molded depth

SS Kroonland

SS Kroonland was an ocean liner for International Mercantile Marine (IMM) from her launch in 1902 until she was scrapped in 1927. She was the sister ship of and a near sister-ship of and of the same company. Kroonland sailed for the Red Star Line for a total of 15 years, but also sailed for the American Line and the Panama Pacific Line, both IMM subsidiary lines. During World War I she served as United States Army transport USAT Kroonland through April 1918, and the United States Navy as USS Kroonland (ID-1541), from April 1918 to October 1919.

Announced by the Red Star Line in 1899, Kroonland was completed in 1902 by William Cramp and Sons of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time of her launching, she was the largest steamship ever built in the United States. In addition, Kroonland and sister Finland were the largest ships ever built by the Cramp shipyard. Kroonland sailed from New York to Antwerp on her maiden voyage in June 1902, beginning service on the route she would sail for the next twelve years. According to The New York Times, Kroonland was the first ship in distress to use radio to call for help after suffering storm damage in December 1903. In another radio first, Kroonland was on the receiving end of the "first real broadcast of history" in December 1906. In October 1913, Kroonland was one of ten liners that came to the aid of the burning liner in the mid-Atlantic. Despite stormy seas, Kroonland was able to take aboard 89 of the some 520 survivors, for which her captain and crew received accolades that included U.S. Congressional Gold Medals.

After the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Kroonland was shifted to several different routes. On a trip to the Mediterranean in October 1914, Kroonland was detained by British authorities at Gibraltar and had part of her cargo confiscated amidst diplomatic wrangling between the neutral United States and the United Kingdom. As part of a chartered circumnavigation of South America in early 1915, Kroonland became the largest passenger ship to that time to transit the Panama Canal when she passed through on 2 February. She was placed in New York – Panama Canal – San Francisco service until a large landslide in the canal closed it to navigation for a time. Placed back in transatlantic service, Kroonland later became one of the first seven U.S. ships to be defensively armed against German submarines. In May 1917 she was struck by torpedo that failed to detonate, damaging her only slightly.

Kroonland was employed for a time as a U.S. Army transport ship until transferred to the U.S. Navy in April 1918. She made six roundtrips carrying American troops to France before the Armistice and eight voyages after, transporting nearly 38,000 troops in total. Returned to IMM in late 1919, Kroonland was refitted for passenger service and nearly destroyed in a fire at the shipyard in January 1920. She returned to North Atlantic service in April, remaining there until returned to New York – San Francisco service in 1923. Kroonland inaugurated IMM's winter New York – Miami service from December 1925 to March 1926. Kroonland was laid up in Hoboken, New Jersey, and when IMM did not resume the Miami service the following year, was sold and scrapped at Genoa in 1927.

Design and construction

In July 1899, the Red Star Line announced plans for the construction of four large steamers. Two ships, Kroonland and , were to be built at William Cramp and Sons in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and two others, and at John Brown & Company of Clydebank in Scotland. By April 1901, the two Scottish-built ships were already completed and in service for the Red Star Line, while the construction of the American pair was well underway.

Kroonland, and her virtually identical sister Finland, were each , slightly larger than Vaderland and Zeeland, and were the highest tonnage civilian ships ever built by William Cramp, and the largest steamships ever built in the United States at the time of their launching. Kroonland had a length between perpendiculars, a beam, and a molded depth. Her hull was steel, and, during her construction, virtually all the rivets were set with pneumatic rivet guns.

Kroonland was driven at a speed of by twin triple-expansion steam engines with cylinders of , , and with a stroke. The engines were rated at a total of . There were nine single-ended coal-fired Scotch boilers with a heating area of , a grate area of , and operating at . Kroonland had eleven watertight compartments with reinforced bulkheads, and was designed to remain afloat with up to two of her compartments flooded. The arrangement of her coal bunkers was such that they surrounded her boilers and were designed to provide a measure of protection for the boilers in case the ship were to be used in a time of war.

The area below the main deck was dedicated to carrying freight and stores. Here Kroonland could carry of cargo, and her water tanks could carry of freshwater. Refrigerated storage was provided for fresh meats and other perishable goods.

The main deck featured the third class passenger accommodations. At the forward end of the deck were three third-class passenger compartments for men; a compartment for married couples was at the rear of the deck, and featured state rooms that housed two, four, or six bunks. All the compartments had well-lighted dining areas and wide hallways that led to lavatories and sanitary facilities on the upper deck.

The upper deck primarily housed facilities for crew members and first- and second-class passengers. A long forecastle contained the accommodations for the crew and petty officers, as well as a hospital and the lavatories for third-class passengers. Close to amidships, were first-class staterooms for 106 passengers. To the rear of the cabins, and between the funnels, was the first-class dining room, which stretched the entire width of the ship. With seating for 208, it featured mahogany furniture and satinwood paneling with inlays of other types of wood, and had a glass skylight ceiling that extended up through two decks. Beyond this area were the galleys, sculleries, and pantries that served all passenger classes. Moving further aft, the second-class dinning room, which could accommodate 120 diners, was next. It, too, extended the width of the ship and featured mahogany furniture, but was paneled with tapestry upon a cream-colored ground. Beyond the dining area were cabins for 76 second-class passengers.

A long bridge deck amidships contained state rooms for another 204 first-class and 120 second-class passengers. In the rear was a deck house that contained a social room for third-class passengers. A promenade deck was located above and was permanently enclosed by a boat deck, where Kroonlands 20 steel lifeboats were stowed. The promenade deck housed the first-class passenger library and smoking room.

