Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Fotos (July 5, 2013) -- U.S.S. Imperator

The U.S.S. Imperator was commissioned in early May 1919 and served as a troop transport ship to return troops, nurses and civilians to the United States after the end of World War I.  The first voyage across the Atlantic departed Brest, France for New York City on May 15, 1919 and carried 2,100 American troops and 1,100 passengers. Between June 3, and August 10, 1919 the Imperator returned over 25,000 troops, nurses and civilians to the United States from post-war Europe.  My maternal grandfather, Everett S. Carpenter, was one of the troops that returned on the U.S.S. Imperator.

My grandfather's Troop Billet for boarding the U.S.S. Imperator (July 1919)

My great grandmother, Sarah (Freeman) Carpenter, kept a short account of her son Everett's time in the Army during WWI.  She wrote the following for July 1919:

               To Paris July 1st -- to receive reports which he was to bring as Courier from Paris to
               Washington.  He and Ord. Sgt. Powel sailed with reports from Brest July 7th.  Came
               across in six days on the Imperator landed in New York evening of the 13th. 
               Telephoned his Father and Mother  Monday morning July 14th.  Took train that 
               night for Washington, D.C.  Delivered reports and received honorable discharge
               there at Camp Meigs, 17th.

The Imperator was one of the two largest ships in the U.S. Navy and it had a very interesting history.  The ship was constructed in Hamburg, Germany and was launched in 1912.  It was the first of three large ships built for the Hamburg America Line, the two others being the SS Vaterland and the SS Bismarck.  When the Imperator was built, it was larger than the ill-fated Titanic by 24 ft. and was then the largest passenger ship in the world, but before Imperator could be launched word reached Hamburg that the English ship RMS Aquitania, then under construction in Glasgow, would exceed the Imperator by one foot!  In answer to this news, the Imperator was outfitted with a distinctive bow figurehead of a large bronze eagle and this extension made the Imperator once again comfortably larger than the coming Aquitania.

During WWI, the Imperator stayed in port in Hamburg and when the war ended she was commissioned into the U.S. Navy where she became one of the two largest ships in the U.S. fleet.  The Imperator was employed by the U.S. solely as a transport ship to return Americans home following the war and she was eventually handed over to the British where she became the RMS Berengaria
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Photograph of the SS Imperator (later the U.S.S. Imperator).  Notice the silhouette of the eagle bow figurehead.

Photograph of the front and back of Everett S. Carpenter's Troop Billet for the U.S.S. Imperator.  Original is in the collection of the author.

Photograph of the cover of "A Brief History of the U.S.S. Imperator" from Internet Archive at  The Library of Congress is unaware of any copyright restrictions for 26-page pamphlet.

For more information about the Imperator go to the Brief History at the link immediately above or to Wikipedia at
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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1 comment:

  1. I recently acquired a interesting photograph of the Imperator. Its from the Cadby's Kodak Artshop in Utica N.Y. circa 1930's. Its approx. a foot and a half long and is in its original frame, which looks to be very old. I was wondering if anyone can tell me any information about this item?