S.S. Argentina

S.S. Pennsylvania

(The Pennsylvania has twin funnels)

 

 

S.S. Argentina

Official Number 229044

 

1928 - 1929

The Pennsylvania was built at Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Ltd., in Virginia for passage from New York via the Panama Canal to San Francisco.  Length - 613 feet; Breadth - 80.4 feet; Displacement - 32,816 tons; Turbine - Electric; Twin Screw; Speed - 17.0 to 18.5 knots.  First Class Passengers - 184; Tourist Class - 365; Crew - 350.

July 10, 1929

The ship was launched and operated by Panama Pacific Line and traveled regularly from New York to Havana, then through the Panama Canal, to San Diego, Los Angeles Harbor, and San Francisco  -- One Way Water, One Way Rail. 

If you were in First Class, a few of the luxuries on board was that if a passenger did not occupy a room with a private bath, he may apply to the Bath Steward to arrange for a definite time each day for use of bath.   Also deck chairs and steamer rugs may be hired at $1.50 each for the entire voyage and $1 between ports en route.  Chair cushions may be hired for $1 each for the voyage.

Passengers were informed that professional gamblers are reported as frequently traveling on passenger steamers and are warned to take precautions accordingly.

1929-1937

The Pennsylvania along with her sister ships, the California and Virginia, were initially successful for the Panama Pacific Lines New York to San Francisco route via the Panama Canal.  But with the advent of the depression, removal of the government mail subsidy, and the critical labor problems centering around the California, it became tougher for the Panama Pacific Line to maintain the three ships. 

1936

On a trip to Buenos Aires President Roosevelt noticed a lack of American flag vessels.  Once he returned to the United States he decided to rectify the situation and brought the "Good Neighbor Fleet" into existence.

1937

The ship was sold to U.S. Maritime Commission and refurbished to carry 500 passengers (including removal of one funnel) for passage from New York to Buenos Aires by American Republics Line, operated by Moore & McCormack Lines.  To carry out the President's wishes for good will with South America, the Pennsylvania was renamed the S.S. Argentina, a Good Neighbor ship. 

Cargo Space - 450,000 Cubic Feet Bale Capacity; 95,000 Cubic Feet Refrigerated Space.  Pre-War Passenger Capacity - 475; Crew Complement - 380.

October 4, 1938

Moore-McCormack formally took over operation of the S.S. Argentina by the signing of the necessary papers by Captain Granville Conway, Director of the Maritime Commission in New York, and Robert C. Lee, Executive Vice President of Moore-McCormack Lines.  The signing took place aboard the S.S. Brazil.

November 1938

First trip as the S.S. Argentina leaving from New York to Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and Trinidad, returning to New York to do it all over again.

1939

Eleanor M. Britton began working for Moore-McCormack Lines as a Cruise Director.  After World War II, in 1947, she was hired back as Chief Cruise Director and Director of Cruise Staff until 1969. 

December 14, 1939

Captain Edward A. Ohman, chief officer, died suddenly of a heart attack aboard the S.S. Argentina while she was at the port of Rio de Janeiro.  Captain Ohman was clamping handcuffs on a stowaway at the time of his heart attack.  Captain Ohman was born in Stockholm 46 years ago and started his career in shipping in 1908.  After being naturalized as a citizen of the United States, he joined the staff of the United States Lines in 1922 as fourth officer, later becoming chief officer of the President Harding and chief officer of the Panama Pacific liner, Pennsylvania.  He was chief officer of the Pennsylvania in the summer of 1938 when she was transferred to the American Republics Line as a unit of the Good Neighbor Fleet.  Captain Ohman served the ship in all her voyages under the Moore-McCormack's flag with the exception of one.  Captain Ohman is survived by his widow, Annie Ohman, and daughter, Dorothy.

December 17, 1939

The S.S. Argentina reached Montevideo today after the scuttling of the Admiral Graf Spee the day before.  Several officers and passengers went out on a tugboat to see the burning German battleship.  In the afternoon Captain Kenneth Donavin, in charge of South American operations for Moore-McCormack, chartered a tug and took 13 people out for a closer look at the scuttled ship.  They went within 75 feet of her and could feel the heat on their faces.  They circled the ship several times and stayed about an hour.   There was one explosion amidships on the port side while the tugboat was out there.  Captain Thomas M. Simmons, master of the S.S. Argentina; Harold C. Glynn, purser; Nini Bisso, cruise director; Warren Delano Robbins, son of the late Warren Delano Robbins, U.S. Minister to Canada; Captain William Brereton, naval attaché of the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, and several Uruguayan naval officials were on the tugboat.

