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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND

Sol Navis

 

The Navy retained the name of this ship that she carried at the time of her acquisition.

I

Sol Navis (ex-Harry Luckenbach) a large freighter, was the last of four sister ships ordered by the Luckenbach Steamship Co. from the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Chester, Pa., shortly before the U.S. Shipping Board (USSB) on 3 August 1917 requisitioned all merchant ships then under construction or on order in American shipyards. 

Sol Navis was launched on 9 February 1919 and immediately following completion was commissioned at South Philadelphia, Pa., on 7 July 1919 as Sol Navis (Id.No.4031A), Comdr. Edward C. Jones, USNRF, in command. 

Sol Navis probably about the time of her commissioning in the summer of 1919.
Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 44465

Assigned to the Cruiser and Transport Force to bring soldiers home from Europe following World War I, Sol Navis had been equipped with temporary troop accommodations while fitting out.  On 12 July 1919, she departed Philadelphia and proceeded at full speed on four boilers for Brest, France.  She anchored in the outer harbor there on 23 July 1919, and on 24 July received 500 tons of water from the self-propelled water barge Rintintin, which also served as a tender to bring troops to the transports anchored at Brest.  Sol Navis then swung at anchor in the Brest roadstead until the afternoon of 13 August, when the tender Nomadic came alongside with troops.  With 30 Army officers and 846 enlisted men embarked, Sol Navis immediately sailed at full speed for New York.  She passed the Ambrose Lightship at daybreak on 23 August and disembarked her troops in the late morning at an Army pier at Hoboken, N.J..

On 4 September 1919, Sol Navis left Hoboken on her second and last voyage to Brest, again proceeding at full speed on all four boilers.  She anchored at Brest in the evening of 13 September, and in the morning of 14 September the tug Nenette (a sister to Rintintin), came alongside to take ashore the ship’s passengers and their baggage.  Later in the day she took on board 400 tons of fresh water from a water tug (possibly Rintintin).  After a wait of only two days, a troop lighter brought the first contingent of homeward bound doughboys alongside in the morning of 16 September.  By 4 p.m., the ship had embarked 67 officers, 1,699 soldiers, one civilian and 100 sailors for a total of 1,867 passengers.  One hour later, the ship sailed for New York, where she arrived in the quarantine anchorage off Staten Island on the evening of 25 September.  Released from quarantine the following morning, the ship immediately moved to the Army’s Bush Terminal at 59th Street in Brooklyn and disembarked her troops.

Sol Navis was drydocked at Robins Dry Dock, Erie Basin, Brooklyn, between 9 and 11 October 1919 and then returned to Bush Terminal.  She was decommissioned there at noon on 22 October 1919 and returned to the USSB.  

The Luckenbach Steamship Co. bought Sol Navis back from the USSB in 1920 and operated her as Harry Luckenbach until she was torpedoed and sunk on 17 March 1943 by the German submarine U-91 while in convoy HX-229 in the central North Atlantic. Although HMS Pennywort sighted Harry Luckenbach’s survivors, the British corvette’s being packed with 108 men rescued from other ships that had fallen prey to U-boats prevented her from being able to recover them.  Not a man of Harry Luckenbach’s 54 merchant sailors and 26-man Naval Armed Guard survived the ordeal.


Stephen S. Roberts
11 December 2012