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The USS Leviathan

Can you imagine a ship so huge, that its length, up-ended, would be forty-three feet higher than the combined height of the Woolworth Tower and the Statue of Liberty? Such a monster is the Leviathan, once the Vaterland, pride of Germany’s great merchant marine.

This magnificent specimen of ship-craft came into the possession when we declared war on Germany. The Vaterland, at anchor in American waters, was seized and converted into a U.S. army transport. The name was changed to Leviathan, which according to the dictionary, means “something huge and formidable.”

After the war, the ship was refitted as a luxury passenger liner once more. Aside from the Leviathan’s colossal size, there are other reasons why we consider her a valuable and interesting war trophy. She is not only the safest ship in the world, but the fastest. On her trial trip, June 22, 1923, she made a record of 28.04 knots per hour.

cutaway view of ship

Being the biggest, safest, and fastest steamer of modern times would seem a sufficient reason to entitle the Leviathan to first place among American ships. But even these three essential features could not have won for her such national attention had it not been for the service performed during the war.

After she was converted into an army transport, she carried over 150,000 United States soldiers safely to France and brought them home again! Was it not fitting that such a ship be made a sort of living memorial to America’s heroic part in the greatest war in history?

Image of Gerald the Museum Mouse

22 Responses


  2. My grandfather, Andrew Pacholl, from Wilmont, MN, was one of the troops who made the trip to France from the U.S. I have a large black and white print of this ship hanging on the wall of my home office that he obtained during the time he served in the Army. The picture is approximately 12X18 inches, and is in it’s original frame. It shows the entire ship with “USS Leviathan” in the lower center. I also have a group photo of him with his tank unit that is panoramic. Both photos are treasured.

  3. My grandfather was a stoker in the engine room. Family legend has it he made 17 crossings. Can you imagine the stress of thinking whenever some one drops wrench you expect the torpedo blast to follow knowing you’re a dead man. Unfortunately it affected him. He came home changed. My nana had to commit him to a mental hospital and he passed away around the time my father was born. PTSD?

  4. My Dad was on this ship coming back home after the armistice with Germany was signed, I think he wrote in his notebook , November 30th or maybe it was the 29th. Anyway, I have his Navy ID card ship bullet card for this ship

  5. My father was a navy fireman on the Leviathan, I have several of the ships newspapers The Transport Ace dated may ,June July of 1919.

  6. My Great Aunt Millie was a WW1 Army Nurse who sailed on the SS Leviathan on May 22 1918 from Hoboken to Brest France…

  7. My father was a member of the crew when he was 17 years old and I have an original photograph and post cards with its pictures.

  8. I have a 1917 tenor trombone (a Conn stencil sold by Carl Fischer in New York) engraved “Presented to the Engineering Department of the USS Leviathan by the Consolidated Iron Works.” I am trying to find out the names of the members of the ship’s band that entertained our soldiers there and back with daily concerts, and specifically who played trombone on that band (I think there were two). If anyone has any info about this, or knows where I can find out what I need, please let me know.

  9. My grandfather, Harry Hedenburg, served aboard USS Leviathan during WWI. I remember him telling a story of getting off watch in the middle of the night once and headed off to the mess hall to see if he could get something to eat. A cook on duty chased him off with a meat clever. Said he never ran so fast (and he was fast!)

  10. My Great Grandfather, Pvt. Foster Booker of Co. L, 57th Pioneer Infantry was aboard the Leviathan as they left Hoboken, NJ enroute to Brest, France.

  11. My grandfather came home on a army transport ship from best France in 1918 he also was able to bring his sister Anna from Lithuania it took about a week to get to Hoboken NJ.

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