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SS America was an ocean liner built in 1940 for the United States Lines and was designed by the noted American naval architect William Francis Gibbs. She carried many names in the 54 years between her construction and her 1994 wreck: SS America (carrying this name three different times during her career); troop transport USS West Point; and SS Australis, Italis, Noga, Alferdoss, and American Star. She served most notably in passenger service as America and the Greek-flagged Australis.
She was wrecked as the American Star at Playa de Garcey on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands on 18 January 1994. The wreck has broken up and collapsed into the sea. Only a small section of the bow remains visible during low tide.
|Name:||SS America (1940–41)USS West Point (1941–46)SS America (1946–64)SS Australis (1964–78)SS America (1978)SS Italis (1978–80)SS Noga (1980–84) or (1980–93)SS Alferdoss (port bow only)(1984–93)SS American Star (1993-1994)|
|Owner:||United States Maritime Commission (1940–64)United States Lines (1940-41)United States Navy (1941-46)United States Lines (1946–64)Chandris Group (1964–78)Venture Cruise Lines (1978)Chandris Group (1978–80)Intercommerce Corporation (1980–84)Silver Moon Ferries (1984–92)Chaophraya Transport Co (1992–96)|
|Operator:||United States Lines (1940–41)United States Navy (1941–46)United States Lines (1946–64)Chandris Group (1964–78)Venture Cruise Lines (1978)Chandris Group (1978–80)Intercommerce Corporation (1980–84)Silver Moon Ferries|
|Port of registry:||New York (1940–41) United States Navy (1941–46) New York (1946–64) Piraeus (1964–67) Panama City (1967–68) Piraeus (1968–96)|
|Builder:||Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co.|
|Laid down:||22 August 1938|
|Launched:||31 August 1939|
|Christened:||31 August 1939 by Eleanor Roosevelt|
|Completed:||16 April 1940|
|Acquired:||1 June 1946|
|Commissioned:||16 June 1941|
|Decommissioned:||12 March 1946|
|Maiden voyage:||22 August 1940|
|Out of service:||1979|
|Identification:||Code Letters WEDI (1940–41)Code Letters NWGB (1941–46)Code Letters WEDI (1946–64)United States Official Number 239728 (1940–64)IMO number: 5014123 ( -1996)|
|Fate:||Wrecked at Playa de Garcey on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islandsin 1994|
|Status:||Collapsed in 2007, almost nothing left except the keel|
|Notes:||Declared a total loss|
|Class and type:||America Class|
|Tonnage:||26,454 GRT (1940–65)14,320 NRT (1940–65)33,961 GT (1965–96)|
|Displacement:||21,079 light,35,440 full load|
|Length:||723 ft (220 m)|
|Beam:||93 ft (28 m)|
|Draft:||33 ft (10 m)|
|Installed power:||2 x steam turbines, double reduction geared|
|Propulsion:||Twin screw propellors|
|Speed:||22.5 kn (41.7 km/h)|
|Capacity:||1,202 (passengers) as originally designed7,678 when reconfigured as West Point2,258 when rebuilt as Australis|
|Crew:||643 (originally)750 (World War II)|
|Armament:||(World War II only)4 × 5 in AA guns4 × 3 in/50 naval guns8 × .50-cal. machine guns.|
US Navy service (1941–1946)
America being converted to USS West Point in Norfolk Ship Yards
America was moored at Norfolk, Virginia, and acquired by the Navy on 1 June 1941 to be used as a troop transport. The ship was renamed the USS West Point (AP-23), the second U.S. Navy ship of the name. She entered the Norfolk Ship Yards on 6 June 1941 for conversion and on 15 June 1941, she was commissioned for service under the command of Captain Frank H. Kelley, Jr.By the time the conversion was completed, life-rafts covered the promenade deck windows, “standee” bunks could be found everywhere, several anti-aircraft weapons were installed, all of her windows were covered, she was painted in a camouflage gray colour, and her troop-carrying capacity was increased to 7,678.
The USS West Point soon proceeded to New York City and, while anchored off the Staten Island quarantine station on 16 July, took on board 137 Italian citizens and 327 German citizens from the consulates of those nations in the United States which had been closed. West Point got under way at 1455 on that afternoon, bound for Portugal, and arrived at Lisbon on 23 July. While there, the ship was visited by Portuguese naval and diplomatic dignitaries; and she transferred supplies to the Coast Guard cutter Ingham, the “station ship” at Lisbon, Portugal. After her final Italian passenger had been disembarked on 23 July and the last German on 24 July, West Point commenced taking on 321 American citizens and 67 Chinese—consular staffs and their families – on 26 July.
Returning to New York on 1 August, West Point discharged her passengers and headed south for an overhaul at Portsmouth, Virginia. She then participated in tactical exercises off the Virginia Capes from 26 to 29 August in company with Wakefield and Mount Vernon.
On 3 November, she sailed from Virginia waters and arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 5 November. There, on 8 and 9 November, she embarked 241 officers and 5,202 men of the 55th Brigade, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, and 100 men of a US Army Field Service company. On 10 November, West Point – in company with five other transports: Wakefield, Mount Vernon, Orizaba, Leonard Wood, and Joseph T. Dickman – got under way for India as Convoy HS-124. En route, they were joined by the aircraft carrier Ranger, the cruisers Vincennes and Quincy, and a division of destroyers.
Reaching Cape Town, South Africa, on 9 December, West Point and Wakefield were detached on 23 December to form Task Group (TG) 14.1, while Leonard Wood and Joseph T. Dickman formed TG 14.2. Escorted by the British heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire, the convoy proceeded uneventfully toward India until 0700 on the 27th, when TG 14.1 was detached to speed up and arrive at Bombay ahead of the other ships.
Wakefield commenced discharging her embarked troops at 1900 at the Ballard Piers, completed her unloading, and shifted berths the next morning. West Point took Wakefield’s former berth while Joseph T. Dickman moored to unload her equipment and troops.
