Immediately following George's graduation from high school in 1939, and as the result of a competitive examination, he was admitted to the Massachusetts Nautical School. Concurrently came enlistment in the U. S. Naval Reserve with the rank of Cadet, U.S.N.R., M.M.R. The school was a three-masted sailing vessel named NANTUCKET, which was built as the U.S.S. RANGER in 1886. One hundred and twenty cadets lived on board during their two year enrollment. Winters were spent in Boston, summers at sea.
In September 1941 George was graduated and obtained a position as 8-12 watch officer in a freighter named AMERICAN LEADER. Following a long trip to the Far East (they were in Manila on December 8, 1941) and return to New York via Australia and New Caledonia, they then loaded military cargo for the Russians (in the Persian Gulf) and the British (in India). On September 10, 1942, homeward bound, deep-laden with rubber, latex, and riches of the Middle East, in a position about 850 miles west of Capetown, the AMERICAN LEADER was attacked and destroyed by the German auxiliary cruiser MICHEL. Two hours after the night-time sinking, the MICHEL returned to the scene and picked up 47 of our 58 man crew. Following 4 weeks as prisoners, during which time a British freighter was sunk, George and others were transferred to a German naval replenishment vessel, the UCKERMARK. Unfortunately, this ship was bound from Europe to Japan by way of Batavia (now Jakarta), Java.
There, on November 6, 1942, they were turned over to the Japanese. George remained on Java in 3 different camps until the end of June 1944 when he went to Singapore in a group of 1200 POWs aboard a small Japanese ship, the CHUKKA MARU. From there they were moved to Sumatra for the construction of the so-called Pakan Baru Railway. George labored in 6 camps along the 138 mile length of this project which was completed on August 15, 1945. Of the AMERICAN LEADER's 47 survivors, 13 were lost in the TAMAHOKO MARU near Nagasaki on June 26, 1944, 4 were lost in the JUNYO MARU in the Indian Ocean on September 18, 1944, and two died on the Pakan Baru Railway. Thus, of the original 58 men who left New York on April 26, 1942, 28 came home.
George arrived in the United States on October 8, 1945, visited his parents, siblings, and friends, and in early January 1946 after less than 90 days recuperation he went back to sea in the merchant marine. Ultimately, he was licensed as Master of Steam and Motor Vessel, Any Tonnage, Upon Oceans, and commanded two vessels before "swallowing the anchor."
George Duffy's Merchant Marine Page can be viewed at www.usmm.org/duffy.html