The Voyage of the Honda Knot

At 11:37 a.m. on October 10, 1947 the United States Army Transport Honda Knot sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco Bay under overcast skies completing the final leg of a journey for her military passengers. 3,012 of those aboard were listed as “passengers (deceased)” for these were the remains of fallen servicemen, many of whom had passed under the Golden Gate Bridge on ships bound for the war in the Pacific.

An escort of 48 fighter planes flew over the vessel before dipping their wings in salute and banking away. The arrival of the Honda Knot officially initiated what one observer called the “most melancholy immigration movement in the history of man.”

5,000 mourners showed up on San Francisco’s Marina Green to pay tribute to the war dead. Dignitaries in the audience included Sixth Army Commandant General Mark Clark,  Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan, California Governor Earl Warren and San Francisco Mayor Roger Lapham.

As a measured 21-gun salute marked the beginning of the memorial service a navy launch approached the Honda Knot and presented a seven-foot wreath from President Truman containing leaves of trees from all corners of the country. Church bells rang throughout the city to signal the citizens that a one-minute moment of silence was to be observed.

When the 30 minute ceremony was over the USAT Honda Knot moved to the Oakland Army base where six caskets, representing the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force, and service-attached civilians, were selected to lie in state in the rotunda of San Francisco’s City Hall. Within three days, all 3,028 caskets were on their way to their final resting places, in accordance with the wishes of next of kin.

233,181 American dead were returned home after the end of World War II when Congress passed legislation authorizing repatriation of the bodies. Families were given the choice of burial in the United States or overseas in an American military cemetery.

93,242 men were buried overseas in American cemeteries because the families believed it was more appropriate for their loved ones to remain at rest with comrades near the battlefields where they had died.

The families of 78,976 dead soldiers had no choice of interment; their sons were listed as missing in action and their remains were never recovered.

The entire repatriation and overseas burial program was conducted from 1945 to 1951, at a cost of $200,000,000 in 1945 dollars (several billion today). It was the most extensive reburial program following a foreign war.

The retrieval and burial of American dead from WW II goes on today as  bodies of missing US soldiers are recovered from remote jungles or discovered in European graveyards. All remains are analyzed, relatives sought and found, and then these once lost soldiers are returned to their hometowns or buried in national cemeteries abroad.

“The nation glorifies World War II; it was called the Great Crusade, and we now idolize the men of the Greatest Generation and immortalize the dwindling legions of these heroes constantly in film and in literature. In so doing we have lost touch with the immense pain and suffering caused by the war and the ripples of sorrow that still flow across America from that devastating conflict. We know little of the men who gave their lives and nothing about the struggles of their families.” 
—David P. Colley

Consider this a heartfelt Thank You to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and to the families who carried on in the absence of their loved ones to make this country what it is today.

Rest in Peace

  22 comments for “The Voyage of the Honda Knot

  1. October 13, 2017 at 11:31 AM

    I’ve just run across USAT Honda Knot and the story of the return of our fallen from WWII. Among them on that ship was Lt. William E. Senhauser of Zanesville, Ohio, who was killed in an airplane crash and subsequent explosion in the Marshall Islands in 1944. His remains were repatriated via the Honda Knot and he passed under the Golden Gate as described here. Thank you for your post and may he and the others rest in peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 13, 2017 at 4:51 PM

      It’s a small world, Jeremy. I was born not far from Zanesville (we moved right after my sixth birthday). I have an electronic file that is about 33 MB in size and it has the research items that I used for my post on the MV Honda Knot. Among the files are .pdf scans that I made from newspaper clippings concerning the ship’s voyage and arrival. I also have an eBook of the US Army’s Quartermaster Corps for WWII and Korea. It covers the disposition of the Dead in the final chapters.

      I see that you have a Gmail account on your webpage. If you would like to have a copy of my research file I would be happy to send it to you. Reply to this comment and I will follow your wishes. My condolences to your family and may they all rest in peace.
      Ω

      Like

    • John Szalay
      October 13, 2017 at 5:42 PM

      Using the new format for finding images in the TIME/LIFE archives produced a better set of photos on the Honda Knot
      article.
      use this link to the 109 photos in that set on the arrival of the Honda Knot and the return of the Fallen.

      http://tinyurl.com/ya2t2flw

      or

      https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/search/asset?q=return%20of%20war%20dead&p=life-photo-collection

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 13, 2017 at 6:14 PM

        Thank you, John. The photographers at Life magazine were top notch back then.
        Ω

        Like

  2. Larry Hume
    September 12, 2015 at 5:30 AM

    In researching 2nd Lt. Marvin Crausby of Timpson, Texas I ran across your article. He was one of those aboard being brought home for reburial. Thanks for the moving account.

    Like

    • September 12, 2015 at 6:54 AM

      Thank you for sharing your account. What is the nature of your research, if I may ask?

      Like

      • John Szalay
        September 12, 2015 at 9:08 AM

        I am researching Pvt Edward F. Sullivan 55th Coast Artillery, who was killed on Dec 7, 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor. he served with my Father in the 55th, and we have photos of him in 1940. they served to-gether
        at Ft Ruger at Diamond Head Oahu Hawaii. He was killed at Ft. Kamehameha, when a Japanese Zero crashed
        into the company street. Buried in Hawaii and returned to his family during the returns, perhaps aboard the Honda Knot. from information I have found the manifests of the ships were not kept, so we don,t know which ship as of yet
        he is buried now in Albany NY. Thanks to a friend in NY , I have photos of his headstone and copies of the cemetery records. Just trying to connect the dots, starting with the photos in my parents photo albums.
        was curious, all Started with just this caption in one album. “Sullivan, Dec 7th plane crash”
        and the trail grew from there

        there is another very large set of images of the return of the funeral ships at the port in New York.

        http://images.google.com/hosted/life/2b9de202b0c0558b.html

        http://images.google.com/hosted/life/1e0f5014e002b0d7.html

        http://images.google.com/hosted/life/ae0871d0809c396a.html

        link to the magazine New York article
        LIFE Nov 17 , 1947 issue
        http://tinyurl.com/qd7v8tv

        link to the Honda Knot article
        LIFE Nov 3 1947 issue
        http://tinyurl.com/pposuxd

        Like

        • September 13, 2015 at 6:55 AM

          Thank you for this information and good luck with your research. I was talking about your reply with my wife last night and she told me that her father was present in NY when the first bodies were returned in 1947.

