The second U.S. Navy ship named for George Washington, 1732–1799, Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States.
In addition, six ships have been named Washington in honor of the first President. The first Washington -- while never part of the Continental Navy -- was a 160-ton schooner named Endeavor, acquired by Gen. Washington in 1775, fitted out and re-rigged as a brigantine, and served in 1775. The second Washington, a row galley, served from 1776–1778. Frigate Washington was launched on 7 August 1776 but never completed, and she was destroyed by fire on 7 May 1778. The third Washington, a lateen-rigged, two-masted galley, also served in 1776. The fourth Washington, a ship-of-the-line, served from 1815–1843. The fifth Washington, a revenue cutter, served from 1833–1837. The sixth Washington, also a revenue cutter, served from 1837–1861.
The second George Washington was built as German passenger liner George Washington by the Vulcan Works, Stettin, Germany; and was launched on 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 on 6 April and towed to New York Navy Yard for conversion into a transport. She was commissioned on 6 September 1917, Capt. Edwin T. Pollock in command.
George Washington sailed with her first load of troops on 4 December 1917, and during the next two years made 18 round trip voyages in support of the A.E.F. During this period, she also made several special voyages. President Woodrow 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; arrived in France on 13 March, and returned at the conclusion of the historic conference on 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 at New York on 2 October, the royal couple paid a visit before returning to Brest 12 November. Subsequently, the ship was decommissioned on 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 United States Shipping Board on 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 board then reconditioned the vessel for transatlantic service, and the U.S. Mail Steamship Company chartered her, for whom she made one voyage to Europe in March 1921. The company was taken over by the government in 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 on 28 January 1941 and commissioned Catlin (AP-19) on 13 March 1941 in honor of Brig. Gen. 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 on 26 September 1941. Because of their great need for ships in 1941, Great Britain took the ship over under Lend Lease on 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 on 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 War Shipping Administration 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 [Mumbai], India, Capetown, South Africa, 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, France, and Southampton and Liverpool, England.
George Washington was taken out of service and returned to the Maritime Commission on 21 April 1947. She remained tied to a pier at Baltimore, Md., until a fire damaged her on 16 January 1951 and she was subsequently sold for scrap to Boston Metals Corp., on 13 February 1951.
Updated by Mark L. Evans
20 June 2018