SS George Washington


SS George Washington

SS "George Washington" was an ocean liner built in 1908 for the Bremen-based North German Lloyd and was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States. The ship was also known as USS "George Washington" (ID-3018) and USAT "George Washington" in service of the United States Navy and United States Army, respectively, during World War I. In the interwar period, she reverted to her original name of SS "George Washington". During World War II, the ship was known as both USAT "George Washington" and, briefly, as USS "Catlin" (AP-19), in a short, second stint in the U.S. Navy.

When "George Washington" was launched in 1908, she was the largest German-built steamship and the third-largest ship in the world. "George Washington" was built to emphasize comfort over speed and was sumptuously appointed in her first-class passenger areas. The ship could carry a total of 2,900 passengers, and made her maiden voyage in January 1909 to New York. In June 1911, "George Washington" was the largest ship to participate in the Coronation Fleet Review by the United Kingdom's newly crowned king, George V. On 14 April 1912, "George Washington" passed a particularly large iceberg south the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and radioed a warning to all ships in the area, including White Star Line ocean liner ] "George Washington" was launched on 10 November 1908 by the United States Ambassador to Germany, David Jayne Hill.The launching was originally scheduled for 31 October 1908, but was postponed due to low water in the Oder River. See: Drechsel, p. 374.] At the time of her launch, she was the third-largest ocean liner in the world, behind only Cunard Line ships , [] though present-day sources agree on a figure of ] Beginning 24 June, the North German Lloyd opened "George Washington" to the public for five days of viewing of the new ship.

Sailing on her first eastbound journey on 1 July,, purportedly of the "Titanic" iceberg. Drechsel suggests that the iceberg photographed and reported by "George Washington" may have been the same iceberg. [Drechsel, p. 32.]

Notable passengers

Throughout her Lloyd transatlantic career "George Washington" carried some notable and interesting passengers to and from Europe. In February 1910, banker Edgar Speyer, a Privy Counsellor appointed by Edward VII of the United Kingdom, arrived for a visit to the United States. [cite news | title = Sir Edgar Speyer coming | work = The Christian Science Monitor | date = 12 February 1910 | page = 2 ] Prince Tsai Tao, the uncle of the Emperor of China, departed in one of "George Washington"'s imperial suites after a four-day visit to New York in May; the arrived for his first stage performances in New York in over 20 years. [cite news | url = http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=950CE1D71330E233A25750C2A9649D946196D6CF | format = pdf | title = Ernst R. von Possart here | work = The New York Times | date = 23 December 1910 | accessdate = 2008-08-03 | page = 13 ]

Composer Engelbert Humperdinck, after attending the debut of his opera "Königskinder" at the Metropolitan Opera, sailed on "George Washington" in early January 1911 in order to attend the opera's Berlin premiere. [cite news | url = http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9904E5DC1331E233A25757C0A9679C946096D6CF | format = pdf | title = Prof. Humperdinck sails | work = The New York Times | date = 4 January 1911 | accessdate = 2008-08-03 | page = 9 ] American sculptor George Grey Barnard returned to New York in April amidst controversy over some of his works. An organization called the National Society for Protection of Morals was protesting the presence of nude figures in sculptures he executed for the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. [cite news | title = Defends his nude statues| work = The Washington Post | date = 25 April 1911 | page = 2 ] July saw "George Washington" transporting a menagerie of sorts. The liner was carrying a shipment from India of 6 white peacocks, 2 lions, 2 elephants, 150 monkeys, and some 2,000 canaries destined for the recently organized Saint Louis Zoological Park. [cite news | title = Peacock lost at sea | work = The Washington Post | date = 6 July 1911 | page = 6 ] In August, two men of note—both headed for Berlin—sailed on "George Washington". Nathan Straus, co-owner with his brother Isidor of R.H. Macy & Company, sailed as the U.S. delegate to the third world congress for the protection of infants held in Berlin. [cite news | url = http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9B0DE2DC1531E233A25753C2A96E9C946096D6CF | format = pdf | title = Nathan Straus off for world congress | work = The New York Times | date = 20 August 1911 | accessdate = 2008-08-03 | page = 9 ] Congressman Richard Bartholdt, charged by President Taft to deliver a statue of Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben to the German government, sailed with the statue, which was a gift from the American people. [cite news | title = U.S. ships statue of von Steuben | work = Christian Science Monitor | date = 19 August 1911 | page = 6 ]

Financier and philanthropist J. P. Morgan, Jr. returned from a two-month trip to Europe in November 1912; [cite news | title = J.P. Morgan, Jr., home | work = The Christian Science Monitor | date = 25 November 1912 | page = 4 ] his wife followed him home the next month.cite news | url = http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9401E6DF163FE633A25756C1A9649D946396D6CF | format = pdf | title = German Christmas liners crowded | work = The New York Times | date = 15 December 1912 | accessdate = 2008-08-03 | page = C2 ] Also arriving on "George Washington"'s November crossing was Mary Garden, a Scottish-born soprano, who was returning from a sabbatical in Scotland. [cite news | title = Yes, Mary is still lovely | work = Los Angeles Times | date = 26 November 1912 | page = I-5 ] The next month, opera singers Frieda Hempel and Leon Rains, both headed for appearances with the Metropolitan Opera, arrived on the same voyage as Mrs. Morgan. Hempel, a German soprano, was with the Berlin Royal Opera, and American tenor Rains was with the Saxon Royal Opera of Dresden.

