The Ships A long long journey to freedom

In September 1943 some of the Canadians at Camp Stanley became part of an exchange of interned citizens, a ‘repatriation.’ For those selected, including the two Canadian nurses, this became a long, long journey to freedom.

The Teia Maru

The Teia Maru was orginally the MS Aramis., Built in 1932, she was a French passenger ship used on the Europe-Asia colonial route. She was converted to an armed merchant cruiser when France entered World War II. Aramis was seized by Japan in 1942, renamed Teia Maru, and served as a repatriation ship in 1943. She then served as a transport until she was torpedoed and sunk in 1944.

The Repatriation Voyage

On 14 September 1943 Teia Maru departed Yokohama carrying 80 American repatriates from Japan. Approximately 975 repatriates boarded at Shanghai on 19 September, 24 boarded at Hong Kong on 23 September, 130 boarded at San Fernando, La Union on 26 September, 27 boarded at Saigon on 30 September, and others boarded at Singapore on 5 October. Teia Maru arrived at Mormugao, Goa on 15 October 1943 carrying 1,525 priests, nuns, protestant missionaries, and businessmen and their families.

The Gripsholm

From the brief Wikipedia article: “MS Gripsholm was an ocean liner, built in 1924 by Armstrong Whitworth in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, for the Swedish American Line for use in the Gothenburg-New York City run. She was of great historical importance as the first ship built for transatlantic express service as a diesel-powered motor vessel, rather than as a conventional steamship. Within forty years, however, all major passenger vessels would be diesel-powered.

“From 1927 onwards, the Gripsholm was used as a cruise ship alongside transatlantic crossings. From 1942 to 1946, the United States Department of State chartered Gripsholm as an exchange and repatriation ship, carrying Japanese and German nationals to exchange points where she then picked up US and Canadian citizens to bring home to the USA and Canada. In this service she sailed under the auspices of the International Red Cross, with a Swedish captain and crew. The ship made 12 round trips, carrying a total of 27,712 repatriates. Exchanges took place at neutral ports; at Lourenço Marques in Mozambique or Mormugoa in Portuguese India with the Japanese, and Stockholm or Lisbon with the Germans.

“After the war, Gripsholm was used to deport inmates of US prisons to Italy and Greece. The Swedish American Line sold Gripsholm to Norddeutscher Lloyd in 1954, who renamed her MS Berlin. The ship was sold for scrap in 1966.”

The 1943 repatriation voyage was one of the most significant for both ships, and pretty well documented. This picture shows the two ships lined up at the dock in Mormugao:


The Ships A long long journey to freedom — 16 Comments

  1. At the age of two, along with my parents and two older sisters left Weinshen Concentration Camp with others to eventually board the Teia Maru, later to be transferred to the Gripsholm and head back to America as a part of a prisoner of war exchange. Thanks for your web site. Sam

    • Dear Mr. Seamans;

      Thank you for your comment. I would be fascinated to hear more of your story. Were you born during the internment? Why were your parents in northern China? What did they say of the conditions and treatment in the camps?

      I really enjoyed doing the research for “Repatriation.” As I always say, the stories that almost no one remembers these days are the most fascinating of all.

      • I recently purchased a collection of papers of a couple who were in Chapei Civilian Internment Camp then part of the Teia Maru-Gripsholm repatriation. Many of the items were reclaimed after the war on their brief return to China. Filling in their camp experience with other documents/accounts. I am writing an article about the collection as it is fascinating. Agree that it is a “forgotten” story. Clinton J. Holloway

    • You and I must have been shipmates, Sam. My mother and I were released from the Santo Tomas prison camp as part of that exchange, and travelled home on the same two ships. (My dad had been released from Fort Stanley in Hong Kong a bit over a year earlier. He was also on the Gripsholm, arriving in present-day Mozambique aboard the Asama Maru, from there to travel home on the first Gripsholm exchange. Wish I could remember any of this–I “celebrated” my second birthday aboard the Gripsholm. My childhood memories don’t begin shortly after my arrival back in the US. Interesting times! Patricia Dietz Startzman

