March 4, 2011
Colloquium Speaker: Marvin W. Barrash
Marvin W. Barrash is in his 10th year as a volunteer with the Naval Historical Foundation at the Naval History & Heritage Command, Washington Navy Yard. In that capacity he prepared finding-aids for manuscripts and artifacts in the collection of the Navy Department Library and worked on their preservation. He was recognized as the Foundation's Volunteer of the Year for 2004. He has been employed by the Department of Defense at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland since 1979, mostly involved with Acquisition Logistics. Marvin Barrash is the author of U.S.S. CYCLOPS (Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books, 2010) and has spoken at the National Museum of the United States Navy on the subject of the naval collier which was lost without a trace during the Great War. The basis for his interest in the subject was that his Great-Uncle, Lawrence Merkel, Fireman, Third Class, USN was among the members of the crew lost with the ship.
The U.S.S. Cyclops never arrived at her destination of Baltimore, Maryland in March 1918. Since her loss, much attention has been drawn to the subject of this colossal collier not for what she did while afloat, but because of her disappearance 93 years ago without a trace. Numerous theories regarding the loss of this so called "mystery ship" have been proposed. Some of these are considered as pure speculation, while others may have a scientific basis. There are two facts that are true to this day; the U.S.S. Cyclops has never been located and the cause of her disappearance is yet uncertain. The ship's loss was much more than a naval casualty. She took with her 309 lives. A massive vessel, the Cyclops dwarfed our battleships. The press called her "The Largest Naval Collier in the World". This fuel ship served a vital role in the Navy, in peace as in war. She was placed in service as the Navy transitioned from coal to oil fueled vessels and served as a test bed for innovative methods of underway replenishment; some of which are still in use today. The Cyclops did not offer her crews glamorous tours of duty. Being assigned to her meant hard work, long days and nights, and the handling of thousands of tons of coal. Most people are aware that this fuel ship had an untimely end. Few know that she also had a difficult beginning. Marvin Barrash will describe the results of his 13 years of research of this subject and reveal the true story of the U.S.S. Cyclops.