Kroonland was launched on the afternoon of 20 February 1902. In a small, informal ceremony, Mrs. Rodman Griscom named the ship, but, because of cold weather, the tallow on the way#Noun had frozen and the ship wouldn't budge. Hydraulic jacks were brought in and eventually freed the ship, allowing her to slide into the Delaware River.

Red Star Line service, 1902–1914

After her fitting out was completed, Kroonland sailed on her maiden voyage from New York to Antwerp on 28 June 1902. Kroonland remained on New York – Antwerp service for the next twelve years. In these early years of service, Kroonland was involved in two radio firsts. After her steering gear failed west of Fastnet Rock during a moderate gale in early December 1903, Kroonlands crew was able to communicate her predicament via her Marconi wireless system, becoming, according to one contemporary news account, the first ship in distress ever to use wireless. Kroonland put in at Queenstown, Ireland, for repairs, and transferred her passengers and freight to ships of the White Star Line, another IMM subsidiary. Kroonland experienced another radio first on 24 December 1906, when her wireless operator heard—rather than the expected dots and dashes of morse code—the voice of a woman singing. The singing was followed by a recording of Handel's "Largo", a poetry reading, and more music played from phonographs. The steamer was on the receiving end of what what journalist and author Robert St. John called the "first real broadcast of history", originated by early radio pioneer Reginald Fessenden from Brant Rock, Massachusetts.

During her time on the New York – Antwerp route, Kroonland was frequently battered by storms typical in the North Atlantic. In November 1904, a Brussels news agency reported the rumor that Kroonland had founder#Verb in one mid-ocean storm. The report—proven to be false when Kroonland safely docked in New York—received wide coverage in the United States press. The next month, while she was underway in a heavy gale, Kroonland was struck by what contemporary news accounts referred to as a "tidal wave". On 12 December, the large wave, reported as high as the tops of Kroonlands funnels, crashed over her deck, and brought the ship to a standstill. A Belgian passenger was thrown into a wall with a broken leg and a crewman on watch in the crow's nest was sent tumbling to the deck below with only minor injuries.

In another December gale in 1907, one of the two propellor shafts on Kroonland broke while the liner was off of the Isles of Scilly. By using her lone remaining propellor, the liner was able to make her way back towards Southampton, where two tugs met her and brought her into port. To continue their passage to New York, passengers were transferred to . After Kroonland entered drydock at Southampton and was fitted for a new shaft, she sailed, sans passengers and cargo, for New York, arriving on 2 January 1908. In February 1910, severe winter storms on the North Atlantic caused Kroonland to arrive in New York three days late. In May, Kroonland broke another propeller shaft, and again headed to Southampton for repairs.

Not all of Kroonlands mishaps were storm-related, however. In late April 1911, Kroonland allision with the breakwater in Dover Harbour, disabling her steering gear, and delaying the ship by a day. On 8 January 1913, Kroonland ran aground in Ambrose Channel during a heavy fog while outbound to Antwerp. It took more than six hours of work with tugs to free the liner from the soft mud in which she was ensnared.

Though Kroonland had initially sailed under the American flag, the Red Star Line changed Kroonland from American to Belgian registry on 6 November 1908 in Antwerp. One reason given for the change was to allow Red Star to hire non-American crews at lower cost. She made her maiden voyage under the Belgian flag the next day. In May 1911, Kroonlands crew, acting on rumors of an impending British mariner's strike, refused to sign on for the ship's next voyage, forcing Red Star hire an all new crew.

A little more than three years after changing her registry, Red Star changed Kroonlands registry from Belgian back to that of the United States. In a short ceremony aboard the liner in New York Harbor on 27 December 1911, the Belgian flag was lowered and the American flag was raised to the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by the steamer's band, shortly before she sailed for Antwerp. International Mercantile Marine had recently submitted a bid for a ten-year contract to carry mail between New York and San Francisco after the opening of the Panama Canal. By law, only U.S.-flagged ships could carry U.S. mail under contract, and the bidding requirements called for the specific ships to be identified. IMM's bid called for Kroonland and Finland to sail on the mail route, hence the transfer of registry. Another reason for Kroonlands switch of registries was anticipation that American-flagged vessels would receive preferential treatment for canal tolls.

Volturno rescue

At about 06:00 on 9 October 1913, , a Royal Line ship under charter to the Uranium Line, caught fire in the middle of a gale in the North Atlantic. The crew attempted to fight the fire for about two hours, but, realizing the severity of the fire and the limited options for dousing it in the high seas, Captain Francis Inch of Volturno had his wireless operator send out SOS signals. The westbound Kroonland, already beyond Volturno's location, turned and headed east to go to the aid of the burning liner. In the meantime, several of Volturno's lifeboats with women and children aboard were launched with tragic results; all the boats either capsized or were smashed by the hull of the heaving ship, leaving no one alive from these first boats.

In all, ten ships heeded the distress calls, arriving throughout the day and into the next. Kroonland arrived at about 17:00, and by 20:00 had launched a lifeboat with a volunteer crew. The boat was unable to get close to the burning liner, requiring passengers to jump into the stormy waters. Kroonlands lifeboat returned at 22:30 with an exhausted crew and the one person who dared to brave the jump into the water. All the while, Captain J. C. Barr of , the first ship to arrive, took command of the rescue effort. Barr had the other nine vessels form a "battle line" of sorts and slowly circle the burning ship. Throughout the night, Carmania kept one of her searchlights on Volturno, with another sweeping the ring of rescue ships to help them avoid collisions. Despite Carmania's efforts, Kroonland and the French Line steamer almost collided, coming, according to one passenger, within of impact.

