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USS Princess Matoika



 American Troopship  

USS Lenape

USS Lenape (ID-2700) was a troop transport for the United States Navy in 1918, during World War I. She was launched in 1912 as SS Lenape, a passenger steamer for the Clyde Line. After the entry of the United States into World War I in 1917, she was chartered by the United States Army as transport USAT Lenape. After her Navy service ended in October 1918, she was returned to the Army.

Lenape was launched by Newport News Shipbuilding Co. of Newport News, Virginia, in 1912 for the Clyde Steamship Company, known as the Clyde Line. She operated as a passenger steamer on the East Coast of the United States, typically on a New York–Charleston–Jacksonville route.

After the United States declared war on Germany, the units that comprised the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) were selected in early May and ordered to Europe within 30 days. The Army, needing transports to get the men and materiel to France, re-formed the Army Transport Service. A committee of shipping executives pored over registries of American shipping and, on 28 May 1917, selected Lenape and thirteen other American ships that were sufficiently fast, could carry enough coal in their bunkers for transatlantic crossings, and, most importantly, were in port or not far at sea. After Lenape discharged her last load of passengers, she was officially chartered by the Army on 1 June.

Army career.

Before any troop transportation could be undertaken, all of the ships had to be hastily refitted — in little more than two weeks in the case of Lenape. Of the fourteen ships, ten, including Lenape, were designated to carry human passengers; the other four were designated as animal ships. The ten ships designated to carry troops had to have all of their second- and third-class accommodations ripped out and replaced with berths for troops. Cooking and toilet facilities had to be greatly expanded to handle the large numbers of men aboard. Structural reinforcement below the platforms was required before the ships could outfit for guns at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The American convoy carrying the AEF was broken into four groups; Lenape was in the second group with Momus, Antilles, and escorts consisting of cruiser Birmingham, armed yacht Aphrodite, and destroyers Fanning, Burrows, Lamson. Major General William L. Sibert and the headquarters of the First Division along with the supply companies and one battalion (of three) of the 26th Infantry Regiment embarked on Lenape at New York.The ship, under the command of U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander P. E. Dampman, departed with her group on 14 June for Brest, France, steaming at a comfortable 14-knot (26 km/h) pace. Fanning soon traded places with converted yacht Corsair from the first group, when that ship was unable to maintain the lead group's 15-knot (28 km/h) pace. A thwarted submarine attack on the first convoy group, and reports of heavy submarine activity off of Brest resulted in a change in the convoy's destination to Saint-Nazaire.

As Lenape 's group neared France, U.S. destroyers based at Queenstown, Ireland, and French destroyers joined to escort the convoy. Just before noon 26 June, while the group was 100 nautical miles (190 km) off the coast of France, a submarine was sighted in the distance. It submerged when the escorting destroyers converged on its position, escaping without firing a shot. About two hours later another sub was sighted and chased by Cummings, one of the Queenstown destroyers. Cummings depth charged the location of the sub and noted debris and an oil slick on the surface after one explosion. The convoy arrived at Saint-Nazaire the next day.

After returning to the United States, Lenape sailed on 24 September as part of the 8th convoy with Henderson, Antilles, Finland and escorted by cruiser San Diego. According to Crowell and Wilson, the 8th group was "destined to misfortune". Three days out from New York, Lenape developed engine trouble and was compelled to return to port. On their return journeys, Antilles was torpedoed and sunk, while Finland, also torpedoed, managed to limp back to Brest.

Navy career.

Lenape did not make any more transatlantic crossings under Army control and was acquired by the Navy 10 April 1918. Commissioned on 24 April under command of Commander Robert Morris, the Lenape shifted south to Newport News, Virginia, for her next convoy, her first as a commissioned Navy vessel. Embarking a contingent of troops that included the 122nd Machine Gun Battalion of the 33rd Infantry Division,Lenape sailed at 1830 on 10 May, accompanied by American transports Pastores, Wilhelmina, Princess Matoika, Antigone, and Susquehanna, the British steamer Kursk, and the Italian Duca d'Aosta. The group rendezvoused with a similar group that left New York the same day, consisting of President Lincoln, Covington, Rijndam, British troopship Dwinsk, and Italian steamers Caserta and Dante Alighieri. American cruiser Frederick served as escort for the assembled ships, which were the 35th U.S. convoy of the war. On 20 May, the convoy sighted and fired on a "submarine" that turned out to be a bucket; the next day escort Frederick left the convoy after being relieved by nine destroyers. Three days later the convoy sighted land at 0630 and anchored at Brest that afternoon. Lenape sailed for Newport News and arrived there safely on 6 June with Pastores and Princess Matoika. Fate, however, was not as kind to former convoy mates President Lincoln and Dwinsk. On their return journeys they were sunk by German submarines U-90 and U-151, respectively.

