The Gripsholm Exchange and Repatriation Voyages

The Shanghai Evening Post American Edition, Dec. 3, 1943, page 1.
Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 33, Folder 9,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.


The Committee on East Asia comprises a large part of the Area Committees section in MRL12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records. One specific event of note details the Gripsholm Exchange and Repatriation Voyages during World War II (WWII). The MS Gripsholm, a ship that serviced the Swedish-American cruise line and was originally built in 1925, was used from 1942 to 1946 for repatriation efforts by the United States Department of State. A second ship called Drottningholm also helped with these efforts.

Gripsholm served under the International Red Cross with a Swedish captain and crew. Making thirty-three trips to exchange women, children, diplomats, prisoners of war, and other nationals between Japan/Germany and the United States/Canada, the ship carried over 27,000 repatriates.

The Shanghai Evening Post American Edition, Dec. 3, 1943, page 1.
Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 33, Folder 9,

The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.


Along with articles and general information on the Gripsholm voyages are detailed lists of Americans returning on the MS Gripsholm. People are recorded in alphabetical order, as well as their status, such as “clerk,” “consul,” “American Red Cross,” or “husband,” and their residence if known. Other documents include lists of boards having missionaries on the Gripsholm, and single letters searching for information on individuals.

Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 1,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.


An interview between FMCNA Secretary, Joe Mickle, and Sidney Walton of the WHN Special Features Division, held November 29th, was the third in a series of programs in connection with the return of the exchange ship. When asked about the ‘terrible hardships’ suffered by the missionaries, Mickle said:

Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 33, Folder 9,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.


Letters were received by those in America from missionaries on the ship. One, written to the secretary of FMCNA Joe Mickle from Olive I. Hodges and Paul S. Mayer, makes the voyage sound pleasant:

Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 2,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.


Though this was an exchange, those coming back on the Gripsholm still had to pay their own way for passage and incidental expenses. The FBI also checked the passengers upon their entrance to port:

Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 2,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.


After the repatriation and exchange voyages of the Gripsholm and Drottninghalm were complete, there were mixed emotions regarding future mission work in China. The following article was written by George E. Sokolsky, who lived in China for a time period. The article was originally published in the New York Sun of November 13, 1943 and was republished with permission by the FMCNA:

Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 1,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

65 thoughts on “The Gripsholm Exchange and Repatriation Voyages

  1. This is great, great stuff, Brigette!  Keep up the good work.  The details and archival materials offered here are amazing!

  2. Are there any logs or diaries from the OUTBOUND Gripsholm voyages? Particularly the first one, in 1942?

    1. I have a book called “Exchange Ship” that I found on Amazon that details the trip from Lourenco Marques back to the States.

  3. My wife (Maria Asayo Ishu) was born on the Gripsholm just outside of the South African port of call. Her birthdate is October 1, 1943, so I think that would have been the second voyage.

  4. My father was taken prisoner in Shanghai in 1942. He was a vice consul in the foreign service so he was a diplomatic prisoner. He was later put on the Conte Verde and taken to meet the Gripsholm. He thought he was going home from there but was given orders to go to Vladivostok. I have ben researching this for a while. I have a book called “Exchange Ship” that talks about this period. Along with the Conte Verde the ship Asama Maru arrived in Lourenco Marques to exchange passengers with the Gripsholm. So I have a great reference regarding the Asama Maru, but, I can’t find much on the Conte Verde. Does anybody know of a good reference for that ship and it’s transfer with the Gripsholm?

  5. My mother, Mary Smiley, was a returning missionary on the second voyage of the Gripsholm. I recently found a number of newspaper clippings of the events of the time, mostly local to her home town and many without reference of newspaper date or name. Some are from the Kansas (or Hutchinson?) Herald, another from the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, and some from the Stafford Times (I think). Would you be interested in seeing scanned copies of these clippings?

      1. Hi. I also am doing some research on this particular exchange ship. I am researching a man, to my knowledge a British RAF regular who my grandmother met in South Africa early 1944. Apparently he was a prisoner in Burma?(had a bad back injury that he got from rifle butts) but to my knowledge no-one except a very few managed to escape from prison camps, so the only possible answer I can find as to how he got to South Africa is via this exchange ship (although according to us, he was not a civilian) He left Liverpool in November 1942 for Burma. It says though that it was mainly American and Canadians on board? My question thus is, did this ship stop at Durban port South Africa and unloaded some of the prisoners? Will there be records somewhere of these people? I do not have any more information on him except his name and date of death.

