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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author

The great SS America was lowered the American flag in November 1964, and became the Chandris Lines SS Australia

A short Introduction:

For me personally the “S.S. America” story is quite unique, as this truly great ship was designed the one of the great in naval/maritime design William Francis Gibbs of “Gibbs & Cox” of New York. And layer in her career I just happened to manage her and another of Gibbs great masterpieces, as he also was the designer of those great Matson Liners, such as the Lurline and Monterey, etc, but all that will come later in this very special multi faceted feature!

I am in such awe of the late great William F. Gibbs that I have and image of his bust proudly hanging in my gallery, and we should also remember that he was also the designer of the greatest of all American liners the S.S. United States, a ships that remains with us to this very day, and ssMaritime, together with Save the Classic Liner Campaign fully supports the great effort that is being undertaken by the S.S. United States Conservancy, which has for interest a very interesting person on the board, Susan Gibbs, the granddaughter of William Francis Gibbs! Please visit … www.savetheclassicliners.com.

Therefore this page covers the S.S. America from her very conception in the mid 1930s to her sale to Chandris Lines in 1964. Thus you will the relevant are links located at the bottom of this page covering her later incarnation. In addition you will also find a Photo Page showing so much more of her interiors, and another Page with a complete Deck Plan of the S.S. America as built, revealing the ship with her original Cabin Class, Tourist and Third Class! In addition you will discover that you are able to click on each deck in order to enlarge it (opens on a separate page) providing a greatly improved view. Thus, I believe that is feature will have much for all classic ship lovers, but especially those who love and admire this amazingly great Liner, the S.S. America!

Reuben Goossens.

Maritime Historian, Author & Lecturer & Cruise'n'Ship Reviewer.

Working for almost 55 years in the Passenger Shipping Industry.

Here we see a delightful company photograph of the S.S. America looking so beautiful and graceful!

 

PLEASE NOTE:

Photographs: Many of the images on this page are from the author’s private collection, having obtained them when he managed the GSA of Chandris Lines, who operated the ex S.S. America, then the S.S. Australis. These photographs came from the agencies files and have been retained to this day! Those that are from other sources will as shown.

This page will cover S.S. America’s glory years for she was indeed the “Grand Forerunner” to the mighty S.S. United States, yet the America was a very special and certainly a magnificent Liner and the author in many ways preferred her to

An image of the bust of William Francis Gibb

The actual bust is located at the “New-York Historical Society Museum

The Planning and Building of a Grand New Liner:

The United States Lines together with the Shipping Board of America commenced negotiating in 1933 for the building of a new Liner to replace the S.S. Leviathan. Then on March 19, 1934 the United States Lines and the Shipping Board signed a contract promising to start construction within the next 6 months of a new ship, although the ship remained unnamed. A month later it was announced that the famed William Francis Gibb of, Gibbs and Cox Naval Architects had been given the job of designing a new ship, that would be the grand design for another, but the ultimate American liner, thus this as yet unnamed ship would ultimately be dubbed as the “Grand Forerunner” of the S.S. United States!

We need to understand that the S.S. Leviathan has been laid up from 1933 to 1937, as she had been losing huge amounts on the Atlantic service. With this in mind, the agreement was stalled several times, but thankfully it was finally set in concrete, so to say, on March 18, 1935. On March 20, United States Lines President, Mr. Basil Harris stated that the company proceed quickly with the Gibbs & Cox plans for a $12 million, 50,000 gross ton, 24 knot super cabin liner.

However, nothing more was heard until the announcement by the Shipping Board on September 14, 1935 who finally instructed the United States Lines to order the ship by December 16, or face a $1 million penalty. You may ask why, the sudden hurry? The Shipping Board was well aware what was happening in Europe and that it was more than likely that a major war could well commence. Thus this new ship would be already prepared for such possibilities, for the “United States Maritime Commission” had subsidized her construction and certain “defence features” had been included.

Tenders were officially sought on October 10, however on November 12 there was just one applicant, being Newport News Ship building & Dry Dock Company, and at a huge bid of US$15,890,000. Obviously, considerable negotiations would go on with Newport News, and there were even several other tenders coming in. But finally a US$15,759,000 contract was signed on October 22, 1937. Thus, there was not a huge saving to be made considering the total amount. On February 8, 1938, the ships lines and dimensions had been fully approved and the go ahead given!

At the yard, up to 5,000 tons of steel was arriving as her building officially began on June 19, 1938, but her keel was to be laid in late August, with the launching set for July 15, 1939, and delivery for February 20, 1940.