Kroonlands lifeboat, manned by a fresh crew, headed back out and returned with 13 steerage passengers. On board Volturno, the crew and some of the male passengers, unable to extinguish the fire, were at least able to keep it from spreading to the aft cargo holds, over which the others on board were gathered. But, shortly before dawn, a large explosion—probably of her boilers—rocked Volturno. At this point, the rescuers felt that the ship, which had not been in imminent danger of sinking up to this point, might founder at any time. The tanker Narragansett, one of the ten rescue vessels, turned on her pumps and sprayed lubricating oil on the sea to help calm the surface. The combination of the oil and the lessening of the storm allowed many more lifeboats to be sent to Volturno's aid. Kroonland launched two more boats herself and saved 75 more, including Captain Inch, the last person to leave the stricken ship. In all, some 520 passengers and crew were rescued by the ten ships—89 on Kroonland alone. The loss of life was limited to around 130, mostly women and children from the early lifeboat launchings.

With all boats recovered by 09:00, the rescue liners all resumed their original courses. Kroonland turned west and continued on to the United States, hampered by a cracked crankshaft that slowed her to . During her slow passage to New York, Kroonlands cabin passengers drafted a resolution honoring Capt. Kreibohm and the crew for their actions during the rescue, and raised $700 for the benefit of the Volturno survivors. Kroonland finally docked in New York on 16 October.

Kroonlands crew, like those of the other nine ships involved, received many accolades for their rescue efforts. After sending the ship a congratulatory telegram at the time of the rescue, King Albert of Belgium made Capt. Kreibohm a Chavalier of the Order of the Crown in January 1914. At the same time, the Belgian government awarded its Third Class Civic Cross to Kroonlands third officer, and First Class Civic Medals to six crewmen and a steward. In March, King George V of the United Kingdom, on recommendation of the Board of Trade, awarded 39 of Kroonlands crew the Silver Sea Gallantry Medal, along with a £3 award. Crewmen from all ten ships involved received Sea Gallantry Medals, but no other ship had more medals awarded than Kroonland. Later in March, the United States Congress honored Kreibohm with a gold watch, Kroonlands officers—including Kreibohm—with Congressional Gold Medals, and other crewmen with five silver and 25 bronze medals. In April, the Life Saving Benevolent Association of New York awarded its Life Saving Medal to Kriebohm, four officers, and 35 crewmen. In June 1916, Kriebohm was awarded the American Cross of Honor by Congressman Henry Bruckner.

Kroonland resumed her normal New York – Antwerp service until 11 August 1914, when she arrived at New York with passengers that had narrowly escaped the hostilities beginning to engulf the European continent.

Notable passengers

During her pre-war sailings on the New York – Antwerp route, Kroonland carried her share of notable and interesting passengers while she plied the North Atlantic. On 1 August 1904, a passenger by the name of Constance Phelan arrived in New York aboard Kroonland as somewhat of a mystery woman. She recounted that she had gone out for dinner in Antwerp and the next thing she knew, she was at sea, with only the dress she was wearing, a white silk evening gown. Because she had no money and no luggage, she was compelled to remain on board the ship once it docked in New York. After a news article about her predicament was published in The New York Times, she received numerous letters and telegrams, which included marriage proposals. Although her background story and a letter of credit verified her identity, she was deported after a New York doctor pronounced her insane.

Later in the same month, on Kroonlands next return to New York, several of the first-class passengers got into a snit over privileges for their dogs aboard the liner. Although Red Star accommodated passengers' dogs with a kennel area, and had the ship's butcher feed them, several passengers were upset when another was allowed to have her dog in her state room. Determined to have equal privilege for their own dogs, two other owners arrived to find the kennel exceedingly hot. The crew returned all of the ship's canine passengers to the kennel area, overruling objections to the kennel's high temperature. Many of the dog owners refused to speak to the others involved for the duration of the voyage.

On 27 May 1905, American author Molly Elliot Seawell sailed for Europe on Kroonland on a day when six liners, with over 1,500 passengers, departed New York. In October, Helen Taft returned from Europe on Kroonland and was met by her husband, Secretary of War William Howard Taft. The next August, Henry Yates Satterlee, the first Episcopal Bishop of Washington, returned from a six-week tour of cathedrals of Europe. He was noting both good and bad design elements of cathedrals in preparation for the building of the Washington National Cathedral. Also returning on the same voyage were Admiral Charles Sperry and Lieutenant Daniel W. Wurtsbaugh of the U.S. Navy, and Brigadier General Robert O'Reilly, the then-current Surgeon General of the U.S. Army; all were American delegates to the Second Geneva Convention. It was not the first trip on Kroonland for either Satterlee and O'Reilly. Satterlee had traveled on the liner the previous May to visit the spa town of Bad Nauheim in Hesse; O'Reilly had been on the November 1904 trip in which Kroonland had been reported as sunk.

Kroonland was the scene of an attempted murder-suicide in October 1908. Two men traveling in steerage, who were acquaintances, had an argument over a young woman both men knew, and who was traveling in second class on the ship. One man drew a knife, threw it at the other—wounding him slightly—and then ran and jumped over the railing into the English Channel near Dover. U.S. Senator Benjamin Tillman (D-SC) and his wife were aboard the liner at the time and saw the young man jump overboard. Although the ship lowered a boat to look for him, no trace of him was found, and it was presumed he had drowned.

