Four Aces (passenger liners)

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American Export Lines magazine print ad (ca. 1948) announcing the new (post-war) 4 Aces

The 4 Acesa[›] were the quartet of passenger-cargo liners Excalibur, Exochorda, Exeter, and Excambion, originally built for American Export Linesb[›] by New York Shipbuilding of Camden, New Jersey between 1929 and 1931. AEL placed the "4 Aces" in service between the US and the Mediterranean, offering cruises of up to 40 days.

During World War II, all four vessels were taken over by the U.S. Navy, renamed, and designated as AP- and APA-class troop transports. Excambion became USS John Penn (APA-23), Excalibur became USS Joseph Hewes (AP-50) and Exeter became USS Edward Rutledge (AP-52). These three of the original (pre-war) 4 Aces were ultimately lost to enemy action.[1] The pre-war Exochorda was converted to military transport USS Harry Lee, later sold to Turkish Maritime Lines and renamed Tarsus.[2]

After World War II, American Export Lines purchased four [[Type C3-S-A3[3] ship|C3-class]] BAYFIELD-class attack transports built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp. at Sparrow's Point, Maryland, had them refitted as passenger-cargo liners, and placed them in service as the new "4 Aces."[4] USS Dauphin became Exochorda, USS Dutchess became Excalibur, USS Queens became Excambion and USS Shelby (APA-105) became Exeter. Carrying the names of the original quartet, the new "4 Aces" sailed under the AEL flag until the 1960s.

In 1968, the post-war SS Exochorda was purchased by Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey to alleviate a shortage of on-campus student housing. It was refurbished at Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in Hoboken, renamed SS Stevens and anchored on the Hudson River adjacent to the campus where it served a dormitory. SS Stevens remained in service until 1975, when its continued operation became prohibitive due to skyrocketing utility costs. Before it was towed away and sold for scrap, one of Stevens' anchors was removed and permanently displayed [1] on campus as a memento of the institute's most popular dormitory.

In 1965, the post-war Excambion became USTS Texas Clipper for service with the Texas Maritime Academy until being sunk as an artificial reef on November 17, 2007.

The company's subsidiary American Export Airlines borrowed 3 of the names (excepting Exochorda) for its Sikorsky VS-44 flying boats, which it used in transatlantic service. Excambian is preserved on display at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.[2]


^ a:  Brochures and print ads published by American Export Lines identified their quartet of ships as "4 Aces", as opposed to "Four Aces".
^ b:  In 1964, American Export Lines merged with Isbrandtsen Co., becoming American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines.


  1. ^ "Exochorda ready for maiden voyage" (PDF, fee required). New York Times. 1948-10-27. p. 55. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
  2. ^ Vincent L. Saldutti. "History of the Lee". Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Export lines plan new '4 Aces' fleet" (PDF, fee required). New York Times. 1947-03-23. p. S11. Retrieved 2008-05-26.