The new ship was designated “number 569” and her keel was laid at 11:00 AM on August 22, 1938. The Maritime Commission Chairman, Rear Admiral Emory S. Land, was the man to drive the first rivet in, and for this, he received a shipyard official “pay check” for six cents! This event was attended by the United States Lines Vice President, Mr. A.J. McCarthy, and Newport News President, Mr. Homer l Ferguson. By September 19, they had used a good 1,915 Tons (4,222,935 pounds) of steel and 112,000 rivets to complete her double bottom.

Naming the New Ship:

Although it was on December 4, 1938, the company’s President, Mr. John Franklin, officially stated that their new Liner would be named “America.” But, there had been an astounding list of names she could have had, for all of the following were considered: “Columbia, Martha Washington, Constitution, Mayflower, Mount Vernon, Abraham Lincoln, United States, New Yorker, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Gettysburg.” OK, these were all wonderful and good names, but I feel that; S.S. America was just perfect for this superb Liner!

A wonderful view her stern, rudder and her two - four bladed propellers

 

A great view of her bow during her building at Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock

Launching of the S.S. America:

With the S.S. America having been completed ready to head for her refitting berth, she was made ready for her official launching, which would take place on August 31 1939.  Having been designed and built to weather any kind of North Atlantic conditions the company was looking forward to see their new liner head across to Southampton, but her entry into that market would be slightly delayed for the day after she was launched, Hitler invaded Poland, and suddenly the world found itself at war. Thus, sending this new liner across the Atlantic was suddenly no longer an option and a new solution was sought!

A delightful impression the S.S. America seen at her joyful launching

But, the launching would go ahead, and it would be a major event! Significantly, her gala launching on August 31, 1939 and official “Christening” ay the hand of First Lady Mrs. Franklin D Roosevelt that was witnessed by more than 30,000 people, was of course overshadowed because what would happen the very next day. However, the United States was already prepared for such possibilities, for the “United States Maritime Commission” had subsidized her construction and certain “defence features” had been inconspicuously incorporated into her design!

With the America’s hull and superstructure having been just primer painted. And having a launch weight of 16,870 tons, she slipped majestically into the James River. And finally the great S.S. America had been born! After the S.S. America was launched she headed to her fit-out berth to be fitted and have her seaworthiness tickets endorsed, etc.

She is seen here during her fitting out process and her forward funnel has just been placed onboard

But note the height, as it is rather low, more re this after her official navy the “measured” mile trails!

S.S. America finally completed departed form the yard at 0400 on June 4, 1940 under the command of Captain Joseph Kemp, onboard there was some 500 yard workers for her official trials of Virginia Capes. She returned 24 hours later with “all’s well.” On the June 9 she headed to be dry docked at the Boston Naval yard for painting of her underwater hull.

Next would be the standard Navy trials for the “measured” mile course off Rockland Maine. These were held on June 13 and 14, followed by an 8 hour endurance run on which she averaged 24.68 knots and under full revolutions delivering a staggering 42,850 SHP reaching 25.3 knots.

Here we see the S.S. America at her fit-out berth on March 11, 1940

But note her original rather low “San Pan” funnels, which had to be heightened by a good 4.5m

The America was returned to New Port News for some minor alterations and one rather big mistake that being her low “San Pan funnels” as these were a disappointment. Without any publicity whatsoever, they were raised 4.57m - 15 feet that really enhanced her appearance greatly. Another reason they had to be lifted was a problem with smoke dispersion, as smut from her aft stack covering her spacious aft decks. Whilst being painted for completion, as a safe guard against possible submarine attack, both sides of the S.S. America’s hull were emblazoned with her name and country, as well as two large American flags at the side, and against all normal war regulations, she would sail at night with her hull fully illuminated!

Here we see a delightful label featuring her forward “San Pan” funnel

Delivery and the First Year of Operation:

The completed S.S. America arrives on July 2 in New York City for the very first time and she is fully decked out!

The S.S. America was officially delivered to the United States Lines in New York on July 2, 1940. However, it would take some time to prepare the ship for her new role, which would be as a cruise ships around the West Indies (the Caribbean). She had to be fully stored up with an ever higher grade of services, being a cruise ship as well as food, and fine wines, additional bands, and vocalists, etc, as well have all of her 618 officers and crew well and truly get used to the new ships and settled in before she could be ready for her maiden voyage over a month later.

However, prior to her official maiden voyage, she did operate two special “ten hour voyages to nowhere.” On August 5, she sailed at 10.00 AM with some 1,300 travel agents on board, whilst the next day she sailed on another voyage with 1,500 freight agents.

