Built by Harland & Wolff of Belfast, Hapag's Amerika was launched in
April 1905, and made her Hamburg-New York maiden voyage on 11 October of
the same year.
On 4 October 1912, while still on the New York service, she rammed the
British submarine B2 off the coast of Dover. The sub sank immediately
and 15 of her 16 crew members perished.
In June 1914, Amerika was transferred to Hapag's Hamburg-Boston service,
and was in Boston when World War I began. She was interned there from
August 1914 until the United States entered the war in April 1917. She
was then seized, renamed America, and put into service as a troopship.
Her service as trooper was hardly a tranquil one, for she was involved
in two fatal incidents in 1918. On 14 July, she collided with the
British steamer Instructor, which sank with 16 deaths. Three months
later, on 15 October, America herself sank while taking on coal in
Hoboken, with six fatalities. She was raised in December and repaired,
eturning to service in February 1919.
Retained after the war by the United States as a war reparation, America
underwent a refitting and conversion to oil fuel at Morse Dry Dock &
Repair Co. in Brooklyn during 1920-21. In June and July 1921, she was
chartered to U.S. Mail Steamship Co., and made three New York to Bremen
roundtrips for that company. She then became part of United States
Lines, and was placed on the New York-Bremerhaven service in August
America was rebuilt in 1923 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and again in 1926
at Newport News Shipbuilding. During the 1926 rebuilding, America was
so badly damaged by fire that her scrapping was seriously considered.
In the end, though, she was repaired and returned to service in March
She remained in service only another three and a half years, making her
final westbound departure, from Hamburg, on 4 September 1931. She was
then laid up in Chesapeake Bay until 1940.
In October of that year, America was sent to Bethlehem Steel's Baltimore
ship yard for conversion into a U.S. Maritime Commission accommodation
ship named Edmund B. Alexander. In 1942-43, she underwent a further
conversion into a trooper, again at Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore,
emerging with only a single funnel. She served as a trooper until May
1949, when she was again laid up, first at Baltimore, and after 1951 in
the Hudson River. In 1957 she was sold to Bethlehem Steel for scrapping,
which took place at Baltimore in 1958.
An aside: Several sources, including Miller's Pictorial Encyclopedia of
Ocean Liners 1860-1994, Kludas' Great Passenger Ships of the World and
Haws' Merchant Fleets, state that Amerika was the largest ship in the
world during the 1905-06 time frame. This is clearly not correct. By
any measure, White Star's
was a larger and older ship than Amerika. Baltic was clearly bigger (by
more than 1,000 tons) and longer (by 26 feet) and had a larger passenger
capacity (by 367). Her launch and maiden voyage preceded Amerika's by
17 months and 16 months, respectively. Baltic therefore was older than
Amerika and there's no standard by which Amerika can be judged to be
larger than Baltic. Amerika was never, in fact, the world's largest ship.
Sources: Bonsor's North Atlantic Seaway; Kludas' Great Passenger Ships
of the World.