Plans for the S.S. America were laid down under the first Maritime Commission contract on August 22, 1938. The builder was to be the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry dock Company, in Newport News Virginia. The America was designed by noted naval architect William Francis Gibbs and constructed for the United States Lines company.  She was one of the few ocean liners of the time that had interiors designed by women.

The S.S. America was launched on August 31, 1939 and was sponsored by Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President of the United States.  The America served her owners faithfully for 55 years until she was finally run aground in the Canary Islands in 1994.  To this day she sits stranded, and deteriorating.

The S.S. America was the flagship of the United States Lines when she commenced her maiden voyage on August 22, 1940. In less than a year, she was called up to assist the allied efforts during World War II.

After entry in World War II, the United States military was desperate for transport.  Non-essential civilian ships were often temporarily employed for use by the armed services.

For the S. S. America, the call would come whilst on cruise to Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands. In late May of 1941 she was ordered to return to Newport News to be handed over to the Navy.

The America was moored at Norfolk and acquired by the Navy on June 1, 1941, to be used as a troop transport. The ship was renamed the USS West Point. (AP-23)

In 1945 the U.S.S. West Point traveled to Italian and French ports. Its mission was to take part in the “Magic Carpet” voyages, bringing home American troops from the European battlefronts.

During her Naval service she would carry over 350,000 troops – the most of any Navy troopship in service during World War II.

The West Point would also carry Red Cross workers, United Nations officials, children, civilians, prisoners of war, and U.S.O. entertainers.

Eventually she was re-titled the America and returned to the civilian sector. In 1952 she was joined by a sister ship run by United States Lines, the S.S. United States. With the introduction of the larger and faster ship in 1952, America’s reign as queen of the US merchant marine was short-lived.

From Sometime Interesting – The Story of the SS America