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USS De Kalb in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- USS De Kalb during the Great War -

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USS De Kalb

1st January 1917 American Troopship  

USS De Kalb

USS DeKalb (ID-3010) was a German mail ship SS Prinz Eitel Friedrich (1904) that served during the early part of the First World War as an auxiliary cruiser (Hilfkreuzer) in the German Navy and later after the US entry into the war, as US Navy troop ship. Post war she returned to civilian service as the US transatlantic liner SS Mount Clay.

Gerrman civilian service.

Main article: SS Prinz Eitel Friedrich (1904)

The ship was a North German Lloyd (NDL) mail ship and ocean liner built by AG Vulcan, Stettin, Germany, and launched 18 June 1904 as SS Prinz Eitel Friedrich (1904). NDL had ordered her for the German Mail route between Germany and the Far East, for which she began her maiden voyage on 13 October.

German auxiliary cruiser.

When the First World War broke out on 1 August 1914 she was in Shanghai, China and was ordered to Tsingtao in the then German Kiaochow Bay concession. There she was quickly converted to an auxiliary cruiser for the Imperial German Navy by transferring the guns and crews of the German gunboats SMS Tiger and SMS Luchs to Prinz Eitel Friedrich.

For the next seven months she operated on the high seas with Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee's squadron off South American and then as a detached commerce raider. She sank or captured eleven ships in the Pacific and the South Atlantic. Among these was the schooner William P. Frye, captured on 27 January 1915 and scuttled the next day, the first U.S. flagged vessel sunk in World War I.

On 11 March 1915 Prinz Eitel Friedrich, now low on supplies and burdened by over 300 prisoners, arrived at Newport News, Virginia. Allied warships were lying outside US waters and to avoid them she exceeded the time limit under international law for a combatant ship to remain in a neutral port. As a result the US authorities interned her. Later she was moved, still under the German flag, to Philadelphia Navy Yard. On 11 April another NDL liner that had been operating as an auxiliary cruiser, the SS Kronprinz Wilhelm, was interned alongside her.

US troop ship.

When the United States entered the First World War in April 1917, US Customs officials seized her and she was transferred to the US Navy. She was reconditioned and refitted as a troop transport and renamed USS DeKalb after General Baron Johann de Kalb. She was commissioned 12 May 1917 with Commander W. R. Gherardi in command.

DeKalb was assigned to the Cruiser and Transport Force, Atlantic Fleet, and on 14 June 1917 sailed in the convoy carrying the first troops of the American Expeditionary Forces to France. In the next 18 months DeKalb made 11 such voyages, carrying 11,334 soldiers safely. With the end of the war, she continued her transport duty returning 20,332 troops from Europe in eight voyages. On 6 September 1919 she was turned over to the Commandant, 3rd Naval District.

United American Lines.

She was decommissioned 22 September 1919 and returned to the United States Shipping Board for disposal the following day. She returned to civilian control, initially as DeKalb and, after 1920, as SS Mount Clay. She was operated by the United American Lines on the transatlantic route making her first eastbound voyage from New York to Hamburg on 26 December 1920 and her last westbound voyage from Hamburg via Queenstown, Ireland to New York on 15 October 1925. She was then laid up until 1934 when she was scrapped.

John Doran

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USS De Kalb

during the Great War 1914-1918.

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