S.S. Uruguay


S.S. California in Panama Canal

S.S. California in Panama Canal

(The California has twin funnels)

S.S. Uruguay at Dock

S.S. Uruguay at Dock


1928 - 1929

The California was built at Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Ltd., in Virginia for passage from New York via the Panama Canal to San Francisco.  Length - 601 feet; Breadth - 80 feet; Displacement - 32,450 tons; Turbine - Electric; Twin Screw.  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.

March 1936

The crew members on the California refused to sail once their captain ordered them to let go of the mooring lines.  Among the crew members included several Communist Party leaders and ex-World War I infantrymen.  Thus began a strike wherein Joe Curran was a member of the crew who later became a maritime labor leader.  The ship stayed moored for three days.  Thus began a major event in the maritime industry. 

See photo cover of a magazine in the section for Uruguay's Artifacts that depicts a crew member on the California who a short time later in the year began his movie career. 


The California along with her sister ships, the Virginia and Pennsylvania, were initially successful for the Panama Pacific Line's 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. 


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.


The California was sold to U.S. Maritime Commission and refurbished (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 Roosevelt's wishes for good will with South America, the California was renamed the S.S. Uruguay, and became the Flag ship of the Good Neighbor Fleet. 

September 2, 1938

The S.S. Uruguay sailed from Newport News for New York to be taken over by the decorators.  The air conditioning system which was limited to the first-class dining room was extended to the tourist-class dining room and new twin-screw propellers were installed.  The renovation also included a new swimming pool, reconstruction of the after deck to provide a veranda cafe and improvements to staterooms.  The Uruguay should dock tomorrow at Pier 4, Hoboken, which is one of the government-owned piers.

October 4, 1938

Moore-McCormack formally took over operation of the S.S. Uruguay, 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.

January 11, 1939

Surveyors representing the Maritime Commission and Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc., spent the day examining the American Republics liner, S.S. Uruguay, which will be turned over to the company under charter within a few days.

January 17, 1939

The S.S. Uruguay was the first ship to sail of the American Republics Line under Moore & McCormack as operators.  The ship left for Barbados, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo and Buenos Aires, then northbound to Santos, Rio de Janeiro, and Trinidad. 

The three ships sailing the South American route had drawn considerable criticism but this was later silenced when the passenger list grew from 7,000 to over 20,000 per year.

May 18, 1939

Shortly after meeting up with Eleanor Britton, Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha, a/k/a Carmen Miranda, boarded the S.S. Uruguay en route to the United States.  She arrived on this date to begin her American career. 

Carmen was known as the "Brasilian bombshell," but was born in Portugal.  Her family moved to Rio when she was two years old. 


Conductor Leopold Stokowski and his orchestra boarded the S.S. Uruguay and made a legendary recording of native Brasilian music aboard the ship.

August 28, 1941

The Maritime Commission arranged to give to Uruguay first-class steamship service northbound by directing that the S.S. Uruguay stop at Montevideo. 

December 8, 1941

War declared against Japan.


The S.S. Uruguay became a United States Army Transport ship ("USAT") for the War Shipping Administration. 

March 3 - April 9, 1942

USAT Uruguay transported U.S.troops from Brooklyn, N.Y. to Melbourne, Australia via Panama, Bora Bora and Auckland, New Zealand.

April 28 - May 14, 1942

Transported Royal New Zealand Air Force Cadets from Wellington, New Zealand to San Francisco, California.

May 26 - June 12, 1942

Transported U.S troops from San Francisco, California to Auckland, New Zealand.

August 5-25, 1942

USAT Uruguay departed Brooklyn, New York to Gourock, Scotland via Halifax, Nova Scotia and then to  Swansea, Wales, with the 301st Bomb Group.

February 12, 1943

While transporting 5,000 troops in an Atlantic convoy crossing, the USAT Uruguay was rammed U.S.S. Salamonie creating a 70-foot wide gaping hole.  The tanker had steering equipment problems and hit the Uruguay amidships with a force that drove the tanker's bow into the ship's hospital.  13 Army soldiers were killed (7 dead and 6 missing) and more than 50 soldiers were injured.  The impact lifted a soldier from his cot, dropping him on the tanker's deck.  The ship withdrew and the transfer of the soldier was not known until after the troopship had turned towards Bermuda for repairs.  (Note: Based on information provided by Jan Narkiewicz, we have determined that there were in fact three soldiers dropped on the tanker's deck.  Two of them were lost at sea.)

