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Project Santa Claus: A Letter to Commodore John Anderson

Commodore John Anderson and his loyal dog, Chota Peg. Photo courtesy of Charles Anderson

When she set out on her record-breaking maiden voyage in 1952, the SS United States captured the imagination of the country that was her namesake — forever securing her place as a source of patriotic achievement and pride.

While she continues to be a soaring symbol of national pride for Americans, the Big U has long held a special place in the hearts of citizens across the globe. A letter from the European publicity office of United States Lines — dated December 1959, and addressed to longtime SS United States captain, Commodore John Anderson — is just one of many instances in which the Big U’s officers and crew went above and beyond to make the holidays special for others.

Courtesy of Carl Weber, moderator of The SS United States Group on Yahoo, the letter is reprinted in full below.


United States Lines Operations, Inc.

50, Pall Mall, London, S.W.I.

Oriole Line, America France Line, South Atlantic Line, American Pioneer Line, American Hampton Roads Line

Telephone: WHIteall 5454


Telex: 28243

4th December, 1959.

Commodore John W. Anderson,


Voyage No. 166, December 7,

c/o The United States Lines,

Pier 86, North River,

West 46th Street,


Dear Commodore Anderson,

Project “Santa Claus” s.s. “UNITED STATES” at Southampton, December 14, 1959.

This will confirm our discussion about the Christmas party for orphans aboard your ship in Southampton. The Home selected is Hollybrook House, Southampton, and so as not to cause disappointment it has been agreed that 24 children, 12 girls and 12 boys, between the ages of 10-13 years are to be invited. It is suggested that the party should be held in the Navajo Room from 4.30 pm. until 6.00 pm., on December 14.

We are supplying the necessary presents to be distributed amongst the children and also some small gifts for the accompanying adults.

It will be very nice if a Christmas atmosphere could be achieved with a Christmas Tree in the Navajo Room and a few Gala hats and crackers if available. As far as refreshments are concerned I think cakes, ice cream and cookies will be quite satisfactory with a supply of soft drinks.

The foregoing as to venue etc., is only a suggestion as I am sure the ship’s personnel will be full of ideas to give the kids a splendid time. It is very kind of you to offer to be present, and I am sure it need only be for a moment or two just to give a memory for the children to take away with them. The main thing is we want it to be a ship’s party, and therefore we would like the shoreside involved as little as possible.

Best regards and many thanks,


Derek A. Smythe

European Public Relations Manager.


Capt. L.J. Alexanderson, Executive Officer *

Mr. William Kaiser, Chief Engineer

Mr. Henry Moreno, Chief Purser

Mr. H. Mueller, Chief Steward


Capt. B.B. Backston, London, S.W.1.

Mr. E. Ruddock, Benjn. Ackerley, Southampton


*A handwritten “Dear Alex” followed by a typewritten “If you feel that you could spare a moment I know it will give the kids a kick.” followed by a handwritten “Sincerely Derek A Smythe” was included on this letter.

Source: United States Lines London Publicity Officer Letter

Thanks to Carl Weber for finding, transcribing, and granting permission to reprint this letter, which originally appeared in the always fascinating SS United States Group on Yahoo. The group is consistently a great source of information and ephemera concerning America's Flagship.

Charles Anderson, son of Commodore John Anderson, currently serves as President of the SS United States Conservancy’s Board of Directors.


The SS United States Conservancy wishes a happy holiday season and prosperous new year to you and yours. If you're looking for a last minute gift idea, why not consider giving a gift membership to a loved one?

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