        1. Lourenço Marques to Durban is about 400 miles, so not far.
          The Grisholm did not stop in South Africa
          There are detailed records of everyone who was on board all the exchange ships. Officials went over and over the lists over months.
          Having said that, a guy does not just show up in South Africa coming from Burma in the middle of WW2.
          Regards, Antonio

          1. Sorry – on the second exchange out of Lourenço Marques, in September 1942, the ship City of City of Canterbury stopped in South Africa.

  6. I just came across this–how interesting! My grandparents, Kenneth and Elsie Oliver; my mother, Celia; her brother, Peter; and sister, Alison, sailed on the Gripsholm, departing Haifa on September 17, 1945 and arriving in NY on October 9. My grandmother was American, and Alison had been born in the US in 1926. My grandfather was a British subject, born in Lebanon, and was a surgeon on the faculty at the American University of Beirut. Both my mother and uncle were born in Beirut and had British passports.

  7. My father, FL Cannon of the 3rd South African Infantry Brigade, was captured at Tobruk and ended up at Stalag 344 at Bremen. In 1944, he and other very ill South Africans (and allied POWs I think) were repatriated on the M/S Gripsholm to the Uk, and landed at Liverpool I think. In early 1945, he returned somehow to Cape Town – a broken, white-haired 39 year-old.
    I would like to know from where to where definitely he was repatriated, and where a walkingstick he brought back – with the capital letters DIEPP (sic) burnt into it – might have been acquired. Surely not in Dieppe, France? Also confusing is the existence of a letter dated 19 September 1944 to him from my mother in CapeTown, expressing delight at his already having landed in the UK, and saying there was no airmail between CT and the UK. (She obviously sent the letter to his parents in the UK.)

    1. Hi Paul, I am also researching a family member who was evacuated from France aboard SS Gripsholm to Liverpool at this time. I have only ever found the American’s on the manifest lists, but have recently been sent one page of passengers with her on it. My email is if you would like more information. FL Cannon does not appear on my page.

  8. I’m writing a book and would like to know whether permission is needed to use the two pictures from The Shanghai Evening Post American Edition, Dec. 3, 1943, page 1. that are displayed. Are they copyrighted? Is it in the public domain?I know the The Shanghai Evening Post stopped publishing in 1946. How can permission be obtained

  9. Can you tell me where the departure city was for the Gripsholm that arrived in New York on or about 26 Sep 1944?

  10. My mother, 2 brothers aged 9 and 11 and myself aged 7 came across from Ireland in 1946 to New York harbor. We had to stay in Ireland till after the war( I was born there and my father was in NY). I remember my mon saying we came across on the Gripsholm. Is this true , and are there any records of this voyage. I am trying to catch up on family history for my grandchildren. Thank you

  11. Are there any records for a voyage from Ireland to NY harbor in 1946 on the Gripsholm. My f!ily came over right after w2

  12. is it possible to get passenger list of the second repatriation voyage that docked dec 3, 1943? My maternal grandparents William and Leada Berst, missionaries in Chefoo China were aboard. One of my cousins is writing a book.

    1. I have a scanned pdf copy of the original passenger manifest (46-pages) of the Gripsholm arrival in the US in Dec 1943. Your relatives William Lawson Berst and Leada Newman Berst are listed at Page 5.

      My relative Mary Cookingham was a passenger exchanged from China.
      I will gladly email the manifest if you desire.
      My email is ronmerritt at

  13. My grandmother and aunts, Pieterdina, Katherine and Henrietta Sietsema were interned in Liebenau Germany as US citizens and repatriated aboard the Gripsholm in March 1944. Any further information surrounding their circumstances would be most appreciated.

  14. My husband was born in England and adopted by an American Red Cross lady. He was 2 years old when they sailed to New York on MS Gripsholm. We have his Smallpox Vaccination Certificate given to him on MS Gripsholm by Ch Surgeon Kenny on March 17 1946. Is there a Passenger List of that voyage? We would like to see it if possible. Thank You.

  15. I Wes on the exchange ship Gripsholm in Feb 1944. I would like any information on who we were exchanged for. We left NY Feb 15,1944 and arrived in Lisbon on Feb 25. Actually any information about our voyage to Lisbon as well as the return in March would be great. Also who arranged for these exchanges. Who oversaw them. I was only 7, an American citizen born to German American parents. All three of us were “exchanged”.

    1. Wes – contact Dr. Teresa Van Hoy at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX – her students have spent the last year researching the German-American prisoner exchange. She organized a reunion of internees on the MS Gripsholm in Jersey City on Feb 15, 2019, the 75th anniversary of the exchange: My mother worked for the US State Dept and was present at the “safe passage” ceremony prior to departure as a 24-year old. She still remembers the German-American families, and getting the the kids access to restroom facilities while they were held prior to boarding.

