Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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  • World War I 1917-1918
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Imperator (Id.No. 4080)

1919

The Navy retained the name carried by this vessel at the time of her acquisition.

(Id.No. 4080: tonnage 52,117 (gross register); length 906'0"; beam 98'3"; draft 35'2"; speed 23.5 knots; complement 1,180; passengers 4,234)

Imperator, a German passenger liner, was built by Vulcan Works, Hamburg, Germany, in 1910-1913, and operated on transatlantic service until laid up in 1914 at the start of the Great War [World War I].

Following the Armistice on 11 November 1918, Imperator was taken over from Germany by the Food Shipping and Finance Agreement. She steamed to Brest, France; was acquired there by the Navy on 5 May 1919; and, having been assigned the Identification Number (Id.No.) 4080, was commissioned the same day, Capt. John K. Robison in command.

After embarking 2,100 U.S. troops and 1,100 passengers, Imperator departed Brest on 15 May 1919, reaching New York one week later. Operating with the Cruiser and Transport Force from 3 June to 10 August she made three cruises from New York to Brest, returning over 25,000 troops, nurses, and civilians to the United States. While en route to New York on 17 June, Imperator assisted the French cruiser Jeanne D'arc, which had broken down in the Atlantic. President Delfim Moreira of Brazil had been traveling on board Jeanne D'arc and Imperator received him and his party for transport to the United States, arriving there several days later.

The troop transport was transferred to the Third Naval District on 19 September 1919, decommissioned at New York on 24 November 1919, and was delivered to the British Ministry of Shipping the same day.

Renamed Berengaria, the massive ship served as the flagship of the Cunard Line until 1934, when Cunard and the White Star Line merged, then continued in service until 1938. Ultimately, she was broken up for scrap (1939-1946). Among her captains was Sir Arthur Rostron, whose ship, Carpathia, had rescued survivors of Titanic in 1912.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

24 May 2022

Published: Thu May 26 14:46:40 EDT 2022