USS Aeolus (ID-3005)

USS Aeolus (ID-3005)

USS "Aeolus" (ID-3005), sometimes also spelled "Æolus", was a United States Navy transport ship during World War I. She was formerly the North German Lloyd liner SS "Grosser Kurfürst", also spelled "Großer Kurfürst", launched in 1899 that sailed regularly between Bremen and New York. At the outset of World War I the ship was interned by the United States and, when that country entered the conflict in 1917, was seized and converted to a troop transport.

Originally commissioned as USS "Grosser Kurfürst", the ship was renamed "Aeolus" — after the god of wind in Greek mythology — while undergoing repairs and conversion at a U.S. Navy yard. The ship carried almost 25,000 men to France during the hostilities, and returned over 27,000 healthy and wounded men after the Armistice.

After decommissioning by the U.S. Navy, the ship was turned over to the United States Shipping Board and underwent a $3,000,000 refit in Baltimore, Maryland, and was transferred to the Munson Steamship Company for whom she carried passengers and freight to and from South American ports as SS "Aeolus". In 1922 the ship was assigned to the Los Angeles Steamship Co. and renamed SS "City of Los Angeles" and sailed to and from Los Angeles and Honolulu. In 1937, the ship was sold for scrapping in Japan.

SS "Grosser Kufürst"

SS "Grosser Kurfürst" — a steel-hulled, twin-screw, passenger-and-cargo steamship launched on 2 December 1899 at Danzig, Germany, (now Gdańsk, Poland) by the shipbuilding firm of F. Schichau for the North German Lloyd — made her maiden voyage to Asiatic and Australian ports before commencing regularly scheduled voyages from spring 1900 between Bremen and New York City which continued until summer 1914.

When World War I broke out in Europe, "Grosser Kurfürst" — a liner that boasted "enormous carrying capacity" and "excellent passenger accommodation" for all classes from first to steerage — was forced to seek shelter in American waters. The United States Government interned these ships wherever they had put into port, and upon the entrance of the United States into the hostilities on the side of the Allied and Associated Powers — on 6 April 1917 — took them over for "safe keeping." U.S. Customs agents boarded "Grosser Kurfürst" in the port of New York, along with 30 other German and Austro-Hungarian vessels, and sent their crews to an internment camp on Ellis Island. However, before these sailors left their ships, they carried out a program of systematic destruction calculated to take the longest possible time to repair.

USS "Aeolus"

The United States Navy inspected "Grosser Kurfürst" and designated her "Id. No. 3005" and earmarked her for service with the Cruiser and Transport Force to carry troops to France. She commissioned as "Grosser Kurfürst" on 4 August 1917, at the New York Navy Yard, Comdr. Clarence S. Kempff in command. While the ship was undergoing the repairs and alterations necessitated by the German sabotage and in light of her expected role carrying troops across the Atlantic, General Order No. 320 of 1 September 1917 changed her name to "Aeolus".

On 26 November 1917, the erstwhile luxury steamship, now wearing warpaint, departed the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, New Jersey, bound for Europe on the first of eight round-trip voyages during World War I, carrying troops to the Old World. She reached St. Nazaire, France, on 10 December and spent Christmas in that French port before she headed home on 28 December, bringing the voyage to a close when mooring at Newport News, Virginia, nine days into 1918. Shifting thence to Hoboken, "Aeolus" again sailed to France and returned from Brest again to Hoboken

Two events highlighted the ship's wartime convoy experiences. The first occurred during the beginning of what was to be the ship's third voyage to France. "Aeolus", in convoy, departed Hoboken on 23 April 1918. Two days out, a steering gear casualty in the transport USS|Siboney|ID-2999|2 forced that ship to leave her assigned place in the formation. "Aeolus", to avoid collision with "Siboney", altered course radically, and in so doing struck the transport USS|Huron|ID-1408|2 at about 21:00 hours, 25 April. Fortunately, no lives were lost; but both transports were damaged which necessitated their turning back. "Aeolus" reached Hoboken on 28 April.

The second event occurred on 1 August 1918, while the ship was returning to the United States from Brest. At 06:05, lookouts spotted what looked to be the wake of a submarine periscope, some convert|6000|yd distant. Changing course, "Aeolus" stood to general quarters and within a minute of the sighting, her number one and three guns commenced firing. For the next few minutes, her gunners fired at the diminishing target until it pulled out of range at 06:15.

While the signing of the armistice of 11 November 1918 signalled the end of hostilities — an occasion that found the ship en route from St. Nazaire to Newport News — it only meant the beginning of the task of returning American troops from "over there." During the war, "Aeolus" had transported 24,770 men to the European battlefront in her eight voyages. In the postwar months, "Aeolus" conducted a further seven turn-around voyages, bringing back some 22,080 healthy veterans, and some 5,018 wounded and sick. Commencing her last voyage from Brest on 26 August 1919, "Aeolus" reached New York City on 5 September and was immediately detached from the Cruiser and Transport Force.

Decommissioned at Newport News on 22 September 1919 and turned over to the United States Shipping Board, "Aeolus" was presumably struck simultaneously from the Navy list.

Post-war civilian service

Early in 1920, the Shipping Board let what one contemporary marine engineering journal called "one of the most extensive ship repair contracts ever awarded" in the history of the United States, to the Baltimore Dry Dock and Ship Building Co., of Baltimore, Maryland, to renovate the ship. Over the next few months, "Aeolus" underwent massive alterations at a cost of nearly $3,000,000.

Remodelled quarters, an extensive refrigeration system to preserve cargoes of frozen meats as well as the food to be consumed during the voyage, and the conversion of the ship from coal to oil fuel, all helped to make "Aeolus" one of the best-equipped liners afloat. Resplendent in her new livery — a battle gray hull with a white superstructure — "Aeolus" departed Baltimore on 20 November 1920 and proceeded to New York City where, shortly thereafter, she was turned over to her operators, the Munson Steamship Company.

"Aeolus" sailed under the Munson Line's house flag, carrying passengers and freight to and from South American ports until the summer of 1922. In August of that year, she came under the flag of the Los Angeles Steamship Co. and was renamed "City of Los Angeles". After being thoroughly reconditioned for her new operators, the liner sailed on 11 September 1922 for her maiden voyage under her new name, bound for Honolulu, Hawaii, in a new dazzling white paint scheme. In early 1931, the handsome liner figured in an experimental shore-to-ship air mail flight. A Ford Trimotor — flying from the Grand Central Air Terminal at Glendale, California — followed "City of Los Angeles" out to sea and, off the California coast, dropped a bag containing 12,527 envelopes onto the passenger liner's deck. The March 1931 issue of the "Merchant Marine Bulletin" speculated that this was probably the largest single consignment of airmail ever to pass through the Honolulu Post Office.

"City of Los Angeles" plied the Pacific between Los Angeles and Honolulu until she was sold to Japanese interests in February 1937 and cut up for scrap.



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