S.S. AMERICA, S.S. UNITED STATES sailing on the 'All American' team to Europe

Remembering the United States




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Arriving in Bremerhaven. Photo by Helmut Adebahr

It was the end of the line, Bremerhaven  Germany, the ship’s last port of call. The sailing schedule for 1954 shows the S.S. United States and S.S. America made a combined 22 docking at the German port. As part of its contract with the Federal Government, the United States Lines accorded first-class passage to military officers and their families traveling to and from Europe under official orders. For most of the kids, the ship would be their first experience onboard a luxury liner. Elaine Tweedy was 9 year old when she sailed to Bremerhaven in 1965. “The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were on board. I remember thinking that they looked normal. I expected her to wear some kind of tiara!”. She also loved the steps that led to the dinning room in first class. “I would pretend I was Shirley Temple and tap up and down them. (Of course, I wouldn’t let anyone see me doing this.)”.

As a young boy Bill Ashley still remembers the awe of first-class transatlantic travel. “It was an experience unlike any other, before or after”. Forty years later the memories are still vivid. “My mother found in an oyster while having supper in the first-class dining room. She still has that pearl as a treasured memento. Also the night we were dining when the ship’s captain stopped by to talk with my parents; and then he turned his attention to me and spent at least ten minutes talking to me about the ship. And the way they dressed for supper each night (military men in full dress uniforms, ladies were in formal evening gowns)”.

Modern, with sleek racing lines and tall red white and blue smoke stacks, the United States was to many Germans a symbol of the American way of life. Among her prominent passenger were German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, and the Viennese Boys Choir. For many immigrating from Europe the ship would also the first experience of their new life in America.

The last journey to Bremerhaven for the legendary liner was on November 2, 1969. Bill Ashley sums it up for those of us who were fortunate to have traveled on this proud legendary ocean liner. “I can’t help but think of how far we’ve advanced technologically since air travel became the dominant mode of travel, but in terms of civilized service, comfort, and attention to detail, nothing could compare with crossing the Atlantic on America’s finest superliner. It was, and is, an experience I’ll always treasure.”

My Dad and I took the ss United States from NY to Southampton in July of 1969.
Depending on your departure routing,  you might get a great view of the Statue of Liberty. While technically be clear not clear of the harbor, this marker was always the starting milestone to me. (As many immigrants marked their arrival in the US by seeing this monument, many expatriate Americans surely shed a patriotic tear when passing her. – I think missing this patriotic pause is half the trouble with modern air travel – you don’t have time to appreciate that you’re leaving somewhere before you arrive!)

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visit the SS united States Conservancy

My Father was enroute to a diplomatic posting in West Africa.  It was a coming of age voyage for me. I was invited along to drinks with the Captain as my Mom and siblings were not onboard. While it wasn’t my first sip of champagne, it was my first time getting tipsy!
Through various European diplomatic postings, we were quite familiar to ship travel. Even at 14, this was my sixth transatlantic voyage.  (We didn’t seem to get as many streamers to foist over the side on departure as I remembered from previous voyages to Genoa on the ss Constitution and Independence,)
My Dad wisely signed us up for a larger dinning room table figuring dinner companions would be more interesting than dinning alone.  Another diplomatic family enroute to London joined us. They had daughters a year older and a year younger than me. (Not a bad way for a 14 year old to meet girls!)
One of the highlights of the trip was skeet shooting off the fantail of the ship. I remember hitting 3 of 10 pigeons – not a great score, but for a first timer at sea I was pleased – especially so as I beat my Dad’s score!  I also remember trying to go for a swim on a rather windy day. The pool’s were filled with salt/sea water. I remember taking more than a mouthful from a slosh at the end of the pool. I don’t recall heaving, but its as close to seasick as I came.
On our final evening out my Dad told me to get to bed by 11pm. Having the run of the ship, my female dinning companions and some other teenagers to knock around with, it was well past midnight before I got back to the room. (I don’t remember alcohol being involved in the nights adventures, but it must have been as I remember being hung over the next morning – again a first!)
As my Dad was not in our stateroom, I was panicked that I must be in big trouble and that he was out looking for me.  I remember heading back out to look for him. We were fairly far forward and I seem to recall the Ship’s decks sloping so that you couldn’t see all the way down the corridor. Instead I remember hearing his recognizable cadence coming down the corridor before even seeing him  His walk was so recognizable that I could even tell it was a happy walk!  He’d been out to the big, last night, Captain’s bash and was probably tipsy too!
Up at the crack of dawn, disembark, and a couple of hours ride on the boat train to London – I believe it was my first train ride. (A well worn, but plush compartment – one of those old-fashioned ones where you only had entry to the compartment at the station and couldn’t access any other part of the train.)
I took a Singapore Airlines flight, business class, from Singapore to NY on January 1st this year.  The flight was relatively empty – so when I dinged the bell, I got three flight attendants to answer my call – I wanted to take a photo as its the first time I felt spoiled since the days of the ocean liner!  I had a great view of the Statue of Liberty as we circled to land in NY and got a nanosecond’s patriotic pause before landing.
While its a noble notion to ‘save’ the Ship, at more than 50 years old, I wouldn’t expect your efforts to be successful. Yes it was a far more civilized way to travel, but being able to get to London overnight from NY outweighs a lot of grandeur!
Best Regards
Stephen McFarland    September 2005

