I feel there are few living/breathing objects out there that can quietly exude to the impact they had on so many lives. The Queen Mary is one of these. She sits like a quiet mountain overlooking Long Beach, seemingly bigger than she actually is.
Her draw for many is the ghost stories that people spread… but her real history comes from the people that she’s saved and the stories that they tell.
She has played many roles over the decades: a cruise ship for the rich and famous (Bob Hope and Clark Gable loved her), a troopship for soldiers, Winston Churchill’s headquarters at sea when he signed the D-Day Declaration, a transport ship for war brides, and a means of rescue for Jewish families who fled Germany.
She was untouchable during World War II and was given the nickname the grey ghost because she would literally vanish into the mist; Hitler offered $250,000 and the Iron Cross to any u-boat captain or battleship who could sink her… but no one did (obviously). She was capable of transporting as many as 16,000 troops in one voyage and over the course of 6-years brought 765,429 soldiers to the front (from the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada).
At the end of the war, she not only carried soldiers home but also 12,886 war brides to the United States. During the audio tour, there is a great story about the journey by one of these brides. And, of her first memorial visit to the Queen Mary 65-years later.
The most emotional of stories comes from a Holocaust survivor who recounts his father’s attempt to get their family to the ship in time for a departure to the United States; Jewish citizens were banned from travelling on all ships outside the Cunard line and eventually would be banned from any type of travel. This was the family’s only chance to get out of Europe. This family was delayed on the train for half a day and dreaded that they would not make the voyage. But, the Captain held the Queen Mary back by 6-hours for the train… and likely saved the lives everyone on it.
Finally, two of the unique areas you can visit are the ship’s communications room and the engine room.
In the communications room, volunteers happily tell you everything about ship communications and about the ship’s call sign: W6RO. Apparently, most radio operators know that W6RO belongs to the Queen Mary, she’s that well known.
In the engine room, it’s easy to get lost amongst all the machinery, switches, knobs, pipes, and levers… literally. Pay attention to which direction you are heading in because it is very easy to get turned around and absorbed by the guts of the vessel.