American actresses Kitty Cheatham and Isabel Irving—each married to a different man by the name of "W. H. Thompson"—traveled on Kroonland in May 1910. Alerted to each other's presence when mail addressed to "Mrs. W. H. Thompson" was confused, the actresses—old friends, having both worked in the theatre company of Augustin Daly—shared a state room for the voyage. Later that month, Kroonland was the official "World Missionary Conference Steamship" for delegates and representatives on their way to the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. Honda Yoitsu, said to be the only Japanese Methodist Episcopal bishop, was among those on the liner when she sailed on 31 May. News accounts reported on some of the unusual activities aboard Kroonland during this trip. Among them, morning devotional services held daily in the ship's dining room, and the spontaneous singing of hymns on deck every evening.

Kroonland was tangentially involved in a more sinister affair in July 1910. American physician Hawley Crippen and his lover, Ethel La Neve, had fled England after the circumstances around his wife's death were questioned. After a body was found in the basement of Crippen's North London residence, Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Walter Dew sought the couple for murder charges. One theory had the couple sailing from Dover on Kroonland, but when inspected in New York on arrival, Crippen and Le Neve were not to be found. The fleeing couple had instead sailed on the Canadian Pacific liner from Antwerp. Crippen, identified during Montrose's crossing, was arrested, convicted of his wife's murder, and hanged. La Neve was acquitted.

American novelist Theodore Dreiser, returning from an extended European tour in April 1912, briefly considered returning on , but instead sailed two days later on the American-flagged—and less expensive—Kroonland. Dreiser recounted the gloomy mood of Kroonlands passengers after hearing the news of Titanic's sinking, observing that the "terror of the sea had come swiftly and directly home to all". On Kroonlands next return trip to New York, Horst von der Goltz, a self-described German secret agent, escaped from German authorities by working as a steward in steerage aboard the liner.

American Line service, 1914–1915

With the German invasion of Belgium in early August 1914, Kroonland was switched to New York–Liverpool service, sailing on her first voyage there on 15 August. After two circuits on that route, she was moved to try to attract new business to offset that lost to the war. To that end, she was assigned to sail form New York to Gibraltar, Naples, and Piraeus, becoming what the company called the first large, American-flagged steamer "to engage in trade with the far corners of the Mediterranean".

Sailing on 15 October, she carried passengers and a cargo load that included rubber and of copper. On 28 October, British authorities at Gibraltar detained Kroonland because her load of copper was destined for Italy. At that time, Italy did not restrict the shipment of copper—which is used in war munitions—to Germany or Austria-Hungary. Because the British contended that Kroonlands consignment of copper for Naples might be destined for belligerents, they felt they had the right to detain the ship, a contention disputed by the U.S. State Department. Kroonland was allowed to go on her way on 8 November after the load of copper and rubber on Kroonland was unloaded. The British then took the cargo before a prize court for adjudication. Kroonland arrived at Naples on 11 November, then completed the rest of her Mediterranean roundtrip. On her return, she carried the new minister from Bulgaria to the United States, who arrived in New York on 4 December. Although Kroonland was scheduled to depart from New York on another Mediterranean run in December, the liner was instead removed from the route.

In late January 1915, Kroonland departed on a business tour of South America under charter to the American Trade Tour Company. Designed as a showcase for American companies hoping to expand into South America, the ship circumnavigated that continent on an 82-day journey that totaled over . During the voyage, the liner would dock at various ports where businessmen or their representatives, like the Babson Statistical Organization, could make sales pitches or show films of factories aboard Kroonland to potential customers. The trip had originally been slated for October 1914, but the outbreak of war in Europe delayed the excursion.

During her South American foray, Kroonland sailed westbound through the Panama Canal on 2 February, becoming the largest passenger ship to transit the canal to that date. Also on the trip, while transiting the Straits of Magellan in late February, Kroonland passed British cruiser refueling from a collier, and, on 26 February, when entering the harbor of Punta Arenas, Chile, passed the departing , on the hunt for German cruiser . Kroonland returned to New York on 14 April.

Panama Pacific Line service, 1915

The following month, Kroonland and sister ship Finland were both chartered to the Panama Pacific Line for service between New York and San Francisco, finally putting into effect the long-planned service. Kroonland began her first trip to California when she departed from New York on 22 May, counting 50 honeymooning couples and a large cargo of flour from St. Paul, Minnesota, among her payload. The trips took about 17 days each way and called at either Los Angeles or San Diego on both eastbound and westbound trips. With two ships on the route, one ship departed from either New York or San Francisco about every three weeks. The service was marketed as the ideal manner to visit the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. At the San Francisco exhibition, one of the exhibits in the Palace of Transportation was sponsored by International Mercantile Marine. The company had a exhibit—enclosed in ship's railing—with ten detailed models of ships for all of the conglomerate's various shipping lines; a model of Kroonland and sister ship Finland represented the Panama Pacific Line.

Frequent, and progressively worse, landslides in the canal disrupted Kroonlands and Finland's service. In August 1915, Kroonlands arrival in New York was delayed one day by a slide in the Gaillard Cut. In early September, both ships were delayed ten days while waiting for after another slide to be dredged. In early October, another landslide in the Gaillard Cut—this one in excess of of mud and dirt—closed the canal, with expectations that it might be closed for as long as ten months. Kroonland was en route to the canal from San Francisco, while Finland was already at Colón, at the canal's eastern terminus. After Kroonland arrived at Balboa (at the canal's western end), the two liners exchanged passengers—including former First Lady Helen Taft, and her daughter, Helen—by rail lines across the isthmus.

