S.S. AMERICA, S.S. UNITED STATES sailing on the 'All American' team to Europe

Remembering the United States

THE S.S. UNITED STATES AT BREMERHAVEN:

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Arriving in Bremerhaven. Photo by Helmut Adebahr

It was the end of the line, Bremerhaven  Germany, the ship’s last port of call. The sailing schedule for 1954 shows the S.S. United States and S.S. America made a combined 22 docking at the German port. As part of its contract with the Federal Government, the United States Lines accorded first-class passage to military officers and their families traveling to and from Europe under official orders. For most of the kids the ship would be their first experience on board a luxury liner. Elaine Tweedy was 9 year old when she sailed to Bremerhaven in 1965. “The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were on board. I remember thinking that they looked normal. I expected her to wear some kind of tiara!”. She also loved the steps that led to the dinning room in first class. “I would pretend I was Shirley Temple and tap up and down them. (Of course, I wouldn’t let anyone see me doing this.)”.

As a young boy Bill Ashley still remembers the awe of first class transatlantic travel. “It was an experience unlike any other, before or after”. Forty years latter the memories are still vivid. “My mother found in an oyster while having supper in the first class dining room. She still has that pearl as a treasured memento. Also the night we were dining when the ship’s captain stopped by to talk with my parents; and then he turned his attention to me and spent at least ten minutes talking to me about the ship. And the way they dressed for supper each night (military men in full dress uniforms, ladies were in formal evening gowns)”.

Modern, with sleek racing lines and tall red white and blue smoke stacks, the United States was to many Germans a symbol of the American way of life. Among her prominent passenger were German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, and the Viennese Boys Choir. For many immigrating from Europe the ship would also the first experience of their new life in America.

The last journey to Bremerhaven for the legendary liner was on November 2, 1969. Bill Ashley sums it up for those of us who were  fortunate to have traveled on this  proud legendary ocean liner. “I can’t help but think of how far we’ve advanced technologically since air travel became the dominant mode of travel, but in terms of civilized service, comfort, and attention to detail, nothing could compare with crossing the Atlantic on America’s finest superliner. It was, and is, an experience I’ll always treasure.”

My Dad and I took the ss United States from NY to Southampton in July of 1969.
Depending on your departure routing,  you might get a great view of the Statue of Liberty. While technically be clear not clear of the harbor, this marker was always the starting milestone to me. (As many immigrants marked their arrival in the US by seeing this monument, many expatriate Americans surely shed a patriotic tear when passing her. – I think missing this patriotic pause is half the trouble with modern air travel – you don’t have time to appreciate that you’re leaving somewhere before you arrive!)

LET’S SAVE THIS SHIP !