  2. My interest is to find traces of a german member and his family. Gustav ROHLSEN was arrested early december 1941 in Port-au-Prince/Haïti, as a german citizen but also under suspicion to be part of the Abwehr Etappendienst of adm. Canaris.He was the eldest son of my grandpa’s sister and was born 1909 in Antwerp. He married Jeanne ERZEY in 1938 and had a first child Joke-Hette born 26/07/1940. Jeanne ERZEY gave birth to a son on 05/07/1945 at Klagenfurth/Austria, which means that they could have been repatriated with the m.s. Gripsholm somewhere in 1943 or later.
    Any list of people available ?
    Many thanks in advance,
    Martin HUWART

  3. I’m so happy that I just did a Google search for the Teia Maru! It was an amazing surprise to see a link to your website.

    I have been working on a documentary about this exchange, though my focus is on the Japanese Americans (many of whom were US citizens), sent to a country they had never been to before. I would love to talk with you, as I would also like to include at least one interview of a person released by the Japanese government. Were you able to interview anyone that was a teenager or older at that time? I can be reached at 818-913-0640.

    • I would love to read whatever you’ve learned! Unfortunately, I have not gotten to interview any of the participants. What I know was put together from hours and hours of (fascinating) internet research.

    • I can not remember if you have interviewed my mother?
      She was on these ships.
      Have a clear memory and perhaps could add to your reference.
      Her father – victor Diclos
      Mother – Florence Smith Muzzall Duclos
      My mother – Susan (Muzzall ) Duclos
      My aunt – Jean Duclos

  4. just found this site doing research on grandparents, William and Leada Berst, were missionaries (medical, him, education, her)in China. They were repatriated on the 1943 Gripsholm trip

    • Awesome! Do you have any firsthand accounts from them? I did a lot of research on the episode, but firsthand accounts are few and far between. I would love hear what you know of their story.

      • Let me know if still want info from the post my brother steve gave. Our older cousins are currently working on gathering info and one just found a letter she had misplaced yrs ago, that my gma wrote shortly after getting off the Gripsholm, after being interned in China . My gparents lived in Chefoo for almost all of their missionary time

  5. My great uncle Fr. Roy D. Petipren, a Maryknoll missionary in Korea, was brought home on the MS Gripsholm after being captured by the Japanese. He arrived in New York at the end of August 1942.

  6. My mother was on this voyage.
    Her address is susan Muzzall Blackwell
    108 Eucalyptus St. #15 Ojai, CA 93023
    She was born 1930. Traveled w/Stepfather, Victor Duclos / Canadian Trade Commisioner, mother Florence Smith Duclos and sister Jean Doughty Duclos • have you made your doc? I would be interested in seeing it. Thank you

  7. I recently purchased a collection of papers of a couple who were in Chapei Civilian Internment Camp then part of the Teia Maru-Gripsholm repatriation. Many of the items were reclaimed after the war on their brief return to China. Filling in their camp experience with other documents/accounts. I am writing an article about the collection as it is fascinating. Agree that it is a “forgotten” story. Clinton J. Holloway

  8. I have a hand written letter written by a woman pow in Japan. She was taken from singapore in March of 1944 to japan. War ended she boarded a US Destroyer.
    Letter dated 2002 thanking the destroyer crew on one of their reunions.
    She is in the netherlands
    Ill be glad to upload it to anyone
    This is history

  9. This article is amazing, so glad I found it. My parents met aboard the Teia Maru and MS Gripsholm exchange during WW2 POW exchange. My mom was in high school in Hong Kong and my fathers family, all 9 were fleeing Shanghai, China. They were teenagers and fell in love. My dad was an American by diplomacy, and ended up getting drafted in the U.S. Army and served in the Philipines. Came back after the war ended and found my mom back in Canada to marry her, they moved back to the U.S. and started a family. I am now doing some research to give my daughters the history of my family from this period. Along with a book called “Hong Kong Holiday” by Emily Hahn, who wrote a story about being an Eurasian in Hong Kong and fleeing to freedom on these ships. My mom and dad remember Emily Hahn foundly and talked about her many times. Thank you for recording this piece of history.

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