When the S.S. Argentina left Montevideo the same night, the scuttled ship was a cloud of smoke with occasional red glows flaring up from her ruined decks.

When the ship got to Buenos Aires she was tied up for two hours at the immigration pier.  The German sailors waited around on the pier in their white uniforms.  Members of the American crew threw them fruit, magazines, and nearly all their cigarettes.

Captain Langsdorff of the Admiral Graf Spee shot himself the next day.  The city turned out for the funeral.  Dr. Flint Bondurant of Cairo, Illinois, decided to hire a car to go sight-seeing that day and by some mistake his chauffeur got caught in the funeral procession in fourth place.  Dr. Bondurant was saluted on every side and the next day he was described in the newspapers as a representative of the German Government.

December 8, 1941

Congress officially declared War with Japan.

December 27, 1941

The S.S. Argentina arrived in New York from South America completing her last pre-war voyage in the Good Neighbor Fleet service.

January 2, 1942

The S.S. Argentina, with 200 passengers, was set to sail at 1 pm on January 3 for South America, but the Navy took over the ship on this day.  Cargo was already loaded in the holds and approximately 200 passengers had booked passage when the Navy and the Maritime Commission notified the steamship company to cancel the sailing.  Prospective passengers were in the Line's offices at 5 Broadway filling out new baggage declarations which were required of all departing passengers.  Passenger agents sent them away and started notifying others by telegram and telephone.  Officials refused to discuss the action.  The ship became a United States Army Transport ship ("USAT") for the War Shipping Administration. 

January 8, 1942

The S.S. Argentina came into New York with her flag at half mast, for Edward A. Ohman, her chief officer, who dropped dead in Rio de Janeiro while clamping handcuffs on a stowaway. 

January 23 - February 27, 1942

USAT Argentina departed New York as the flagship of six troop carriers, escorted by Naval vessels, arriving in Melbourne, Australia.

April 22 - May 14, 1942

USAT Argentina departed San Francisco with the 32nd Infantry Division, arriving in Port Adelaide, Australia.

June 20, 1942

USAT Argentina arrived in New York.

July 1-15, 1942

USAT Argentina left New York for Gourock, Scotland, escorted by Naval vessels, with various elements of the 8th Air Force, selected forces of the U.S. Fifth Corps, and all personnel of the 56th Signal Battalion were on board. 

December 11-24, 1942

USAT Argentina and her sister, USAT Brazil, departed Fort Dix, New Jersey, arriving at Casablanca, Morocco.  Both ships carried units of the 2nd Division.

June 1945

USAT Argentina left Southampton for Newport News, Virginia, transporting some of the 56th Signal Battalion troops back home from War.

July 28, 1945

USAT Argentina arrives in New York City at 2300 hrs. crammed with 5,000 troops of the 454th Bomb Group, along with other units of the 15th Army Air Force.  As they got closer to New York they heard their first stateside radio broadcast from New York.  "The fog has made visibility zero in New York, and an Army bomber from Sioux Falls, seemingly lost ....  With a thunderous crash the twin-engine B-25 Mitchell bomber has slammed into the Empire State Building."

November 16, 1945

At 2 p.m., a secret party of 88 Germans, said to be scientists in possession of the Nazi's best scientific secrets, arrived here yesterday on the S.S. Argentina.  They traveled from Havre.  A captain in uniform and Army officers in civilian clothes herded the group off to the pier at 50th Street and whisked them away in a convoy of motor buses that had been waiting on the lower level of the pier.  Washington gave special orders to keep reporters and photographers away from the men.  The Germans did not resemble scientists, but were dressed in shabby civilian clothes with the exception of one man in an air force uniform, and they carried old and patched-up baggage or duffel bags.

The ship also brought 4,206 soldiers, 124 nurses and 130 civilians, including Senator Elbert D. Thomas of Utah, Chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee.  Brig. Gen. Gordon C. Hollar, former provost marshal of the European theatre, was the ranking officer on board.  The solders were disgruntled at having to wait for the Germans to disembark.

