SS Mongolia (1903)

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For other ships of the same name, see SS Mongolia.
SS Mongolia
Career Pacific Mail Steamship Co.
Ordered: 18 December 1900
Builder: New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden
Yard number: 5
Laid down: 7 June 1902
Launched: 25 July 1903
Completed: January 1904
Commissioned: May 1918
Decommissioned: September 1919
Maiden voyage: 7 May 1904
In service: 1903–1946
Renamed: President Fillmore (1929), Panamanian (1940)
Fate: Scrapped 1946 (Shanghai, China)
General characteristics
Tonnage: 13,369 gross tons
Length: 615 ft 8 in (187.66 m)
Beam: 65 ft 0 in (19.81 m)
Draft: 33 ft 6 in (10.21 m)
Propulsion: Scotch boilers, steam quadruple expansion engines (10,000 shaft HP at 80 RPM); twin screws
Speed: 16 knots
Armament: (as USS Mongolia) 3 x 6-inch (150 mm) guns with Navy gun crews

SS Mongolia was a 13,369-ton passenger-and-cargo liner originally built for Pacific Mail Steamship Company in 1904. She later sailed as USS Mongolia (ID-1615) for the U.S. Navy, as SS President Fillmore for the Dollar Line and as SS Panamanian for Cia Transatlantica Centroamericano.

Ordered by E. H. Harriman's Pacific Mail Steamship Co. for its San Francisco-Far East service, Mongolia was laid down as Minnelora on 7 June 1902 in Shipway J at New York Shipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey. The 615-foot vessel was contract #5 for the young company, and the first passenger-cargo liner built by the firm. A sister ship, SS Manchuria, was ordered at the same time and delivered three months after Mongolia. The accommodations of both ships reflected the importance of emigration to shipping lines of the era: 350 first-class, 68 second-class, and 1,300 steerage.

In August 1915 Pacific Mail sold Mongolia to Atlantic Transport Line, for whom she plied the New York-London route. Following the German declaration of a submarine blockade around Britain, Mongolia received a self-defense armament of three 6-inch (150 mm) deck guns manned by U.S. Navy gun crews. One month later, Mongolia became the first American vessel to test the blockade, using those guns to drive off (and possibly sink) a U-boat seven miles southeast of Beachy Head, in the English Channel. That was the first armed encounter for an American vessel after the US's entry to World War I.

For the next year, Mongolia ferried American troops and supplies to Europe under a civilian flag. On 27 April 1918, the US Navy requisitioned the vessel, which was commissioned 8 May as USS Mongolia (ID-1615). She served as a troop transport, completing twelve turnarounds at an average duration of 34 days before her decommissioning 11 September 1919. According to an article dated 22 May 1917 in the "Chicago Tribune" 2 American nurses, Edith Ayers and Helen Wood, were accidentally killed during one of these crossings.. The women were on the deck of the Mongolia observing the firing of various weapons when they were struck by fragments of the 6-inch gun's propellant caps which had ricocheted off a stanchion.[1]

Returned to civilian service, Mongolia sailed the New York-Hamburg route under charter to the American Line. She was purchased in 1923 by the Panama Pacific Line and placed into service on its New York-San Francisco route (via the Panama Canal). In 1929, Dollar Steamship Lines acquired Mongolia and her sister ship Manchuria for its east-to-west round-the-world service, renaming them President Fillmore and President Johnson, respectively.

The former Mongolia sailed for only two years with the Dollar Line. With the onset of the Great Depression, she was laid up in New York, and when the Dollar Line collapsed in 1938 ownership passed to the newly created American President Lines. She never sailed under the APL pennant, however, and was sold in 1940 to Cia Transatlantica Centroamericana of Panama, which renamed her Panamanian. She was scrapped in Shanghai, China, 20 May 1946.[1]


  • Newell, Gordon R. (1963). Ocean Liners of the 20th Century (1st ed.). Seattle: Superior Publishing Company. LCCN 63018494. OCLC 789671. 
  • New York Shipbuilding Corporation (1948). New York Shipbuilding Corporation: 50 Years. Camden, New Jersey: New York Shipbuilding Corp. OCLC 22869747. 
  • Swazey, Edward Scott (1921). New York Shipbuilding Corporation: A Record of Ships Built. Camden, New Jersey: New York Shipbuilding Corp. OCLC 7405049. 

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