Dae D. Baird, Jr. papers
Scope and Contents
This collection contains papers pertaining to Ensign Dae D. Baird, Jr. and his experiences as a Merchant Marine during World War II.The papers include photographs, letters, speeches, biographical articles, and military documents.
The Dae D. Baird, Jr. collection pertains to the service of Ensign Dae D. Baird, Jr. in the United States Merchant Marines from June 1943 until 1946, as a Purser. Consisting of copies of photographs, records of medals, and articles on the Merchant Marine and Mr. Baird’s experiences during World War II, the collection provides insight into the experiences of a Merchant Mariner. In his brief account on the war, “Unusual and Rare World War II Experiences,” Mr. Baird describes his experiences aboard the SS William Bradford as it carried ammunition and airplane engines to Russia via the Trans-Iranian Railroad. Having traveled across the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and down the coast of Africa to Capetown, the account details the dangers onboard Merchant ships, including the need for blackouts and the use of barrage balloons. Other interesting details discussed include Italian fleets using firewood as fuel, the emergence of the Black Plague in the city of Suez, sightings of whales and albatrosses, the conversion of ships into hospital ships, and initiations for crossing the Equator. The collection includes a photograph of three medals: the Atlantic War Zone, the Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone, and the World War II. Documentation for a medal from the Russian government shows the medal, a certificate, and a letter about the medal. The medal commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriot War and is for Mr. Baird’s brave service. The accompanying certificate is signed by Boris Yeltsin, the Russian president at the time. Also included are copies of his Honorable Discharge certificate from the United States Coast Guard, dated August 6, 1945, and his World War II Honoree certificate. Copies of photographs show Mr. Baird in his uniform, during the war, and one at his ninetieth birthday. There are two brief articles on the Merchant Marine written by Mr. Baird. The article, “World War II, Merchant Marine Review,” discusses the high casualty rate and involvement in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Southern France, Normandy, Iwo Jima, and Guadalcanal. The Merchant Seamen continued to be under attack by Japanese forces following “Victory over Japan Day.” The article includes quotes from General Douglas MacArthur and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The quotes exhibit the high esteem in which the two men held the Merchant Mariners for their service in “every theater of operation” while performing such a dangerous job for the Allies. The other article, “More Information about the Merchant Marine,” is about the recognition deserved by Merchant Seamen and how it took forty years for the United States government to honor their war service and grant them Veteran Status. The article also discusses the Veteran’s Memorial Service and their goal to inform people on the achievements of the Merchant Mariners as the number of those who served in World War II diminishes. The following letters were written by Dae D. Baird, Jr. during his voyage from May to November of 1944 on the SS William Bradford, a Liberty Ship. Baird served as a Purser in the Merchant Marine. His duties, while focusing primarily on various paperwork including port entry procedures and the ship’s payroll, also included the duties of the Pharmicist’s Mate, treating minor troubles for the crew such as cuts, fevers, seasickness, and constipation. As Purser, he interacted with a large percentage of the somewhat diverse Merchant Marine and U.S. Navy Armed Guard crew and remarked on his opinions of the different characters on board. The letters were written to his wife, Evelyn E. Baird, back home in Memphis, Tennessee. At the start of his voyage in May, Evelyn was pregnant with their son, and gave birth to him later during Dae Baird’s voyage. For about a month Baird did not know any details of the birth, although he attempted to get information via a cablegram from the Red Cross. The SS William Bradford sailed from Norfolk, Virginia in an initial convoy of 131 ships, including 97 freighters and tankers, 25 Landing Craft, and their escort of 3 Destroyers and 6 Destroyer Escorts. The ship’s cargo consisted of ammunition and crated airplane engines to be unloaded at Bandar Shahpur in Iran. From there the cargo would be shipped to the U.S.S.R. via the Trans-Iranian railroad. Parts of the convoy the William Bradford sailed in left for various destinations, a large portion departing to Sicily and Italy, and other ships in a later convoy peeled off towards India. From Norfolk, the convoy sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, through the Straights of Gibraltar and across the North African Coast, passing locations such as Oran, Tunis, Algiers, Bizerte, Malta, Cyrenica, Derma, Tobruk, and Alexandria, before stopping at Port Said at the entrance of the Suez Canal. Stopping again briefly at Suez before entering the Red Sea, the crew were not allowed shore leave on account of the Black Plague. The SS William Bradford sailed out of convoy in the Red Sea and halted at the port of Aden, where they were given only limited shore leave and were not allowed to swim due to the danger of sharks. Here they rejoined a convoy in the Arabian Sea, continuing through the Gulf of Oman to Bandar Shahpur in the Persian Gulf. The weather here was extremely hot, and apparently Bandar Shahpur was considered one of the