Figure 1: S.S. Martha Washington in 1908 when she was part of the Austro-American Line, just prior to World War I. Courtesy of the Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Postcard dated 13 October 1909 showing S.S. Martha Washington. Photograph courtesy of Tommy Trampp. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: S.S. Martha Washington (former Austrian passenger ship, 1908) possibly photographed when inspected by the Navy in November 1917 a few days before the Navy took her over from the Army. This ship was in commission as USS Martha Washington (SP-3019) from January 1918 to November 1919. Note the stacks of rigid life rafts on the stern and the single raft on the pier. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Martha Washington (SP-3019) outbound off Cape Henry, Virginia, en route to Brest, France, in 1918. Her lifeboats are rigged for the war zone. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Martha Washington (SP-3019) inbound to Hampton Roads, Virginia, from Brest, France, 1918. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Martha Washington (SP-3019) photographed by O.W. Waterman, Hampton, Virginia, in 1919. She is crowded with troops returning to the United States from Europe. Note Curtiss HS-2L flying by at the extreme right. Courtesy of Thomas Sudbrink, 1990. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: Artwork or heavily retouched photograph showing USS Martha Washington (SP-3019) underway in 1919. This picture was reproduced as a panoramic image by Holladay, Newport News, Virginia. Donation of Charles R. Haberlein Jr., 2008. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Martha Washington (SP-3019) underway in 1919 while bringing US troops home from France. Photograph from the collection of Robert H. Helm, donated by Mr. & Mrs. Robert Helm, 2008. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: USS Martha Washington (SP-3019) off Constantinople, Turkey, circa September or October 1919. The bow of a British battleship is visible at the extreme right. Photographed by R.E. Wayne. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after the wife of the first president of the United States, the 12,700-ton S.S. Martha Washington was a passenger liner built in 1908 for the Unione Austriaca di Navigazione (also known as the Austro-American Line) by Russell & Company at Port Glasgow, Scotland. The Unione Austriaca di Navigazione was based in Trieste, which at that time was part of Austria-Hungary. The company was founded in Trieste in 1903 by Fratelli Cosulich. Its ships carried passengers from Trieste to Italy and then on to New York. Regular trips to South America and New Orleans, Louisiana, began in 1907 (although the New Orleans service was quickly discontinued). A deal was eventually made with the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company for service from Trieste to Canada, but this route proved to be uneconomical and was cancelled after only six voyages.
At the start of World War I in 1914, Martha Washington was interned at Hoboken, New Jersey. The United States was neutral at the start of the conflict and the passenger liner was owned by Austria-Hungary, one of the belligerents fighting in the war. So the ship was to be interned (or held) in the neutral port until the end of the war, according to the maritime laws of neutrality at that time. But when the United States entered the war, Martha Washington was at first seized by the US Army on 6 April 1917, and then given to the US Navy in November.
Martha Washington underwent two months of round-the-clock effort to make her seaworthy and convert her into a troop transport. The ship was commissioned USS Martha Washington (SP-3019) on 2 January 1918. She was approximately 460 feet long and 56 feet wide and her top speed was 17 knots. Martha Washington had a crew of 949 officers and men and could carry 3,380 troops, along with their equipment. For defensive purposes, the ship was armed with four 5-inch guns and two 1-pounders.
On 10 February 1918, Martha Washington sailed in a convoy with other transports on the first of eight wartime voyages carrying troops to France. Departing either from New York or Newport News, Virginia, and arriving at Brest, France, the ship carried a total of 24,005 troops to Europe. After the war ended in November 1918, Martha Washington completed eight additional voyages from 26 November 1918 to 11 November 1919. During these trips, the ship brought 19,687 troops and passengers back to the United States.
On her final voyage (which began in August 1919), Martha Washington was sent into the Mediterranean and Black Sea to carry a US mission to Turkey and Russia. During this three-month voyage, she also carried refugees from Batum, Russia, to Constantinople, Turkey. On her way back to the United States, Martha Washington stopped at Malta and Marseilles and Brest, France. She arrived in New York on 11 November 1919, the first anniversary of the armistice signing which ended World War I.