Having completed her discharge by 31 December 1941, West Point anchored in the stream on the morning of 2 January 1942 and awaited further orders until 4 January, when British authorities asked Captain Kelley, of West Point, if his ship and Wakefield could be brought under 30-foot (9.1 m) draught to make passage for Singapore. Kelley responded that it could be done, but this would entail discharging ballast and expelling some of the ship’s fresh water supply—thus endangering the ship’s stability.
Due to prevailing low-water conditions at Bombay at this point, neither West Point nor Wakefield could go alongside piers in the harbor to either load equipment or troops. Thus, the embarkation and loading procedures had to be carried out by the tedious process of embarking troops and loading supplies from smaller ships and lightersbrought alongside. Wakefield embarked – almost to a man – the troops which she had brought from Halifax, a total of 4,506, while West Point embarked two-thirds of the troops which she had transported, in addition to some which had come out in other ships. All told, she carried some 5,272 men.
West Point sailed for Singapore on 9 January, in a “15-knot” convoy, with Captain Kelley as the Convoy Commodore. In addition to the two American ships, three British transports – Duchess of Bedford, Empress of Japan, and Empire Star – made up the remainder of the van. Escorted by British light cruiser HMS Caledon until this ship was relieved by light cruiser HMS Glasgow at 1630 on 22 January, the convoy’s escort soon swelled to three cruisers and four destroyers as the convoy neared Java. Japanese submarine activities near the Indonesian archipelago prompted concern for the safe arrival of the valuable ships, hence a 200-mile (320 km) detour through the shallow, coral-studded Sunda Strait.
Led by British cruiser HMS Exeter, the ships slowed to 10 knots (19 km/h), and streaming paravane gear, began the passage. An escorting destroyer steamed between each transport, as they steamed in single-column order. It was a dangerous passing, a small divergence from the charted course could mean a disastrous grounding.
The screen’s commander, Captain Oliver L. Gordon, R.N., commanding Exeter, desired to arrive at Singapore with as many ships as possible by dawn on 29 January, and thus split the convoy up, sending the faster vessels—West Point, Wakefield, and Empress of Japan—ahead at increased speed under escort of cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Durban, HMS Dragon, and destroyers HMS Express and HMS Electra. Proceeding to Singapore via Berhala Strait, Durian Strait, and Philips Channel, the group steamed through these bodies of water in bright moonlight which made navigational aids unnecessary. Upon their arrival off Singapore, the ships lay to in an exposed position, beyond the range of shore-based antiaircraft guns, until pilots could be obtained to bring the ships in. Since the naval base came under daily heavy air raids, the transports proceeded to Keppel Harbor, the commercial basin at Singapore, where they could discharge their troops and cargo.
Securing abreast godowns (warehouses) 52, 53, and 54, West Point commenced off-loading equipment and disembarking her troops. All but 670 engineer troops, who had been ordered retained on board, were ashore before nightfall. Air raids, meanwhile, continued until midnight as the Japanese steadily pounded Singapore from the air. At each alert, the local workers working dockside would vanish, taking to the shelters and leaving the vital cargo still unloaded. As a result, the unloading was carried out by the crew of West Point, her embarked troops, and 22 local workers who were brought aboard to assist.
On 30 January, seven Japanese bombers appeared over the city and were engaged by British Brewster Buffalo fighters. As the alert continued, 30 more Japanese planes appeared overhead, on course over Keppel Harbor. Several bombs fell on shore, eastward of West Point’s moorings, while another stick fell in the water to the southward. In the interim, bombs hit other targets. A small tanker moored near Wakefield was sunk at dockside; bombs fell abreast Empress of Japan; and Wakefield took a direct hit forward which destroyed her sick bay, killed five men and wounded nine. The last bombs in this stick straddled West Point and showered her with shrapnel. As the raid lifted, West Point sent two medical officers and 11 corpsmen on board Wakefield, at the latter’s request, to render medical assistance.
Later that morning, Captain Kelley attended a conference with British authorities, who informed him that his ship was to be used to carry a contingent of Australian troops from Suez to Singapore and to transport refugees and evacuees to Ceylon. With the emergency “acute”, Kelley agreed to take on board up to one thousand women and children and such additional men as the British desired to send. With the abandonment of the naval dockyard, untenable in the face of increasingly heavier Japanese bombardments from artillery and aircraft, several dockyard naval and civilian personnel and their families were assigned to West Point for evacuation. Most carried only hand baggage; had little, if any, money; but were all fortunate enough to escape the doomed city before its fall to the onrushing Japanese troops of General Yamashita. All told, some 1,276 naval officers, their families, dockyard civilians, civilian evacuees, a 16-man Royal Air Force (RAF) contingent, and 225 naval ratings made up the 1,276 people embarked by 1800 on 30 January.[clarification needed]
Clearing Singapore, West Point and Wakefield headed due west, escorted by HMS Durban. Overcast and squally weather covered their departure and permitted them to transit the Banka Strait unmolested by the seemingly omnipresent Japanese aircraft. Routed to Batavia, Java, to embark more refugees, West Point led Wakefield and Durban through the minefields and anchored in Batavia Roads at 0305 on 31 January. HMS Electra—which would be lost in the Battle of the Java Sea 27 February—came alongside eight hours later and transferred 20 naval dockyard personnel, three women, five naval officers’ wives, one Free French officer, and an RAF officer to West Point for passage to Ceylon.
At 1240 on 1 February, West Point—in company with Wakefield and under escort of Exeter, HMS Encounter, and HMAS Vampire—got under way. The destroyers eventually went off to perform other duties, and Exeter as well soon dropped away to escort another convoy, leaving the two big troopships on their own. While they were en route, disconcerting news came over the radio. Japanese I-boats (identified after the war as I-162 and I-153) had been active in the vicinity, sinking six ships between them. West Point acquired an extra passenger while en route; for, on 4 February, a baby boy was born on board.