Then on August 10, 1940, the beautiful S.S. America finally departed on her maiden voyage, being a cruise of course to the Caribbean with some 775 passengers onboard, but there was a crowd of over 3,000 people waving the ship off, such was the occasion!

Great excitement before the new liner sets sail on her Maiden Voyage

 

S.S. America is seen departing on her maiden cruise to the West Indies on August 10, 1940

S.S. America returned on the 22nd August after her cruise to San Juan. Although having been a successful and triumphant voyage, these cruises would continue for just a few months. There was no doubt everyone loved the ship and thus these cruises proved to be popular and the ship in this short time gained many new friends, for she was indeed a great American, both by name and in due course she would become a fine International American Ambassador!

In an amusing way, the Philadelphia newspaper on August 24, in part of their article stated; “Above all else you are sailing the American Seas, under the American flag on an American ship armed with nothing but the Stars and Stripes.”

The Ship and her Interiors:

The S.S. America certainly had a strikingly handsome appearance, and looked a well balanced ship, with her black hull, red boot topping with a fine white line separating it with the black hull, and the gleaming white superstructure. Thus, she presented a sleek and certainly dramatic appearance as her tall prow was severely flared with that slight “clipper” rake, and her nicely designed superstructure of four decks above the main deck level, topped with a beautifully curved bridge as well as her long glass enclosed promenade decks. Then topping her beautifully-proportioned superstructure were those two now taller oval shaped funnels, fitted with “San-Pan” tops. Although, the forward funnel, was in reality a “dummy funnel” which was the norm to create that well-balanced profile, but it did house an emergency generator. The *“San Pan” funnels were also fitted later to her new and larger sister ship, the S.S. United States.

*”San Pan” funnels became very much a future trademark of United States Lines, and became a big feature on the S.S. United States and other of the company’s ships.

Here we see a 1952 German poster, but it does shows off the “San Pan” funnels rather well!

S.S. America was in many ways a very unusual liner, the reason being that she was the very first American liner to have her interiors designed by women, who did away with those old and crusty very traditional heavy and that overwrought décor in favour of a far more friendly and modern, thus a more sophisticated design. The America would incorporate the latest in design using such materials as the finest ceramics and stainless steel, as well as the latest in safety features. She was considered as the most beautiful and elegant of any of the American ships, and her passengers were provided with the last word in comfort, cuisine and the very best in service.

Thus, knowing the details as per above, which is not generally know, it becomes understandable that the S.S. America’s interiors was the ultimate in contemporary American design and décor, all thanks to her interiors designers “Smyth, Urquart & Marckwald of New York, who decided to utilise items such as aluminium, stainless steel, ceramics and synthetic fibres as I already mentioned in part above.

Of particular interest was the circular First Class Smoking Room with a huge mural surrounded the aft entrance door, and the huge beautifully designed two deck high Main Lounge with the gallery above on two sides. Again the magnificent brass and glass forward doors was surrounded by a suberb huge mural that reached right up to the ceiling, then aft was a spacious stage for the orchestra and the screen, as this lounge was also used as the Cinema. The Ballroom of the S.S. America will not be easily forgotten by anyone who ever spent an evening in this particular Cabin/First Class venue, for it was without a doubt one of the most beautiful and stunning lounges ever conceived on any ship on the seven seas, it had than nightclub feel, yet this gold  and red venue was sublimely elegant! Below on C Deck, there was the beautifully mosaic tiled indoor Swimming Pool. Cabin, later Tourist Class also had an superb range of elegant Lounges and these like those forward in Cabin/First Class were as superbly decorated and had that special woman’s toutch, as the images below will prove!

Images of her Interior’s

The Cabin, later the First Class, Main Lounge and her beautiful brass doors surrounded with a grand mural to say the least!

Colourised by the author

 

---------------

Above Left: Another look at the forward doors and mural of the Cabin/First Class Lounge

Above Right: A delightful lounge with style and glamour, yet in Tourist, later Cabin Class Lounge

 

The wonderful rich gold’s and red of the Cabin/First Class Ballroom!

Please Note: There is a separate page with photographs of her interiors, decks and accommodations!

S.S. America’s machinery had a weight of some 2,514 tons and consisted of two sets of Parsons geared steam turbines producing 34,000 SHP driving twin, four bladed screws. And this has brought me to her specifications, which I will now cover, but I will do this in far more detail than I do normally as you will see!

S.S. America - Comprehensive Specifications from 1940 to 1964:

Names:                                  S.S. America - 1939 to 1941.

                                             U.S.S. West Point - 1941 to 1946.

                                             S.S. America - 1946 to 1964.

Later names:                           S.S. Australis - 1964 to 1978 Chandris Lines.

