Michael Linkowich

The Career Merchant Marine Engineer Survived A German U-boat Attack During World War Ii

April 25, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Michael Linkowich Sr., a retired ship's engineer who survived a German torpedo attack in the North Atlantic during World War II, died of lung disease Wednesday at Calvert Memorial Hospital in Prince Frederick. The Essex resident was 95.

Born in Turners Station, he attended Baltimore County public schools and the old St. Mary's Industrial School until the eighth grade. As a young man, he worked for the old Essex Real Estate Co. and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

He joined the merchant marine during World War II as an assistant engineer.

His ship, the McKeesport, was part of a large convoy. It had been transporting emergency food and supplies to aid refugees who had fled the advancing German army in the former Soviet Union. According to a 1940 Time magazine article, the McKeesport was a 6,200-ton freighter pressed into service as a Red Cross mercy ship.

In April 1943, a German submarine, U-258, fired on the McKeesport, which was loaded with ballast on a return run to New York from Liverpool. The ship's captain ordered an evacuation, and the crew, including Mr. Linkowich, abandoned ship.

"The only time I was scared was when the torpedo hit my ship," he told the York (Pa.) Daily Record in 2001. "We climbed down rope ladders and climbed into lifeboats. We floated around the ocean for two days before they picked us up."

He was taken initially to Greenland and later to New York City. He returned to service after the torpedo attack.

In 1993, he received a medal and a signed letter from Vladimir P. Lukin, then the Russian ambassador to the U.S., "on behalf of Boris Yeltsin and the entire Russian people." The award recognized him for "outstanding courage and personal contribution to the Allied support of my country which fought for freedom against Nazi Germany," Lukin wrote.

"His love for the sea kept him active as a career merchant marine engineer, shipping to all parts of the world," said his son, Charles Linkowich of Parkville, who also recalled his father bringing home souvenirs from the ports where he had called.

Mr. Linkowich retired in 1975 from the Moore-McCormack Lines.

Although a nonsmoker, he developed a hobby of searching for discarded Marlboro cigarette packs and collecting their coupons, which he redeemed for clothing. He gave coats and shirts to churches and the Salvation Army. In 2000 he collected some 11,000 empty cigarette packs from trash bins and along roadsides.

"I can't quantify how much he gave away, but it was quite a large amount," his son said.

Mr. Linkowich lived for many years in Essex but later moved to Shrewsbury, Pa., and returned to Maryland six years ago.

He continued to take long walks and enjoyed trout fishing on the Gunpowder with his son and grandson.

After his health began failing last year, Mr. Linkowich lived at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in Southern Maryland.

Funeral services are private.

Survivors include another son, Michael Linkowich Jr. of Essex; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His marriage to Carlotta Feeser ended in divorce.

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