M/S Gripsholm

Sometimes you make unexpected discoveries about the bilateral relationship between Sweden and Japan. The other day, I started to read the book “Demystifying Pearl Harbor, A New Perspective from Japan”, by Iguchi Takeo, International House of Japan, 2010. In it there is a description of how Japanese diplomats and their families were repatriated to Japan from the United States after the war had started: “It was decided that on 18 June 1942 we would board the Swedish vessel Gripsholm at New York City, departing on the first repatriation voyage from the United States to Japan, crossing the Atlantic and rounding Africa to the Pacific Ocean. In exchange, US diplomats and their families in Japan were to be repatriated by a return voyage on the same ship.” (p. 18)

M/S Gripsholm was Sweden’s, and the world’s, first diesel-driven passenger ship to cross the Atlantic. She took 1643 passengers and her maiden voyage was done in 1925. The American government chartered the ship and its Swedish crew in 1939 to be used as a ship serving the international Red Cross organization in transporting wounded soldiers and war prisoners. At the end of the war she had transported 27 712 people.

I was a bit startled when I read about the repatriation, since my uncle, my father’s elder brother, used to work on M/S Gripsholm when she was owned by the Swedish American Line and transported passengers between Sweden and the United States. He signed off in New York, married an American woman and became an American citizen.

The Swedish Film Institute has published an old 14 minute film about the ship. You can find it on the following link:


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