On January 9, 1945, a World War II cargo ship the SS Hobbs was launched from Richmond, Calif.
On hand for the launching were Cora Evelyn Pribble, her husband L. B., and several family members of Mr. and Mrs. Pribble, who lived in Hobbs.
Mrs. Pribble was the designated “Sponsor” of the ship. That meant she would be the one to launch the SS Hobbs when she broke a bottle of champagne on the bow of the Hobbs just before it slipped out of its moorings and into the Pacific Ocean.
Before the launch, the Pribbles were entertained with dinners, parties, and celebrations.
As the ship settled into the water off of the California coast, there were singing by a popular quartet of pretty girls and cheers from the dozens of military and civilian dignitaries in attendance, in addition to many of the civilian workers who built the carrier in just 87 days.
The SS Hobbs was 456 feet long. Its beam was 62 feet. Its draft was 23 feet. It was propelled by Westinghouse steam turbines with a single shaft that produced 8,500 horsepower.
The SS Hobbs had a maximum speed of 17.5 knots sustained, with an emergency speed of 21 knots.
Its crew included 62 merchant marines and 28 U.S. naval armed guards, with 358 officers and men.
It was armed with one five-inch 38 caliber gun, one three-inch 50 caliber gun, and eight 20 mm Oerilikon cannons.
The SS Hobbs was called a “Victory Ship,” one of 531 cargo ships built quickly during the war to replace cargo ships being sunk by German submarines and Japanese fighter planes. The SS Hobbs was loaded with 6,000 pounds of ammunition meant for troops fighting in the Battle of Okinawa.
Just as it did not take long to build, it was not long before the SS Hobbs sunk to the bottom of the Pacific.
The Hobbs was at first anchored with other ships off the islands of Tokashiki and Aka, which were near Okinawa, but when the ships were attacked by Japanese fighter planes, the SS Hobbs steamed away from the group. It was at 6:50 p.m., on April 6, 1945, that a Japanese plane crashed into the port side of the SS Hobbs. It sunk early the next morning.
It was a custom to name these cargo ships for an American city or town, and a mother of service men in that town was chosen as the sponsor of the ship. The Pribbles had two sons, Foy and Iris, serving in World War II, and Mrs. Pribble was designated to launch the ship.
Just this past weekend, a granddaughter and great-granddaughter of the Pribbles came through Hobbs and Lovington on their way to participate in the Bataan Death March at White Sands. Debbie Pribble Lawson and her daughter Liddy flew into Hobbs, then drove to Lovington to visit a display in the Veterans Exhibit at the Lea County Museum.
The display is a replica of the SS Hobbs and an oversized album of photos taken of the building and the launching of the ship in 1945.
The SS Hobbs did not serve very long, less than three months, from January 9 through April 6, 1945.
However, the ship has remained in the minds of many residents of Hobbs, and it has been part of the family stories of the Pribbles and their heirs.
Twelve crewmen lost their lives in the attack on a ship that was meant to replace the incredible number of American cargo ships sunk of German and Japanese submarines and planes. Over 500 of these “Victory Ships” were built between 1941 and 1945.