Colombo Harbor, Ceylon, where they arrived on 6 February, was so crowded that British authorities could not permit Wakefield to repair her damage there. The passengers, in turn, experienced much difficulty in arranging for suitable transportation ashore. In addition, neither transport could fully provision.
British authorities requested the American ships to evacuate personnel to Bombay. Accordingly, West Point took on board eight men, 55 women, and 53 children, as well as 670 troops, for passage to India. Wakefield, despite her weakened condition caused by the direct hit on 29 January, embarked two naval ratings, six RAF personnel, and 25 men and one officer of a British Bofors gun detachment. The two ships departed Colombo on 8 February and, escorted by the Greek destroyer Vasilissa Olga, proceeded at 20 knots (37 km/h). Captain Kelley later highly praised the operations of this sole escort. Although heavy weather was encountered en route, the Greek destroyer acquitted herself well, continuing to patrol her station “at all times at high speed ahead of our zig-zag.”
After discharging her evacuees at Bombay, West Point parted company with Wakefield and proceeded to Suez where she picked up Australian troops who were being withdrawn from the North African Campaign to fight the Japanese in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, one disaster after another had plagued the Allied forces. Singapore fell on 15 February; Java on 4 March. West Point carried her embarked troops to Australia and disembarked them at Adelaide and Melbourne before heading across the Pacific toward San Francisco.
As the Allies built up for the long road back, West Point participated in the effort to aid America’s allies in the southwest Pacific with massive contingents of troops. Accordingly, the transport carried men to Wellington, New Zealand, and arrived on 30 May. There, she received orders to return to New York; and she got under way from Melbourne on 8 June, bound for the Panama Canal. She entered the Atlantic on 26 June and arrived at New York on 2 July.
After two voyages to the United Kingdom, West Point sailed for India, via the South Atlantic route, and arrived at Bombay on 29 November, before pushing on for Auckland, New Zealand, the following month.
The transport returned via Nouméa, New Caledonia, to San Francisco on 31 January 1943. She remained on the West Coast until 16 February, when she got under way for the South Pacific and retraced her route to Wellington, New Zealand, and Australian ports. She then continued west—calling at Bombay, Massawa, Aden, and Suez—and stopped briefly at Cape Town en route to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Eventually arriving at New York on 4 May, the ship subsequently made two voyages to Casablanca, French Morocco before sailing for Bombay via the southern Atlantic route. Calling at Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town en route, the big transport continued, via Bombay and Melbourne, on for the West Coast of the United States.
Soon thereafter, West Point began transporting troops to Australia and continued making voyages there and to Allied bases in the Central and South Pacific through the end of 1943.
In 1944, the transport continued her vital workhorse duties, departing San Francisco on 12 January, bound for Nouméa and Guadalcanal; and from San Pedro, Californiaon 22 February, bound for Nouméa and Milne Bay. She sailed from the latter port and steamed via the Panama Canal to Boston, Massachusetts, where she arrived on 12 June. She conducted five successive voyages to the United Kingdom before departing Boston on 6 December 1944 for Oran, Algeria; Casablanca, French Morocco; and Marseille, France. The transport left the Mediterranean on 26 December and proceeded to Norfolk, Virginia.
USS West Point arriving at New York with troops from Europe, July 1945
In 1945, West Point voyaged to Italian and French ports, via Oran or Gibraltar, staging from Hampton Roads, Virginia, Boston, or New York. After Germany surrendered, she took part in some of the initial “Magic Carpet” voyages, bringing home American troops from the European battlefronts. Following her last European voyage—to Le Havre, France—West Point was transferred to the Pacific Fleet. She departed Boston on 10 December 1945, transited the Panama Canal, and proceeded to Manila, Philippinesvia Pearl Harbor. Retracing the same route, she docked at pier 88 in New York on 7 February 1946 and soon got under way for Hampton Roads, where she was released from troop-carrying service on 22 February.
Her last voyage under the name West Point was a short trip from Portsmouth to Newport News for reconversion to a passenger liner. There, six days later, she was officially decommissioned, and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 12 March and transferred to the Maritime Commission’s War Shipping Administration.
During her naval service she carried a total of over 350,000 troops which was the largest total of any Navy troopship in service during World War II. On one voyage in 1944 she was able to transport 9,305 people. Additionally the troop transport carried Red Cross workers, United Nations officials, children, civilians, prisoners of war, and U.S.O. entertainers.
During her service in the U.S. Navy, West Point earned the following awards:
- American Defense Service Medal
- European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
- Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
- World War II Victory Medal
Postwar career (1946–1964)
America in Bremerhaven, 1958
America‘s postwar career was successful, if uneventful. Finally, she was able to sail the New York-Le Havre-Bremerhaven–Cobhroute that had been delayed by World War II. To many ship lovers, she was the most beautifully decorated liner to fly the American flag, smaller and more graceful than her much faster fleetmate, the SS United States, which debuted in 1952.
The great disparities between America and United States prevented them from becoming true running mates like the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth of the Cunard Line.
After 1955, she continued to sail the US-Europe route through at least 1960, but also served tropical ports such as Bermuda and the Caribbean. She sailed on fourteen transatlantic voyages in 1962 and eight in 1963, but was laid up in Hoboken for five months starting in September 1963 as a result of industrial action.
Chandris career (1964–1978)
America was sold to the Greek-owned Chandris Group in 1964. At twenty-four, she was getting older and facing competition from both newer, faster ships and long-range, even non-stop, air travel. The postwar emigrant run from Europe to Australia had become a lucrative market for passenger ships unable to court the luxury trade.
America, now renamed Australis (meaning “Australian”, following the naming convention of Chandris liners), was refitted extensively. Some 350 additional cabins were installed and many existing cabins were given extra berths, increasing her passenger capacity from fewer than 1,200 to 2,258. Her maiden voyage was from Southampton on 21 August 1965 to Australia and New Zealand via Piraeus and Suez, returning to Southampton via the Pacific and Panama and Miami. Thereafter she sailed regularly from Southampton, occasionally Rotterdam, on this round-the-world route. On the closure of the Suez Canal in 1967, Piraeus was dropped as a port-of-call and she sailed southbound via Cape Town.
