SS Mongolia (1903)

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SS Mongolia
United States
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
  • President Fillmore (1929),
  • Panamanian (1940)
Fate: Scrapped 1946 (Shanghai, China)
General characteristics
Tonnage: 13,369 gross tons[1]
Displacement: 26,500 tons[2]
Length: 615 ft 8 in (187.66 m)[1]
Beam: 65 ft 0 in (19.81 m)[3]
Draft: 33 ft 6 in (10.21 m)[3]
Propulsion: Scotch boilers, steam quadruple expansion engines (10,000 shaft HP at 80 RPM); twin screws[2]
Speed: 16 knots[4]
  • 1,712 passengers (as SS Mongolia)[4]
  • 4,800 troops (as USS Mongolia)[2]
Crew: 130[5]
Armament: (March 1917 - September 1919) 3 × 6"/40 caliber guns[2] 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.


Originally laid down as as Minnelora on 7 June 1902 in Shipway J at New York Shipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey for the Atlantic Transport Line, she was purchased by E. H. Harriman's Pacific Mail Steamship Co. for its San Francisco-Far East service, and renamed Mongolia.[2][6][7] The 616-foot vessel was contract #5 for the young company, and the first passenger-cargo liner built by the firm.[8] She was launched on July 25, 1903 and christened by Miss Lucy Bell Kennedy of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[9] A sister ship, 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 early August 1915, Pacific Mail announced it could not affordably meet the language clause of the Seamen's Act in the Far East and intended to cease commercial shipping operations there.[10] Later that month, the company sold five of its liners, including Mongolia to Atlantic Transport Line, for whom she plied the New York-London route.[11]

In March 1917, following the German declaration of a submarine blockade around Britain, Mongolia was chartered as an Army transport [12] and 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.[3][5] For the next year, Mongolia ferried American troops and supplies to Europe. Two American nurses, Edith Ayers and Helen Wood, were accidentally killed during one of these crossings, and another was wounded. During the afternoon of 20 May 1917, the nurses were on the deck of the Mongolia, observing the firing of the aft 6-inch gun, when they were struck by fragments of the shell's brass casing.[12][13]

On 27 April 1918, the US Navy requisitioned the vessel, reconfigured her for greater troop capacity, and commissioned her on 8 May as USS Mongolia (ID-1615). In all, she completed twelve turnarounds at an average duration of 34 days and transporting over 33,000 passengers, before being decommissioned on 11 September 1919.[3][4]

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.[14]

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,[15] however, and was sold in 1940 to Cia Transatlantica Centroamericana of Panama, which renamed her Panamanian.[6] She was scrapped in Shanghai, China, 20 May 1946.[3]


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

  1. ^ a b Marine Engineering (1904). "Steamship Mongolia". Marine Engineering. New York: Marine Engineering Incorporated. 9 (April 1904): 151–159. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Silverstone, Paul (2013). The New Navy, 1883-1922. New York: Routledge. p. 143. ISBN 9781135865429. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Mongolia". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c Swazey, Edward Scott (1921). New York Shipbuilding Corporation: A Record of Ships Built. Camden, New Jersey: New York Shipbuilding Corp. p. 6. OCLC 7405049. 
  5. ^ a b "Camden-Built Liner Sinks a Submarine". Evening Public Ledger. Philadelphia, PA. 25 April 1917. p. 1. 
  6. ^ a b Emmons, Frederick (1973). Pacific liners, 1927-72. David & Charles. p. 73. ISBN 9780715360750. 
  7. ^ "Historic Line was the Pacific Mail". Railway and Marine News. 13 (9): 22–23. 1915. 
  8. ^ "The New York Shipbuilding Corporation". Pacific Marine Review. 18: 201. April 1921. 
  9. ^ "Big Steamship Launched". The Indianapolis Journal. (Indianapolis, Indiana. 26 July 1903. p. 2. 
  10. ^ "Handing it all to Japan". The Evening World. New York, NY. 5 August 1915. p. 12. 
  11. ^ "Pacific Mail Sells 5 Liners to Ship Trust". New-York Tribune. New York, NY. 14 August 1915. pp. 1,3. 
  12. ^ a b Kinghorn, Jonathan (2012). The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931 a history with details on all ships. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. p. 234. ISBN 9780786488421. 
  13. ^ "Defective Ammunition Caused Mongolia Deaths, Navy Thinks". The Washington herald. Washington, DC. 22 May 1917. pp. 1–2. 
  14. ^ Newell, Gordon R. (1963). Ocean Liners of the 20th Century (1st ed.). Seattle: Superior Publishing Company. pp. 51, 95. LCCN 63018494. OCLC 789671. 
  15. ^ "Pacific Mail SS Co.". The Ships List. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

  • New York Shipbuilding Corporation (1948). New York Shipbuilding Corporation: 50 Years. Camden, New Jersey: New York Shipbuilding Corp. OCLC 22869747. 

External links[edit]