American Line service, 1915–1917

The expected delay caused by the October slide initially created uncertainty for the immediate future of Kroonland. Unlike sister ship Finland, transferred to a New York – London route almost immediately after the canal's closure, Kroonland was "trapped" on the west side of the canal. But by early November, Kroonland—loaded with cargo destined for the United Kingdom, and sailing under the banner of the American Line—departed San Francisco for London, via the Straits of Magellan. On 21 December, the liner arrived at Rio de Janeiro after having run aground, but was found to be undamaged. Continuing on to London, Kroonland departed there 30 January 1916 for New York. Although plans were announced in mid 1916 for the two sister ships to return to the Panama Pacific Line, and to add the Hawaiian port of Honolulu to the canal route, both ships remained in North Atlantic service.

On 20 February, Kroonland, continuing to sail for the American Line, returned to New York – Liverpool service after an absence of 18 months. As a ship of a still-neutral United States sailing in a war zone, Kroonland had her name painted in large letters on each side of her hull. The name was flanked on either side by large American flags and kept illuminated at night. In June, she carried US$1,500,000 of Argentine gold from London for deposit with the Guaranty Trust Company of New York, and in late 1916, a cook aboard Kroonland was arrested for smuggling feathers, wings, and heads of birds of paradise and crowned pigeons. The man, who was paid $300 for each load of feathers, smuggled in at least three loads of the avian contraband before his arrest. In January 1917, a jumble sale held in the saloon on Kroonland raised £73 15s 11d for The Times Fund, for the benefit of the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John.

While returning from Liverpool in early February 1917, passengers and crew on Kroonland witnessed German U boat UC-46 sink the Dutch ship Gamma off the Irish coast. On 1 February 1917, at around 15:30, passengers and crew saw the German submarine overtake and stop the Dutch freighter. At about 16:15, the sub—by then on the far side of the Dutch ship, and out of view from Kroonland—fired three shots from her deck gun. Gamma immediately began listing to port and sank within five minutes. Kroonland was less than away, and was prepared to rescue the crew of the sunken ship, but stopped when the German submarine took Gamma's lifeboat in tow. Four days later, a suspected submarine was seen off to Krooonland's port side, and there were other reports of a ship that passengers took to be a German commerce raider or submarine tender.

Because Germany had resumed unrestricted submarine warfare again on 1 February, Kroonland was laid up for almost two months at the American Line piers in New York, along with sister ship Finland and three other vessels. During this forced lay up, Kroonland was converted from coal burning to oil burning, a long-awaited modification that had been announced as far back as October 1915. Because the number of stokers needed would drop from 75 to 12, the conversion reduced Kroonlands wages. Also, because the fuel oil was stored inside the double bottom of her hull, her cargo capacity was increased through the elimination of her coal bunkers. The labor savings and the additional freight revenues from the increased cargo space resulted in a net gain of $25,000 income per trip.

Troopship duties

Kroonland served as a troopship for about the next year. In early March, U.S. Navy ordnance officers inspected Kroonland and took measurements in preparation of arming her for defense against submarine attacks. On 13 March, Kroonland was assigned guns by the Navy, becoming one of the first seven ships to be armed. With her arming complete, and carrying an armed naval guard to man the guns, Kroonland sailed 25 March 1917 for Liverpool. Twelve days later, the United States formally declared war on Germany.

On the morning of 20 May, while the liner steamed through a heavy fog toward Liverpool, a torpedo struck her without exploding. Two minutes later her lookouts spotted a submarine bearing down on Kroonland so close alongside the liner that her guns could not be depressed enough to open fire on the raider. Although the U-boat, apparently also taken by surprise, reversed her screws and tried to turn to avoid a collision, she lightly struck the liner's hull and scraped along her side before diving out of sight. Meanwhile two more torpedoes came within some of hitting Kroonlands stern. That afternoon the liner sighted another submarine surfaced some off her port quarter. Kroonland immediately began shelling the U-boat, forcing the submarine to dive for safety. In early June, this failed torpedo attack on Kroonland made front page#Noun news in U.S. newspapers.

In September, elements of the U.S. 42nd Infantry Division sailed from New York to Halifax on Kroonland. She sailed from Halifax on 30 September in an Allied convoy with American ship and Commonwealth ships (which had been the lead ship in the Volturno rescue in 1913), Anchises, Canada, Grampian, Ionican, Themistocles, Victoria, , Medic, Miltiades, Mokoia, and Ruahine. Two days out from Halifax, the last five ships split off from the convoy and headed to Scotland; Kroonlands group sailed to Liverpool.

On 15 October 1917, the United States Shipping Board (USSB) requisitioned all American passenger ships over for use by the government in the war effort, though it is not clear from sources what immediate impact this had on Kroonland. It is known that the liner was operating as a U.S. Army transport (under the name USAT Kroonland) by February 1918, when she was loaded with war materiel and departed New York for Saint-Nazaire, France.

In April, the USSB assigned Kroonland to the transport fleet, and after her return from France on 9 April, Kroonland was converted to a troop transport in New York by the William J. Kennedy Company. A typical conversion from passenger liner to troop transport involved having all of the second- and third-class accommodations ripped out and replaced with berths for troops. Cooking and toilet facilities also had to be greatly expanded to handle the large numbers of men aboard.

U.S. Navy transport duties

After problems with crew discipline aboard Army transports and (Kroonlands sister ship, expropriated by the Army in June 1917) when they were torpedoed, the U.S. Navy, led by the recommendations of Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves, insisted that all troop transports be manned entirely by Navy personnel. This was accomplished soon after so as to avoid the need for what Gleaves called "ignorant and unreliable men" who were "the sweepings of the docks". Accordingly, Kroonland was handed over to the Navy on 22 April and commissioned the same day, with Commander Mauley H. Simons in command.

Transporting troops to France

On 30 April, eight days after her Navy commissioning, Kroonland, assigned to the Cruiser and Transport Force, departed New York with , , and Finland. Rendezvousing with the convoy were two transports sailing from Newport News, Virginia, and . provided the convoy with protection until its arrival in France on 12 May. Kroonland returned to New York on 1 June.