On 11 July 1974, Australis was involved in a minor collision with the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne while in Sydney Harbour. Both ships were slightly damaged, but there were no casualties.
She was the last liner providing a regular service to Australia and New Zealand from Southampton until her final voyage which left on 18 November 1977. After arriving at Auckland, she was laid up at Timaru on 23 December 1977.
Ultimately, rising fuel costs, aging infrastructure, and the creation of long-range jetliners caused Chandris to pull Australis off the Australian run in 1978.
Venture Cruise Lines career (June 1978 – August 1978)
Following a period of layup in Timaru, New Zealand, Australis was sold to Venture Cruise Lines of New York. Under this new ownership, the ship was renamed America once again in an attempt to capitalize on the ship’s US heritage despite being registered as a Greek vessel. The ship’s hull was painted dark blue and the funnels were repainted in a blue-and-red color scheme.
America set sail on her first cruise on 30 June 1978. Her refit, however, had not been completed by the time of the sailing. The ship was in an extremely bad condition, with piles of soiled linens and worn mattresses and scattered piles of trash everywhere, together with a pungent smell of kitchen odors, engine oil, and the sounds of plumbing back-ups. In addition, water in overhead pipes leaked and dripped all over the decks. Along with these many maintenance issues, attempts to spruce the ship up led to other problems, such as the many layers of paint visible on the ship’s outer bulkheads as well as on the lifeboat davits and the lifeboat gear. Additionally, the public rooms aboard were carelessly repainted, as seen from how the America’s stainless-steel trims were then scarred with paint-brush strokes.
Due to overbooking and her state of incompletion, a number of passengers “mutinied”, forcing the captain to return to New York, having only barely passed the Statue of Liberty. 960 passengers were offloaded upon docking. On a second sailing that day, an additional 200 passengers left via tender at Staten Island.
America finally left for a five-day cruise to Nova Scotia on 3 July 1978. Upon arrival, she was met with $2.5 million in claims from passengers. Further issues saw the cancellation of all further sailings, and America was impounded on 18 July 1978 for non-payment of debts. America also received an inspection score of six out of a possible 100 points by the US Public Health Service.
On 28 August 1978, America was ordered to be sold at auction by the United States district court.
Second Chandris career (1978–1980)
SS Italis at Genoa in late 1979
Chandris Lines repurchased America for $1,000,000 and renamed her Italis. Her forward funnel had become severely corroded due to years of neglect and was removed as part of an ambitious plan to modernize her silhouette by adding streamlined superstructure above the bridge, but this ‘new look’ was never completed. She retained the dark blue hull adopted by Venture Cruise Lines.
Italis first operated under Chandris as a hotel ship from 23 June to 20 July 1979 when she was chartered for the Organisation of African Unity Conference held in Monrovia, Liberia. She then carried out three 14-night cruises from Genoa and Barcelona to Egypt, Israel and the Eastern Mediterranean beginning on 28 July 1979. At the end of this series of cruises she was finally laid up in Elefsina Bay, Piraeus, Greece on 12 September 1979.
Uncertain future at Piraeus (1979–1993)
The ship was next sold to Intercommerce Corporation in 1980, and was renamed Noga. Intercommerce’s intention was to convert the ship to a prison ship to be anchored in Beirut; but this never happened.Alferdoss/Noga in Eleusis, 1986
In September 1984, the ship was sold to Silver Moon Ferries and she was once again renamed, now carrying the name Alferdoss, which means “paradise” in Arabic. However, the new name was not completely added (since the port bow was only renamed Alferdoss), so the name on the stern and starboard bow continued to show Noga.
While under the ownership of Silver Moon Ferries, a burst bilge pipe led to flooding in the engine room and some crew quarters. Due to the quickly-occurring list, her starboard anchor was raised and her port anchor was cut away, and she was quickly beached to prevent her from sinking. After being pumped out and repaired, she was returned to her original location.
In the late 1980s, the ship was sold for $2 million for scrapping. The scrap merchant made an initial deposit of $1 million, and began work. Following the demolition of the lifeboats and lifeboat davits, the scrappers defaulted on payments, and pulled out.
Alferdoss/Noga would continue in this state until 1993.
Wrecked at Fuerteventura (1994)
American Star the day after she ran aground on Fuerteventura in 1994Wreck of American Star, 8 March 1995
In October 1992, the ship was sold yet again, with the intention of being refitted to become a five-star hotel ship off Phuket, in Thailand. Drydocking at that time revealed that despite the years of neglect, her hull was still in remarkably good condition. In August 1993 she was renamed American Star, her propellers were removed and placed on the deck at the bow, the funnel was painted red and the bridge was painted signal orange just for the tow, and ladders were welded to starboard. She left Greece on 22 December 1993 under tow, but the tow proved impossible due to inclement weather. She then returned to Greece for a few days until the weather calmed down. On 31 December 1993, American Star left Greece for the last time and under tow by Ukrainian tugboat Neftegaz-67.
The hundred-day tow began. Shortly afterwards, American Star and Neftegaz-67 sailed into a thunderstorm in the Atlantic. The tow-lines broke and six or more crew-members were sent aboard the American Star to reattach the emergency tow-lines, which proved unsuccessful. Two other towboats were called to assist Neftegaz 67. On 17 January 1994 the crew aboard American Starwas rescued by helicopter. The ship was left adrift. At 6:15 am on 18 January, the ship ran aground at Playa de Garcey off the west coast of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.
While discussions among the ship’s owners, the towing firm, and the companies insuring the ship were going on, the ship was left to nature, with the forward part of the ship running aground on a sandbar. Within the first 48 hours of grounding the pounding surf of the Atlantic broke the ship in two just past the second funnel. The ship was declared a total loss on 6 July 1994. The 344 ft (105 m) stern section collapsed completely to port and sank in 1996, while the 379 ft (116 m) bow section remained intact.The deterioration of the remains of American Star between 2005 and 2007. The stern broke off and sank in 1996, leaving only the bow section on the sandbar. Later, the ship developed a greater list to port, and the funnel detached and sank. More parts of the ship collapsed and the wreck is only visible during low tide.[when?]
