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USS Siboney

 American Troopship  

USS Siboney

USS Siboney (ID-2999) was a ship transport for the United States Navy during World War I. She was the sister ship of USS Orizaba (ID-1536) but neither was part of a ship class. Launched as SS Oriente, she was soon renamed after Siboney, Cuba, a landing site of United States forces during the Spanish–American War. After her navy service ended, she was SS Siboney for the Ward Line and American Export Lines. During World War II she served the U.S. Army as transport USAT Siboney and as hospital ship USAHS Charles A. Stafford.

As a transport during World War I, Siboney made 17 transatlantic voyages for the navy carrying troops to and from Europe, and had the shortest average in-port turnaround time of all navy transports. During her maiden voyage, her steering gear malfunctioned which resulted in a collision between two other troopships in the convoy.

World War I naval service.

SS Oriente was a combination cargo and passenger vessel built by William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the Ward Line. In mid-1917 the United States Shipping Board (USSB) commandeered and received title to all private shipbuilding projects in progress, including the still-incomplete Oriente and her sister ship Orizaba. Plans for both ships were modified for troop carrying duties. Oriente was launched on 15 August 1917, renamed Siboney on 28 February 1918, delivered to the navy on 8 April, and commissioned the same day, Commander A.T. Graham in command.

Siboney sailed from Philadelphia on 16 April as a unit of the Cruiser and Transport Force, and arrived at Newport News two days later to embark her first contingent of troops. She departed Hampton Roads on 23 April and joined her first convoy the following day. On 25 April, her rudder jammed; and, in the ensuing confusion, transports Aeolus and Huron collided and had to return to New York. On 4 May, the convoy was joined by the war zone escort of eight destroyers and, on 6 May, Siboney arrived at Brest. Disembarking her troops, she sailed the following day and arrived at Hoboken, New Jersey, on 15 May.

Siboney embarked her second contingent of troops at Lambert's Point, Virginia, on 25 May and sailed the following day. The New York section of the convoy joined two days later and the ships entered the war zone on 6 June. In French waters, they were met by USS Corsair, a squadron of minesweepers, an American dirigible, and two French hydroplanes. Siboney arrived in Bordeaux on 8 June and departed the following day but remained anchored in the mouth of the Gironde until 13 June, awaiting the tanker Woonsocket. On 15 June, the convoy passed six empty lifeboats from the torpedoed transport USS President Lincoln. Siboney entered the American war zone on 20 June, and the next day rescued survivors of the British vessel, SS Dwinsk, which had been torpedoed three days previously. The transport arrived at New York on 22 June and anchored in the North River.

Siboney sailed for France on 30 June; after delivering her troops at Brest on 12 July, she returned to New York on 25 July. She sailed again on 31 July. Before arriving at Brest on 12 August, she had to maneuver several times to evade possible submarine contacts. She arrived at New York on 22 August and was given a two-week repair period.

On 4 September, Siboney sailed from New York on her fifth crossing and arrived at Saint-Nazaire nine days later. On 15 September, she embarked a number of wounded troops and left Saint-Nazaire the same day, but, due to heavy submarine activity, swung at anchor for several days before her convoy sailed. She arrived on 29 September at New York. On her sixth eastward crossing, between 6 and 15 October, an influenza epidemic broke out among the troops, killing a number of soldiers. Sailing from Brest on 16 October, the transport returned to New York on 24 October.

Siboney had already embarked troops for her next voyage when, on 3 November, she was ordered to disembark them. She sailed the following day with an army brigadier general and his staff, and a naval draft of 500 men. She arrived at Saint-Nazaire on the 12 November, shortly after the announcement of the Armistice, and was met by a cheering crowd.

Siboney then began her peacetime mission of returning American veterans from Europe to the United States. After embarking 513 wounded men at Saint-Nazaire, she moved to Brest on the 15th and took on 600 more passengers. She sailed the same day under escort and reached New York on 24 November. During the next ten months, Siboney made ten more round trips between the United States and France, returning over 3,000 troops per trip when fully loaded. On one such return trip in August 1919, Siboney carried Admiral Henry T. Mayo and Congressman Thomas S. Butler home from France.

Siboney returned to New York on 2 September at the conclusion of her 17th trip, having traveled over 115,000 nautical miles (213,000 km) and transported approximately 55,000 military passengers to and from French ports. According to the Statistical Department of the U.S. Navy, Siboney had the shortest average in-port turnaround time out of 37 U.S. Navy transports used during World War I. The ship completed 17 round trips and had an average turn-around time of just under 30 days per trip, almost ten days shorter than the average of 39.8 days.

On 10 September at Hoboken, Siboney was decommissioned and turned over to the War Department, who returned the ship to the Ward Line, her original owners.

John Doran

18th June 1918 Uboat sinks SS Dwinsk  

SS Dwinsk lifeboat rescue by USS Siboney

SS Dwinsk was a British-flagged ocean liner sunk by U-151 in World War I. The ship was previously the third Rotterdam for the Holland America Line, C.F. Tietgen for the Scandinavian America Line, and, as Dwinsk, for the Russian American Line. The ship was put under Cunard Line management in 1917, and sailed under the British flag until sunk on 18 June 1918. SS Rotterdam was launched 18 February 1897 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast for the Holland America Line, the third ship by that name for the line. She sailed from Rotterdam, her namesake city, to Boulogne and New York on her maiden voyage 18 August 1897. The ship began its final voyage on this route on 17 February 1906.

