From the Vaults: A Heist at Sea
As longtime readers of this blog know, we love sharing stories of exciting events from aboard America's Flagship, from seaborne master paintings and whirlwind shipboard love stories to even unexpected births.
However, not every news story that originated on the SS United States was quite so life-affirming. One very rare exception was the fall 1960 theft of more than $42,000 from the ship's purser's office. This unfortunate event took place during Voyage 188, on the eastbound leg of the Big U's journey.
The heist quickly made international news, as it was investigated by British authorities in the wake of the event. After careful investigation, U.K. police deduced that the crime involved someone from the purser's office. However, due to a lack of jurisdiction, the case was ultimately handed over to the F.B.I.
An unidentified British newspaper reports on the October 1960 shipboard theft.
The F.B.I. would eventually solve the crime, with the case going to trial the following year. It was determined that Thomas Manning, an assistant purser aboard the SS United States, colluded with the thief, Keith William Grandy, in exchange for $10,000 of the stolen funds.
From there, the story only gets more confounding, revealing the extent of the conspiracy and the bizarre attempts to cover up the crime. Here is an excerpt published in the U.S. Attorney's Annual Report.
"Manning furnished the combination to the safe to Grandy and received $1,000 from Grandy as part payment on his share. In all, a total of $42,900 was taken from the safe which Grandy buried in the dock area at Le Havre, France. Since the money remained buried for nearly a year, the ink began to run and it retained a distinctive odor of the damp silt soil in which it was buried. In a frantic effort to dispose of the money, Grandy attempted to exchange it at the purser's office aboard the SS United States. Manning became fearful about possessing his share of the money and eventually stuffed it into an ice bucket and threw it into the sea."
After testifying as a government witness and confessing his role, Manning received a five year suspended sentence. Grandy was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. He did not appeal.
Courtesy of an anonymous donor, you can see some of the internal documentation related to the shipboard theft, as well as some British press clippings surrounding the event. Check out the gallery below.
The SS United States remains an iconic symbol of American innovation and invention, with countless thrilling stories to tell. We can save this magnificent vessel for future generations, but we need your help.
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