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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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George Washington

 

George Washington was born 22 February 1732 in Westmoreland County, Va. He was commissioned in the Virginia Militia in 1753, rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel the next year, and fought brilliantly in the French and Indian War. Entering the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1759, Washington was an early advocate of independence. In 1775 he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, and demonstrated a profound appreciation of sea power as well as great military genius. After years of hardship and arduous struggle, he finally won a decisive victory at Yorktown. In directing Allied movements during this campaign, one of the great strategic operations of our history, Washington brilliantly employed the French Navy to cut off Lord Cornwallis from help by sea. He had sought a decisive combined operation like this for years, for he wrote "In any operations, and under all circumstances a decisive Naval superiority is to be considered as a fundamental principle and the focus upon which every hope of success must ultimately depend."

 

The Treaty of Paris recognized American independence 20 January 1783. After attending the Annapolis Convention of 1786 and presiding over the Continental Convention of 1787, Washington was unanimously elected first President under the new Constitution and inaugurated 30 April 1789. His two terms in office laid the foundations for strong government under the Constitution. Returning to his home at Mount Vernon in 1797, Washington was recalled briefly to command the American army when war with France threatened in 1798. He died at Mount Vernon 14 December 1799.

 

II

(AP: dp. 33,000; l. 722'5"; b. 78'; dr. 36'; s. 19 k.; cpl. 749; a. 4 5")

 

The second George Washington was built as German passenger liner George Washington by the Vulcan Works, Stettin, Germany; and launched 10 November 1908. She was operated by the North Germany Lloyd Line until World War I when she sought refuge in New York, a neutral port in 1914. With the American entry into the war in 1917, George Washington was taken over 6 April and towed to the New York Navy Yard for conversion into a transport. She commissioned 6 September 1917, Captain Edwin T. Pollock in command.

 

George Washington sailed with her first load of troops 4 December 1917 and during the next 2 years made 18 round trip voyages in support of the A.E.F. During this period she also made several special voyages. President Wilson and the American representatives to the Paris Peace Conference sailed for Europe in George Washington 4 December 1918. On this crossing she was protected by Pennsylvania, and was escorted into Brest, France, 13 December by nine battleships and several divisions of destroyers in an impressive demonstration of American naval strength. George Washington also carried Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt and the Chinese and Mexican peace commissions to France in January 1919 and on 24 February returned President Wilson to the United States. The President again embarked on board George Washington in March 1919; arriving France 13 March, and returned at the conclusion of the historic conference 8 July 1919.

 

During the fall of 1919, George Washington carried another group of distinguished passengers—the King and Queen of Belgium and their party. Arriving New York 2 October, the royal couple paid a visit before returning to Brest 12 November. Subsequently, the ship decommissioned 28 November 1919 after having transported some 48,000 passengers to Europe and 34,000 back to the United States. George Washington was turned over to USSB 28 January 1920 and in 1921 was used to transport 250 members of the American Legion to France as guests of the French Government. The vessel was then reconditioned by USSB for transatlantic service, and chartered by the U.S. Mail Steamship Company, for whom she made one voyage to Europe in March 1921. The company was taken over by the Government August 1921 and its name changed to the United States Lines. George Washington served the Line on the transatlantic route until 1931 when she was laid up in the Patuxent River, Md.

 

George Washington was reacquired for Navy use from the Maritime Commission 28 January 1941 and commissioned Catlin (AP-19) 13 March 1941 in honor of Brigadier General Albertus W. Catlin, USMC. It was found, however, that the coal-burning engines did not give the required speed for protection against submarines, and she decommissioned 26 September 1941. Because of their great need for ships in 1941, Great Britain took the ship over under lend lease 29 September 1941 as George Washington, but they too found after one voyage to Newfoundland that her engines rendered her unfit for combat service and returned her to the WSA 17 April 1942.

 

The ship was next operated under General Agency Agreement by the Waterman Steamship Co., Mobile, Ala., and made a voyage to Panama. After her return 5 September 1942 the WSA assigned George Washington to be converted to an oil-burner at Todd Shipbuilding's Brooklyn Yard. When she emerged 17 April 1943, the transport was chartered by the Army and made a voyage to Casablanca and back to New York with troops April to May 1943. In July she sailed from New York to the Panama Canal, thence to Los Angeles and Brisbane, Australia. Returning to Los Angeles, she sailed again in September to Bombay, India, Capetown, and arrived at New York to complete her round-the-world voyage in December 1943. In January 1944 George Washington began regular service to the United Kingdom and the Mediterranean, again carrying troops in support of the decisive Allied onslaught on Europe from the sea. She made frequent stops at Le Havre, Southampton, and Liverpool.

 

George Washington was taken out of service and returned to the Maritime Commission 21 April 1947. She remained tied to a pier at Baltimore, Md., until a fire damaged her 16 January 1951 and she was subsequently sold for scrap to Boston Metals Corp. 13 February 1951.

 

 


USS George Washington, bearing President Wilson, enters New York Harbor 8 July 1919.