USS America (ID-3006)

USS America (ID-3006)

USS "America" (ID-3006) was a troop transport for the United States Navy during World War I. She was launched in 1905 as SS "Amerika" by Harland and Wolff in Belfast for the Hamburg America Line of Germany. As a passenger liner, she sailed primarily between Hamburg and New York. In April 1912, "Amerika" relayed wireless messages about icebergs near the same area where RMS "Titanic" struck one and sank less than 24 hours later. At the outset of World War I, "Amerika" was interned at Boston rather than risking seizure by the British Royal Navy.

Upon the entry of the United States into the war, "Amerika" was seized and placed under control of the United States Shipping Board (USSB). Later transferred to the U.S. Navy for use as a troop transport, she was initially commissioned as USS "Amerika" with Identification Number 3006 (ID-3006), but her name was soon Anglicized to "America". As "America" she transported almost 40,000 troops to France. She sank at her mooring in New York in 1918, but was soon raised and reconditioned. After the Armistice, "America" transported over 51,000 troops back home from Europe. In 1919, she was handed over to the War Department for use by the United States Army as USAT "America", under whose control she remained until 1920.

Returned to the USSB in 1920, "America" was initially assigned to the United States Mail Steamship Company, and later, after that company’s demise, to United States Lines, for whom she plied the North Atlantic on Bremen to New York routes. In March 1926, near the end of one of her periodic refits, "America" suffered a fire that raged for seven hours and burned nearly all of her passenger cabins. Despite almost $2,000,000 in damage, the ship was rebuilt and back in service by the following year. In April 1931, "America" ended her service for the United States Lines and was laid up for almost nine years.

In October 1940, "America" was reactivated for the U.S. Army and renamed USAT "Edmund B. Alexander". After a stint as a barracks ship at St. John's, Newfoundland, the "Alexander" was refitted for use as a troopship for World War II duty. She was first placed on a New Orleans to Panama route, but later transferred to trooping between New York and European ports. At the end of the war, "Edmund B. Alexander" was converted to carry military dependents, remaining in that service until 1949. She was placed in reserve until sold for scrapping in January 1957.

SS "Amerika"

"Amerika" — a steel-hulled, twin-screw, steam passenger liner— was launched on 20 April 1905 at Belfast, Northern Ireland, by the noted shipbuilding firm of Harland and Wolff, Ltd. Built for the Hamburg America Line, the steamer entered transatlantic service in the autumn of 1905, when she departed Hamburg on 11 October, bound for the United States. Easily one of the most luxurious passenger vessels to sail the seas, "Amerika" entered upper New York Bay on 20 October, reaching the Hamburg America piers at Hoboken, New Jersey, in mid-afternoon. Some 2,000 people turned out to watch her as she was moored near her consorts at the Hamburg America Line which were bedecked in colorful bunting in nearby slips.

Lavishly decorated throughout, "Amerika" boasted of a couple of unique shipboard features; an electric passenger elevator, and an a-la-carte restaurant which, from early morning to midnight, offered a variety of dishes to delight the discriminating gourmet.

From 1905 to 1914, "Amerika" plied the North Atlantic trade routes touching at Cherbourg, France, while steaming between Hamburg and New York. Toward the end of that period, her itinerary was altered so that the ship also called at Boulougne, France, and Southhampton, England. "Amerika" was responsible for the accidental loss of British submarine , and "America" reached Trieste on 8 August, disembarking their contingents of Czechs without incident.

SS "America"

For "America", further service awaited with the United States Lines. Reconditioned to resume her place in the transatlantic passenger trade, she commenced her maiden voyage as an American passenger liner on 22 June 1921, sailing for Bremen, Germany, with stops at Plymouth, England, and Cherbourg, France, en route.

For the next 11 years, "America" plied the Atlantic, ranking third only in size to the United States Lines' ships "Leviathan" and George Washington—the latter running mate from the Cruiser-Transport Force days. On two occasions, "America" figured in the headlines.

