Arriving from Acapulco, Mexico, Cunard Line’s Queen Victoria returned to San Francisco yesterday, continuing in the evening on her 105-day World Cruise with stops in Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand and Sydney.

During the ship’s only visit to the city this year, special guests from the California Heritage Council presented the ship’s Master, Captain Inger Olsen, with an archival photograph of Cunard’s original Queen Elizabeth in San Francisco during World War II.  

Taken on 31 March 1942, the dramatic photograph shows an aspect of the arrival of the iconic ship at that time in San Francisco. 

The photograph is historically significant because it was the only time Queen Elizabeth ever entered a U.S. west coast port, doing so to pick up 8,000 American soldiers bound for Sydney, Australia, at the height of the most critical part of the Pacific campaign during the war. 

The image is also important as it was captured in secret: photography of ships in port during World War II was prohibited.

“Thanks to the efforts of Cunard and these and other troops, the Americans and Australians were able to stop, and throw back, the enemy advance in 1942 and 1943,” said Neil Malloch, historian for the California Heritage Council, as he presented the rare photograph to Captain Olsen. 

“All this happened just 70 years ago.  It is important to commemorate such historic events while there are veterans and survivors still alive.”

The California Heritage Council is the oldest statewide organization, dedicated to the restoration, preservation and commemoration of historic people, places and events in California.

Cunard Line’s pivotal role during WWII is well-documented, with Winston Churchill having famously credited Cunard for ending the war one year early due to the thousands of U.S. troops that were transported by Queen Elizabeth and sister ship the Queen Mary during the conflict.