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Family Photographs  - 1865 - 2017
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My mom Bernice Lane (Hesslein) Erickson (on right) with her girlfriend Edith sailing to Cuba in the early 1940s aboard the SS George Washington out of the Brooklyn Harbor in New York City.

The SS George Washington (photo below) was an ocean liner built in 1908 for the Bremen-based North German Lloyd. The ship was also known as USS George Washington in service of the US Navy and Army during World War I. In 1919 the ship reverted to her original name of SS George Washington. During World War II, the ship was known as both USAT George Washington and, briefly, as USS Catlin.

When George Washington was launched in 1908, she was the largest German-built steamship and the third-largest ship in the world. George Washington was built to emphasize comfort over speed and was well appointed in her first-class passenger areas. The ship could carry a total of 2,900 passengers, and made her maiden voyage in January 1909 to New York. In June 1911, George Washington was the largest ship to participate in the Coronation Fleet Review by the United Kingdom's newly crowned king, George V.

On April 14th, 1912, George Washington passed a particularly large iceberg south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and radioed a warning to all ships in the area, including White Star Line ocean liner Titanic, which sank near the same location.

Throughout her German passenger career, contemporary news accounts often reported on notable persons—typically actors, singers, and politicians—who sailed on George Washington.

At the outbreak of World War I, George Washington was interned by the then-neutral United States, until that country entered into the conflict in April 1917. George Washington was seized by the United States and taken over for use as a troop transport by the U.S. Navy. Commissioned as USS George Washington, she sailed with her first load of American troops in December 1917.

In total, she carried 48,000 passengers to France, and returned 34,000 to the United States after the Armistice. George Washington also carried U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to France twice for the Paris Peace Conference. George Washington was decommissioned in 1920 and handed over the United States Shipping Board, who reconditioned her for passenger service. SS George Washington sailed in transatlantic passenger service for both the United States Mail Steamship Company and United States Lines.

In 1942 the ship was re-commissioned by the U.S. Navy as USS Catlin for about six months and was operated by the British under Lend-Lease, but her old coal-fired engines were too slow for effective combat use. After conversion to oil-fired boilers, the ship was chartered to the U.S. Army as USAT George Washington and sailed around the world in 1943 in trooping duties.

The ship sailed in regular service to the United Kingdom and the Mediterranean from 1944 to 1947, and was laid up in Baltimore after ending her Army service. A fire in January 1951 damaged the ship severely, and she was sold for scrapping the following month.

So goes the story of the SS George Washington.

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