In November 2005, the port side of the bow section collapsed, which caused the liner’s remains to assume a much sharper list and the remaining funnel to detach and fall into the ocean. The collapse of the port side also caused the hull to begin to break up and by October 2006, the wreck had almost completely collapsed onto its port side.
In April 2007 the starboard side finally collapsed causing the wreck to break in half and fall into the sea. Over the subsequent years, the wreck continued to collapse. At last report, a small section of the bow as well as the keel of the vessel was still visible at low tide.
It was noted in 2013 that the wreck was no longer visible on Google Maps. Google StreetView
- ^ The Noga’s port bow was renamed Alferdoss in 1984, but the starboard bow and the stern continued to show Noga until 1993 when the vessel was renamed American Star.
- ^ Jump up to: a b c d e “USS West Point (AP-23)”. Navsource. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o “West Point II (AP-23)”. DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY – NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER. http://www.history.navy.mil. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f g h “Lloyd’s Register, Navires a Vapeur et a Moteurs 1940-1941”(PDF). Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- ^ “International List of Selected and Supplementary Ships / Liste Internationale de Navires Sélectionnés et Supplémentaires” (PDF). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
- ^ Jump up to: a b c d “Australis”. New Zealand Maritime Index. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
- ^ “America”. http://www.thegreatoceanliners.com. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- ^ Jump up to: a b “Outward Bound”. TIME. Chicago, IL: TIME Inc. 28 July 1941. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- ^ “SS American Star Shipwreck”. Arrival Guides AB. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- ^ Ghareeb, Gordon R. “A WOMAN’S TOUCH: The Seagoing Interiors of Dorothy Marckwald”. Steamship Historical Society of America; Southern California Chapter. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- ^ Pat Kirkham (2002). Women Designers in the USA, 1900-2000: Diversity and Difference. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-09331-5.
- ^ Darren Byrne (28 April 2005). “SS America 1940–1941”. ss-australis.com. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
- ^ America pre war Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, ss-australis.com Archived 22 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine
- ^ Reuben Goossens. “United States Lines S.S. America 1940–1967”. SS Maritime. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
- ^ Jump up to: a b Hall, Timothy (1982). HMAS Melbourne. North Sydney, NSW: George Allen & Unwin. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-86861-284-3. OCLC 9753221.
- ^ S.S. AUSTRALIS 1967 – 1978 Archived 13 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Cabin 111 Archived 23 September 2005 at the Wayback Machine
- ^ Jump up to: a b The history of the America-West Point-Australis-American Star, SS Australis Homepage
- ^ Jump up to: a b SS America Venture Cruises New York 1978 Archived 23 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine, ss-australis.com Archived 22 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine
- ^ Alferdoss Archived 23 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine, ss-australis.com Archived 22 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine
- ^ Darren Byrne (28 April 2005). “American Star”. ss-australis.com. Archived from the original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
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- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
- Miller, W. (1991). SS United States : The story of America’s greatest ocean liner . New York, NY: W.W. Norton.
- Driscoll, Lawrence. (2003) S.S. America U.S.S. West Point S.S. Australis The Many Lives of a Great Ship Palo Alto The Glencannon Press
SS United States is a retired ocean liner built in 1950–51 for the United States Lines at a cost of $79.4 million. The ship is the largest ocean liner constructed entirely in the United States and the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlanticin either direction, retaining the Blue Riband for the highest average speed since her maiden voyage in 1952. She was designed by American naval architect William Francis Gibbs and could be converted into a troopship if required by the Navy in time of war. The United States maintained an uninterrupted schedule of transatlantic passenger service until 1969 and was never used as a troopship.
The ship has been sold several times since the 1970s, with each new owner trying unsuccessfully to make the liner profitable. Eventually, the ship’s fittings were sold at auction, and hazardous wastes, including asbestos panels throughout the ship, were removed, leaving her almost completely stripped by 1994. Two years later, she was towed to Pier 82 on the Delaware River, in Philadelphia, where she remains today.
Since 2009, a preservation group called the SS United States Conservancy has been raising funds to save the ship. The group purchased her in 2011 and has drawn up several unrealized plans to restore the ship, one of which included turning the ship into a multi-purpose waterfront complex. In 2015, as its funds dwindled, the group began accepting bids to scrap the ship; however, sufficient donations came in via extended fundraising. Large donations have kept the ship berthed at its Philadelphia dock while the group continues to further investigate restoration plans.