A temporary bulkhead was constructed and three days later the ship was brought into a safe harbor.  Master Albert P. Spaulding saved many lives, his ship, and her cargo.  At a later date, the President of the United States took pleasure in presenting the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal to Albert P. Spaulding, Master of USAT Uruguay

May 15, 1943

The Uruguay departed from New York for the first time since the collision.  Destination, Panama and Brisbane.

November 18, 1943

Departed Los Angeles for India

December 6, 1943

Arrived Hobart Tasmania

December 26, 1943

Arrived Bombay, India

November - December 1944

Game Played December 2, 1944

USAT Uruguay, with three destroyers in escort, sailed to Baltimore with her precious cargo of the entire Corps of West Point cadets en route to the Army-Navy football game.

Knowing General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., was a cadet at West Point at this time, Ginger contacted the General for his recollections of this event.  See the General's response in Memories and Photos.

Also read about John Robb's account of berthing the Uruguay for this memorable occasion.

  February 15, 1946

USAT Uruguay, left Yokohoma, Japan with European dignitaries and their families who were held in Japan during the war.  Also, on the ship were wounded American soldiers.  This trip is referred by some as the "Voyage of the Diplomats."

June 25, 1946

The work of reconverting the Uruguay to her peacetime status has been awarded to the Kearny yard of the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company which was the low bidder at $4,437,000.  The job is expected to be completed in eight months.

June 23, 1947

S.S. Uruguay entered Todd Shipyards No. 1 Graving Dock in New York Harbor.  Her entire hull from keel to light waterline was sandblasted to the bare steel, a job that required 126 tons of white sand to clear the 40,000 square feet.  This was the largest application of sand blasting on record at the Brooklyn yard. 

After 87 plates, averaging 108 inches wide by 30 feet long, had been replaced in the hull, the entire bottom was painted -- first with two coats of anti-corrosive paint from deep load line to keel, followed by one coat of anti-fouling paint from light load line to keel, and topped off with two coats of green boot topping from deep load line to light load line.

126 tons of sand was used for removing old paint, over 1,000 gallons of paint were consumed, 85,000 rivets were replaced, and almost 24,000 square feet of steel plating were installed to complete the task of repairing the hull of the S.S. Uruguay.

September 6, 1947

The extensive hull repairs on the 20,183 ton Uruguay were completed at the Todd Shipyards Corporation's Brooklyn division and the vessel was tied up at the "Long Dock" in Section 20 of Erie Basin, Brooklyn, awaiting the end of the shipyard strike so that her reconversion could be completed.

January 1948

Thomas F. Murphy was appointed First Assistant Purser of the S.S. Uruguay.

January 23, 1948

The S.S. Uruguay left the Brooklyn Division of Todd Shipyards Corporation for an 18-hour trial run after receiving bottom painting and other finishing touches.  The major part of the job was done by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company's Kearny, New Jersey, yard.  The ship went through her sea tests in good style and was pronounced ready for service.  The trials included testing of all instruments, turns, full speed, overload runs and crash stops from full ahead to full astern.  One official of Moore-McCormack Lines said the Uruguay "handled like a baby carriage" during the runs.

 A. V. Moore, President of the company left this morning for Miami, where he will board an airplane for South American preparatory to touring the port cities which will be on the itinerary of the new service.

 The vessel was built as the California 20 years ago and is as modern within as almost any afloat.  The Uruguay comes back to private operation as one of the most beautiful vessels New York has ever seen, in the opinion of veteran company men.  Interior designs were executed by William F. Schorn and there was little or none of the "gaudiness" often associated with luxury ships. 

January 24, 1948

The S.S. Uruguay returned to private passenger service as control of the vessel was handed back to Moore-McCormack Lines by the Maritime Commission.  She is the second of the company's three "Good Neighbor" passenger ships to be reconverted for post-war service between New York and the east coast of South America. 

January 30, 1948

Captain Albert Spaulding who was Uruguay's master prior to, during, and after the war, started a nine-day cruise to Nassau and Havana.

February 10, 1948

A double ceremony as held at Pier 32 for the S.S. Uruguay.  The vessel received the Naval Reserve Pennant.  She is the eleventh unit of the Moore-McCormack Lines' fleet to be honored by the Navy.  Moore-McCormack leads all other American-flag lines in number of reserve pennants.  The Uruguay is the 41st ship to be awarded since the war's end, and the 32nd to be given in the Third Naval District. 