Lenape set sail from Newport News on 14 June with Wilhelmina, Pastores, Princess Matoika, and British steamer Czar. On the morning of 16 June, lookouts on Princess Matoika spotted a submarine and, soon after, a torpedo heading directly for that ship. The torpedo missed her by a few yards and gunners manning the ship's 6-inch (150 mm) guns claimed a hit on the sub with their second shot. Later that morning, the Newport News ships met up with the New York portion of the convoy—which included DeKalb, Finland, Kroonland, George Washington, Covington, Rijndam, Dante Alighieri, and British steamer Vauben—and set out for France. The convoy was escorted by cruisers North Carolina and Frederick, and destroyers Stevens and Fairfax; battleship Texas and several other destroyers joined in escort duties for the group for a time. The convoy had a false alarm when a floating barrel was mistaken for submarine, but otherwise uneventfully arrived at Brest on the afternoon of 27 June. Lenape, Covington, Princess Matoika, Rijndam, George Washington, DeKalb, Wilhelmina, and Dante Alighieri left Brest as a group on 30 June. The following evening at 2115, Covington was torpedoed by U-86 and sank the next afternoon. Lenape, Rijndam, and Dante Alighieri arrived back in the United States on 12 July.

Lenape took on board 1,853 officers and men and sailed from New York on 18 July in the company of George Washington, Rijndam, Antigone, Ophir, and the Italian steamer Regina d'Italia. Joined by a Newport News group, all arrived safely in France on 30 July. Arriving back stateside on 13 August, Lenape sailed again from New York with 2,024 troops nine days later in convoy with President Grant, Wilhelmina, DeKalb, Rijndam, Toloa, and the French steamer Sobral.

Returning from her final cruise for the Navy on 17 September, Lenape was returned to the Army 28 October. In February 1919, Lenape was returned to the Clyde Line. Her ultimate fate is unknown.

John Doran


 American Troopship  

USS Princess Matoika

USS Princess Matoika (ID-2290) was a transport ship for the United States Navy during World War I. Before the war, she was a Barbarossa-class ocean liner that sailed as SS Kiautschou for the Hamburg America Line and as SS Princess Alice (sometimes spelled Prinzess Alice) for North German Lloyd. After her World War I Navy service ended, she served as the United States Army transport ship USAT Princess Matoika. In post-war civilian service she was SS Princess Matoika until 1922, SS President Arthur until 1927, and SS City of Honolulu until she was scrapped in 1933.

On 6 April 1917 the United States declared war and immediately seized interned German ships at U.S. and territorial ports, but unlike most other German ships interned by the United States, Princess Alice had not been sabotaged by her German crew before her seizure. Assigned the Identification Number of 2290, she was soon renamed Princess Matoika. Sources disagree about the identity of the ship's namesake, who is often reported as either a member of the Philippine Royal Family, or a Japanese princess. Putnam, however, provides another answer: one of the given names of Pocahontas was Matoaka, which was sometimes spelled Matoika. The newly renamed ship was taken to Olongapo City, 60 miles (97 km) north of Manila and placed in the drydock Dewey at Subic Bay where temporary repairs were made. She then made her way to San Francisco, and eventually to the east coast. Princess Matoika was the last ex-German ship to be commissioned.

Transporting troops to France.

Placed under the command of William D. Leahy in April 1918, the ship was readied for her first transatlantic troop run. At Newport News, Virginia, elements of the 4th Infantry Division boarded on 9 May. Sailing at 18:30 the next day, Princess Matoika was accompanied by American transports Pastores, Wilhelmina, Lenape, Antigone, and Susquehanna, the British steamer Kursk, and the Italian Duca d'Aosta. The group rendezvoused with a similar group that left New York the same day, consisting of President Lincoln, Covington, Rijndam, British troopship Dwinsk, and Italian steamers Caserta and Dante Alighieri. American cruiser Frederick served as escort for the assembled ships, which were the 35th U.S. convoy of the war. During the voyage—because of the inability to finish serving three meals for all the men during daylight hours—mess service was curtailed to two daily meals, a practice continued on later voyages. On 20 May, the convoy sighted and fired on a "submarine" that turned out to be a bucket; the next day escort Frederick left the convoy after being relieved by nine destroyers. Three days later the convoy sighted land at 0630 and anchored at Brest that afternoon. Princess Matoika sailed for Newport News and arrived there safely on 6 June with Pastores and Lenape. Fate, however, was not as kind to former convoy mates President Lincoln and Dwinsk. On their return journeys they were sunk by German submarines U-90 and U-151, respectively.