Soon after the S.S. Argentina docked, President Albert V. Moore, went aboard and presented a $500 victory bond to T/Sgt. Walter Gerszewski, 35 years old of Warsaw, North Dakota, a puzzled and surprised veteran of the 95th Division, who chanced to be the 175,000th soldier carried on the ship.

Captain John M. Hultman, USNR, commander of the S.S. Argentina, said she was one of the highest ranking transports in American service in point of numbers carried and just completed her 56th voyage and had carried 175,592 men to or from the European battle zone.

January 26, 1946

The Argentina left Southampton, England, for New York carrying 452 brides, 30 of them pregnant, 173 children, and one war groom.  This was the first official war bride contingent.   This transport was nicknamed the "Diaper Run," "Operation Mother-in-Law," and "The War Bride Special."  Stormy seas whipped the Argentina during her trip to New York and four out of five passengers were seasick.  Women collapsed on the decks, fell in passageways, and sat miserably on staircases.  Crewmen were kept busy swabbing the decks and corridors.  The ship had been so soiled with vomit that an outbreak of disease was feared. 

February 4, 1946

The Argentina arrived a day late due to stormy seas but that did not keep the radiant but tired GI brides who came from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Malta, from crowding the decks of the ship at 3:30 a.m. in 13 degree weather to see the Statue of Liberty.  They were met by a band, with cameras rolling and Mayor William O'Dwyer awaiting them along with 200 newsmen.  Due to the Argentina being the "first official war bride ship," newsmen and photographers surrounded the passengers.  Because of this, the wives were delayed in meeting their husbands who were waiting for them on the dock, some even after 12 hours after spotting the first lights of Manhattan.

During World War II, Moore-McCormack Lines operated more than 150 ships, lost 11 vessels, transported 754,239 troops, and carried 34,410,111 tons of war cargo.  USAT Argentina survived the War with only minor mishaps and carried about 200,000 troops, government officials, and war brides. 

May 6, 1946

A return to private control of the Government-operated liner, Argentina, as the result of a labor dispute between members of the ship's crews and her general agents was indicated after postponement of the vessel's scheduled departure for Cobh and Southampton.  The issue between the crew members, represented by the National Maritime Union, CIO, and Moore-McCormack Lines, involved classification of the ship.  Crew members had worked on a regular 8-hour on, 12-hour off, "troopship" basis since the Argentina entered war service.  The union was opposing a plan by the agents to return the crew to a regular 9-hour on, 13-hour off, "passenger" schedule.  A spokesman for Moore-McCormack asserted that the ship is scheduled to carry 411 "paid ticket" passengers and was not under Army control so she could no longer be considered in the troopship category.

July 12, 1946

A Boston longshoreman returned to New York today after an unexpected comfortable and pleasant voyage to Southampton on the Ile de France

Gerald Kyle was working aboard the French liner at the port of Boston on June 26 and was still at it when the liner sailed at midnight.  A French officer told him to go to the ship's lounge to await the departure of the pilot, who would take him ashore, but the longshoreman was so tired he fell asleep, awakening far at sea the next morning.  He then landed at Southampton and returned on the S.S. Argentina which docked at Pier 90.  Among other passengers were 38 British girls coming to the United States to marry former GIs.

July 19, 1946

At the invitation of the French Government, Dr. Max Lieberman, head of the foreign language department of Seward Park High School in the Bronx, sailed on the S.S. Argentina in charge of a group of 85 high school and college teachers of French for two months of study in France.  Dr. Lieberman stated, "The purpose is to renew contacts with spiritual France."  The S.S. Argentina carried 519 passengers for Southampton and Havre under a joint operation by the United States Lines and the Moore-McCormack Lines.

November 4, 1946

The Government allowed Moore-McCormack to take over the operation of the S.S. Argentina and she was sent to the shipyards to be reconverted from a troop carrier into a luxury liner. 

Reconversion took place at the Bethlehem Steel Company at 56th Street, Brooklyn yard.  Interior decoration by Donald Deskey Associates, 630 Fifth Avenue, New York.  The ship was entirely redecorated, rebuilt, refurnished, and completely fire-proofed.