2017HistoryUnited StatesName:United StatesOwner:SS United States ConservancyOperator:United States LinesPort of registry:New York CityRoute:TransatlanticOrdered:1949Builder:Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock CompanyCost:$79.4 million($625 million in 2018)Yard number:Hull 488Laid down:February 8, 1950Launched:June 23, 1951Christened:June 23, 1951Maiden voyage:July 3, 1952Out of service:November 14, 1969Identification:
- IMO number: 5373476
Nickname(s):”The Big U”Fate:Laid up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.Status:Sold in 1978Owner:VariousAcquired:1978Fate:Laid up in Philadelphia in 1996.Notes:United States changed ownership multiple times from 1978 to 1996Owner:SS United States ConservancyAcquired:February 1, 2011Status:Laid up in PhiladelphiaNotes:Continual fundraising towards conservation efforts since 2011.General characteristics Class and type:Ocean linerTonnage:53,330 GRTDisplacement:
- 45,400 tons (designed)
- 47,264 tons (maximum)
- 990 ft (302 m) (overall)
- 940 ft (287 m) (waterline)
Beam:101.5 ft (30.9 m) maximumDraft:
- 31 ft 3 in (9.53 m) (design)
- 32 ft 4 in (9.86 m) (maximum)
Depth:75 ft (23 m)Decks:12Installed power:
- 4 × Westinghouse double-reduction geared steam turbines
- 8 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers operating at 1000 psi (later reduced to 925 psi) and 975 °F (524 °C)
- 4 × shafts
- 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph) (service)
- 38.32 knots (70.97 km/h; 44.10 mph) (trials)
- 43 knots (80 km/h; 49 mph) (claimed)
Capacity:1,928 passengersCrew:900SS United States (Steamship)U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Show map of PhiladelphiaShow map of PennsylvaniaShow map of the United StatesShow allLocationPier 82, Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaCoordinates39°55′4.6″N 75°8′12.8″WCoordinates: 39°55′4.6″N 75°8′12.8″WArchitectWilliam Francis GibbsNRHP reference No.99000609Added to NRHPJune 3, 1999
Design and construction
Inspired by the service of the British liners RMS Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, which transported hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to Europe during World War II, the US government sponsored the construction of a large and fast merchant vessel that would be capable of transporting large numbers of soldiers. Designed by American naval architect and marine engineer William Francis Gibbs (1886–1967), the liner’s construction was a joint effort by the United States Navy and United States Lines. The U.S. government underwrote $50 million of the $78 million construction cost, with the ship’s prospective operators, United States Lines, contributing the remaining $28 million. In exchange, the ship was designed to be easily converted in times of war to a troopship. The ship has a capacity of 15,000 troops, and could also be converted to a hospital ship.
In 1942, during World War II, the French liner SS Normandie, which had been seized by U.S. authorities in New York and renamed the USS Lafayette, caught fire while being converted to a troopship by the U.S. Navy. After millions of gallons of water had been pumped into her in an attempt to extinguish the flames, she capsized onto her port side and came to rest on the mud of the Hudson River at Pier 88, the current site of the New York Passenger Ship Terminal. As a result of this disaster, the design of the United States incorporated the most rigid U.S. Navy standards. To minimize the risk of fire, the designers of United States prescribed using no wood in the ship’s framing, accessories, decorations, or interior surfaces, although the galley did feature a wooden butcher’s block. Fittings, including all furniture and fabrics, were custom made in glass, metal, and spun-glass fiber, to ensure compliance with fireproofing guidelines set by the US Navy. Asbestos-laden paneling was used extensively in interior structures. The clothes hangers in the luxury cabins were aluminum. The ballroom’s grand piano was made from a rare, fire-resistant wood species—although originally specified in aluminum—and accepted only after a demonstration in which gasoline was poured upon the wood and ignited, without the wood itself ever catching fire. Specially commissioned artwork included pieces by fourteen artists, including Nathaniel Choate, muralist Austin M. Purves, Jr., and sculptor Gwen Lux.
The vessel was constructed from 1950–1952 at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Newport News, Virginia. The hull was constructed in a dry dock. United States was built to exacting Navy specifications, which required that the ship be heavily compartmentalized, and have separate engine rooms to optimize wartime survival. A large part of the construction was prefabricated. The ship’s hull comprised 183,000 pieces.
The construction of the ship’s superstructure involved the most extensive use of aluminum in any construction project up to that time, which posed a galvanic corrosion challenge to the builders in joining the aluminum superstructure to the steel decks below. However, the extensive use of aluminum meant significant weight savings, as well. United States had the most powerful steam turbines of any merchant marine vessel at the time, with a total power of 240,000 shaft horsepower (180 MW) delivered to four 18-foot (5.5 m)-diameter manganese-bronze propellers. The ship was capable of steaming astern at over 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph), and could carry enough fuel and stores to steam non-stop for over 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at a cruising speed of 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph).
Liner United States photographed from Portsmouth on return maiden voyage to New York, summer 1952.
On her maiden voyage—July 3–7, 1952—United States broke the eastbound transatlantic speed record (held by the RMS Queen Maryfor the previous 14 years) by more than 10 hours, making the maiden crossing from the Ambrose lightship at New York Harbor to Bishop Rock off Cornwall, UK in 3 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes at an average speed of 35.59 knots (65.91 km/h; 40.96 mph). and winning the coveted Blue Riband. On her return voyage United States also broke the westbound transatlantic speed record, also held by RMS Queen Mary, by returning to America in 3 days 12 hours and 12 minutes at an average speed of 34.51 knots (63.91 km/h; 39.71 mph). In New York her owners were awarded the Hales Trophy, the tangible expression of the Blue Riband competition. The maximum speed attained for United States is disputed as it was once held as a military secret. The issue stems from an alleged value of 43 knots (80 km/h; 49 mph) that was leaked to reporters by engineers after the first speed trial. In a 1991 issue of Popular Mechanics, author Mark G. Carbonaro wrote that while she could do 43 knots (80 km/h; 49 mph) it was never attained. Other sources, including a paper by John J. McMullen & Associates, places the ship’s highest possible sustained top speed at 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph).
After his third major victory of the year at The Open Championship in Scotland in 1953, golf legend Ben Hogan and his wife Valerie were passengers westbound to New York, where he received a ticker tape parade down Broadway.
By the mid-to-late 1960s, the market for transatlantic travel by ship had dwindled—America was sold in 1964, Queen Mary was retired in 1967, and Queen Elizabeth in 1968—and United States was no longer profitable. While United States was at Newport News for an annual overhaul in 1969, United States Lines decided to withdraw her from service, leaving the ship docked at the port. After a few years, the ship was relocated to Norfolk, Virginia. Subsequently, ownership passed between several companies.
In 1977, a group headed by Harry Katz sought to purchase the ship and dock it in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it would be used as a hotel and casino. However, nothing came of the plan. The vessel was sold in the following year for $5 million to a group headed by Seattle developer Richard H. Hadley, who hoped to revitalize the liner in a time share cruise ship format. In 1979, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) was reportedly interested in purchasing the ship and converting her into a cruise ship for cruises in the Caribbean, but decided on purchasing the former SS France instead. During the 1980s, United States was considered by the US Navy to be converted into a troopship or a hospital ship, to be called USS United States. This plan never materialized, being dropped in favor of converting two San Clemente class supertankers.
