SS America 1946 – 1964

United States Lines

On 20th October 1945 plans were already underway for the return and restoration of the America. In the haste of converting the liner to the troopship Westpoint the saving of most of her furnishings was not undertaken. Art work was carelessly lost and her bronze was stripped for wartime use. Her re conversion was a costly excercise requiring some $800,000 (us) on her fittings alone with the total conversion back to the America costing $6,883,424. She also lost cabin space during the rebuild as pre war she could accommodate 1,202 passengers but could now only accommodate 1,049.

Looking like new in her new paint America left Newport News on the 9th November 1946 for a 770 mile trip to New York. The America and the Queen Elizabeth both 1940’s liners whose careers had been interrupted by the war arrived in New York on the same day November 11th 1946.

The ships were welcomed by a flotilla of craft including the navy, remembering their own, put on a display of escort destroyers, a blimp and 30 aircraft. 1000 people watched America pull alongside pier 61 in a tricky maneuver bought on by strong winds and tides. With the aid of 6 tugs, she was eventually alongside at 10:40 am.

After a gracious visit by Margaret Truman, America sailed at 4:00 pm on November 14th 1946 for Cobh, Southampton and Le Havre. For America, it was more than a return to commercial service but fulfillment as her destiny as a Trans Atlantic liner.

She proved an Atlantic greyhound from the start and dropped anchor at Cobh on the 19th November. Completing Ambrose Light – Daunt rock light ship in 4 days, 22 hours and 22 minutes averaging 24.54 kts. She arrived at Southampton very late on the 20th November, disembarking passengers the next day and postponing her official welcome until the homeward call on the 21st.

Weather wise – Americas maiden west bound crossing was, in the words of Commodore Manning, “the worst trip in years”. Fierce winds in southampton resulted in the pilot been disembarked at Cobh. The Cobh pilot, Christopher Ahern could not be landed and had to make his 7th unscheduled Atlantic crossing, simply phoning his wife and saying that he would not be home tonight.

After been delayed in Southampton for 9 hours due to fog America reached New York on December 22nd 1946, having steamed Cobh to Ambrose in 5 days and 6 hours.

The Americas first winter North Atlantic season was a hard one, enroute to Southampton on January 5th 1947 her speed was suddenly cut from 23 kts to 19 kts for no apparent reason. At Cherbourg the reason was discovered by Chief Engineer Patrick Brennan. Opening up the Condensers, half a ton of herring poured out onto the floor, it took them 5 hours to shovel the herring out of both the Port and Starboard Condensers through man holes and inspection plates. MORE TO FOLLOW

Apart from severe storms with waves 6oft or more the America generally had a trouble free career until September 1963 when strikes and industrial action hit hard.

The America, under a racial discrimination claim by her workers was put into layup. The layup lasted until her trip in February 1964, however even this trip was in jeopordy as the tug boats were now on strike. However Capt Fender was not going to miss the chance of getting the America finally underway and despite 25mph winds nosed the America out of her pier unaided.

Over the next few years, United States Lines began to suffer financially and it would appear the Americas 9th – 27th October trip would be her last. With no ceremony she left pier 86 with only 489 passengers on board returning to New York on to the 27th November with 801 passengers. After discharging 457 of her crew she left for New Port News for the last time under US colours.

On November 4th 1964, the United States lines requested permission from the Maritime Administration to sell the America to Okeania S.A, a subsidiary of Chandris Lines for use as an immigration liner. She was losing some $1,500,000 (us) per year. She was sold for $4, 250, 000 (us) with the understanding that she would not compete with American flagged liners from American ports for 5 years and must also be available for emergency war use for NATO or the American Navy.
After workman removed her bridge baseboards (one of which is on display at the Mariners Museum) they painted out all but the A on her bow, lowering the stars and stripes she was handed over to Okeania S.A on November the 16th 1964. The national United States colours on her funnels were painted over with the Chandris blue and 2 days later under a different flag and name the America left New Port News for the last time.

Click to move to her next chapter : SS AUSTRALIS 1964 – 1977