Purchased by the Scandinavian America Line on 5 April 1906, the ship was renamed C.F. Tietgen after Carl Frederik Tietgen, a Danish merchant. The ship operated primarily on a Copenhagen-Kristiania-Kristiansand-New York route through 1913. On 28 June 1906 the Tietgen collided with and sank the schooner E. G. Hay without loss of life. In July 1913 the ship was chartered to Nordisk Film A/S for the filming of Atlantis.[1] Later in 1913, the ship was sold to the Russian American Line and renamed Dwinsk, and operating between Libau and New York from 10 February 1914. On 20 September 1914, Dwinsk began sailing on an Archangel-Hammerfest-New York route.

In 1917, control of the ship passed to Cunard Line who reflagged her under the British flag, and retaining her existing name. On 18 June 1918, under the command of Captain Henry Nelson, while steaming from France to Newport News, Virginia, Dwinsk was torpedoed by U-151 about 400 miles (640 km) from Bermuda.[2] After the ship sank, U-151 remained in the area, using the survivors in seven lifeboats as a lure to try to sink additional Allied ships.

Later the same day, USS Von Steuben spotted wreckage and the seven lifeboats, and as it approached the survivors, narrowly averted a torpedo strike launched by U-151. Under orders from the Captain, the men lay down in the boats to try to avoid attracting rescue ships as the submarine was waiting in the area, so the crew of the Von Steuben were unaware that the boats held survivors and made off after its narrow escape from a similar fate.

Six of the lifeboats were rescued by other ships; the seventh lifeboat, in the charge of the Second Officer, Joseph William Coppin (born 1881, St Neot, Cornwall), with 22 men aboard was never heard from again. USS Siboney rescued two boats on 21 June, and USS Rondo picked up the final boat on 28 June 1918.

Captain Henry Nelson - In a letter on the report of the sinking of Dwinsk. from the British Admiralty to The Cunard SS Co Ltd,it stated. At 0920 on that date the wake of a torpedo was sighted at a distance of 200 yards, on the Port Quarter. The ship was not zig-zagging at the time and was steaming at 13 knots. The weather was fine and smooth with a slight swell, wind S.E. 3, visibility good. When the torpedo was sighted helm was put over hard aport, but the torpedo struck the ship in No 4 hold making a large hole. The ship listed to port and the Master decided to abandon ship, which was done in 7 boats. The submarine then came to the surface and attacked her by gunfire, one round hit the magazine which exploded. The ship sank at about 111. The submarine interrogated the 2nd Officer's boat, but no prisoners were taken. The 2nd Officers boat containing 22 of the crew is missing (was never found), and one man was drowned out of the Chief Officers boat. The remaining boats were picked up by various ships and landed at New York , Bermuda, Newport News and Nova Scotia. The 1st Officer's boat was adrift for 10 days and a boat in charge of Boatswain's Mate Larbalastier for 8 days, before being picked up and it is considered that the lives of those in these two boats were saved by the good seamanship, management and fortitude displayed by Mr Pritchard and Larbalestier. I am to inform you that First Officer Pritchand and Boatswain's Mate Larbalestier will be "commended" in the London Gazette, in recognition of these services. Signed J.W.S. Anderson

News media

18th June 1918 Naval Action - 18th June 1918  The Action of 18 June 1918 was an attack on two allied ships near Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean by an Imperial German Navy u-boat during World War I. Sinking an allied merchant vessel, the U-boat failed to destroy an American warship which came to the merchantman's aid.


The SS Dwinsk was a British flagged merchant ship known for her involvement in the War at Sea. On 18 June 1918, while steaming in the Atlantic from France to Newport News, Virginia, Dwinsk encountered the German submarine U-151 around 400 miles from Bermuda. The submarine surfaced and fired a torpedo into the helpless British steamer which caused severe damage. No distress call is known to have been sent by Dwinsk. The deaths of 22 or more British sailors have been confirmed, others were reported to have minor injuries. The dead either went down with Dwinsk when she sank or were in a lifeboat that went missing after their vessel went down. U-151's action was not over though, instead of fleeing after sinking the Dwinsk, she waited in the vicinity for any allied vessels coming to aid the British lifeboats. The lifeboats did not attempt to abandon the wreckage of their transport. The German U-boat remained for a few hours, using the stranded Britons as bait. USS Von Steuben, which just happened to be returning to America from Brest, France—sighted the wreckage of Dwinsk from over five miles away. What the Americans saw were seven lifeboats that appeared to be empty. The boats appeared to be empty due to the actions of the captain of Dwinsk. He had ordered the crew to lie down to prevent allied vessels from approaching and being attacked by the Germans. Von Steuben made her approach anyway and began zig-zagging as a measure against torpedo attack. Sure enough, as Von Steuben closed with the British lifeboats, the wake of one or two torpedoes were spotted coming towards the ship off her bow from abaft the port beam. Quickly the American commander was informed of the situation and ordered his crew to battle stations. Von Steuben fired her first shells in anger at the incoming torpedo, while another turret fired on U-151's periscope which was seen at the other end of the torpedo's trail. The shots fired at the torpedo apparently missed their target but Von Steuben was able to maneuver fast enough to keep out of the torpedo's path which missed by just a few yards. Once over the U-boat's last known position, the Americans dropped over 12 depth charges which shook the submarine severely, according to German accounts, and forced her to flee.


Von Steuben's crew did not rescue any of the Britons that night. It was not until later that the Americans learned that the survivors were lying down in their boats. The American commander did not want to risk his ship by slowing down to investigate the lifeboats. If Von Steuben had stopped to check the lifeboats, she would have been exposed to a torpedo attack. Six of the seven lifeboats were rescued by other allied ships. The seventh boat with about 20 men aboard was never heard from again. USS Siboney rescued two boats on 21 June and USS Rondo picked up the final boat on 28 June. This engagement was Von Steuben's only combat action during World War I.

John Doran

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