SS West Mahomet
|Name:||USS West Mahomet (ID-3681)|
|Owner:||U.S. Shipping Board|
|Builder:||Skinner & Eddy|
|Yard number:||34 (USSB #1187)|
|Laid down:||21 Aug 1918|
|Launched:||19 Oct 1918|
|Completed:||13 Nov 1918|
|Commissioned:||13 Nov 1918–3 Jun 1919|
|In service:||13 Nov 1918–about 1930|
|Out of service:||~1930–1938|
|Struck:||3 Jun 1919|
|Fate:||Scrapped at Rosyth, Scotland, 1938|
|Type:||Design 1013 cargo ship|
|Tonnage:||5,600 gross, 8,800 dwt|
|Beam:||54 ft (16 m)|
|Draft:||24 ft 2 in (7.37 m)|
|Depth of hold:||29 ft 9 in (9.07 m)|
|Installed power:||1 × Curtis geared turbine|
|Speed:||11.5 kn (21.3 km/h)|
West Mahomet was built as part of the United States Shipping Board's World War I emergency wartime shipbuilding program. Completed just too late to see service in the war, the ship was nevertheless commissioned into the Navy as USS West Mahomet (ID-3681), but saw only a handful of voyages on the Navy's behalf—including a postwar famine relief mission to Romania—before being decommissioned in June 1919.
The ship was subsequently placed into merchant service as SS West Mahomet, but with the onset of the Great Depression, she was laid up like many other ships of the period for lack of work. The vessel was scrapped at Rosyth, Scotland in 1938.
Construction and design
West Mahomet was built in Seattle, Washington in 1918 at the No. 1 Plant of the Skinner & Eddy Corporation—the 19th in a series of 24 Design 1013 cargo ships built by Skinner & Eddy for the USSB's emergency wartime shipbuilding program. The ship was laid down on 21 August, launched 46½ working (58 calendar) days later on 19 October, and completed on 13 November—a total time under construction of 64 working (82 calendar) days, making West Mahomet one of the fastest-built ships of her time.
West Mahomet had a design deadweight tonnage of 8,800 tons and gross register tonnage of 5,600. She had an overall length of 423 feet 9 inches, a beam of 54 feet and a draft of 24 feet 2 inches. The ship was powered by a Curtis geared turbine, driving a single screw propeller and delivering a speed of 11.5 knots. Since the ship was completed too late to see wartime service—having been delivered just two days after Armistice Day—she was not provided with any armament.
Upon her delivery to the Navy on 13 November 1918, West Mahomet was commissioned the same day as USS West Mahomet (ID-3681) for operation with the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS), with Lt. Comdr. Raymond O. Demarest, USNRF, placed in command.
On 29 November, West Mahomet departed Seattle with a cargo of 7,886 tons of flour on a postwar Eastern European famine relief mission. After proceeding via the Panama Canal, the ship reached New York on 28 December and sailed for the Near East on New Year's Day 1919. On 5 February, the freighter reached Constantinople where she discharged her cargo. She then loaded a return cargo of 970 bales of tobacco and 1,470 tons of water ballast and departed for New York on 5 March.
After unloading her cargo at New York, West Mahomet loaded 5,513 tons of general Army cargo and departed for Belgium on 26 April, arriving at Antwerp on 12 May. Having unloaded her cargo once again, the ship departed for the United States on 16 May, arriving at Newport News, Virginia on 2 June. The following day, she was simultaneously decommissioned, struck from the Navy List, and returned to control of the U.S. Shipping Board.
Following her decommission, the USSB placed West Mahomet into commercial service as SS West Mahomet. Subsequent records of the ship's movements are scarce, but it appears she remained active through the 1920s, operating from various ports in the United States to destinations as diverse as Brest, St. Nazaire and Le Havre, France; Liverpool, England; Kobe, Japan and Singapore. West Mahomet made headlines in January 1924 when an unidentified murder victim found in the Fourth Avenue subway station at Twenty-fifth Street, Brooklyn turned out to be a member of the ship's crew.
By 1930, the Great Depression was having an effect on international trade, and hundreds of ships, including West Mahomet, were laid up in ports around the United States with no work in this period. By 1933, the USSB had ceased to maintain the idle vessel, "due to age and deterioration". In 1937, West Mahomet was one of a group of 15 ships offered for sale to the highest bidder. Sold for scrap, she was transferred from her berth in Mobile, Alabama to Rosyth, Scotland where in 1938 she was broken up.
- Pacific Ports Annual, pp. 64-65.
- "General Cargo Ships Built in Pacific Coast Shipyards", shipbuildinghistory.com.
- Hurley, p. 93. Note that Hurley does not specifically mention West Mahomet in his list of fastest-built ships, but at 82 calendar days the vessel would, according to Hurley's list, have been the sixth fastest-built ship of the war.
- West Mahomet, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Naval History and Heritage Command website.
- Silverstone, p. 169.
- Bane, pp. 343-344.
- The Ellis Island Ship Database - West Mahomet, ellisislandrecords.org.
- Item details BT 26/897/65, nationalarchives.gov.uk.
- "Shipping and Mails", The New York Times, July 7, 1920.
- "Shipping and Mails", The New York Times, March 9, 1922.
- "Finger Nail Traces Victim of Murder", The New York Times, January 14, 1924.
- "777,245 Offered For Fifteen Cargo Ships: Maritime Commission Gets Bids on 125,754 Tons of Obsolete Wartime Vessels", The New York Times, September 1, 1937.
- Silverstone, p. 170.
- Bane, Suda Lorena (1943): Organization of American relief in Europe, 1918-1919, pp. 343–344, Stanford University Press.
- Hurley, Edward N. (1920): The New Merchant Marine, p. 93, The Century Co., New York.
- Pacific Ports Inc. (1919): Pacific Ports Annual, Fifth Edition, 1919, pp. 64–65, Pacific Ports Inc.
- Silverstone, Paul H. (2006): The New Navy, 1883-1922, pp. 169–170, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-97871-2.