Post-war passenger capacity (approx.) - 359 First Class; 160 Cabin Class.

June 3, 1947

It was announced today that the "Good Neighbor Fleet" will return to peacetime passenger service.  The return of the Argentina meant the addition of "one of the most glamorous travel routes in the world" to the list of cruises available to travelers.  Command of the Argentina has been returned to Captain Thomas M. Simmons.  While Captain Simmons' vessel was undergoing reconversion, he served as Assistant Port Captain for Moore-McCormack Lines.  Harold C. Glynn, chief purser of the vessel before and during WWII also returned in his former capacity.

June 29, 1947

The South American people are "hungry for the sight of a familiar passenger ship," but they may have to wait because the Argentina's reconversion which was scheduled to be completed by July 15, was delayed due to a strike.

December 30, 1947

The S.S. Argentina (second largest American vessel afloat) left Bethlehem Steel's Brooklyn shipyard where she had been undergoing reconversion, for her final sea trials.  Several hundred persons, including officials of the Maritime Commission, her owners; the ship's operators, Moore-McCormack Lines; Bethlehem Steel Company representatives; and some representatives of the press made the 14-hour test trip.  The Argentina returned tonight to Pier 32, North River.  The sea trials included an eight-hour endurance run at full speed and a two-hour "overload" run over a marked course between Ambrose Lightship and Barnegat Bay.  Crash stops from full ahead and full stern were also made, along with readings and recordings of all equipment and instruments on board.  Captain Thomas M. Simmons expressed complete satisfaction with the ship's behavior after the tests and added "she is safer and better" than ever.

The vessel originally was scheduled to begin her post-war service July 25, but the reconversion was delayed by the June strike of the shipyard workers, which remained unsettled until early November 1947.  The liner has all the appearances of a new vessel and will be followed into service by her two sister ships.

January 1, 1948

0001 hrs.

S.S. Argentina formally returned to Moore-McCormack Lines by the Maritime Commission to resume operation between New York and the east coast of South America, marking final "separation" for the vessel from military service.  The Argentina is a twin-screw, turbo-electric drive vessel, 613 feet long, has a beam of 80 feet, a rated sea speed in excess of 18-1/2 knots, and a gross tonnage of 20,500 tons.  The ship has a cargo space of 450,000 cubic bale feet which includes 95,000 cubic feet for refrigerated cargo.

The ship was completely redecorated with nine basic color schemes to provide variety in her staterooms.  Among the contributors to the vessel's reconversion were Donald Deskey Associates, who executed the design of the ship's staterooms and public areas, and the Zalud Marine Corporation, which performed the joiner and interior work.

According to Leo Archer, Moore-McCormack Passenger Traffic Manager, her first two voyages were "booked full."

January 12-14, 1948

1630 hrs.

The S.S. Argentina was on display to shippers and other company guests for three hours daily.  Admittance was by invitation.

January 14, 1948

The Argentina received the Naval Reserve pennant and her new memorial library was dedicated.  The Argentina was the 37th unit of the American merchant marine, the 29th in the Third Naval District, to be accepted into the Naval Reserve.  She was the second largest American-flag vessel to fly the reserve pennant; only the United States Lines' America was larger.

The Henry Olin Billings Memorial Library consisting of 100 volumes was dedicated.  The library was named for a former chief officer of the Argentina who died in the war when his first command, the Henry Thatcher, was blown up off Africa.

Leo E. Archer, general passenger traffic manager, announced that all accommodations have been sold for Argentina's first voyage to South America.

January 15, 1948

1700 hrs.

S.S. Argentina was the first of the Good Neighbor Fleet to resume service to East Coast South America after a notable war career as a troop transport.  She sailed from New York on her first post-war voyage leaving for Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Port-of-Spain, and Trinidad.  The 38-day round-trip fares were $1,030, minimum First Class; $630, minimum Cabin Class.

Summer 1948

Shipment of the first television sets sent to Brasil were shipped aboard the S.S. Argentina to Rio de Janeiro and from there transported to Hotel Quintandinha in nearby Petropolis, where they, with other Philco products, were put on display at the Exposition of Commerce and Industry.