I was a Royal Naval Airman stationed at Royal Naval Air Station Gosport in Hampshire UK. I was and had been for some two years on 705 Naval Air Squadron. The Royal Navies first Helicopter Squadron where we trained Pilots and Ground Crew on use and maintenance of Helicopters S51’s Dragonfly.  I went to depart a S51 for another routine flight when the Pilot ( Being an old squadron hand I knew well ) beckoned me to with finger ” Here You ”  I thought something was wrong but no,  ” Get In Quick, Tokes ”  So being a dutiful sailor I did as told.  One in the Royal Navy obeys the order of an Officer ( Right or Wrong )  I jumped up into the back of the Chopper and checking around strapped myself in and put on the spare Headset & Throat Mike .  “We have not long to see a site ” the pilot told me over the intercom.

Corbis_BigU_waiting 2Before I knew it we were airborne and heading South over the Airfield, across Stokes Bay into the Solent, a stretch of water between Hampshire (Portsmouth, Gosport and the Isle of Wight )  and there was a great sight.  Up this stretch of water at Spit Head was the Liner SS. United States steaming towards Southampton Water.  She was going like stink.  Her upper super structure was sparkling with her funnels (Smoke Stacks) gleaming Red & White, her Hull black until half way down where the paint work had been worn away with her fast Atlantic Crossing.  The paint was worn away and it was showing a Yellow / Greenish color (Color to those across the pond that can’t spell )  Wonderful sight and one that now at 73 years young will not forget. We flew and hovered over her in salute to a really great achievement.  The Queens (Mary & Elizabeth) were great Liners so it took a great ship to beat their times.

Harold Tokins of Lincoln UK July 2005


As a very small boy, in Southampton, I sat upon my Dads shoulders to witness the maiden arrival of the quite remarkable “UNITED STATES”. I remember very clearly the vast numbers of local folk who had turned out to join all of the dignitaries.

The bow of the ship had been stripped of paint following her high running speed. Paint technology and standards were far lower than those of today.

It was generally believed, in shipping circles in Southampton, that the ship had suffered near mortal engine damage by the high-speed runs achieved in her early crossing. Too much emphasis was placed on records without allowing the engines to bed in and all teething troubles to be erased.

A couple of hours before sailing her vast siren would sound out over Southampton calling her crew back from the brothels and bars. Prostitutes from London used to travel to Southampton by train to meet the ship and conduct their business all night in the local park!

She was and still is a wonderful engineering achievement that must not be allowed to fade and die and become another ” QUEEN MARY’, a faded version of her former self with plastic funnels and no guts.

Peter Lamb.

Southampton, U.K.

My Dad worked for the US LINES and we moved to England in 1969 via the SS United States–he was transferred to work in the port of Tilsbury, England–We sailed in May 1969–first class–I remember a very rough journey–where they had velvet ropes in the hallway to hang onto–and they wet down the tablecloths so our plates would stay still-they tied down our chairs and the curtains in the dining room—but  at 13 yrs old I remember it was a beautiful vessel–we had a great 5  day trip–we ate well–when we were feeling up to it–I remember a port-hole in our room–You would see sky and then see the black ocean–as the ship would go up and down–my sister and I spent a lot of time in the room–we didn’t have sea legs!–Our Brother would come back to room to tell us that he had eaten —steak-n-eggs–or whatever–and we were nauseated–
We arrived at Southampton–and my Dad was waiting–We lived in Essex County–In Hutton–near Sheffield for 2 years- My sister and I attended the local school in Brentwood—-we had to take two buses to get to The Hedley Walter Comprehensive School–My brother went to the American School in  London– we lived in England 3 of the best years of my life—-but I didn’t know that  then   –I am sorry that I didn’t know at that time———-
  Ted Tuskowski 5/2003

Bill Ashley writes

 I crossed the Atlantic twice on the S.S. United States. Once in 1957 and again in 1960. My father was in the military, an officer, so we had the privilege of traveling first class. Even though I was only a young boy, I still remember the awe of transatlantic travel. It was an experience unlike any other, before or after. I also carry with me the vivid, but less pleasant memoirs of spending the first full two days in bed, terminally ill with seasickness. Once I made my miraculous recovery, I had a blast. I won’t bore you with my reminiscences.