hottest places in the world. Baird was compelled to sleep on deck instead of his quarters, which were poorly ventilated due to blackout restrictions. Their ship almost ran aground in shallow water while trying to find the entrance to the port. Their cargo, unloaded by natives under U.S. Army supervision, took almost three weeks to unload, and the only source of entertainment for Baird was in the U.S. Army garrison located there. Their cargo finally unloaded, the ship stopped briefly at Bahrein Island to refuel, and then left the Persian Gulf, entering the Indian Ocean. Rounding Africa, they passed by Madagascar and eventually stopped at Durban, South Africa, and again at Capetown, South Africa for 16 days to repair their refrigeration unit. Baird was able to go ashore and see the sights in both Durban and South Africa. The SS William Bradford then crossed the South Atlantic, stopping at Buenos Aires, Argentina to pick up a cargo of shelled corn. The ship then traveled north, stopping at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Port of Spain, Trinidad. At Trinidad, Baird had to sign off and pay off an injured crew member, leaving him stranded to get back home by himself. From Trinidad, the ship traversed the Caribbean Sea out of convoy through the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba, traveled up the Eastern Coast starting at Florida, and finally returned to New York. During his voyage, Baird frequently writes about the weather, which for most of the voyage was relatively fair, with the exception of the extreme heat in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Indian Oceans, and summer monsoons encountered in those areas. After fair weather, Baird had to catch up since it was too difficult to use a typewriter with the ship rolling in bad weather. Other than his Purser duties, Baird and other crew members did many things to pass the time. Baird began reading his first book, “Men of Albermarle”, and other crew members frequently read books and magazines. The crew played games, and gambled with various games such as dice and card games like four-headed cribbage. They listened to the radio for programs from Allied Expeditionary Stations (AES) such as programs with singer Guy Lombardo, as well as news from the BBC and other broadcast sources. During their voyage the crew heard about the Fall of Rome, the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, the July assassination attempt on Hitler, and other historic events. In some ports, Baird and others were able to see movies, such as “Wild West”, “Bomber’s Moon”, “True to Life”, “Swing Fever”, and “White Savage.” Also of note is an initiation for crew members passing south of the Equator which Baird participated in, and a V-lock style haircut that was popular among the crew. Although Baird wrote many letters to his wife, he was only able to mail three of them during his voyage. Few of the ports he stopped at had reliable mail service, and letters to and from his wife took a long time to be delivered. However, these letters survive as Baird’s account of his voyage and his proof of his devotion to his wife during that time in 1944.
- Created: 1944-2009
- Other: Date acquired: 11/20/2009
- Baird, Dae D., Jr., 1918-2016 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open to all researchers.
Conditions Governing Use
All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.
Biographical or Historical Information
Ensign Dae D. Baird, Jr. was a Merchant Marine Purser during World War II. While serving, Baird also served as the pharmacist aboard the SS William Bradford. After leaving his pregnant wife in Tennessee, Baird traveled across the ocean through the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and into the Persian Gulf. The SS William Bradford also took Baird into the Indian Ocean, about the coast of Africa, back towards South America, and then returned home to New York. In his letters, Baird speaks mostly of the weather; he is very vague about the actual War. He does speak in detail about the blackout regulations and the safety aboard the ship. For his services, Baird was rewarded multiple medals including: The Atlantic War Zone, The World War II, and the Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone. 50 years after the war, Baird received an award from Russia for his services in the Great Patriot War. Baird spoke at many memorials and documented many of his experiences as a Merchant Marine in articles on the War. Baird is still alive.
Note written by Hannah Shapiro
Language of Materials
Transferred from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience to FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives in July 2022.
Source of Acquisition
Dae Dominic Baird Jr.
Method of Acquisition
- Merchant marine Safety regulations Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Merchant marine--Egypt--History. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Merchant marine--Italy--History. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Merchant marine--Officers Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Merchant marine--Persian Gulf Region--History. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Merchant marine--Records and correspondence. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Merchant marine--United States Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Merchant mariners--History Subject Source: Local sources
- Merchant mariners--United States Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Dae D. Baird, Jr. papers
- Hannah Shapiro
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
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