Kroonland next left New York on 15 June with Finland, , , , , Italian steamer , and British steamer Vauban and met up with the Newport News portion of the convoy—which included , , , , and British troopship (another fellow Volturno rescuer)—the next morning and set out for France. The convoy was escorted by cruisers and , and destroyers and ; battleship and several other destroyers joined in escort duties for the group for a time. The convoy had a false alarm when a floating barrel was mistaken for submarine, but otherwise uneventfully arrived at Brest on the afternoon of 27 June.

On 10 July, as Kroonland steamed homeward from France, a lookout spotted a periscope rising from the water about away. Kroonland opened fire and the fourth shot from her No. 4 gun "burst with a tremendous cloud of dirty blue smoke" exactly on the periscope. The submarine zig-zagged "erratically back and forth until she was directly in the disturbed water of our wake". The transport continued firing until the submarine disappeared, leaving an oil slick which could be seen for at least 15 minutes. On her return journey, Covington's encounter with a submarine had a decidedly different outcome. She was torpedoed by U-86 on 1 July and sank the next afternoon. Kroonland and Finland both arrived safely in New York on 13 July.

On 26 July, Kroonland, loaded with 3,248 officers and men, departed on her next trip to France. In the company of Finland and Italian steamer , she met up with , , and the Italian steamers and from Newport News. Cruisers , , and destroyers and escorted the transports. Gordon Van Kleeck, a private in Company F of the U.S. 51st Pioneer Infantry, one of the units aboard Kroonland on this trip, kept a journal while on board recounting some of the day-to-day activities. While on the ship, the soldiers wore overalls, rather than uniforms, and were required to wear life jackets at all times. During the early mornings—the most dangerous time for submarines, according to Van Kleeck—the soldiers had to stand by their life rafts until the sun was up. Bathing facilities were too small, so several times during the trip the soldiers gathered on deck for salt water baths, which consisted of a hose turned on them by the ship's crew. On 2 August, Finland developed engine trouble and fell back from the convoy, but by the next day, she and a destroyer that stayed with her had rejoined the convoy. The convoy arrived in Brest on 7 August. Kroonland arrived back in the United States on 19 August.

After embarking 3,334 soldiers, Kroonland began her next crossing on 30 August when she sailed from New York with Susquehanna, and to join the Newport News contingent of Duca d'Aosta, Caserta, and . Kroonlands convoy was escorted by Frederick and Colhoun. As with other Navy ships throughout 1918, Kroonland was not immune to the worldwide Spanish flu pandemic. On this particular crossing, two of her crewmen were felled by the disease as her convoy reached France on 12 September. Kroonland returned to New York on 27 September.

At 20:00 on 7 October, Kroonland departed New York on her fifth Navy voyage with 2,567 men and joined Caserta and British steamer Euripides in rendezvousing with , Susquehanna, America, Czar from Newport News. Cruisers and , and destroyers and Fairfax served as convoy escorts for the group, which arrived in France on 20 October. Kroonland headed back to New York, arriving there on 3 November. After the signing of the Armistice on 11 November, Kroonland did not carry any more loads of troops to France. In all, the transport had carried a total of 14,1257 troops to France during the five trips of her Navy career.

Returning troops home

With the fighting at an end, the task of bringing home American soldiers began almost immediately. Kroonland did her part by carrying home carrying home 26,152 healthy and wounded men in eight roundtrips. After making her way to Brest, Kroonland departed there in late November with her first load, almost 2,000 wounded and convalescing soldiers, many of whom were from the U.S. 76th Infantry Division. The former liner arrived at the Quarantine Station on 10 December, and docked in New York the next day. One of the wounded men aboard was Captain Walter Camp, son of the Yale football coach of the same name, wounded and gassed in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Another passenger on board was Sarah Wilmer, an American YWCA front-line worker that had gotten lost in the Argonne forest and gassed when a German shell exploded nearby. Before departing on her next voyage, Kroonland, tied up at the U.S. Army piers in Hoboken, New Jersey, hosted a party for 150 newsboys from New Jersey on Christmas Day, 25 December. With a Christmas tree in the troops mess, the newsboys were given a dinner and presents, and entertained by the ship's band.

Kroonland arrived at Newport News on 18 February with 2,805 passengers, including units from the U.S. 36th Infantry Division, after a rough trip from Saint-Nazaire. On her next voyage, Kroonland carried another 2,943 officers and men from Saint-Nazaire to Newport News, arriving there on 24 March. The 132nd Regiment of the 61st Field Artillery Brigade returned on the ship, and brigade historian Rex F. Harlow called Kroonland "probably the best vessel on which any units of the brigade returned to America".

On 18 April, Kroonland began her next homeward journey, embarking several companies of the 111th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. 28th Infantry Division among the some 3,100 troops carried. Though the fighting was over, the men still wore life jackets for the first three days at sea amidst fears of striking floating mines. George W. Cooper, historian of the 2nd Battalion of the 111th Infantry, reported that some of the men had to serve as stokers during the trip because of a "shortage of help". In the middle of the crossing, Kroonland "sprung a leak" and had of water in her and a list for a day or so, until the leak was fixed and ship was pumped out. She disembarked her human payload at New York on 29 April.