                                             S.S. America - June 1978 to August 1978 Venture Cruises.

                                             S.S. Italis - 1978 to 1980 Chandris Group.

                                             S.S. Noga - 1980 to 1984 Intercommerce Corp.

                                             S.S. Alferdoss - 1984 to 1993 Silver Moon Ferries.

                                             S.S. American Star - 1994.

Built by:                                 Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock.

Naval Architects:                     William Francis Gibbs of Gibbs & Cox, New York (NY).

Interior Architects:                   Eggers & Higgins, NY.

Interior Design:                       Smyth, Urquart &  Marckwald, NY.

Launched:                              August 31, 1939.

Delivered:                              July 2, 1940.

Maiden Voyage:                       August 10, 1940.

Tonnage:                                26,454 Gross Registered Tons (GRT) 1940.

                                             35,440 Full Displacement Tons.

                                             26,314 GRT - 1946.

                                             33,961 GRT - 1960.

Length:                                  220.4m - 723ft.

Breadth:                                 28.4m - 3.6ft.

Draught:                                8.83m -28ft.

Machinery:                             Two Parsons steam turbines from builders.

Screws:                                  Two four bladed screws – 126 RPM – 37,400 SHP at normal speed.

Speed:                                   22 knots service speed, maximum over 24 knots.

Fuel Consumption:                   Around 250 tons per day.

Bunker capacity:                      4,938 tons.

Cargo Capacity:                       323,644 - 1940.

                                             270,964 - 1946.

Watertight bulkheads:              14.

Passenger Decks:                    10.

Pubic Venues:                         23.

Passengers:                            543 Cabin Class, 418 Tourist Class, 241 Third Class - 1940.

                                             516 First Class, 371 Cabin Class, 159 Tourist Class – 1946.

                                             516 First Class, 530, Tourist Class – 1960.

Officers and Crew:                   618 - 1940.

                                             785 - 1941 to 1946 USS West Point.

                                             646 - 1946 to 1960.

                                             675 - 1960.

For interest: Although I have covered her names from 1964 to her end in 1994, none of this will be covered on this page, except for the sale details at the end of her career with the United States Lines! However, there are links to the associate pages that will continue the story of the lives of this great Liner, as well as her other pages, including a Photo Page and a comprehensive 1940 Deck Plan, with each deck having a link for enlargements!!

World War II:

SS America receives her grey war paint on June 2, 1941, days before she is officially commissioned for war duties

Photograph from the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command - No. 19-N-24561

S.S. America was officially acquired by the United States Navy, and she would be converted from a 1,202 passenger liner to accommodate some 5,400, and later to over 8,000 service men and women. During the war she would transport well over 300,000 troops safely all over the world, and she also sailed without escort ships to protect her. Using the ship’s speed and manoeuvrability, her crew outwitted hostile craft at sea.

On June 1, 1941, the U.S. Navy, due to nature of the European conflict, requested that the S.S. America be converted into a fully operating Troop Transport ship. Just two weeks later, the Navy officially commissioned her as the U.S.S. West Point and drafted her into the service of her country. On June 21, 1941, the Secretary of the Navy announced that it was Captain H.H. Kelley, USN, had been assigned to West Point as commanding officer.

Strangely enough, the U.S.S. West Point was known as the Queen of the transports operated by the Naval Transportation Service, yet some called her the “monster” as she has a monster of a job to do. To be very honest, no more than any of the other great liners used during the war!

Although she had been stripped of her peace time interior beauty and her lush lounge and smoking room venues had been altered to accommodate large numbers, yet she still bore her partial trappings of her pre-war beauty. It was not uncommon for member of the crew to find them-selves sleeping in deluxe suites, which were previously listed at around US$100 per night. In addition, many of the original murals remained to suggest the “Wows’” from the soldiers sailing on this great liner during the war years.

Externally, a row of life rafts covered her Promenade Deck windows, and four-tier “standee” bunks were installed just about everywhere, giving her an initial capacity of 5,400 men and placements for women. The Smoking Room and Cocktail Lounge became the officers wardroom and their mess, whilst, amazingly the Library became the main toilet. The main Lounge was used as a movie theatre and other uses, whilst the magnificent Ball Room had bunks for 545 men, the Dining Room became the enlisted men’s mess and the adjoining foyer was used to wash the mess kits. Two desalinization units, paravanes, two mast look-out platforms, and 1,500 tons of ballast were also added.

Refitting the AP-23  at the Norfolk Navy Yards included the installation of the following; Four single 5”/38 cal dual purpose gun mounts. Four single 3”/50 cal dual purpose gun mounts, four twin 40mm AA gun mounts and eight .50 cal machine guns. Although the United States was still at peace, but her largest Liner was armed and ready for anything they would throw at her!

