The Fascinating Story of the WWII Ice Cream Ship

Video ww2 ice cream ship

Before the WWII Ice Cream Ship, Ice Cream Wasn’t So Popular

During the Prohibition era of the 1920s and 1930s, people may have been deprived of alcohol, but their craving for something sweet remained strong. The ban on alcohol consumption aboard naval ships during World War II gave rise to an ingenious solution: the creation of the WWII ice cream ship.

Alcohol prohibition not only affected the local bars but also had unforeseen consequences. It inadvertently boosted the popularity of ice cream, transforming it from a mere novelty into a beloved treat. In 1914, General Order No. 99 banned alcohol from United States Navy ships. This was followed closely by the implementation of the 18th Amendment, making alcohol illegal throughout the entire country.

With the authorities dampening the party spirit, people had to find other outlets and treats to indulge in. Breweries, such as Pennsylvania’s Yuengling and Michigan’s Stroh’s, had to adapt their business models to stay afloat, resulting in the creation of ice cream made from their beer recipes.

After a decade of skyrocketing ice cream sales nationwide, experimentation led to the birth of one of the most popular ice cream flavors we enjoy today. Ice cream and candy makers William Dreyer and Joseph Edy combined marshmallows and chocolate ice cream, giving us the eternal delight of rocky road ice cream.

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The Creation of the WWII Ice Cream Ship

As sailors longed for a way to unwind during their time at sea, ice cream became their treat of choice. With the advancement of freezer technology, they were finally able to enjoy their favorite snack even in the middle of the ocean. The newly-invented rocky road flavor became a huge hit among sailors.

Even after the end of Prohibition, sailors’ love for ice cream persisted. In 1942, when the USS Lexington was sinking from damage caused by a Japanese torpedo, sailors grabbed containers of ice cream from the freezers and savored them as they abandoned ship.

The dedication sailors showed to save their ice cream highlighted just how much they treasured this delightful treat. To ensure a constant supply, the United States Navy allocated a budget of $1 million to construct the iconic WWII ice cream ship.

How Much Ice Cream Was on the Navy Ship?

To create the WWII ice cream ship, the quartermaster corps borrowed a concrete barge from the U.S. Army. This barge was transformed into a fully-functioning ice cream factory and parlor, towed by tug boats to deliver ice cream to smaller naval ships that were unable to produce their own.

Stationed in the Western Pacific, the ice cream ship had an impressive production capacity. It could churn out ten gallons of ice cream in just seven minutes. This meant that sailors were fortunate enough to have access to 500 gallons of freshly made ice cream, with an additional 2,000 gallons charted and available to them at all times.

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Ice Cream Barge

What Was the WWII Ice Cream Ship Called?

Although the WWII ice cream ship played a vital role during World War II, it surprisingly never received an official name from the Navy. Personally, I think “USS Ice Cream Float” would have been a fitting and playful choice. However, the ship remains unnamed.

Sadly, the WWII ice cream ship, or “USS Ice Cream Float,” eventually retired from its ice cream delivery duties. It ceased operations long ago, and now rests somewhere in a bay along with many other concrete ships from the World War II era.

This captivating tale of the WWII ice cream ship showcases the importance of ice cream as a morale booster for sailors, who found solace in its delightful sweetness even amidst the chaos of war.

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Related Read: How the Original Twinkie Flavor Was Changed Forever Thanks to WWII

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