Kroonland returned to Saint-Nazaire in May and loaded Major General Joseph E. Kuhn and some 3,000 men of his U.S. 79th Infantry Division, which included the 304th Engineer Regiment, and departed France on 18 May. The band of the 304th Engineers gave concerts on deck every evening on the voyage home to entertain the men. Though initially bound for Newport News, Kroonlands crew received order in mid ocean to head instead to New York, where they arrived on 29 May. After completing another passage to Newport News in late June, Kroonland sailed 19 July with 3,642 passengers—including officers, men, 13 war brides, and one war baby—from Saint-Nazaire, in the final transport departure from that port before it was closed as a port of embarkation by U.S. military authorities. Among the passengers was Brigadier General Samuel D. Rockenbach, the founder of the United States Tank Corps.

On 21 August, the USSB announced that Kroonland and sister ship Finland would both be released from government service after surveys for repairs had been completed. Kroonland, which had left New York on 10 August, was in the middle of what would be her final trip returning soldiers. After arriving at Brest, 1,532 officers and men boarded Kroonland for New York, where the transport arrived on 10 September. Also on board was Michael Gilhooley, a 15-year-old stowaway making his fourth unsuccessful attempt to sneak into the United States aboard a Navy transport.

Kroonland was decommissioned and returned to the USSB on 13 September, and returned to International Mercantile Marine shortly thereafter. In her eight roundtrips returning troops, Kroonland—affectionately called the "Empress of the Seas" by her crew—averaged just under 39 days per turnaround, beating the overall average of all ships by almost a full day, and edging out sister ship Finland by less than that.

Red Star Line service, 1920–1923

After her return to International Mercantile Marine (IMM), Kroonland underwent a refit at the W. & A. Fletcher Marine Works yard in Hoboken that outfitted her for 242 first-class, 310 second-class, and 876 third-class passengers. On 8 January 1920, while Kroonland was still under repair, American Line ship , berthed next to Kroonland, caught fire at the Fletcher yard. In the multi-alarm fire, firefighters believed that St. Louis was a lost cause, and so focused their efforts on saving Kroonland. At one point, St. Louis heeled over and leaned on Kroonland. In the end, the only damage to Kroonland was scorch marks on her side.

Kroonland resumed her civilian career in April 1920, sailing for the Red Star Line from Pier 61 on the North River on her original New York – Antwerp route. She sailed opposite sister ships Finland and Zeeland and the newer on the route until early 1923. Rough weather on the North Atlantic took its toll on Kroonland while sailing this route. In December 1920, the liner battled severe storms in the North Atlantic that left her close to running out of fuel. The storm she encountered off Sable Island on 27 December was so intense the liner was only able to travel during one 24-hour stretch. By the time she reached New York, Kroonland had to have tugs take her from the quarantine station to her pier. Heavy seas in another storm in October 1921 broke Kroonlands port propeller shaft past Sandy Hook. Kroonland returned to New York at and transferred most of her passengers to Lapland. Another eastbound crossing four months later was marked by almost continuous gales, buffeting Kroonland with winds up to . When Kroonland arrived at Plymouth, she was covered in ice and snow.

Kroonland was also involved in several non-weather-related events. On 12 November 1920, after departing Antwerp for New York, Kroonland collied with a Dutch tug in the Scheldt, killing two of the tug's crew. In March 1921, a Czechoslovakian woman gave birth to fraternal twins on board the liner shortly after she and her husband sailed from Antwerp. Because the twins were born on a U.S.-flagged vessel, they were automatically American citizens. On 10 June 1922, The New York Times reported that Charles Simmons, Krooonland's Chief Steward, was found dead in his bunk. Crewmen aboard the ship, which had been docked in New York since 4 June, reported that Simmons had been seen on deck in apparently good health the day before his death was reported. The medical examiner nevertheless asked police to investigate, because it appeared to him that Simmons had been dead for three to four days. During an August eastbound crossing, Kroonland stood by for two hours after receiving a report of an explosion and fire on , some behind. The gas explosion in one of Adriatic's forward cargo holds, which killed five crewmen and seriously wounded three others, spawned a fire that was quickly extinguished, leaving that liner relatively undamaged. The offerings of help from ten liners (including Kroonland) were politely declined and Adriatic arrived in New York three days later. In October, U.S. Federal judge Learned Hand issued a restraining order preventing the Prohibition-related seizure of alcohol aboard the American-flagged Kroonland, Finland, and St. Paul. IMM sought the order to continue to carry Italian third-class passengers. Italian law required a minimum number of a ship's crew needed to be Italian, and Italian wine of at least 12% alcohol had to be provided for them.

During this same time on the New York – Antwerp route, Kroonland carried some notable passengers. She carried the majority of the U.S. delegates to the International Chamber of Commerce for its meeting in Paris in June 1920. Among those on board were Myron T. Herrick, former United States Ambassador to France; Paul M. Warburg, former member of the Federal Reserve Board; and 14 current and former directors of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Samuel Eyde, the newly-appointed Norwegian Minister to the United States sailed for his diplomatic post in December on Kroonland. On the same trip, Max Goldberg, a 14-year-old flower delivery boy, returned from an accidental roundtrip, begun in New York when the gangway was raised and the ship departed with him still aboard while he was making a last-minute delivery. Congressmen Alben W. Barkley (D-KY) and Edwin B. Brooks (R-IL) and Senators Thomas J. Walsh (D-MT) and William B. McKinley (R-IL), four of the seven United States delegates to the 19th Inter-Parliamentary Union Convention in Stockholm, returned on Kroonland in September 1921.

Passengers were not the only cargo carried by Kroonland during this time. Several times while on the Antwerp route, the New York press reported on gold deposits carried to the United States on board the liner . In her storm-tossed December 1920 voyage, for example, she carried $1,650,000 in gold, and the following June carried £100,000 gold to the Equitable Trust Company in New York. Another notable cargo arrived in New York in November 1922, when Kroonland brought of cheese from Switzerland to the United States. The shipment was said to be the first big shipment from that country since before World War I. A more unwelcome cargo was carried in March 1921, when a Hungarian immigrant in steerage was found to have typhoid fever. The disease necessitated that all 731 steerage passengers be quarantined indefinitely.