An excellent view of her war paint – camouflage

Photograph from the U.S. National Archives, RG-19-LCM - No. 19-N-77620

Having had a brief shakedown cruise along the Atlantic seaboard, the U.S.S. West Point began her Navy career during the “unofficial” phase of the war in the Atlantic. As a result of President Roosevelt’s closure of all Axis consulates in June 1941, THE U.S.S. West Point was sent to Portugal to deliver the ousted Axis diplomatic corps and in return to bring back to New York our consulates, dismissed by the Axis.

Her career almost ended during the, early months of the Pacific War, when she and the, U.S.S. Wakefield, being the former S.S. Manhattan, were sent to sail for Singapore early in 1942 to aid in the evacuation of refugees from the Malayan Peninsula. They arrived at the very height of Japanese attacks on the beleaguered city.

For several days, whilst loading operations were frantically carried on, her crews watched the enemy bombers very carefully as they roared over the dock area on their way to Singapore. However for some strange reason the Japanese pilots seemed to have their attention diverted from the docked transport ships to other tasks.

But suddenly, on the third day, as it was reported, “Lady Luck deserted us”. Instead of the planes heading toward the city, they flew over the harbour installations and it was just seconds before crews and those onboard began to comprehend the complete helplessness of their situation. A few minutes later the harbour and dock area were turned into a roaring and fiery inferno. With bombs bursting within just 50 yards of the U.S.S. West Point’s hull, WITH Shrapnel being scattered everywhere on her weather decks, whilst the U.S.S. Wakefield was set ablaze due to a direct hit. As soon as possible, Captain Kelley gave the order to sail, and escape the situation and suffer any further damage.

As a troopship the U.S.S. West Point also visited Australia in 1942 to collect Australian soldiers bound for Singapore. West Point also called on New Zealand to collect American troops bound for Noumea.

In June 1943 Captain Robert A Dyer, USN, became U.S.S. West Point’s second commanding officer, relieving Captain Kelley.

Even after the Singapore close call, the U.S.S. West Point has a good number of close shaves and escapes! Just off Rio de Janeiro in 1942, a German submarine sent a torpedo, which streaked across the U.S.S. West Point’s bow. Again, in Milne Bay crew members stood at battle stations for hours against Japanese air raiders, and in the Red Sea and at Suez she was alerted. With her guns at the ready and a barrage balloons were lifted against surprise German torpedo aircraft. In May 1944, Captain Dyer was relieved as commanding officer by Captain Webb C. Haves, USNR, who was the grandson of President Rutherford H. Haves.

Here we see her stern and her three gun placements

Photograph from the U.S. National Archives, RG-19-LCM - No. 19-N-77626

The U.S.S. West Point also took part in the “Magic Carpet” Operation. In this role, she made many voyages transferring men and material from both theatres of operations. Besides soldiers, U.S.S. West Point has carried sailors amid marines and other war-time seafarers, allied forces, Red Cross workers, United Nations officials, and USO, officials, high, government officials, service nurses, WAC’s and war brides. But also civilians caught in war zones, prisoners of war, refugees and children. In addition, there was even a baby born aboard whilst the ship was the Indian Ocean. This baby boy was born on February 4, 1942 on the Equator, and he was christened “Westpoint Leslie Sheldrake,” and the crew “initiated the juvenile pollywog into a heavenly shellback, certainly the youngest in the history of the Navy.”

In continuous service since the outbreak of the war, the U.S.S. West Point transported more than 350,000 troops she certainly had the largest capacity of any Navy Troopship in service during World War II. On one voyage alone, being in August 1944, she carried, including ship's company, a grand total of 9,305 people. And considering she carried over 350,000 troops, being massive numbers, that is a good share of a grand total of 450,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines that were sent overseas during the entire war!

 

Above & Below: Two dramatic images when the U.S.S. West Point (AP-23) arrived home

In New York on July 11, 1945 with a some 7,607 veterans on board

Photograph from the US National Archives - No 80-G-K-5783-A

The U.S.S. West Point also covered more than 436,144 miles, being equal to 16 voyages around the globe. The ship has made as many as 24 crossings of the Atlantic in a single year. Her ports include Bombay, Marseilles, Cape Town, Guadalcanal, Naples, Liverpool, Noumea, and Mers’el’Kebir. She had saw and stood up to many emergencies, having been a hospital evacuation ship as well as a prison ship.