visit the SS united States Conservancy

My Father was enroute to a diplomatic posting in West Africa.  It was a coming of age voyage for me. I was invited along to drinks with the Captain as my Mom and siblings were not onboard. While it wasn’t my first sip of champagne, it was my first time getting tipsy!
Through various European diplomatic postings, we were quite familiar to ship travel. Even at 14, this was my sixth transatlantic voyage.  (We didn’t seem to get as many streamers to foist over the side on departure as I remembered from previous voyages to Genoa on the ss Constitution and Independence,)
My Dad wisely signed us up for a larger dinning room table figuring dinner companions would be more interesting than dinning alone.  Another diplomatic family enroute to London joined us. They had daughters a year older and a year younger than me. (Not a bad way for a 14 year old to meet girls!)
One of the highlights of the trip was skeet shooting off the fantail of the ship. I remember hitting 3 of 10 pigeons – not a great score, but for a first timer at sea I was pleased – especially so as I beat my Dad’s score!  I also remember trying to go for a swim on a rather windy day. The pool’s were filled with salt/sea water. I remember taking more than a mouthful from a slosh at the end of the pool. I don’t recall heaving, but its as close to seasick as I came.
On our final evening out my Dad told me to get to bed by 11pm. Having the run of the ship, my female dinning companions and some other teenagers to knock around with, it was well past midnight before I got back to the room. (I don’t remember alcohol being involved in the nights adventures, but it must have been as I remember being hung over the next morning – again a first!)
As my Dad was not in our stateroom, I was panicked that I must be in big trouble and that he was out looking for me.  I remember heading back out to look for him. We were fairly far forward and I seem to recall the Ship’s decks sloping so that you couldn’t see all the way down the corridor. Instead I remember hearing his recognizable cadence coming down the corridor before even seeing him  His walk was so recognizable that I could even tell it was a happy walk!  He’d been out to the big, last night, Captain’s bash and was probably tipsy too!
Up at the crack of dawn, disembark, and a couple of hours ride on the boat train to London – I believe it was my first train ride. (A well worn, but plush compartment – one of those old-fashioned ones where you only had entry to the compartment at the station and couldn’t access any other part of the train.)
I took a Singapore Airlines flight, business class, from Singapore to NY on January 1st this year.  The flight was relatively empty – so when I dinged the bell, I got three flight attendants to answer my call – I wanted to take a photo as its the first time I felt spoiled since the days of the ocean liner!  I had a great view of the Statue of Liberty as we circled to land in NY and got a nanosecond’s patriotic pause before landing.
While its a noble notion to ‘save’ the Ship, at more than 50 years old, I wouldn’t expect your efforts to be successful. Yes it was a far more civilized way to travel, but being able to get to London overnight from NY outweighs a lot of grandeur!
Best Regards
Stephen McFarland    September 2005

I was a Royal Naval Airman stationed at Royal Naval Air Station Gosport in Hampshire UK. I was and had been for some two years on 705 Naval Air Squadron. The Royal Navies first Helicopter Squadron where we trained Pilots and Ground Crew on use and maintenance of Helicopters S51’s Dragonfly.  I went to depart a S51 for another routine flight when the Pilot ( Being an old squadron hand I knew well ) beckoned me to with finger ” Here You ”  I thought something was wrong but no,  ” Get In Quick, Tokes ”  So being a dutiful sailor I did as told.  One in the Royal Navy obeys the order of an Officer ( Right or Wrong )  I jumped up into the back of the Chopper and checking around strapped myself in and put on the spare Headset & Throat Mike .  “We have not long to see a site ” the pilot told me over the intercom.

Corbis_BigU_waiting 2Before I knew it we were airborne and heading South over the Airfield, across Stokes Bay into the Solent, a stretch of water between Hampshire (Portsmouth, Gosport and the Isle of Wight )  and there was a great sight.  Up this stretch of water at Spit Head was the Liner SS. United States steaming towards Southampton Water.  She was going like stink.  Her upper super structure was sparkling with her funnels (Smoke Stacks) gleaming Red & White, her Hull black until half way down where the paint work had been worn away with her fast Atlantic Crossing.  The paint was worn away and it was showing a Yellow / Greenish color (Color to those across the pond that can’t spell )  Wonderful sight and one that now at 73 years young will not forget. We flew and hovered over her in salute to a really great achievement.  The Queens (Mary & Elizabeth) were great Liners so it took a great ship to beat their times.

Harold Tokins of Lincoln UK July 2005

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As a very small boy, in Southampton, I sat upon my Dads shoulders to witness the maiden arrival of the quite remarkable “UNITED STATES”. I remember very clearly the vast numbers of local folk who had turned out to join all of the dignitaries.

The bow of the ship had been stripped of paint following her high running speed. Paint technology and standards were far lower than those of today.

It was generally believed, in shipping circles in Southampton, that the ship had suffered near mortal engine damage by the high-speed runs achieved in her early crossing. Too much emphasis was placed on records without allowing the engines to bed in and all teething troubles to be erased.

A couple of hours before sailing her vast siren would sound out over Southampton calling her crew back from the brothels and bars. Prostitutes from London used to travel to Southampton by train to meet the ship and conduct their business all night in the local park!

