Into The Heart of Darkness

Thu. 16 Dec 2010. 3:15 pm

It’s the 5th of  May 1916

A twenty-seven year old housewife from Everett, Washington is applying for a passport. On her application it says she is going to join her husband and is scheduled to set sail out of New York for England on 15 July 1916 aboard the passenger liner, SS Philadelphia. Within the next year the SS Philadelphia will become a United States troop transfer ship after the United States becomes involved in World War I.

But England is not her final destination.

Nope, not even close…

Remember, World War I began when Germany invaded Belgium in late 1914. Luckily in 1916 there was a lull in the operations of the German U-boats.

I would guess in mid-1916 it was anyone’s guess when the German Navy would resume attacking merchant vessels – as opposed to only military ships. This was the reality when the SS Philadelphia set sail for England in July 1916.

The steamship City of Paris, a 10,499 gross ton twin screw passenger liner, was built at Glasgow, Scotland. Completed in 1889, she soon began a series of record trans-Atlantic passages, earning the “Blue Ribband” for fast passenger service. She was transferred to the U.S. flag in 1893 and renamed Paris, but remained active on the passenger route between the U.S. and England. During the 1898 Spanish-American War she was under charter to the U.S. Navy, serving as USS Yale. Following the conflict she returned to commercial work as Paris.While westbound on 21 May 1899, Paris ran on the rocks in western Britain. Refloated after a major salvage effort, the badly damaged ship was rebuilt at Belfast, Ireland, receiving new engines and having her triple smokestacks replaced by a pair of taller ones. Renamed Philadelphia, she resumed North Atlantic passenger service. After the United States entered World War I in 1917 she was used as a transport, carrying U.S. troops to Europe. This important duty continued in 1918, when the U.S. Navy took her over and renamed her Harrisburg. Returned to her owners in September 1919 and again named Philadelphia, she once more was employed carrying passengers between America, Britain and France. By now very elderly and old-fashioned, in 1922 the ship was purchased by new owners, who planned to use her in the Mediterranean. However, financial problems stopped Philadelphia at Naples, Italy, where she remained until sold for scrapping in 1923. ~Source

Now I have to wonder…Why in the world would anyone be sailing across the Atlantic in the middle of World War I when there is the real possibility of coming into contact with German U-boats?

What could be so important?


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