      Among those exchanged back to the US were Gen. MacArthur’s nephew and Mary Berg, who published a diary of her time in the Warsaw Ghetto (see Wikipedia). Those sent to Germany also experienced a great deal of suffering. All of this information is from Dr. Van Hoy.

      1. She will be of no help to us. Thank you. We have done significant research in the National Archives and have had for some time the two manifests. We are aware of MacArthur.
        I am interested in your mother she is the one who witnessed the Gripsholm departure? Is she still living? Could we be in contact.
        I am well aware of the hardships suffered in Germany as my parents and I, after being exchanged, lived in Hamburg, a ver strategic target. I would like to know from what pier the Gripsholm I was on departed.

  16. My mother was on the Gripsholm trip from Shanghai to Canada on the 2nd trip.
    She has a vivid memory of going on SAFARI while the Ship stopped in Africa.

  17. Recently a letter surfaced written by my grandmother to her friends and family after she and my grandfather, both Presbyterian missionaries, arrived on the Gripsholm in 1943 after being interned in China in their Presbyterian compound with initially 63 people in a one story and 1/2 bungalow–I believe in Chefoo. (Later the number was reduced by 20). The letter is long and a quite detailed description of the Japanese internment filled with the daily life in the camp, both with the Japanese and Chinese guards( I’m assuming under direction of the Japanese). My Grandmother was a fine writer so the letter which runs 6 pages and is beautifully written filled with anecdotes and names of people involved, now I’m quite certain all are gone to that other shore. I think your archival department might be interested in seeing what is written. My grandparents names are Leada and Doctor William Berst. My grandfather was a surgeon and my grandmother taught dietetics and nutrition.

  18. Hello
    I recently came across a steamer trunk, in Oakland Ca at a good will store, that still has the original baggage claim on it. It shows a passenger with initials KW traveled on the Gripsholm. There are not any dates. Just the initials on the bag and the claim number. Is there anyway to find our more. Perhaps look at a passenger list?

  19. Book about the exchanges during WWII:
    THE TRAIN TO CRYSTAL CITY, FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During Word War II, by Jan Jarboe Russell. 2015, Scribner.

  20. I was a babe in arms with my Mom and Dad and brother on the voyage from Bombay/Mumbai to New Jersey arriving in New Jersey August 2, 1945. The Gripsholm had first stopped in China to pick up Missionaries and then came to Bombay. It was a month long journey home with 500 Missionaries on board. My Dad wrote a detailed account of that month and it is posted on a website by a gentleman whose first name is Lars. Sorry I cannot remember the title of the website.

  21. Is it possible to get a list of those on the Gripsholm which arrived in New York on Dec 1, 1943. My husband was on that ship as a teenager.
    Thank you,

  22. I was on the Gripsholm which left Bombay and arrived in New Jersey on August 2, 1945. How can I get in touch with Heather Waters Bedford (#27 above) to hopefully receive an account of the trip that her Dad wrote.
    Thank you,

  23. Thank you for this blog posting. It was interesting. My father signed onto the Gripsolm at age 16 to be a pantryboy. I have a few items, including the letter from the Swedish American Line, certifying his service during the summer of 1942.

  24. My mother, father and eldest brother were on the first exchange. My mother was not on the manifest published in America and family assumed she had perished in the fall of Hong Kong. Much rejoicing in New Jersey!

  25. My grandfather was part of a prisoner exchange abroad a ship (name?) in China after being held in a Japanese internment camp in the early 1940s in China. He and a number of fellow workers, at Standard Oil, were taken prisoner, while my mother, her brother and mother escaped and went back to the US on a ship out of Shanghai. My grandfather was eventually sent on a ship to NY and reunited with his family.

  26. My stepmother, Betty Fitzgerald, looked after a 2 year-old boy on this trip called Jeep Malone. He said his father was “with the American Tobacco Company”. I would be very interested in finding out more about this and his family.

    1. There is a Time Magazine from that has an article on Gripsholm voyage to NY that has an adorable photo of the little boy Jeep Malone. My mother was on that ship as well.

  27. My Mother Winifred Mary Moreau, My sister Antoinette and myself Therese (at the time an infant under a year old), we were passengers on the Gripsholm Repatriation ship (1943 trip) that arrived Dec. 1943 in N.Y.) I would like to know if I could have access to the passengers list and to any other information not as readily available as that on these pages. I am already so very thankful for all the information furnished. Thanks , with deep appreciation.

