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USS Leviathan in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- USS Leviathan during the Great War -


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USS Leviathan



 American Troopship  

USS Leviathan - (SS Vaterland)

USS Leviathan

SS Leviathan, originally built as the Vaterland, was an ocean liner which regularly crossed the North Atlantic from 1914 to 1934. The second of three sister ships built by Germany's Hamburg America Line for their transatlantic passenger service, she sailed as the Vaterland for less than a year before her early career was halted by the start of World War I. In 1917, she was seized by the U.S. government and renamed Leviathan. She would become known by this name for the majority of her career, both as a troopship during World War I and later as the flagship of the United States Lines.

SS Vaterland, a 54,282 gross ton passenger liner, was built by Blohm & Voss at Hamburg, Germany, as the second of a trio of very large ships of Imperator class for the Hamburg-America Line's trans-Atlantic route. She was launched 13 April 1913 and was the largest passenger ship in the world upon her completion, superseding SS Imperator, but later being superseded in turn by the last ship of this class, SS Bismarck, the later RMS Majestic.

Vaterland had made only a few trips when, in late July 1914, she arrived at New York City just as World War I broke out. With a safe return to Germany rendered virtually impossible by British dominance of the seas, she was laid up at her Hoboken, NJ, terminal and remained immobile for nearly three years.

World War I

She was seized by the United States Shipping Board when the United States entered World War I, 6 April 1917; turned over to the custody of the U.S. Navy in June 1917; and commissioned July 1917 as the USS Vaterland, Captain Joseph Wallace Oman in command. Redesignated SP-1326 and renamed Leviathan by President Woodrow Wilson on 6 September 1917

The trial cruise to Cuba on 17 November 1917 prompted Captain Oman to order 241 Marines on board to relieve a detachment of Marines to station themselves conspicuously about the upper decks giving the appearance from shore that the great ship was headed overseas to increase American Expeditionary Forces. Upon her return later that month, she reported for duty with the Cruiser and Transport Force. In December she took troops to Liverpool, England, but repairs delayed her return to the U.S. until mid-February 1918. A second trip to Liverpool in March was followed by more repairs. At that time she was repainted with the British-type "dazzle" camouflage scheme that she carried for the rest of the war. With the completion of that work, Leviathan began regular passages between the U.S. and Brest, France, delivering up to 14,000 persons on each trip, carrying over 119,000 fighting men, before the armistice 11 November 1918. Amongst the ship's US Navy crew during this period was future film star Humphrey Bogart.

After that date Leviathan, repainted grey overall by December 1918, reversed the flow of men as she transported the veterans back to the United States with nine westward crossings ending 8 September 1919. On 29 October 1919, USS Leviathan was decommissioned and turned over to the U.S. Shipping Board and again laid up at Hoboken until plans for her future employment could be determined.

John Doran


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Those known to have served in

USS Leviathan

during the Great War 1914-1918.

  • Vallen George D.. Pvt 1st Class

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Mar 2017

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Want to know more about USS Leviathan?


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