November 5, 1948

Photographer Ruth Orkin, well-known lens artist, boarded the S.S. Argentina to film and write about passengers as they participated in ship activities and shore excursions.  See R. Orkin's story under S.S. Argentina > Artifacts > Dream Cruise.

February 18, 1950

Harry Sanford Brown, 68 years old, president and chairman of the board of the Foster Wheeler Corporation died while at sea aboard the S.S. Argentina, en route from New York to Rio de Janeiro.

Spring 1950

To the accompaniment of clicking cameras - still and television - an innovation in maritime equipment was introduced into practical use on the bridge of the S.S. Argentina prior to departing for South America.  Captain Thomas N. Simmons, master of the ship, and Captain William Brophy, of the McAllister Towing Company, which berths the Mooremack passenger fleet, demonstrated a portable walkie-talkie instrument which permitted the sending of signals from the bridge to the tugboats lying alongside preparing to maneuver the ship into the North River.  Once again Mooremack has had a part in a development new to its field.

September 14, 1950

The S.S. Argentina, two days out of Port of Spain, Trinidad, met with a large schooner flying distress signals.  The schooner was off course for her destination, Venezuela, and was virtually out of food and other supplies.  Aboard the vessel, which sailed from Las Palmas, Canary Island, were 119 men.

Captain Thomas Simmons provided food and water for the schooner's crew and passenger complement, and put her on the right course for Venezuela.

January 8, 1953

Mr. Albert V. Moore visited Mr. and Mrs. Emmet J. McCormack aboard the S.S. Argentina at 1700 hrs. before the ship departed.  Mr. Moore passed away at 2300 hrs. that evening.

December 17, 1953

Captain Harry N. Sadler was honored at a luncheon aboard the S.S. Argentina shortly before he took the S.S. Argentina out on a voyage to South America's east coast.  Captain Sadler holds the record for longest service as shipmaster in the South American trade.  It is the first time he has had the "bit back in his teeth" since his former command, the S.S. Brazil, was laid up last summer for want of business.  He is relieving Captain Simmons, who will spend the holidays with his family on Long Island.

The captain was presented with two silver plaques attesting his congeniality as a host on a voyage last January.  One plaque was presented by Dr. Merrill N. Foote of the American College of Surgeons.  Captain Sadler carried 250 members of the college and their wives to a convention in São Paulo.  The other plaque was from the rest of the passengers, given by Harry P. Schaub, a stockbroker.

1957

Robert Melsopp began working for Moore-McCormack Lines as a Purser on the S.S. Argentina.  After she was laid up in 1958, Purser Melsopp continued to work on the newly built S.S. Argentina until 1968.  He continued on with his career as a Purser on the Mormacvega, one of Mooremack's cargo liners.

August 5, 1958

After making her last Good Neighbor trip, Captain Thomas Simmons rang down the engines of the S.S. Argentina for the last time.  The over-aged vessel, built as the Pennsylvania in 1929, was withdrawn from service.  Moore-McCormack will return her to her owner, the Federal Maritime Board.  She is headed for the "mothballing" that her sister ships, the Brazil and Uruguay, have undergone.

Captain Simmons remained on her bridge through her troop-carrying days in World War II and continued in the post-war years.  He moved the bridge telegraph indicator to the space marked "finished with engines."  He said, "This is the end, and I thought I'd give this last order myself." 

The Captain had been a seafarer for 47 years and like the Argentina, his career had been marked by good fortune.  His vessels have been on the fringes of many hurricanes but never in a disastrous storm.  In World War II he had many close scrapes but came through unscathed.

As he walked down the gangplank at Pier 32, in the Canal Street area of the Hudson River, the Captain took no souvenirs from the Argentina with him.  He said, "The memories are enough."

1958 - 1963

S.S. Argentina and S.S. Brazil joined the already laid-up S.S. Uruguay in the James River Reserve Fleet.  The United States retained many of her older passenger ships in vast "mothball defense fleets," supposedly awaiting some military emergency.  However, as the years passed, the possibilities of a call to duty seemed more and more remote. 

Late 1963

The S.S. Argentina was offered to sale by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

1964

S.S. Argentina was sold to Peck Iron & Metals in Norfolk, Virginia, for scrap.  She was then sold to Luria Bros. in South Kearny, New Jersey.

 

   
   
   

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