  28. Thank you for all these notes and their replies. My mother Alice Dobbs was on the first Shanghai/NY Osama Maru/Gripsholm trip after leaving Stanley POW camp in Hong Kong. I have also written a book that includes mention of this trip, called “Lost in China.” Jennifer F Dobbs

  29. I sailed on the MS Gripsholm in August 1961 to Europe and returned on the Kungsholm in Sweptember the same year

  30. Hello to everyone that has posted on this blog. Hopefully you have since found the information you are looking for. I have the following names on a the passenger list of the Gripsholm if this is of help to anyone : F Cooper born Aberdeen, Scotland 1926, Joy Makeham born London 1920, Rosa Nowak born (Wien?) 1890, Beatrice Osborn born Birmingham 1889, Ellen & Alice Phillips-D’Armil born 1883, Lilian Blanche Snape born London 1910?, Winifred Sunderland born? 1909, Mary Stevenson born London 1885, Zophia Szerokow born ? 1886. I am actively researching a family member who travelled on board the SS Gripsholm. She was arrested in Auby, France before being interred in Liebenau. My email is

  31. We have written a book about my experience in WWII, being an American born to German immigrant parents, interned in. Crystal City, Tx and exchanged ( traded into Nazi Germany) in 1944.
    Wesselhoeft, Traded to the Enemy is available through me at this email or from Amazon.

    1. My father Francesco Bottigliero was on board ship Gripsholm on august 1945 leaving New York destination Naples.

  32. Hello,
    Who can tell me if there were Italian enemy aliens on board the Gripsholm? I appreciate any information.
    Thank you

  33. My grandfather, Phil Sullivan was on the Gripsholm, and in family lore was the third passenger off at the docks and the first to the hotel, having grabbed a cab to get there quickly. All the wives were sitting in the lobby if whichever midtown hotel they were waiting at, because the docks were not considered proper or some such. Anyway, big picture windows out onto the street, and another of the wives says “Oh Bess, there’s Phil!” as he approaches the front door of the hotel. But it’s a revolving door and he hits it coming in as she hits it going out, and they end up out on the sidewalk in a big kissing embrace.

    Fast forward to 1951. China hand dinner somewhere in the DC area, and the revolving-door-sidewalk-clinch story gets told, and someone says “Oh, that’s Phil and Bess Sullivan, and they live in Arlington. Now, my mother’s mother, who had to college daughters, hears this and her ears prick up.

    Sullivans and sons are invited to dinner at the Winfields and daughters. Mom meets dad. They are married a year and a day later.

    So I am on earth because of the Gripsholm.

  34. My grandfather’s cousin was repatriated from Shanghai, China after spending time in the Chapei internment camp on the Gripsholm in 1943. Her name was May de Sousa and as a teen ager was a very famous singer in the U.S. and Europe. She married a doctor name and moved with him to Shanghai in the 1930’s. I am trying to find out any information about her life in Shanghai, the Chapei camp, and her repatriation to the US on the Gripsholm.

    1. May de Souza is listed as age 56, address 1224 Loyola Ave, Chicago, at Page 11 of the 1943 Gripsholm pax manifest to NYC.

  35. I have just found this website by chance. At age 2, nearly 3, I was a passenger on the Gripsholm’ s voyage from Bombay to New York in 1945, along with my sister about 6 months old and my parents who were missionaries in China. We/they had been in Kunming but were flown out over “the Hump” in February 1945. My father was British and my mother American. We were stuck in Calcutta for several months while my parents tried to find transport home either to the UK or USA but of course the war was still going on. I have a few memories of the voyage – men and women were segregated in large dormitories with 3 tier beds. I remember it being very crowded with dim light…endless corridors. Fairly early on I got lost and could not find my parents or they me….much excitement over me when found. On deck I remember going through what I now know was the Suez Canal and then arriving in New York. My American grandparents lived in an apartment on East 19th Street and took us in. It was only a brief time later that the war in Japan ended. I remember the celebrations and was never allowed to forget how I asked why my uncle was trying to jump out of the window of the apartment, which was on the 13th floor.
    Interestingly, my research has revealed for the first time that a number of my mother’s close friends and colleagues, originally from Hankow/Wuchang, including Bishop Gilman of Hankow, were incarcerated in Hong Kong in 1941 but evacuated to New York via Mozambique sailing from there in the Gripsholm in 1942.

  36. Fun to find this blog. I (at age 2) was on the first Gripsholm repatriation. My parents the Hunts were missionaries in Manchuria and Korea. We were a family of 5 children which included my twin brother David. I wonder where we were picked up by the Asama Maru and of course any details about the trip on the Gripsholm. A story: my grandparents, living in Philadelphia didn’t know is we had all gotten out of Manchuria but a ham operator sent a message which my grandfather got, listing 7 Hunts on the manifest. Prayers answered.

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