(Freighter: dp. 12,185; l. 423'9"; b. 54'0"; dph. 29'9"; dr. 24'2" (mean); s. 10.5 k.; cpl. 99; a. 1 5", 1 3")
Western. Chief—a single-screw, steel-hulled cargo vessel constructed under a United States Shipping Board(USSB) contract for the Compagnie Generale of France, at Portland, Oreg., by the Northwest Steel Co. —was launched on 20 April 1918. Taken over by the Navy on 3 July 1918, the cargo ship was commissioned at Portland on the same day, Lt. Comdr. Thomas H. Thompson, USNRF, in command.
Designated Id. No. 3161 and assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, Western Chief departed the Pacific Northwest on 12 July with 7,170 tons of flour on board as cargo. Proceeding via the Panama Canal, she arrived at New York on 15 August; unloaded the flour; loaded 20 trucks, and got underway from Norfolk on the 22d in a convoy bound for France. She made port at Brest on 11 September and remained until 8 October when she sailed for the United States. Reaching New York on the 24th, she proceeded the same day to Newport News, Va., to prepare for another voyage.
Western Chief then conducted three more round-trip cargo runs to Europe. She was at sea on the first of these voyages en route to La Pallice on 11 November 1918, the day the armistice ending World War I was signed. On 16 April 1919, Western Chief got underway for Europe with a full cargo of flour on her last cruise under NOTS. Her final voyage embraced calls at the Hook of Holland; Dartmouth, England; Danzig, Poland; and Copenhagen, Denmark, before she returned home to Baltimore on 25 June 1919.
Western Chief was decommissioned, struck from the Navy list, and returned to the Shipping Board on 28 June 1919. She subsequently operated on mercantile service and was acquired by the British government when England's need for merchantmen became pressing during World War II. While steaming with Convoy SC-24, Western Chief was torpedoed at 1307 on 14 March 1941 by Italian submarine Emo and sunk in the North Atlantic, south of Iceland.