75 Years Ago: S.S. Morro Castle Burns

I recently vacationed in Spring Lake, New Jersey, along the Jersey shore. A very nice little town. On a quiet morning, we walked over to the local historical society. And, there it was: an oar from the S.S. Morro Castle, the great luxury passenger ship that caught fire off Asbury Park on September 8, 1934, then ran aground just feet from the Asbury Park beach. In all, 135 of the 549 people aboard the ship were lost.

Captain Robert Willmott is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery. He had proudly supervised the construction of the Morro Castle. Captain Willmott died just hours before the fire was detected; some have argued that he was murdered and the fire was then started to cover up that crime. It is 75 years ago today that this great ship, and so many of its passengers and crew, met their fate. Captain Willmott and his wife were married on October 7, 1933; they never got to celebrate a wedding anniversary. Remember them next month.

Click here for my account, from my book Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery: New York’s Buried Treasure (available for sale on the cemetery website; thank you for asking), of the Morro Castle disaster.

Want to read still more about the tragedy of the Morro Castle?

For a Morro Castle slide show.

2 thoughts on “75 Years Ago: S.S. Morro Castle Burns”

  1. Among my father’s (1913-2011)glass slides I found one of a stranded burned ocean liner. His family lived in Plainfield NJ and vacationed on the Jersey shore often. In fact, my father missed seeing the Hiddenburg disaster by one day as the dirigible was held up. Anyhow when I got the slide under strong light, I could make out the white lettering on the beam MORRO CASTLE. I do not want to sell the slide, but wonder how rare it might be. The ship takes up about 80% of the slide…I don’t check email every day as I am using PC at the library. My guess is a lot of people probably took pictures as it looks like it was close to the shore..

    • The Morro Castle washed up on the Jersey shore and became quite a tourist attraction. So it is likely that many people took photographs of it. If you google Morro Castle and click on images, you will see many of them. So I don’t think the glass slide that your father took has great monetary value. But it is a great piece for you to keep as a remembrance of him.


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