The U.S.S. West Point was reassigned to the Pacific on December 5, 1945, and she sailed departed Boston on December 10, for Manila sailing via Pearl Harbour. She had some 7,757 persons aboard, including the last 247 enlisted WACS in the Pacific.

Having arrived in Manila, she departed again on January 15, 1946, and she arrived home in New York City and docked at Pier 88 on February 7, 1945, and this turned out to be a voyage that ended her time in the U.S. Navy! For a directive had come in, dated February 1946, that the U.S.S. West Point (AP 23) was to be transferred to the War Shipping Administration preliminary to be her returned to the “United States Lines” for private duties on the North Atlantic service.

For the most part, her wartime voyages were made without the protection of convoy warships. Her main defence was her great speed, which has never been officially released, but it was well over 25 knots! In addition, she was the amazing war-time ship that survived in astonishing circumstances, never once broke down, and she had not lost a single passenger!

From Pier 88 she proceeded to Portsmouth, Virginia, arriving on the February 11, and she was released from duty on the February 22. Her final voyage under the name of West Point was a rather short one, just seventeen miles to her birthplace, being Newport News Shipyards, where she was officially decommissioned on February 28, and then officially stricken from the Navy Register on March 12, 1945.

S.S. America finally commences her Atlantic services:

On December 4, 1946, the now decommissioned as flagship of the United States Lines, received her final tribute from the U.S. Navy as the S.S. America became the first merchant vessel to receive a Warrant to fly the “Naval Reserve Pennant.” In a ceremony on the bridge of the S.S. America, Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, USN, the then Commander of the Eastern Sea Frontier, presented the flag to Commodore Harry Manning, the S.S. America’s Captain.

To restore the ship to her original role was going to be an expensive business, and sadly, in 1941 in their haste to prepare her for the navy, many of her valuable fittings had been discarded, and some of her original pieces of art as well as some precious brass works had been lost. Due to the naval alteration, her accommodation numbers were also lowered and now instead of a total of 1,202 now it would be just 1,046 maximum in her three classes, which was now designated as, First Class, Cabin Class and Tourist Class.

The S.S. America returned to New York from the Newport yards on November 11, 1946, and she would be quickly made ready for her very first commercial Atlantic crossing!

The S.S. America looks smart fully repainted and ready to become a Trans Atlantic Liner!

The photographer is unknown to the author. Please see the photo notes at the bottom of the page

Amazingly, the gleaming S.S. America and the new British Liner the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth arrived in New York at much the same time, for both ships had been affected by the war and would commence their commercial duties just now. Both ships were welcomed by a large flotilla of craft, in addition the Navy, put on a display of escort destroyers, as well as a blimp and had some 30 aircraft in the air welcoming the ex US.S. West Point/America to New York, as well as the great Queen which has also served her country bravely during the war! Around 1,000 people or more watched The S.S. America berth at pier 61 and it was a tricky manoeuvre due to strong tides and winds. However, with the assistance of six tugs the America finally docked at 10:40 AM.

Just prior her departure on November 14, 1946, the S.S. America was honoured by a most gracious visit by the Presidents daughter, Margaret Truman. Then at 4.00 PM sharp the S.S. America sailed bound for Cobh Ireland, Southampton England and Le Havre France.

For the S.S. America this was much more than just commencing her commercial voyage, for this voyage was the start of the fulfilment of what she was designed to do, and now finally so long after her maiden voyage she had finally become the “Trans-Atlantic Liner” she was meant to be!

A wonderful aerial photograph of the S.S. America

Note the Third Class Promenade Deck, located on Upper Deck, directly forward of the superstructure

Directly below, two decks down on A Deck are the Third Class Main Lounge and Smoking Room

Obviously, her first winter voyages forced all what the North Atlantic weather could possibly throw at her, all that was bad, as well as the good! But S.S. America continued to ply her trade faithfully for the next eight years.

But it need to be said that the S.S. America was the Unites States largest Liner, as well as being the country’s “Ship of State,” thus she was in many ways a showcase for the very best in American engineering, as well as art, craftsmanship, superior interior design and of course the very best in fine cuisine. Being an all American product, she featured Oregon pine decking as well as Rhode Island silverware on the dining room tables. Wherever you looked, a piece of America would be there to showcase the country!

The S.S. America is seen at Southampton

All the aforementioned came together to create a truly First Class experience that would attract not just the Tourists, but also Diplomats, Royalty and the countless Hollywood stars and world famous Recording stars alike! She very soon proved to be a success, as her Cabin Class was simply the very best, whilst her Tourist Class was more like most other company’s First Classes, and Third Class was indeed most comfortable with three fine Lounges and a spacious Dining Room!

