A mountain peak in north central Massachusetts eight miles southwest of Fitchburg, Mass. The word Wachusett is a Natick Native American term which means "near the mountain."
(Id.No. 1840: displacement 9,200 (normal); length 387'0" (overall); beam 44'2"; draft 25'9" (mean); depth of hold 27'1"; speed 10.7 knots; complement 52; armament 1 4-inch, 1 3-inch)
Suevia, a single-screw, steel-hulled freighter built in 1896 at Hamburg, Germany, by Blohm & Voss, was seized from the Hamburg-America Line in 1917 by customs officials for the United States Shipping Board; renamed Wachusett; turned over to the War Department on 22 December 1917; chartered to the Navy on 26 December 1917 and given the identification number (Id.No.) 1840; and commissioned at Hoboken, N.J., on 9 January 1918, Lt. Cmdr Roy W. Look, USNRF, in command.
Assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, Army account, she was fitted out for naval service as a cargo transport. She put to sea on 19 January 1918, laden with a cargo of general Army supplies bound for Brest, France. On 23 January, urgent need for repairs to her radio and engine forced her out of her convoy and into port at Halifax, Nova Scotia. She completed those repairs on 9 February and resumed her transatlantic voyage that same day. Her convoy arrived in Brest on 24 February, and Wachusett discharged her cargo. On 18 March, the freighter set out on the return voyage and arrived in New York on 1 April.
Following a brief repair period, the ship loaded another Army cargo and departed New York, bound for Norfolk, Va., and refueling. She steamed out of Hampton Roads on 16 April 1918 and headed across the Atlantic in company with another convoy. She arrived at Le Havre, France, on 7 May, discharged her cargo and completed her turnaround on the 19th by putting to sea with a New York-bound convoy.
Wachusett entered New York harbor on 4 June 1918 and simultaneously began repairs and cargo loading. Eleven days after her arrival, she stood out of New York, bound southward to Norfolk where she coaled ship on the 15th before her departure the following day for England. Her convoy entered port at Southampton on 10 July, and she unloaded her 4,300 tons of supplies before heading for the United States on the 20th.
Back in New York on 8 August 1918, she underwent voyage repairs while also loading cargo. Again, she steamed south to Norfolk to coal ship and join an eastbound convoy. She sailed from Norfolk on 21 August and pulled into Brest on 11 September. Wachusett left Brest on 31 September after a six-day delay during which she awaited the formation of a homeward-bound convoy. She returned to New York on 15 October, underwent the usual minor repairs, and loaded cargo for her last wartime Atlantic crossing. She stood out of New York on 24 October in convoy for Brest, where she arrived on 8 November. Three days later, the Armistice ended hostilities. Wachusett remained in France for 10 more days and then headed back to the United States, for the first time unmenaced by the danger of enemy U-boats.
The end of the war, however, did not signal an end to Wachusett's Navy career. After her arrival back in New York on 12 December 1918, the cargoman loaded 4,445 tons of supplies and, on 22 January 1919, headed back across the Atlantic. She entered port at St. Nazaire, France, on 7 February and, after discharging her cargo, loaded ordnance material for return to the United States. Departing the French coast on 20 February, she made a brief stop in the Azores en route to New York. Diverted from her original destination, she arrived in Philadelphia, Pa., on 14 March.
Wachusett loaded a partial cargo at Philadelphia and then moved to New York where she filled out her cargo and topped off her coal bunkers. On 10 April 1919, she set sail from New York bound for Gibraltar. There, she received orders to continue her voyage, destination: Singapore. She reached the British colonial city in the Orient on 27 April and unloaded her cargo there. From Singapore, Wachusett set sail on 5 June for Java in the Netherlands East Indies. She visited the Javanese cities of Weltevreden in June and Batavia at the beginning of July. On 12 July, she headed back to Singapore and departed that British colony on the 22nd. Steaming via the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea, Wachusett refueled in the Azores on 8 September and arrived in New York on the 21st.
Following voyage repairs, Wachusett was placed out of commission on 6 October 1919 and was returned to the United States Shipping Board that same day. She was retained by the Shipping Board until late in 1923 or early in 1924, at which time all mention of her in mercantile registers ceased.
Updated. Robert J. Cressman
30 March 2022