In 1984, to pay creditors, the ship’s remaining fittings and furniture were sold at auction in Norfolk. Some of the furniture was installed in Windmill Point, a restaurant in Nags Head, North Carolina. Richard Hadley’s plan of a time-share style cruise ship eventually failed financially, and the ship, which had been seized by U.S. marshals, was put up for auction by MARAD in 1992. At auction, Marmara Marine Inc.—which was headed by Edward Cantor and Fred Mayer, but with Juliedi Sadikoglu, of the Turkish shipping family, as majority owner—purchased the ship for $2.6 million. The ship was towed to Turkey and then Ukraine, where, in Sevastopol Shipyard, she underwent asbestos removal which lasted from 1993 to 1994. The interior of the ship was almost completely stripped during this time. In the US, no plans could be finalized for repurposing the vessel, and in 1996, the United States was towed to South Philadelphia.
In November 1997, Edward Cantor purchased the ship for $6 million. Two years later, the SS United States Foundation and the SS United States Conservancy (then known as the SS United States Preservation Society, Inc.) succeeded in having the ship placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2003, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) purchased the ship at auction from Cantor’s estate after his death. NCL’s intent was to fully restore the ship to a service role in their newly announced American-flagged Hawaiian passenger service called NCL America. The United States is one of the few ships eligible to enter such service because of the Passenger Service Act, which requires that any vessel engaged in domestic commerce be built and flagged in the U.S. and operated by a predominantly American crew. NCL began an extensive technical review in late 2003, after which they stated that the ship was in sound condition. The cruise line cataloged over 100 boxes of the ship’s blueprints. In August 2004, NCL commenced feasibility studies regarding a new build-out of the vessel; and in May 2006, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman of Malaysia-based Star Cruises (the owner of NCL), stated that SS United States would be coming back as the fourth ship for NCL after refurbishment. Meanwhile, the Windmill Point restaurant, which had contained some of the original furniture from the United States, closed in 2007. The ship’s furniture was donated to the Mariners’ Museum and Christopher Newport University, both in Newport News, Virginia.
When NCL America first began operation in Hawaii, it used the ships Pride of America, Pride of Aloha, and Pride of Hawaii, rather than United States. NCL America later withdrew Pride of Aloha and Pride of Hawaii from its Hawaiian service. In February 2009, it was reported that SS United States would “soon be listed for sale”.
The SS United States Conservancy was then created that year as a group trying to save United States by raising funds to purchase her. On July 30, 2009, H. F. Lenfest, a Philadelphia media entrepreneur and philanthropist, pledged a matching grant of $300,000 to help the United States Conservancy purchase the vessel from Star Cruises. A noteworthy supporter, former U.S. president Bill Clinton, has also endorsed rescue efforts to save the ship, having sailed on her himself in 1968.An artist’s rendering of the planned “multi-purpose waterfront complex”.
In March 2010, it was reported that bids for the ship, to be sold for scrap, were being accepted. Norwegian Cruise Lines, in a press release, noted that there were large costs associated with keeping United States afloat in her current state—around $800,000 a year—and that, as the SS United States Conservancy was not able to tender an offer for the ship, the company was actively seeking a “suitable buyer”. By May 7, 2010, over $50,000 was raised by The SS United StatesConservancy. The Conservancy eventually bought SS United States from NCL in February 2011 for a reported $3 million with the help of money donated by philanthropist H.F. Lenfest. The group had funds to last 20 months (from July 1, 2010) that were to go to supporting a development plan to clean the ship of toxins and make the ship financially self-supporting, possibly as a hotel or other development project. SS United States Conservancy executive director Dan McSweeney stated that he planned on placing the ship at possible locations that include Philadelphia, New York City, and Miami.
In November 2010, the Conservancy announced a plan to develop a “multi-purpose waterfront complex” with hotels, restaurants, and a casino along the Delaware Riverin South Philadelphia at the proposed location of the stalled Foxwoods Casino project. The results of a detailed study of the site were revealed in late November 2010, in advance of Pennsylvania’s December 10, 2010, deadline for a deal aimed at Harrah’s Entertainment taking over the casino project. However, the Conservancy’s deal soon collapsed, when on December 16, 2010, the Gaming Control Board voted to revoke the casino’s license.
The SS United States Conservancy assumed ownership of United States on February 1, 2011. Talks about possibly locating the ship in Philadelphia, New York City, or Miami continued into March. In New York City, negotiations with a developer were underway for the ship to become part of Vision 2020, a waterfront redevelopment plan costing $3.3 billion. In Miami, Ocean Group, in Coral Gables, was interested in putting the ship in a slip on the north side of American Airlines Arena. With an additional $5.8 million donation from H. F. Lenfest, the conservancy had about 18 months from March 2011 to make the ship a public attraction. On August 5, 2011, the SS United States Conservancy announced that after conducting two studies focused on placing the ship in Philadelphia, it was “not likely to work there for a variety of reasons”. However, discussions to locate the ship at her original home port of New York, as a stationary attraction, were reported to be ongoing. The Conservancy’s grant specifies that the refit and restoration must be done in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for the benefit of the Philadelphia economy, regardless of her eventual mooring site.
On February 7, 2012, preliminary work began on the restoration project to prepare the ship for her eventual rebuild, although a contract had not yet been signed. In April 2012, a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was released as the start of an aggressive search for a developer for the ship. A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued in May. In July 2012, the SS United States Conservancy launched a new online campaign called “Save the United States“, a blend of social networking and micro-fundraising that allowed donors to sponsor square inches of a virtual ship for redevelopment, while allowing them to upload photos and stories about their experience with the ship. The Conservancy announced that donors to the virtual ship would be featured in an interactive “Wall of Honor” aboard the future SS United Statesmuseum.
