Historic Liberty ship still captivates veteran NORTHWEST * Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

NEIGHBORS

May 20, 1993|By MICHELLE HOFFMAN

"There's something about the engine room that draws m there," says former sailor Richard Stoltz of Union Bridge.

"I can, inside of me, feel and remember, as I go on watch in the engine room, the thump of the main engines that turn the screw, the smell of hot steam and oil, the roll of the ship from port to starboard, the flicker of the lights from the DC current as I stand my watch, and as I cut burners in and out. It's just something that brings back old memories to me."

He's talking about World War II. For many, that's only a passage in a history book. But Mr. Stoltz has helped keep a piece of history vividly alive.

He shares the patriotic pride of more than 500 members of "Project Liberty Ship," a group of crew members and volunteers who intervened in 1983 to save the Liberty ship S.S. John W. Brown from the Navy's scrap torch.

As a member of "Project Liberty Ship," Mr. Stoltz and more than 50 other loyal volunteers have worked weekly since 1988 to restore the John W. Brown.

For him, the restoration is a labor of love. Mr. Stoltz was a fireman and water tender for the ship's boilers.

The ship, said Mr. Stoltz, "is the last intact Liberty ship left on the East Coast out of a fleet of 2,700 built to serve during World War II." It is docked in Baltimore Harbor at the Maryland Port Authority within sight of Bethlehem Steel's Fairfield shipyard, where it was built in 1942.

Liberty ships were "working ships" used to transport cargo and troops to Allied forces on the war front. They were steamships. Many were destroyed by bombs because of their slow speed of 11 knots, about 20 mph.

The John W. Brown, Mr. Stoltz said, "was built in only 41 days as part of an emergency shipbuilding operation started by President Roosevelt."

In 1988, the ship was put on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mr. Stoltz feels what the group is doing is "the right thing to do. It's preserving a piece of history."

Mr. Stoltz didn't get to see Europe until 1948. But he remembers the destruction.

"People were still living in cellars," he said. "They still asked for a thing as simple as a bar of soap. I saw whole factory areas burned out and destroyed. Ships were lying in the water on their sides -- some just sitting on the bottom with their superstructures out -- which I am sure still had men entombed in them. I never forgot what I saw there."

A major event for Mr. Stoltz and the John W. Brown will be a return voyage next year to Europe and the beaches of Normandy to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Allied forces' D-Day assault.

Mr. Stoltz said he is excited about the trip and hopes to take the voyage.

"But," he said slowly, "my reason for going is not for the re-enactment of war, because war is a terrible thing. . . . I want to go to pay honor and tribute to those who went ashore on that fateful day."

He paused, blinking back tears.

"Because, just beyond the cliffs where the Rangers scaled on that fateful day to establish a beachhead, a short way inland, is a cemetery where 9,000 U.S. servicemen were laid to rest. It would be my intent to walk among the crosses to say a prayer for them. I feel that this trip is the right thing to do."

Carroll County Day aboard the John W. Brown is Sunday. Guests will include representatives from Random House, Lehigh Portland Cement Co. -- where Mr. Stoltz retired last year after 45 years -- and Ingersoll-Dresser Pump.

The ceremony, the program says, will honor the ship as "a living, steaming memorial to those who built, sailed, and defended America's wartime fleet; and to those who gave the ultimate, their lives."

*

Wouldn't a pizza taste good after a long, hard, don't-feel-like-cooking day?

Then help the kids of Taneytown Elementary School raise money through June 2 by buying a pizza kit.

Pizzas are three in a kit, and the kits come in cheese ($12.50), pepperoni ($14), sausage ($14.50), whole wheat crust with cheese ($14), and Bianco ($14), which has a white cheese sauce instead of tomato sauce.

Proceeds will be used to replace 21 computer keyboards, and to purchase other computer software and products for the school.

Contact any Taneytown Elementary parent or student.

Alternate orders will also be taken by the school, but try to reach students first. As an incentive, for every 100 kits students sell, they receive a free pizza kit.

Payment must be made when the order is placed .

Pizzas may be picked up June 10 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the school cafeteria.

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