Towns in Illinois, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma.
(Freighter: dp. 10,570; l. 391'9½"; b. 52'0"; dr. 24'0" (mean); s. 11 k.; cpl. 58; a. 1 5", 1 3")
Berwyn--a steel hulled, single screw cargo ship--was built for the United States Shipping Board (USSB) at Sparrows Point, Md., by the Bethlehem Steel Co., in 1918; assigned the identification number (Id. No.) 3565; accepted by the Navy from the USSB at her builder's yard on 28 September 1918; and commissioned that same day, Lt. Comdr. Charles Etzweiler, USNRF, in command.
Assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) for the Army account, Berwyn moved from Sparrows Point to Baltimore and loaded an ordnance cargo bound for France. Underway late on 19 October, Berwyn stood down Chesapeake Bay and dropped anchor off Old Point Comfort the next morning. At 1830 on the 20th, almost seven hours after the ship had taken on board ammunition, Berwyn sailors discovered a fire in the number three hold. The blaze stubbornly resisted efforts to put it out, but the firefighters contained it and finally extinguished it early on the 21st.
Resuming her voyage on 29 October, the cargo ship sailed for New York, anchoring off the Statue of Liberty at 0100 on the 31st. Underway again on 1 November, Berwyn encountered much heavy weather en route to French waters, shipping heavy seas over the after part of the ship that resulted in some of the deck cargo being jostled adrift by the action of the waves. Making landfall on the Isle D'Yeu on 16 November five days after the armistice had ended World War I--Berwyn proceeded to Quiberon Bay, where she anchored that afternoon. Ordered to Nantes the following morning, the freighter reached that port late on the 18th.
After discharging her cargo, Berwyn took on board a return cargo that included "aeroplanes" and ammunition. Underway again on the morning of 2 December, the cargo ship labored through heavy seas on the return passage, eventually making landfall off Cape Henry on the afternoon of the 19th. Continuing then up Chesapeake Bay, Berwyn reached Baltimore on the 20th and commenced unloading her cargo. While she tarried, workmen removed her main battery and gun platforms. Shortly after loading a cargo of hay, food, and gasoline, Berwyn left Baltimore for Hampton Roads. She set out on her second NOTS voyage to France on 12 January 1919 and reached Quiberon Bay on the morning of the 25th. Two days later, the cargo ship received orders to proceed to Nantes since unloading facilities at St. Nazaire were filled to capacity. Berwyn reached Nantes late on 30 January and finally began unloading cargo early on 1 February.
Taking on board a return cargo of 1,224 tons of ammunition and 230 tons of steel rails, Berwyn departed Nantes on 14 February. On the 25th, while en route home, the ship was transferred from the Army account to the USSB account. Reaching Baltimore on 1 March, Berwyn unloaded her cargo there before heading for Savannah, Ga., on 8 March. She stopped at Savannah from 11 to 15 March, during which time she took on board 3,129 tons of cotton, and then got underway for Liverpool on 16 March.
After unloading her cargo alongside King's Dock at Liverpool between 2 and 17 April, Berwyn departed the British Isles in ballast on the 17th,. Shortly before making landfall on the east coast of the United States, she received orders to put into New York, and reached Pier 94, North River, dropping anchor at the foot of 57th Street at 1130 on 2 May. Underway the next day, Berwyn shifted to Pier 45, Brooklyn, where she was decommissioned on 10 May 1919 and returned to the USSB. Her name was struck from the Navy list the same day.
Berwyn--Third Officer A. W. Johnson of the USSB assuming command on 10 May--commenced operations under the Shipping Board soon thereafter. That summer, she carried general cargo to Liverpool, arriving on 16 June, before returning to Hampton Roads on 19 August, en route to Galveston. Picking up another general cargo at Galveston between 29 August and 7 September, Berwyn returned to European waters that fall, reaching Liverpool on 6 October. Returning to Galveston on 3 December via Norfolk, the cargo ship sailed via Norfolk for France a week before Christmas 1919, reaching Le Havre on 7 February 1920.
The Navy Department Shipping Bulletin for 17 March 1920 listed Berwyn as "in port" at Le Havre on 7 March, and her name last appears in the 1920 1921 edition of Lloyd's Register of Merchant Ships.
Robert J. Cressman
15 February 2006