Newlyweds Francis B. Sayre, an assistant district attorney in New York, and Jessie Wilson Sayre, the daughter of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, sailed in November 1913 for a European honeymoon. The couple, wed at the White House, traveled in one of "George Washington"'s imperial suites. [cite news | title = Bridal pair is hidden | work = The Washington Post | date = 27 November 1913 | page = 1 ] The following January, English playwright W. Somerset Maugham quietly slipped out of New York on "George Washington". Maugham had arrived in New York in mid November to see Billie Burke in the New York premiere of his play, "The Land of Promise". [cite news | url = http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9F03EED61139E633A25756C0A9679C946596D6CF | format = pdf | title = Maugham praises our playwrights | work = The New York Times | date = 5 January 1914 | accessdate = 2008-08-03 | page = 9 ]

World War I

"George Washington" continued operating on the Bremen – New York route until World War I when she sought refuge in New York, a neutral port in 1914. With the American entry into the war in 1917, "George Washington" was taken over 6 April and towed to the New York Navy Yard for conversion into a transport. She commissioned 6 September 1917, with Captain Edwin T. Pollock in command.cite DANFS | author = Naval Historical Center | title = George Washington | url = http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/g4/george_washington-ii.htm | short = on ]

"George Washington" sailed with her first load of troops 4 December 1917 and during the next 2 years made 18 round trip voyages in support of the American Expeditionary Forces. During this period she also made several special voyages. President Woodrow Wilson and the American representatives to the Paris Peace Conference sailed for Europe in "George Washington" 4 December 1918. On this crossing she was protected by USS|Pennsylvania|BB-38|2, and was escorted into Brest, France, 13 December by nine battleships and several divisions of destroyers in an impressive demonstration of American naval strength. "George Washington" also carried Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt and the Chinese and Mexican peace commissions to France in January 1919 and on 24 February returned President Wilson to the United States. The President again embarked on board "George Washington" in March 1919; arriving France 13 March, and returned at the conclusion of the historic conference 8 July 1919.

During the fall of 1919, "George Washington" carried another group of distinguished passengers—King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium and their party. Arriving New York 2 October, the royal couple paid a visit before returning to Brest 12 November. Subsequently, the ship was decommissioned 28 November 1919 after having transported some 48,000 passengers to Europe and 34,000 back to the United States. The ship was turned over to the United States Shipping Board on 28 January 1920.

"The Hatchet" newspaper

Starting in February 1919, when Woodrow Wilson was crossing the Atlantic, returning from his first visit to Europe, reporters and others onboard published a small newspaper from the ship printing office, and titled it "The Hatchet" (a reference to the tale about .]

Interwar passenger service

After her delivery to the United States Shipping Board (USSB), "George Washington" was used to transport 250 members of the American Legion to France as guests of the French Government in 1921. The vessel was then reconditioned by USSB for transatlantic service, and chartered by the U.S. Mail Steamship Company, for whom she made one voyage to Europe in March 1921. The company was taken over by the government August 1921 and its name changed to the United States Lines. "George Washington" served the Line on the transatlantic route until 1931 when she was laid up in the Patuxent River, Maryland.

World War II

"George Washington" was reacquired for Navy use from the United States Maritime Commission on 28 January 1941 and commissioned as USS "Catlin" (AP-19) on 13 March 1941. She was named in honor of Brigadier General Albertus W. Catlin, USMC. It was found, however, that the coal-burning engines did not give the required speed for protection against submarines, and she was decommissioned on 26 September 1941. Because of their great need for ships in 1941, Great Britain took the ship over under Lend-Lease on 29 September 1941 as "George Washington", but they too found after one voyage to Newfoundland that her engines rendered her unfit for combat service and returned her to the War Shipping Administration (WSA) on 17 April 1942.

The ship was next operated under General Agency Agreement by the Waterman Steamship Co., Mobile, Alabama, and made a voyage to Panama. After her return on 5 September 1942 the WSA assigned "George Washington" to be converted to an oil-burner at Todd Shipbuilding's Brooklyn Yard. When she emerged on 17 April 1943, the transport was chartered by the United States Army and made a voyage to Casablanca and back to New York with troops between April and May 1943.

In July, "George Washington" sailed from New York to the Panama Canal, thence to Los Angeles and Brisbane, Australia. Returning to Los Angeles, she sailed again in September to Bombay and Cape Town, and arrived at New York to complete her round-the-world voyage in December 1943. In January 1944 "George Washington" began regular service to the United Kingdom and the Mediterranean, again carrying troops in support of the Allies in Europe from. She made frequent stops at Le Havre, Southampton, and Liverpool.

"George Washington" was taken out of service and returned to the Maritime Commission 21 April 1947. She remained tied to a pier at Baltimore, until a fire damaged her 16 January 1951. She was subsequently sold for scrap to the Boston Metals Corporation of Baltimore on 13 February 1951.

Notes

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