(Freighter: dp. 12,200; l. 423'9"; b. 54'0"; dph. 29'9"; dr. 24'2 ½ " (mean); s. 11.5 k.; cpl. 84; a. none)
West Eldara—a steel-hulled, single-screw cargo vessel built under a United States Shipping Board contract in 1918 at Seattle, Wash., by the Skinner and Eddy Corp.—was taken over by the Navy for use by the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) ; and, on 23 November 1918, 12 days after the armistice ended World War I, was commissioned at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Lt. Comdr. John P. Tibbetts, USNRF, in command.
West Eldara sailed on 8 December for San Francisco, Calif., and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard six days later for repairs to her steering gear. Four days after Christmas, the cargo vessel got underway from the west coast, bound—via the Panama Canal— for the east coast and, on 14 January 1919, arrived at New York. Laden with flour and lard, West Eldara got underway for Europe on the 24th. Upon her arrival at Gibraltar, the cargo ship was routed on to the Near East. On 12 February, she headed for Constantinople and on the 22d—Washington's Birthday—arrived at that fabled city which sits astride the strategic Bosporus.
After off-loading her foodstuffs, West Eldara returned via Gibraltar to the United States and arrived in New York on 7 April. The ship loaded Army supplies and sailed on 16 April for a European voyage which would take her to the Hook of Holland and to Antwerp before she reached Plymouth, England. She discharged the last of her cargo there before departing the British Isles on 12 May 1919. Arriving at New York on the 29th, West Eldara was decommissioned on 4 June 1919 and was returned to the United States Shipping Board on the same day. Sold to the A. H. Bull Steamship Co., Inc., in 1937 and renamed Mae, the freighter operated in merchant service out of New York. The onset of war in 1939 brought the specter of war again close to American shores; and, by late 1941, the United States was fully involved. Through these troubled years, Mae continued to ply the freight trade and steamed, unescorted on cargo-carrying missions. On her last voyage, her path crossed with that oi German submarine U-515, off British Guayana. Commanded by Kapitdnleutnant Werner Henke, that U-boat had already sunk five merchantmen. On 16 September 1942, Mae lurched and lost way under the impact of straight-running torpedoes from U-515. As the freighter took on water and settled, U-515 surfaced, un-limbered her deck gun, and finished off the damaged merchantman with gunfire