SS Mongolia

The 616-foot-long SS Mongolia, which carried Base Hospital 12 from New York to Falmouth, England, in May 1917, was built in Camden, New Jersey, in 1906 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation for Pacific Ocean passenger-and-freight service. The customer was the Pacific Mail Line which used her specifically for San Francisco-Hongkong trade. She was rated at a maximum speed of 16 knots and equipped to carry 1,818 passengers. When converted to a troopship in 1917, she was designated the USS Mongolia. After World War I, the Mongolia returned to civilian service like the military units she had carried, first for the American Line between New York and Hamburg and then, in 1923, for the Panama Pacific Line for New York to San Francisco voyages. In 1929, she was sold to the Dollar Line of San Francisco for “round the world” service and renamed the SS President Fillmore. When the Depression hit, she was laid up in New York from 1931 to 1940, at which time she was sold to Cia Transatlantica Centroamericana of Panama and again renamed as the SS Panamanian. Once again she managed to avoid German torpedoes during World War II, but was scrapped in 1946 at Hongkong.

June 2, 1917


6-2 -17 My but everyone was excited and kept watching all afternoon & evening and no one went to bed till terribly late and many not at all. Miss C. and I sat on top deck after the Dr’s entertainment & watched the moonlight & talked. We got to bed about 1 and then had the watch call us at 3:30 to see the sun rise. It was very beautiful. And we could see the British boats coming out--counted eight against the horizon. We reached the harbor at Falmouth at 6:30. The hills are beautiful.

June 1, 1917


6-1-17 It was midday on the 1st of June On the deep blue ocean That the five blasts then the three Set us all in motion. Tis Ship Line No. 9 cried Howe In his quiet manner I’ll get my life belt Just in time to see her when they land her Port side watch sub ahoy Cried the Lookout Forward Man your guns Damn those Huns Starboard Lifeboat lower A belted fair one wrapped in cork Remarks “We’ve got a whale! But since it must be that He die I hope it is a male!” Then in his wrath the Captain bold Proclaimed aloud “Oh, Pish!

May 31, 1917

5-31-17 We’ve been one whole 24 hours in the war zone and so far have sighted nothing more than a tramp steamer, away off on the horizon. The waves have been quite high and as we zig zag every 10 minutes we roll about quite a lot. The water is beautifully blue and tonight the moon is glorious even tho dangerous to us. Elizabeth Cleveland & I went up on deck wrapped up in blankets and just looked and looked. Frances, Mac, Pawly & Bess are out parading with the boys on lower deck.

May 30, 1917

5-30-17 It began to rain at 11 o’clock so we all had to come down to the lounge or to the hurricane deck. I staid out almost all day and watched the waves and the rain. At noon we passed a British freighter. It was the first ship we had really seen since the day we left New York. We enter the danger zone some time tonight. I do hope it is warmer and not so rough if we have to take to the life boats. Miss Cleveland and I were nearly drowned by the spray from one big wave.

May 29, 1917

5-29-17 Another long, lazy, lazy day. We are to have our pictures taken the PM. We are to wear our Brassards with our uniforms. We passed two ships this morning but they looked like only a column of smoke on the horizon.

May 28, 1917

5-28-17 A nice lazy day--foggy but not so that the sun can not get thru. The only event I can remember is washing handkerchiefs & sewing buttons on my coat. Last night Elizabeth Cleveland & I went on the top deck to watch the moonlight on the water. The sailor lad Choice came up to talk to us. He is a funny boy and so perfectly good natured.

May 27, 1917

5-27-17 Sunday I’m certainly getting lazy. We’ve nothing to do but sleep, eat & walk. Some of the girls have quite a time flirting, but I had a set back and have reformed. Went out in the bow this morning and talked to the sailors. They are on watch all the time even tho we are not yet in the danger zone. We do not enter that till about Wednesday. We had very nice church services at 10:30 A.M. Some of the privates sing well and one plays the violin very well indeed. It is misty in the distance and the sun shines only occasionally. We are certainly having a fine voyage.

May 26, 1917

5-26-17 Today the sun shone on the white caps but the horizon was misty. I sat and read and dreamed as usual. The sailor lads told me we passed an ice berg last night and also that they found a small fire down in the lower regions of the ship and the fog was so thick they could not see their way about on deck. This evening we are again in fog and the waves are running the highest I’ve seen them. The spray reaches to the top deck and the ship rolls quite a lot.

May 25, 1917

5-25-17 Today has been beautifully clear and quiet. Nothing happened except a card party this P.M. This evening I watched the sunset and then the moonlight on the water. It is like a beautiful dream.

May 24, 1917

5-24-17 Today has been very quiet. I’ve walked & read a book & watched the water and listened to the waves swishing against the ship’s side. This afternoon the boys boxed & we watched them & then they all came up on the deck & had potato races.
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