          Her dad was a Naval Commander on an ammunition freighter in Oran Harbor when it was attacked.
          Ω

          Like

      • September 13, 2015 at 6:12 AM

        I research and write articles for the local media pertaining to Veterans from Shelby County, Texas. I find it very rewarding. Here is the link to them from our online newspaper, Shelby County Today. http://www.shelbycountytoday.com/Larry_Hume.php#fptc

        Like

        • September 13, 2015 at 6:23 AM

          Thanks for the link, Larry, your page is very interesting. It is nice to see someone honoring the veterans and keeping their memory alive. Ω

          Like

  3. John Szalay
    May 13, 2015 at 4:28 PM

    Link to the LIFE photo archives photo essay on the Honda Knot’s arrival

    http://images.google.com/hosted/life/6d4cf7b285d1ffc5.html

    http://images.google.com/hosted/life/9247b7352a08fdfb.html

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 14, 2015 at 5:56 AM

      Thanks for these links to the Life magazine photos. The second one is particularly striking. Ω

      Like

  4. Stephen Wiist
    February 5, 2015 at 2:19 PM

    My father, 2nd Lt. William E. Wiist, U.S. Army, was one of the 3,000 “passengers” on the Honda Knot. He was killed in the Pacific in June 1944 two months before my birth.

    Like

    • February 5, 2015 at 2:49 PM

      I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for speaking up and connecting the rest of us to the reality of the reburial process and its place in our generation.

      Like

      • Stephen Wiist
        February 5, 2015 at 4:38 PM

        I did not realize how much of a loss it was until I started raising three children of my own!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. October 20, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    Reblogged this on Little Face Publications and commented:
    This is a really moving historical tale that I’m not sure a lot of us know. This makes me think about my Grandfather who served in WWII, I so admire him and look up to him for his service and courage. I am so fortunate to still have him in my life today, I think tomorrow I’m going to have to give him a shout out. I guess I forgot how many people, how many Americans alone, died in that war. The very thought of being the captain of this boat is heavy enough let alone being one of the people waiting for their loved one or there just to show their respect. And the effort that was put into putting these people to rest is commendable, I can only hope now a days that we not only continue showing men and women this respect whether they’ve passed or still live. Hopefully we will offer more help to the returned that live.

    In reblogging this I hope you all will call up that person you know. Here’s my salute to ya. And thanks very much to Allan over at Ohm Sweet Ohm who created this post two years ago. He’s got some great posts and photos, I suggest paying him a visit if you got a sec.

    Cheers! 😀

    Like

  6. October 20, 2014 at 9:41 PM

    Very moving tale, thank you for sharing! My grandfather – still alive at 94 – served in WWII. I would like to remember to bring this up next time we’re together. It’s very moving indeed.

    Btw, I found this post today – 20 Oct 2014 – through your Blast from the Past link, great concept btw to send people to random post. Very happy I clicked on it.

    Thank you.

    Like

    • October 21, 2014 at 6:08 AM

      Thanks for taking the time to look around the blog and comment.

      The saga of the Honda Knot is an epic one.

      Like

  7. October 27, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    I learned about the USAT Honda Knot while researching members of my dad’s WWII naval air squadron; several of them returned home on the ship. When I first searched the internet for information about the ship, the only data I could find was a construction record at Walter Butler Shipbuilders, Duluth, MN; a C1-M-AV1 type coastal transport, hull number 2250, completed in April, 1945. But, I could find no photos of the Honda Knot on the internet.

    I went to the National Archives in College Park, Md in 2006 and found several photos of the ship and posted a couple of them on my Flickr account. Since then, many people have learned of this ship and it’s mission after WWII. The accounts of the extra ordinary efforts by our country to seek out and repatriate the remains of those who died tell of a time when our sensibilities and priorities were considerably different than what, all too often, seems to prevail now.

    Your article is succinct and well written. Nicely done.

    Like

    • October 27, 2012 at 7:49 PM

      Thank you for your kind words, Dave. I may owe a thanks to you for the photos, as I lost track of where I found them.

      This story literally fell into my lap as I had to move a stack of large binders to do some work at the GGB. They turned out to be scrapbooks of news clippings going back to 1920 and the one with the info of the Honda Knot was on top. It was the first time that I had heard of the ship or the voyage and it captivated me.

      When I decided to start a blog last year I knew that a story on the Honda Knot would be a definite post.

      Thank you, and your dad, for your efforts to keep this story alive.

      Allan

      Like

  8. Al Stacer
    October 7, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    Dramatic pictures and a heartfelt, compelling story of sacrifice! My father was one of the lucky ones who returned from the Pacific theatre after WWII, but he remained in the service from 1941 to 1961. Having been born on an air base and being part of an Air Force family until he retired, I really appreciate those who remember what was given by the greatest generation. Thanks for sharing. Alpha

    Like

    • October 7, 2012 at 6:11 PM

      Thanks, Al. What really hits me about WW II is how much happened in such a short time for our parents’ generation.

      Like

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