VIDEO: New documentary aims to save the SS United States

SS United States
Rikard Larma/Metro. The SS United States has been since 1996 docked in disrepair at a South Philadelphia pier.

A new documentary chronicling the plight of the SS United States is issuing a “call to action” to save the historic ocean liner currently docked in disrepair on the Delaware River in South Philadelphia.

“Made in America” is a sequel to director Robert Radler’s 2008 PBS documentary “SS United States: Lady in Waiting.”  The 55-minute film, which The SS United States Conservancy is releasing online in five installations in the coming weeks, features rare archival footage of the ship and updates on the latest efforts to save it from the scrapyard.

The first chapter “The Glory Years,” debuted today.

“The SS United States epitomizes the term ‘Made in America’ and Bob Radler has again captured the ship’s power, technological innovation and national symbolism with his thoughtful and moving film,” said executive director of the Conservancy Susan Gibbs, whose grandfather William designed the SS United States.

The Conservancy purchased the ship in 2011 for redevelopment purposes and is now racing against the clock to raise $1 million in order to keep the ship afloat for another year while plans for a museum are finalized.

Each chapter of “Made in America” will at its close encourage viewers to support the web-based Save the United States campaign, through which visitors can save and personalize pieces of the vessel through an interactive online map in exchange for donations as low as $1.

“Until the advent of the internet, I often felt like I was the only one who remembered this great ship,” Radler said in a statement. “Through the power of new technology and social media, we have found that there a community of people all around the world who care about this great vessel and her place in history.”

The SS United States 60 years ago set a transatlantic speed record that still has not been broken. It was constructed during the Cold War as a passenger liner that could be quickly and stealthily converted to a troopship in times of war. It quickly rose to the status of a luxury transatlantic cruise ship patronized by celebrities and presidents.

“She is as significant an American icon as the Empire State Building or Grand Central Terminal,” Radler said. “In America, we can’t make a ship like this anymore. … Now that the Conservancy owns this ship and is racing to raise the funds to save her, I hope this film will motivate people to take action in support of an irreplaceable piece of American history.”


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