SS America (1940)

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SS America was an ocean liner built in 1940 for the United States Lines and designed by the noted naval architect William Francis Gibbs. She carried many names in the 54 years between her construction and her 1994 wrecking, as she served as the SS America (carrying this name three different times during her career), the USS West Point, the SS Australis, the SS Italis, the SS Noga, the SS Alferdoss, and the SS American Star. America was laid down under the first Maritime Commission contract on August 22, 1938, at Newport News, Virginia, by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. She was one of the few ocean liners, American or otherwise, that had her interiors designed by women. The stodginess and overwrought decor from liners of the past was jettisoned to create a comfortable and friendly ship. Interior design and furniture were installed to provide an atmosphere of cheerfulness and sophisticated charm. America was launched on August 31, 1939 and was sponsored by Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President of the United States. America entered service as the flagship of the United States Lines on August 22, 1940, when she commenced her maiden voyage. SS America was moored at Norfolk, Virginia, and acquired by the Navy on June 1, 1941 to be used as a troop transport. The ship was renamed the USS West Point (AP-23). She entered the Norfolk Ship Yards on June 6, 1941 for conversion and on June 15, 1941, she was commissioned for service under the command of Captain Frank H. Kelley, Jr. By the time the conversion was completed, life-rafts covered the promenade deck windows, "standee" bunks could be found everywhere, several anti-aircraft weapons were installed, all of her windows were covered, she was painted in a camouflage gray color, and her troop-carrying capacity was increased to 7,678. In February 1993, the ship was sold yet again, with the intention of being refitted to become a five-star hotel ship off Phuket, in Thailand. Drydocking at that time revealed that despite the years of neglect, her hull was still in remarkably good condition. In August she was renamed American Star, her propellers were removed and placed on the deck, the funnel and bridge were painted red, and ladders were welded to starboard. She left Greece on December 22, 1993 under tow, but the tow proved impossible due to the weather. She then returned to Greece for a few days until the weather calmed down. On New Year's Eve 1993, American Star left Greece for the last time, towed by Ukrainian tugboat Neftegaz 67. The one hundred day tow began; American Star and Neftegaz 67 entered a thunderstorm in the Atlantic. The tow lines broke and six or more men were sent aboard American Star to reattach the emergency tow lines. This proved unsuccessful. Two other towboats were called to assist Neftegaz 67. On January 17, the crew aboard American Star was rescued by helicopter. The ship was left adrift. On January 18, the ship ran aground off the west coast of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. In April 2007 the starboard side finally collapsed causing the wreck to break in half and fall into the sea. Throughout 2007 what little remained had been slowly disappearing beneath the waves. As of February 2010, about 15 20 feet of the bow remains above the water. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]







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