The library was also dedicated on this day and was named for Thomas K. Locke, a company employee who as an Infantry Captain lost his life in World War II.  Captain Locke, who was the son of the late Major Frederick S. W. Locke, a leader in American shipping, was one of the more than 200,000 American troops that were transported to all war theatres on the Uruguay.

February 12, 1948

 Under the command of Captain Albert Spaulding, the S.S. Uruguay made her first post-war run on her regular route to Buenos Aires.

August 15, 1948

Captain John M. Hultman was appointed as Staff Captain of the S.S. Uruguay.

Winter 1948

Seven years after having won an essay contest by "Cleveland Press" and winning a Mooremack cruise, "two blonde smiling girls," Mrs. Nancy Garbison Fisher and Mrs. Marilyn Fortey Raizk, boarded the S.S. Uruguay for a 38-day cruise.

May 16, 1949

Raul Fernandes, Brasilian Foreign Minister, a member of the official party of President Eurico Gasper Dutra, was among the passengers who arrived on the S.S. Uruguay which tied up at Pier 32, North River at 10:15 a.m.  He is on an official visit to visit with President Truman.  Mr. Fernandes is expected to confer tomorrow with Secretary of State Dean Acheson on Brasil's relations with the United States.

March 1951

Bad news for the kiddies in Buenos Aires, the Uruguay delivered 300 kilos of castor oil.

June 17, 1951

Captain Howard F. Lane took over command of the S.S. Uruguay from Captain Albert P. Spaulding, who recently retired after ten years on the bridge of the ship.  Captain Lane achieved a record on the Uruguay's last voyage, which was his first trip as master of the ship.  He took her from Rio de Janeiro to Trinidad--the longest leg of the run from Buenos Aires to New York--in 6 days 14 hours 42 minutes, or an average speed of 19.95 knots.

The new master graduated in 1927 from the Massachusetts Nautical School and shipped out from his native Boston as a third officer.  He went to Moore-McCormack in 1938 and remained aboard the liner, Brazil, as first officer until 1942.  In wartime he was skipper of several Moore-McCormack freighters, including the Mount Evans, Mormachawk, and the Mormacpenn

After World War II, Captain Lane commanded other freighters and finally was attached to the Brazil, first as staff captain and then as relief master.

August 8, 1952

About 230 miles from New York the S.S. Uruguay struck a submerged object disabling one of her two propellers.  The collision caused an "excessive vibration" and the ship was diverted to Newport News, Virginia, for replacement of the damaged blade.  Captain Jesse Hodges did not send any distress call or ask for aid.  The Uruguay proceeded to port under her own power and was scheduled to arrive there at daybreak the next day.  Moore-McCormack officials expressed the belief that the vessel, after drydocking at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company for about 12 hours, would continue on her voyage.


S.S. Uruguay, determined to be the least efficient of the three sister ships, was removed from service.  The S.S. Uruguay was handed over to the U.S. Government for incorporation in the National Reserve Fleet in the James River, Virginia. 

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. 

March 16, 1954

A baby girl was born to a stowaway aboard the Uruguay.  Mrs. Kitika K. Belowodski, a Latvian-born resident of Rio de Janeiro, boarded the Uruguay on March 16 hoping to reach the United States before her child was born.  She was soon forced to disclose her status and the child was delivered on March 17 in the ship's hospital on the high seas.

Mrs. Belowodski and her child disembarked in Bahia, Brasil, leaving a poser as to the infant's nationality because the child was born on an American ship.  An immigration inspector said he "could straighten the thing out, but it would take too long."

March 29, 1954

The S.S. Uruguay arrives in New York from South America.  This voyage marked the end of the ship's career.  Her sister, the S.S. Brazil, was laid up since last August and was reactivated coincident to the Uruguay's arrival.

The S.S. Uruguay's last voyage was doubly exciting in that her master, Captain Jesse R. Hodges, was obliged by reason of strike conditions to bring the ship to her North River berth without the help of tugboats.  He achieved this in 30 minutes, without mishap, smoothly and with no apparent help.

The replacement of the S.S. Uruguay resulted from surveys that showed the S.S. Brazil as a more efficient ship.  The S.S. Brazil has a greater passenger capacity and more rooms with baths.  Captain Hodges transferred from the S.S. Uruguay to command the S.S. Brazil

Late 1963

The S.S. Uruguay was offered for sale by the U.S. Department of Commerce.


The S.S. Uruguay was sold to the North American Smelting Company in Wilmington, Delaware, for scrap. 

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