She was and still is a wonderful engineering achievement that must not be allowed to fade and die and become another ” QUEEN MARY’, a faded version of her former self with plastic funnels and no guts.

Peter Lamb.

Southampton, U.K.

My Dad worked for the US LINES and we moved to England in 1969 via the SS United States–he was transferred to work in the port of Tilsbury, England–We sailed in May 1969–first class–I remember a very rough journey–where they had velvet ropes in the hallway to hang onto–and they wet down the tablecloths so our plates would stay still-they tied down our chairs and the curtains in the dining room—but  at 13 yrs old I remember it was a beautiful vessel–we had a great 5  day trip–we ate well–when we were feeling up to it–I remember a port-hole in our room–You would see sky and then see the black ocean–as the ship would go up and down–my sister and I spent a lot of time in the room–we didn’t have sea legs!–Our Brother would come back to room to tell us that he had eaten —steak-n-eggs–or whatever–and we were nauseated–
We arrived at Southampton–and my Dad was waiting–We lived in Essex County–In Hutton–near Sheffield for 2 years- My sister and I attended the local school in Brentwood—-we had to take two buses to get to The Hedley Walter Comprehensive School–My brother went to the American School in  London– we lived in England 3 of the best years of my life—-but I didn’t know that  then   –I am sorry that I didn’t know at that time———-
  Ted Tuskowski 5/2003

Bill Ashley writes

 I crossed the Atlantic twice on the S.S. United States. Once in 1957 and again in 1960. My father was in the military, an officer, so we had the privilege of traveling first class. Even though I was only a young boy, I still remember the awe of transatlantic travel. It was an experience unlike any other, before or after. I also carry with me the vivid, but less pleasant memoirs of spending the first full two days in bed, terminally ill with seasickness. Once I made my miraculous recovery, I had a blast. I won’t bore you with my reminiscences.

However, I’d like to share a few things that still stand out in my memory, even after 40+ years. Things such as the pearl my mother found in an oyster while having supper in the first class dining room. She still has that pearl as a treasured memento. Also the night we were dining when the ship’s captain stopped by to talk with my parents; and then he turned his attention to me and spent at least ten minutes talking to me about the ship. And the way they dressed for supper each night (military men in full dress uniforms, ladies were in formal evening gowns).

I can’t help but think of how far wev’e advanced technologically since air travel became the dominant mode of travel, but in terms of civilized service, comfort, and attention to detail, nothing could compare with crossing the Atlantic on America’s finest superliner. It was, and is, an experience I’ll always treasure

Bill Ashley. March 2003

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Thanks for the interesting site. I sailed from NY to Southampton in September 1963 on the S.S,U.S. I was newly married, a small-town girl from Oregon on her first adventure. We were moving to England for a year. The day before we sailed my baggage was stolen when we arrived in Brooklyn from a cross-country drive. I boarded with only images from movies of how people traveled, and a wardrobe now limited to one hastily purchased black wool suit, two blouses, some underwear, the cotton dress and high heels I had on when the theft occurred, and a new pair of tennis shoes. Fortunately the weather didn’t freeze me off the deck. We had a first-class stateroom even though we were ticketed in tourist. I had a distant relative with the company who recognized my name on the roster and did a last-minute upgrade. While it was a great surprise, and I did appreciate it, I had no idea what a luxury we received until our table-mates in the tourist class dining room visited our stateroom and, eyes bulging out, drug us to their much more modest quarters. Funny what floats back to memory now, nearly 40 years later. I commented to the waiter that the cream of chicken soup was good enough for dessert. He smilingly served me a second cup with my dessert. Late one evening we were having drinks and my glass was chipped. Suddenly I wanted to touch the bottom of the sea out there in the middle of the dark night. My fingerprints presumably sank along with the glass somewhere over the mid-ocean rift where I tossed it. Thanks for the memory boost.

MS KINNEY THIELE     May 2001

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