By the end of 2012, a developer was to be chosen, who would put the ship in a selected city by summer 2013. In November 2013, it was reported that the ship was undergoing a “below-the-deck” makeover, which lasted into 2014, in order to make the ship more appealing to developers as a dockside attraction. The SS United StatesConservancy was warned that if its plans were not realized quickly, there might be no choice but to sell the ship for scrap. In January 2014, obsolete pieces of the ship were sold to keep up with the $80,000-a-month maintenance costs. Enough money was raised to keep the ship going for another six months, with the hope of finding someone committed to the project, New York City still being the likeliest location.
In August 2014, the ship was still moored in Philadelphia and costs for the ship’s rent amounted to $60,000 a month. It was estimated that it would take $1 billion to return United States to service on the high seas, although a 2016 estimate for restoration as a luxury cruise ship was said to be, “as much as $700 million”. On September 4, 2014, a final push was made to have the ship bound for New York City. A developer interested in re-purposing the ship as a major waterfront destination made an announcement regarding the move. The Conservancy had only weeks to decide if the ship needed to be sold for scrap. On December 15, 2014, preliminary agreements in support of the redevelopment of SS United States were announced. The agreements included providing for three months of carrying costs, with a timeline and more details to be released sometime in 2015. In February 2015, another $250,000 was received by the Conservancy from an anonymous donor which went towards planning an onboard museum.
As of October 2015, the SS United States Conservancy had begun exploring potential bids for scrapping the ship. The group was running out of money to cover the $60,000-per-month cost to dock and maintain the ship. Attempts to re-purpose the ship continued. Ideas included using the ship for hotels, restaurants, or office space. One idea was to install computer servers in the lower decks and link them to software development businesses in office space on the upper decks. However, no firm plans were announced. The conservancy said that if no progress was made by October 31, 2015, they would have no choice but to sell the ship to a “responsible recycler”.As the deadline passed it was announced that $100,000 had been raised in October 2015, sparing the ship from immediate danger. By November 23, 2015, it was reported that over $600,000 in donations had been received for care and upkeep, buying time well into the coming year for the SS United States Conservancy to press ahead with a plan to redevelop the vessel.
Preliminary redesign for the United Statesby Crystal Cruises from a 2016 promotional video.
On February 4, 2016, Crystal Cruises announced that it had signed a purchase option for the SS United States. Crystal would cover docking costs, in Philadelphia, for nine months while conducting a feasibility study on returning the ship to service as a cruise ship based in New York City. On April 9, 2016, it was announced that 600 artifacts from the SS United States would be returned to the ship from the Mariners’ Museum and other donors.
On August 5, 2016, the plan was formally dropped, Crystal Cruises citing the presence of too many technical and commercial challenges. The cruise line then made a donation of $350,000 to help with preservation through the end of the year. The SS United States Conservancy continued to receive donations, which included one for $150,000 by cruise industry executive Jim Pollin. In January 2018, the conservancy made an appeal to U.S. president Donald Trumpto take action regarding “America’s Flagship“. If the group runs out of money, alternative plans for the ship include sinking it as an artificial reef rather than scrapping her.
On September 20, 2018, the conservancy consulted with Damen Ship Repair & Conversion about redevelopment of the United States. Damen had converted the former ocean liner and cruise ship SS Rotterdam into a hotel and mixed-use development.
On December 10, 2018, the conservancy announced an agreement with the commercial real estate firm RXR Realty, of New York City, to explore options for restoring and redeveloping the ocean liner. In 2015, RXR had expressed interest in developing an out-of-commission ocean liner as a hotel and event venue at Pier 57 in New York. The conservancy requires that any redevelopment plan preserve the ship’s profile and exterior design, and include approximately 25,000 sq ft (2,323 m2) for an onboard museum. RXR’s press release about the United States stated that multiple locations would be considered, depending on the viability of restoration plans.
In March 2020, RXR Realty announced its plans to repurpose the ocean liner as a permanently-moored 600,000 sq ft (55,740 m2) hospitality and cultural space, requesting expressions of interest from a number of major U.S. waterfront cities including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Interior decor included a children’s playroom designed by Edward Meshekoff. Other artwork was designed by Charles Gilbert of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. His work included glass panels that divided the ballroom into sections. The panels were etched with sea creatures and plants which were highlighted with gold and silver leafing.
The ship used four 60,000 lb (27,000 kg) manganese bronze propellers, two four-bladed screws outboard, and two inboard five-bladed. One of the four-bladed propellers is mounted at the entrance to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, while the other is mounted outside the American Merchant Marine Museum on the grounds of the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. The starboard-side five-bladed propeller is mounted near the waterfront at SUNY Maritime College in Fort Schuyler, New York, while the other is at the entrance of the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia, mounted on an original 63 ft (19 m) long drive shaft.
With both the eastbound and westbound speed records, the United States obtained the Blue Riband which marked the first time a US-flagged ship had held the record since the SS Baltic claimed the prize 100 years earlier. United States maintained a 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) crossing speed on the North Atlantic in a service career that lasted 17 years. United States remained unchallenged for the Blue Riband throughout her career. During this period the fast trans-atlantic passenger trade moved to air travel, and many regard the story of the Blue Riband as having ended with the United States. Her east-bound record has since been broken several times (first, in 1986, by Virgin Atlantic Challenger II), and her west-bound record was broken in 1990 by Destriero, but these vessels were not passenger-carrying ocean liners. The Hales Trophy itself was lost in 1990 to Hoverspeed Great Britain, setting a new eastbound speed record for a commercial vessel.
- SS United States at sea, 1950s
- Sun deck of SS United States, 1964 eastbound voyage
- SS United States disembarking at Le Havre, 1964
- SS United States in dock at Pier 86 in New York the morning of July 31, 1964 sailing to Le Havre and Southampton
- SS United States laid up in Hampton Roads, 1989
- SS United States docked on the Delaware River, Philadelphia, 2006
- SS United Statesbow at Pier 82, Philadelphia, 2017