USS Mizar

USS Mizar - AF-12

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A World War II Ship of the US Navy

Shipbuilding Corp
Quincy, MA
(as Quirigua)

June 14, 1941
Converted from
United Fruit Co.

Length 447 ft
Beam 60 ft
Draft 26 ft

11,880 tons
(full load)

1 - 5 in / 38 DP
4 - 3 in / 50 DP
8 - 20mm AA guns

twin screws
11,500 hp

2,815 DWT

April 1, 1946
Returned to
United Fruit Co.

WWII Memorial
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As the nation celebrates the dedication of the new World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, and pauses to reflect on the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, little will be said about the less publicized efforts of thousands of men and women who, made no less a valuable contributions to Allied victory.

Rosie the Riveter

These Americans, both in and out of uniform, also made sacrifices and many shared the risks. Many of us have heard about Rosie the Riveter, a symbol of the American factory worker, "..she's makin' history, workin' for victory..".

But there were others...

Men like John Zuzik, who was aboard the Mizar at the same time as my grandfather. John's daughter Pat Powell was kind enough to share some family photos from John's time in the service.




Lt Kuhn

Martha Kuhn found this page and kindly sent a photo of her father Lt. Kuhn who also served aboard the Mizar..

George McConnell, wife, son & brothers
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My grandfather, George, pictured above holding my dad, served aboard the USS Mizar. He never spoke in detail about his time in the Navy. Over twenty years after his death, I have been able to learn something of his military service during World War II.

The National Archives operates records center in St Louis, where it is possible for family members to request service records. In this case it consists only of his DD-214, Notice of Separation from the US Navy.

USS Mizar silouette

With the name of the ship, I was able to use the Internet to locate a shipmate in California, who served aboard the Mizar prior to George. Charlie was kind enough to send me more detailed information about the ship and it's travels.

Charlie's Story

It ( the photo above ) is the picture that I used when I made my model of the Mizar. I was part of the crew when the picture was taken and when we went into commission.

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Soon after we made our first convoy to Iceland. In the convoy were two army transport that carried the first US troops to Iceland. They were afraid that the Germans would take it over which would be a disaster for their planes to attack North Atlantic convoys to Murmansk. We made 3 trips in all to Iceland.

We also went to Newfoundland, Bermuda, Guantanimo, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands before we went through the Panama Canal to Wellington New Zealand. I still keep in touch with some of the fellows, but we are now down to a few. Originally there were 65 men in the 17th Naval Reserve Div. in Indianapolis aboard. About six of us still had two more weeks to graduate from high school, but they did give us our diplomas.

I kissed Betty good-bye at the train station. While stationed in Bremerton I almost married a girl from Seattle that would have been a disaster. Fortunate I was shipped out to a shore station in Okinawa. A year after the war was over, Betty and I were married in Indianapolis, took off for Los Angeles in a 65 hp 1937 and are living happily ever after.

She enlisted in the Marine Corp and spent 2 years in Camp LeJeune. She is a great gal and we still laugh a lot. She has major health problems, but gets no sympathy because "you don't look like you are sick." We traveled a lot in the seventies around the US and five trips to Europe. We were fortunate to have a couple that we grew up with that went with us.

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Today, Charlie likes to shop yard sales and flea markets for treasures like the one pictured.

Charlie's childhood friend and USS Mizar shipmate, Everette Johnson has committed to paper his war time experiences. The scanned documents can be viewed at the Library of Congress Veteran's History Project. It's well worth the time.


USS Mizar December 1941

USS Mizar and the
17th Division USNR (Indianapolis)
In May, 1941, the 17th Division, U.S. Naval Reserve Unit at Indianapolis, IN consisted of men who had served one or more hitches in the regular Navy plus a larger group of men with no sea experience. Some of these were still in high school.

Uncle Sam

Call to Active Duty

In May, 1941, the 17th Division received orders to active duty. 70 men of the Division left by train from Union Station on May 21st and after brief layovers in Toledo, OH and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, boarded the Navy store ship USS Mizar.

For the next five years, first in the Atlantic, and then the Pacific, the Mizar carried personnel and cargo to front line bases and ships.

The Big Dipper

Named for a star in the handle of the Big Dipper constellation, the Mizar was placed in commission June 14, 1941 at Staten Island, NY on the same day that most of the crew reported for duty.

Built in 1932 and owned by United Fruit Co., the ship was originally named SS Quirigua, a fast mail steamer operating between New York City and Caribbean ports. She had accommodations for passengers and all four holds were refrigerated to handle perishable cargo.

Build for your NAVY

The Officers and Crew

The 17th Division supplied almost 30 percent of the entire crew which numbered 238 officers and men. The remainder were regular Navy or Fleet Reserve retirees called to active duty, as well as individual Naval Reservists from other locations.

Lt. (JG) Leroy H. Higenbotham, former commander of the Indianapolis Reserve Unit, was appointed Gunnery Officer and other 17th Division men were assigned to various ship divisions above and below deck.

United Fruit Personnel
It is interesting to note that several officers including the Navigator, the First Lieutenant and the Chief Engineer were employee officers of United Fruit Co. on Quirigua who were called to active duty on the USS Mizar.

Atlantic Service

The Mizar joined the Atlantic Fleet for the first of three voyages to Iceland which established the American base near Reykjavik. She visited many Atlantic coast ports from Norfolk, VA to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Mizar also sailed to Caribbean ports including a voyage to bring servicemen's families from foreign bases back to the USA. The early part of 1942 was particularly hazardous because of German submarines.

The Mizar is mentioned in connection with an incident involving the battleship USS Washington BB-56 and two ships of the royal navy. It was also part of Task Force 16, which included the carrier USS Wasp CV-7.

Pacific Service

June 10, 1942 the USS Mizar sailed with Task Force 39 from Norfolk, VA to Wellington New Zealand with a battalion of Marines who later landed on Guadalcanal.

The Mizar was then assigned to the small group of ships in Gen. MacArthur's command and commenced operations from Australian ports to ships and bases in New Guinea.

USS Mizar 1946

Iwo Jima

Close Call

One of the interesting items I turned up during my research was the narrative of Lt. James K Nance of Texas.


It seems that during his time aboard the USS Whitehurst he was on duty while escorting a convoy that included the Mizar. One night radar reported ships on a collision course. As it turned out, the ships passed each other without incident.

Lt. Nance passed away in November 2009 after a distinguished legal career in Houston. His passing was noted by former President Bush and his wife Barbara.

Family Connection

In July 1943, at age 33, my grandfather entered the US Navy. After basic training at NTS Great Lakes, IL, he was assigned to the USS Mizar, where he served until his discharge in late 1945.

During his time aboard ship, the Mizar made several trips between Australia, New Guinea and Admiralty Island. At the same time American Forces were engaged in the Solomon Islands, Tarawa, Kwajelein and the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

After the war he returned home and went back to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad, where remained until his retirement in the 1970's.

Awarded to George McConnell
WWII Victory Medal Victory Medal
WWII Philippine Liberation Medal Philippine Liberation
WWII Asiatic-Pacific Medal Asiatic-Pacific 1 Star
WWII American Campaign Medal American Campaign

Useful Links
Naval Historical Center
National Museum of the Pacific War
Historic Naval Ships Association
Haze Gray and Underway
Ships of the US Navy 1940 - 1945
Our USS Lexington Page
Our USS Texas Page

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