight to save the fastest and greatest ocean liner the world has ever known!

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