World War II Freight Carrier Berwyn
By James Donahue
When launched at Sparrows Point, Maryland, in 1918, the Berwyn was designed as a commercial freight
hauler. But the 391-foot-long ship was immediately snatched by the U. S. Navy to operate as a supply ship during the final
months of World War I.
Assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, the Berwyn was nearly destroyed by a fire that
broke out in the number three hold just seven hours after the ship left Baltimore with a cargo of munitions bound for France.
The crew, under the command of Lt. Charles Stzweiler, battled for blaze for hours before successfully extinguishing it on
Oct. 21, 1918.
On its second trip to France the following month, the Berwyn encountered severe winter storms. The
vessel shipped waves the swept the after part of the ship and carried away some of the deck cargo. After that trip, Armistice
with Germany ended the war and Berwyn began carrying military supplies back to the United States.
The Berwyn was decommissioned by the Navy in May, 1919, and transferred to the U. S. Shipping Board.
Under the command of A. W. Johnson, the Berwyn became a commercial carrier. In the winter of 1919-20 the ship steamed from
Norfolk, Virginia to Le Havre, France. It remained docked in that port until later in 1920 when it was purchased by the French
The ship wrecked when it went aground on September 6, 1920, on one of the Khuriya Muriya Islands in
the Arabian Sea. Details of the wreck were unavailable.