Following Gavin Silbert’s interesting article on Ernest Simpson’s Israeli son (AJN 10/12), a bizarre sequel from the poisonous, anti-Semitic Duchess of Windsor admiring Hitler (née Wallis Warfield) concerned the unintentional contribution from his family to the State of Israel.
The Warfields were an old industrial family on the east coast of the United States, Wallace being the niece of S Davies Warfield, chairman between 1918 and 1927 of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, a shipping company that crisscrossed the east coast of the United States. United primarily between its headquarters on Chesapeake Bay and ports in Virginia and elsewhere.
In 1928, shortly after her death, the company commissioned a new ship named the SS President Warfield for its coastal operations as courier, passenger and cargo.
Shortly after entering World War II, the United States government requisitioned it among other ships for the war effort and it was duly converted into a general service vessel named USS President Warfield. . As such, he served in the European Theater, most notably being stationed off Omaha Beach during the D-Day Landings in 1944.
The ship was repatriated to the continental United States after the war, but due to damage sustained during her war service, she was struck off the naval register and ultimately sold.
Unbeknownst to US authorities, the buyer was an underground branch of the Jewish Agency and the Haganah who brought it back to the Mediterranean where it was set up for an entirely different purpose – managing the Royal Navy blockade. off the Palestinian coast.
This resulted in spectacular international attention and media coverage very unfavorable to the British.
Renamed SS Exodus 1947 and crammed with over 4,000 refugees from the camps, it was embarked off the Israeli coast with some level of violence and resistance and eventually the passengers were forcibly dispatched by British forces to the southern port. from France from which they had disembarked.
They were then brought back to Germany to camps controlled by the British occupation forces, not exactly the smartest public relations exercise of the British government at the time. By 1948, most had succeeded in settling in the new State of Israel.
The SS Exodus itself, damaged to the point of being unusable, was scuttled off the coast of Haifa in 1952 where its remains still lie in an aquatic grave today.
Receive the AJN newsletter by email and never miss our best stories Free sign up