Kroonland began her last voyage on the Antwerp route in January 1923, after which she underwent a refit during the first half of 1923. Kroonland was converted to cabin- and third-class passengers only; was painted all white; and had more refrigeration and cool air space added for transporting Southern California agricultural products, in preparation of her announced return to the Panama Pacific Line in October 1923.

After the refit was completed in May, Kroonland was briefly assigned to the American Line for three roundtrips on a New York to Hamburg route, with intermediate stops at Plymouth and Cherbourg. On her first Hamburg trip, she carried American comedic actress Florence Shirley and husband for a European vacation. Cecil Arden, a mezzo-soprano with the Metropolitan Opera, and botanist Otto Warburg sailed on the same trip.

Panama Pacific Line service, 1923–1925

In April 1923, IMM announced that Kroonland and sister ship Finland would be returned to the Panama Pacific Line beginning in late September, sailing from New York to San Francisco, via Havana, the Panama Canal, and Los Angeles, with Los Angeles being the west coast hub of operations. On 18 October, Kroonland departed on her first voyage on the route since 1915. Kroonland arrived in Los Angeles Harbor on 3 November amidst fanfare, becoming the largest liner to-date to enter that harbor.

In contrast to her time on the North Atlantic, Kroonland encountered few weather or mechanical delays on the coast-to-coast route. In December 1923, however, Kroonland was delayed one day by unusually heavy seas and gales off Baja California. Another delay in October 1924 proved to be fatal, according to the ship's physician. An arrival two days late, caused by adverse currents north of Panama, cost a female passenger her life. Had the ship had not been delayed, the physician believed, prompt hospital care could have saved the passenger's life. On this same trip, Kroonland passed through a "hurricane zone" but was not adversely affected by the storm.

In December 1924, the Panama Pacific Line announced that it would add (a sister ship to Manchuria) to the New York – California route in February to replace Kroonland. Even though press accounts reported as late as March 1925 that Kroonland had sailed her last on the route, she continued carrying passengers and cargo through at least June 1925 because of booming business on the route. Although plans had been announced to convert Kroonland and sister ship Finland to freighters upon the delivery of two new ships for the route ordered in late 1924, there is no evidence that this was ever carried out.

Notable passengers

Kroonland carried her share of notable passengers during her second stint for the Panama Pacific Line. On her first voyage, she carried American Modernist poet Wallace Stevens and his wife, Elsie. After transiting the Panama Canal, the liner had headed north along the western coast of Mexico. The ship passed the Gulf and Isthmus of Tehuantepec in early November, inspiring Stevens to later pen the poem "Sea Surface Full Of Clouds". First published in the July 1924 issue of literary magazine The Dial, it was later included in the 1931 edition of Stevens' Harmonium. Each of the five stanzas begins with the line "In that November off Tehuantepec" and is a different portrayal of the surface of the sea. The poem has been called a one of Stevens' "most persuasive statements of the imagination's powers", and considered "the most perfect example of a 'pure poem'".

Other notable passengers included shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers Major League Baseball team Ray E. French, who sailed with his wife to their home in California on the same voyage as Stevens. California artist William Barr, American author Frederick O'Brien, and actress Mary Carr, all sailed on Kroonland in December 1923. In February 1924, Daniel Willard, president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, sailed from New York to Los Angeles on Kroonland. Acknowledging that the Panama Canal had "detract[ed] volumes of freight" from railroads, Willard said that there was no cause for alarm because the railroad business was booming. In January 1925, Gene Byrnes, creator of the comic strip Reg'lar Fellers, sailed from New York to LA with his wife. On the same voyage as Byrnes, University of Southern California president Rufus B. von KleinSmid boarded Kroonland at Panama after attending the Pan-American Scientific Congress in Lima, Peru. In mid-June the same year, short story author and screenwriter H. C. Witwer and family returned to New York aboard Kroonland.

American Line service, 1925–1926

In October 1925, the American Line announced plans for Kroonland to sail on a weekly New York–Miami, Florida, route. Kroonland, supplanting of the Admiral Line as the largest ship on the Miami route, sailed from Pier 62 in New York on Thursdays, arrived and departed Miami on Sundays, and returned to New York on Wednesdays. Though Kroonland 's passenger capacity was potentially much larger, she was outfitted for 500 passengers in first class only. She sailed on her first voyage with 400 passengers, including American professional golfer Gene Sarazen, on 10 December.

By the time the seasonal service to Miami was ended in late March 1926, Kroonland had carried 11,000 passengers on the route. Though plans were announced at the time for Kroonland to resume the service the following winter, IMM opted not to renew the Miami service. IMM offered no reasons, but conditions in Miami at the end of 1926 were very different from the previous year. The wild South Florida real estate boom had collapsed in mid 1926, and the Great Miami Hurricane struck on 18 September killing more than 325, leaving as many as 50,000 residents homeless, and causing some $100 million damage (just over $2 billion in 2005 dollars). With no place to put the aging ship, IMM laid up Kroonland in Hoboken.

Kroonland was sold to shipbreakers in Italy and departed the United States for the last time on 29 January 1927. After delivering a cargo of grain to Antwerp, she was sailed to Genoa where she was scrapped. According to an Associated Press report announcing her last voyage, Kroonland had completed 234 voyages totaling during the course of her career without serious accident.



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