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Mount Vernon III (Id.No. 4508)


The home of George Washington on the Potomac River near Alexandria, Va.


(Id.No. 4508: displacement 29,650 (full load); length 706'6" (overall); beam 72'2” (waterline); draft 31’6” (mean); depth of hold 31'1"; speed 24.0 knots; complement 1,030; armament 4 5-inch, 2 1‑pounders, 2 machine guns)

Kronprinzessin Cecilie, a twin-screw steel-hulled steamship launched at Stettin, Germany, on 1 December 1906 by Actien Gesellsehaft Vulkan, was operating on the transatlantic run for Norddeutscher Lloyd [North German Lloyd Line] at the beginning of the Great War [World War I]. While steaming toward Germany from the United States carrying some $2 million in gold bullion, she received word of the outbreak of war, headed back to the U.S. to avoid capture by the British Navy, and was interned at Bar Harbor, Maine.

Commandeered by the United States on 3 February 1917, the ship was transferred from the USSB to the Navy when America entered the war; renamed Mount Vernon and given the identification number (Id.No.) 4508; she was fitted out at Boston to carry troops and war materiel to Europe; and was commissioned on 28 July 1917.

Mount Vernon departed New York for Brest 31 October 1917 on her first crossing for the Navy and during the war made nine successful voyages carrying the Doughboys who turned back the Kaiser's final offensive and forced Germany to surrender. However, early on the morning of 5 September 1918, as the transport steamed homeward in convoy some 200 miles from the French coast, her No. 1 gun crew spotted a periscope some 500 yards off her starboard bow. Mount Vernon immediately fired one round at German submarine U‑82 (Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Middendorff, commanding). The U‑boat simultaneously submerged, but managed to launch a torpedo at the transport. Mount Vernon's officer of the deck promptly ordered right full rudder, but the ship could not turn in time to avoid the torpedo, which struck her amidships, knocking out half of her boilers, flooding the midsection, killing 36 sailors, and wounding 13. Mount Vernon's guns kept firing ahead of the U‑boat's wake and she launched a pattern of depth charges while damage control teams worked to save the ship. Their determined and skillful efforts enabled the transport to return to Brest under her own power for temporary repairs before proceeding to Boston for permanent ones.

Mount Vernon rejoined the Cruiser and Transport Service in February 1919 and sailed on George Washington's birthday for France to begin returning veterans to the United States. Among her distinguished passengers during her naval service were: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations; Gen. Tasker H. Bliss, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; Col. Edward M. House, Special Adviser to President Woodrow Wilson; and, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker.

Mount Vernon was decommissioned on 29 September 1919 and transferred to the War Department for service as a U.S. Army transport (USAT). Transferred to the U.S. Shipping Board in August 1920, she was laid up at Solomons Island, Maryland. Ultimately, she was scrapped at Boston on 13 September 1940.

Interim Update, Robert J. Cressman

31 October 2023

Published: Tue Oct 31 09:53:12 EDT 2023