S.S. America “Sailing Schedule” from December 1947 to December 1948

Provided by Björn Larsson www.timetableimages.com/maritime/images/list.htm#O

United States lines are famous for their excellent maintenance programs, and the S.S. America was taken back to Newport-News-Yards early in 1950 for a good hull maintenance check, thus she was placed into dry-dock and had some additional interior work undertaken.

What is so very special about this photograph? Yes we can see the SS America at the Newport-News-Yard on April 2, 1950

But there is something more! Right next to her, on her starboard side you can see the skeleton of what will be the greatest American Liner ever to be built, the S.S. United States, winner of both the East & West bound “Blue Riband” and holds it still!

As her over all popularity increased on October 25, 1951 her service had been extended to Bremerhaven Germany where she would berth at the Columbus Pier.

SS America is seen berthed at the Columbus Pier at Bremerhaven around 1954

The photographer is unknown to the author. Please see the photo notes at the bottom of the page

Her early voyages faced all that the North Atlantic weather could possibly throw at her, all that was bad, and the good! But the S.S. America continued to ply her trade faithfully for the next eight years.

During her next maintenance and refit at the Newport-News-Yards, she received in 1960, her accommodations were altered with some upgrades done and she finally became a Two Class Liner! She accommodated the same number of passengers, a total of 1,046, but it would be 516 in First Class and 530 in Tourist Class, with the ex Third Class Lounge, Smoking Room and Dining Room being used for other purposes. Upon completion she was registered at 33,961 GRT.

An all new Two Class Liner appears for duties!

The photographer is unknown to the author. Please see the photo notes at the bottom of the page

Even though the United States lines had attempted to draw more passengers to the ship with the ships improvements, changing her to a Two Class configuration and having commenced a major advertising campaign, but sadly due to a number of factors she began to loose her loyal customer base. Thus like with all shipping companies worldwide, as airline's were offering new air services in competition and even now operating cheap charter flight, the passenger shipping industry fell victim to this, as well as being financially wounded by the ongoing union interference, which resulted in cancelled sailings, and there is nothing worse for any company and that is loosing the trust of their passengers. But, unions just do not care for their aim is to get what they want, or they will destroy!

S.S. America’s final American days:

Sadly, after 24 years of exemplary service, her long career under the United States flag was about to come to an end, which was due to two factors; 1. Air travel having become more and more popular, and 2. Thanks to the never ending labour disputes that was destroying passenger shipping on both sides of the Atlantic. Unions are mostly run by Irish and British migrants (even here in Australia) and they were responsible for so much of the decline of passenger shipping worldwide and yet, they continue to destroy and even these days run cargo shipping into the ground!

S.S. America berthed in New York with the S.S. United States seen on the other side

Thus, with the great and wonderful ship that was once America’s largest liner the S.S. America could no longer continue as she was costing the company far too much. And yes, her newer sister had taken her glory. Even though William Francis Gibbs used America’s basic design in principle based for the S.S. United States, but a larger version and there would be the use of a great deal more of aluminium as this ship was to be fireproof! But, that would never become a great and proud warrior, like her smaller sister! Yes, there ius no doubt that the S.S. United States would be the world’s fastest ship, and become the proud holder, and is so today of the “Blue Riband” for both the East and Westbound voyages between New York and the UK, an honour she never lost, However, in reality that is her only badge of greatness!

Recalling the Great Days of a Great Ship:

1. Naval Career:

It has been well recorded that the S.S. America served during WW2 and achieved greatness being a rare ship during that dangerous time never to have broken down, and for the most part her voyages were extremely dangerous, as she sailed without any accompanying of convoy warships, thus she did not have any protection, except her own guns onboard! It was said that her main defence was her great speed, and her official speed has never really been officially released, but we do know that it was more than what we have been told it being of around 25 knots!

The U.S.S. West point seen at full speed ahead at sea

She survived being bombed in Singapore in 1942, and was in many very dangerous situations, thus it is amazing how this great war-time ship actually survived in the most astonishing circumstances, and also she never lost a single soul!

Considering that she as the U.S.S. West Point she carried well over 350,000 troops, being huge numbers and that she also covered more than 436,144 miles, being equal to 16 complete voyages around the globe. The S.S. America has a record of greatness both in wartime, but she was also one of the finest liners, as she offered the very best of American style and comfort across the Atlantic! She did indeed offer a great alternative to the opposition in Britain and the European’s!

