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1941: Launch Ship With Bananas

Shortly before the United States was dragged into World War II with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the country was already supplying arms, ships, airplanes, and other needed materials to the Allies.

Down in Beaumont, Texas, the Pennsylvania shipyards there had not built a single ocean-going cargo vessel since the previous World War. As they ramped up production, the first ship that they completed was the 7,400 ton (6,700 metric ton) Cape Lookout.

When it came time to launch the ship, there was a bit of a problem: to slide the ship out of dry dock, a lubricant of some sort was needed.  But there was a shortage of the traditional launching grease, so a substitute was sought out.

Just what could they use?  They needed something that was known to be slippery, yet was not needed for the war effort. Any ideas?  Well, we’ve all seen the classic movie stunt of someone walking down the street and slipping on a banana peel.  So, that’s exactly what they decided to use: A LOT of well-ripened bananas.

Then the big launch day came.  At 11:20 AM on January 25, 1941, everyone gathered as Miss Audrey Louise Jones, a student at the University of Texas, christened the ship and it was released.  With the aid of 3.5 tons (3.2 metric tons) of bananas, the ship easily glided down into the Neches River, creating a mighty wave as it hit the water. The Cape Lookout was soon renamed the USS Fomalhaut and it would go on to earn five battle stars for its World War II service. Like many other ships, once the war ended they were no longer needed and were taken out of service.  The Fomalhaut was decommissioned on June 25, 1946, and sold for scrap on April 15, 1970.

USS Fomalhaut
USS Fomalhaut. Wikipedia image.
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