Fire and rescue

The first occurred on 10 March 1926, as the ship lay moored in the yard of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia awaiting final trials after being reconditioned. A fire broke out on board only a day before she was to be returned to her owner. The fire burned for seven hours and eventually consumed most of the passenger cabins as it swept the ship nearly from stem to stern, causing an estimated $2,000,000 worth of damage.

The second newsworthy incident began on 22 January 1929 when "America"—then commanded by Captain George Fried—was steaming from France to New York. As she battled her way through a major storm, the liner picked up distress signals from the Italian steamship, "Florida". Guided by her radio direction finder, the American ship homed in on the Italian and, late the following afternoon, finally sighted the endangered vessel through light snow squalls. Taking a position off "Florida's" weather beam, "America" lowered her number one lifeboat, commanded by her Chief Officer, Harry Manning, with a crew of eight men.

After the boat had been rowed to within 50 feet of the listing "Florida", Manning had a line thrown across to the eager crew of the distressed freighter One by one, the 32 men from the Italian ship came across the rope. By the time the last of them, the ship's captain, had been dragged on board the pitching lifeboat, the winds had reached gale force, with violent snow and rain squalls, with a high, rough, sea running. Then, via ladders, ropes, cargo nets, and two homemade breeches buoys, sailors on board "America" brought up "Florida's" survivors, until all 32 were safe and sound. Finally, they pulled their shipmates from the rescue party back on board. Chief Officer Manning was brought up last. Captain Fried felt that it was highly dangerous to attempt to hoist the number one lifeboat on board and, rather than risk lives, ordered it cut adrift.


In 1931 and 1932, after two modern ships, "Washington" and "Manhattan", had been added to the fleet of the United States Lines, "America" was laid up at Point Patience, Maryland, on the Patuxent River, along with her consorts of days gone by — "George Washington", "Agamemnon", and "Mount Vernon", all veterans of the old Cruiser-Transport Force. For the next eight years, "America" lay in reserve, as she awaited the call back to service.

USAT "Edmund B. Alexander"

When the United States transferred 50 surplus destroyers to the British government in the destroyers for bases agreement during the summer of 1940, one of the acquisitions was Pepperrell Air Force Base at St. John's, Newfoundland but no barracks existed at St. John's for troops, so an interim solution had to be provided.

As a result, in October 1940, "America" was towed to Baltimore, Maryland, to undergo rehabilitation in the Bethlehem Steel Company yard. Earmarked for use as a floating barracks, the ship would provide quarters for 1,200 troops — the garrison for the new base at St. John's. Still a coal-burner, the ship could only make a shadow of her former speed — 10 knots.

With the ship's new role came a new name. Possibly to avoid confusion with the liner "America", then building at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, her name was changed to "Edmund B. Alexander", in keeping with the Army's policy of naming its oceangoing transports for famous general officers. This name honored Edmund Brooke Alexander.

Ready for her new duties by January 1941, "Edmund B. Alexander" sailed for Newfoundland, escorted by Coast Guard Cutter USCGC|Duane|WPG-33|2. She remained there, a floating barracks, until quarters to house the troops had been constructed on shore. At that time, June 1941, she returned to New York.

Extensive repairs in the yards of the Atlantic Basin Iron Works followed. The ship operated briefly between New Orleans and the Panama Canal Zone. Subsequently ordered to Baltimore in May 1942, "Edmund B. Alexander" spent almost a year undergoing a major facelift, as well as internal work. During the overhaul, she acquired a single funnel, replacing the two, and was converted to burn fuel oil instead of coal. Most importantly, she could now turn up the speed she used to make; 17 knots.

"Edmund B. Alexander" carried troops between New York and the European and Mediterranean theaters for the remainder of World War II. Altered during February and March 1946 to carry military dependents (904 adults—possibly war brides—and 314 children) back from Europe, she performed such duty for the next three years and was placed in reserve at Hawkins Point, Maryland, on 26 May 1949. Taken thence on 28 January 1951 to lay-up in the Hudson River, "Edmund B. Alexander" remained there for almost six more years.

This time the call back to active service never sounded. The ship was sold to the Bethlehem Steel Company of Baltimore, on 16 January 1957 and was broken up under the scrapper's torch a short time later.



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