After loading officers and men from the 29th Infantry Division on 13 June, Princess Matoika set sail from Newport News the next day with Wilhelmina, Pastores, Lenape, and British troopship Czar. On the morning of 16 June, lookouts on Princess Matoika spotted a submarine and, soon after, a torpedo heading directly for the ship. The torpedo missed her by a few yards and gunners manning the ship's 6-inch (150 mm) guns claimed a hit on the sub with their second shot. Later that morning, the Newport News ships met up with the New York portion of the convoy—which included DeKalb, Finland, Kroonland, George Washington, Covington, Rijndam, Dante Alighieri, and British steamer Vauben—and set out for France. The convoy was escorted by cruisers North Carolina and Frederick, and destroyers Stevens and Fairfax; battleship Texas and several other destroyers joined in escort duties for the group for a time. The convoy had a false alarm when a floating barrel was mistaken for submarine, but otherwise uneventfully arrived at Brest on the afternoon of 27 June. Princess Matoika, Covington, Lenape, Rijndam, George Washington, DeKalb, Wilhelmina, and Dante Alighieri left Brest as a group on 30 June. The following evening at 21:15, Covington was torpedoed by U-86 and sank the next afternoon. Princess Matoika and Wilhelmina arrived back at Newport News on 13 July.

Around this time, Commander Leahy left Princess Matoika to serve as Director of Gunnery Exercises and Engineering Performance in Washington. For his service on Princess Matoika, though, Leahy was awarded the Navy Cross. He was cited for distinguished service as commander of the ship while "engaged in the important, exacting and hazardous duty of transporting and escorting troops and supplies through waters infested with enemy submarines and mines".

In the next months, Princess Matoika successfully completed two additional roundtrips from Newport News. On the first trip, she left Newport News with DeKalb, Dante Alighiere, Wilhelmina, Pastores, and British troopship Czaritza on 18 July. The group joined a New York contingent and arrived in France on 30 July. Departing soon after, the Princess returned to Newport News on 13 August. Nine days later she departed in the company of the same ships from her last convoy—with French steamer Lutetia replacing DeKalb—and arrived in France on 3 September. Princess Matoika returned stateside two weeks later.

On 23 September, Princess Matoika departed New York with 3,661 officers and men accompanied by transports President Grant, Mongolia, Rijndam, Wilhelmina, British steamer Ascanius, and was escorted by battleship Georgia, cruisers Montana and North Carolina, and destroyer Rathburne. As with other Navy ships throughout 1918. Princess Matoika was not immune to the worldwide Spanish flu pandemic. On this particular crossing, two of her crewmen were felled by the disease as her convoy reached Saint-Nazaire on 6 October. After her return to the U.S. on 21 October, she departed New York once again on 28 October, arriving in France on 9 November, two days before the Armistice. In all, she carried 21,216 troops to France on her six trips overseas.

Returning troops home.

With the fighting at an end, the task of bringing home American soldiers began almost immediately. Princess Matoika did her part by carrying home 30,110 healthy and wounded men in eight roundtrips. On 20 December, 3,000 troops boarded her and departed France for Newport News, arriving there on 1 January 1919. Among those carried were Major General Charles T. Menoher, the newly appointed chief of the air service, and elements of the 39th Infantry Division. The Matoika arrived with another 2,000 troops on 11 February.

In March 1919, Princess Matoika and Rijndam raced each other from Saint-Nazaire to Newport News in a friendly competition that received national press coverage in the United States. Rijndam, the slower ship, was just able to edge out the Princess—and cut two days from her previous fastest crossing time—by appealing to the honor of the soldiers of the 133rd Field Artillery (returning home aboard the former Holland America liner) and employing them as extra stokers for her boilers.

On her next trip, the veteran transport loaded troops at Saint-Nazaire that included nine complete hospital units. After two days delay because of storms in the Bay of Biscay, Princess Matoika departed on 16 April, and arrived at Newport News on 27 April with 3,500 troops. Shifting south to Charleston, South Carolina, the Matoika embarked 2,200 former German prisoners of war (POWs) and hauled them to Rotterdam. This trip was followed up in May with the return of portions of the 79th Infantry Division from Saint-Nazaire to New York.

In mid-July, Princess Matoika delivered another load of 1,900 former German POWs from Charleston to Rotterdam; most of these prisoners were officers and men from interned German passenger liners and included Captain Heinler the former commander of Vaterland. One former POW, shortly after debarking in Europe, presciently commented that "this [was] no peace; only a temporary truce". After loading American crews of returned Dutch ships, Princess Matoika called at Antwerp and Brest before returning to New York on 1 August.

The ship departed New York on 8 August for her final roundtrip as a Navy transport. She departed Brest 23 August and returned to New York on 10 September. She was decommissioned there on 19 September, and handed over to the War Department for use as a United States Army transport.

USAT Princess Matoika.

As her career as an Army transport began, Princess Matoika picked up where her Navy career had ended and continued the return of American troops from Europe. After returning to France she loaded 2,965 troops at Brest—including Brigadier General W. P. Richardson and members of the Polar Bear Expedition, part of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War—for a return to New York on 15 October. In December, Congressman Charles H. Randall (Prohibitionist-CA) and his wife sailed on the Matoika to Puerto Rico and the Panama Canal.

On 5 April, Princess Matoika carried a group of 18 men and three officers of the U.S. Navy who were to attempt a transatlantic flight in the rigid airship R38, being built in England for the Navy. Several of the group that traveled on the Matoika were among the 45 men killed when the airship crashed on 24 August 1921.

John Doran


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