2. Commercial Career:

There is no doubt that the S.S. America had a smooth and a trouble free career that would be until September 1963, when the union commenced their strikes and industrial action and that hit the ship very hard. Amazingly, she even came under a racial discrimination claim from some her workers, and for that reason, this great ship was tragically forced into complete layup. This was a disgraceful union beat-up that forced her into an extended five month layup, in fact until February 7, 1964, when she finally was to depart for Southampton and again operate her regular duties as well as some cruises.

However as she was about to depart, Captain Fender was advised that there was some industrial action going on within the Tug’s, but not related to the ship in any way, but there were no tug working at all. Thus the Captain decided that he would not be delayed one single minute and that he would to take his ship out without any assistance, as there were no tugs, even though there were strong winds blowing that day! The great S.S. America slowly moved from her pier and departed from New Yourk completely unaided and she was on her way on time!

A fine starboard view of the S.S. America

The photographer is unknown to the author. Please see the photo notes at the bottom of the page

The End for the S.S. America is near:

Sadly the United States Lines was running into difficulties financially, and it would appear that plans had been made for S.S. America’s voyage on October 27, 1964 to be her very last with the company.

It would be without any ceremony whatsoever, as there had not been any public announcements, the proud S.S. America slowly and proudly left Pier 86 on October 9, 1964 having just 439 passengers aboard.

The America’s last departure from New York bound for the United Kingdom and back

On October 9, she departed for her very last return Trans Atlantic voyage ever!

She returned to New York from Southampton on October 27 at 8:00 AM, with 801 passengers aboard. There was a prevailing gloom amongst the crew, and when passengers aboard found out that this was her very last voyage, they could not believe that it had not been announced, for everyone believe that the ship would have been packed, as so many would have loved to sat a final farewell!

She arrived home to New York on October 27, and 2with her passengers having disembarked her then 457 crew were discharged. She departed New York for the last time under an United States flag at 6:00 PM as she headed for her birthplace Newport-News Shipbuilding Yards, where she awaited her fate.

On November 4, 1964 the United States Lines officially requested permission from the Maritime Administration to sell the S.S. America to “Okeania S.A.,” being a subsidiary of Chandris Lines, for use as passenger and emigrant vessel. U.S. Lines cited “substantial net losses for several years” and that “no prospects exist for years improving such results.”

Considering the company was losing as much as US$1.5 million per year, even whilst receiving US$3 million in subsidies. But keeping all things in mind, the Maritime Administration approval came the very next day, when it was announced that there was a sale for US$6.5 million, complete with the understanding she not compete with any of the U.S. flag liners from American ports for at least five years and if necessary, would be made available for war emergency use and be either under the U.S. flag, that of Greece as part of NATO!

S.S. America goes to Chandris Lines on November 16, 1964:

The S.S. America was handed over to the author’s dear friend Anthony Chandris, of “Okeania S.A.” or “Chandris Lines” on November 16, 1964, and with the Red, White and Blue on her funnels having disappeared under a coat of Chandris blue and a black top. Then on November 18, she was renamed “Australis” and flying the Greek flag, and the ex S.S. America departed and headed for Malta where she would enter into dry-dock to become a much loved liner in Europe, Britain as well as in New Zealand and in Australia, the S.S. Australis was a much loved ship, for she had a great heritage!

Even all white the ex S.S. America looked beautiful as the S.S. Australis!

During her commercial service the S.S. America made some commercial 288 voyages having accommodated a remarkable 476,462 passengers. Each year she made between 15 to 18 round voyages, and personally having sailed on her a good number of times, I believe that she was the perfect ship as far as her size is concerned, and her internal beauty, sheer comfort, and her having that great speed! Also, she was a ship that never had any real problems of any kind and that made her the PERFECT LINER!

Farewell to the Wonderful S.S. America as she Heads for New Water’s

But leaving us with so Many Great Memories!

 

This photograph was of her second maiden voyage, her very first commercial Trans-Atlantic crossing

from New York on November 14, 1946 to Cobh Ireland, Southampton England and Le Havre France

 

S.S. America INDEX:

Page One      S.S. America History Page.

Page Two     Photo Page.

Page Three  1940 Deck Plans.

S.S. Australis INDEX:

Page Four    S.S. Australis History Page from 1964 to her tragic end in 1993.

Page Five     Brochure & Photo & Page One.

Page Six      Brochure & Photo Page Two.

Page Seven  Deck Plans.

Other Chandris Ships INDEX:

SS Ellinis      Ex Matson Lines liner SS Lurline.

SS Patris      Ex Union Castle Lines RMS Bloemfontein Castle.

SS Britanis    Ex Matson Lines SS Monterey, but renamed Lurline & Matsonia.

 

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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address may be found on www.ssmaritime.com only), in order that due credit may be given.

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