However, I’d like to share a few things that still stand out in my memory, even after 40+ years. Things such as the pearl my mother found in an oyster while having supper in the first class dining room. She still has that pearl as a treasured memento. Also the night we were dining when the ship’s captain stopped by to talk with my parents; and then he turned his attention to me and spent at least ten minutes talking to me about the ship. And the way they dressed for supper each night (military men in full dress uniforms, ladies were in formal evening gowns).

I can’t help but think of how far wev’e advanced technologically since air travel became the dominant mode of travel, but in terms of civilized service, comfort, and attention to detail, nothing could compare with crossing the Atlantic on America’s finest superliner. It was, and is, an experience I’ll always treasure

Bill Ashley. March 2003


Thanks for the interesting site. I sailed from NY to Southampton in September 1963 on the S.S,U.S. I was newly married, a small-town girl from Oregon on her first adventure. We were moving to England for a year. The day before we sailed my baggage was stolen when we arrived in Brooklyn from a cross-country drive. I boarded with only images from movies of how people traveled, and a wardrobe now limited to one hastily purchased black wool suit, two blouses, some underwear, the cotton dress and high heels I had on when the theft occurred, and a new pair of tennis shoes. Fortunately the weather didn’t freeze me off the deck. We had a first-class stateroom even though we were ticketed in tourist. I had a distant relative with the company who recognized my name on the roster and did a last-minute upgrade. While it was a great surprise, and I did appreciate it, I had no idea what a luxury we received until our table-mates in the tourist class dining room visited our stateroom and, eyes bulging out, drug us to their much more modest quarters. Funny what floats back to memory now, nearly 40 years later. I commented to the waiter that the cream of chicken soup was good enough for dessert. He smilingly served me a second cup with my dessert. Late one evening we were having drinks and my glass was chipped. Suddenly I wanted to touch the bottom of the sea out there in the middle of the dark night. My fingerprints presumably sank along with the glass somewhere over the mid-ocean rift where I tossed it. Thanks for the memory boost.




17 thoughts on “Remembering the United States

  1. Twila Coverdale

    My father was an officer in the Army and in 1969 when he was stationed to Germany our family traveled there on the SS America. It was it’s next the it’s last voyage. We left from New York. There were 300 passengers and 1,000 crewmen so we were very well attended to. It was very special my mom made friends with a couple who owned all the rides at Coney Island and their chauffeur was best friends with Jackie Kennedy’s chauffeur. They were on the executive level but they chose to dine on our level because they did not want to have to dress formal every meal and their table was next to ours in the dining room.

  2. Hans Rolla

    I just turned 6 when we immigrated to the US late December 1956. We encountered very rough seas once on the open Atlantic as one of the previous passengers notes and the ship had to reduce speed, apparently this was the one time she was behind schedule arriving in New York. During the heavy seas when the ship went down it was difficult to climb stairs and when she went up you received a boost, something I still remember. It seemed whenever I opened the door to our stateroom there was a steward there that patted me on the head.
    Quite an experience crossing the Atlantic to our new home in the US and also very sad to see such a historic ship languishing on the Delaware River.

  3. Ned Crouch

    I sailed from New York to Portsmouth, to LeHavre in 1950 with my family. The SS America was a fast ship, lots of fun. I sailed in 1952, same route but on the SS United States. I have a picture of myself in the swimming pool, holding a buoy. The United States was bigger and faster. The entire crossing took a bit over four days. (Sailed back both times on the SS Independence, southern route, much more fun, outdoor swimming pool,etc. Food always good.

  4. Karen Walker

    We traveled on the SS United States on Tuesday, February 2, 1954 to Havre, Southampton and Bremerhaven. We meeting by Dad and moving to Lakenheath Air Force Base. I was six, and my Mom and three other siblings were on board. Seasickness is remembered as well as the kindness of our cabin steward. I have the booklet from that trip

  5. Nina Steglich

    I was born in Landshut , Germany , in 1948 . At the age of 9 , my mother and I sailed on the SS UNITED STATES from Bremerhaven to New York . It was January of 1957 and the North Atlantic was not a good place to be .
    We stopped at Southampton and I saw someone riding one of those old fashioned giant bicycles along the pier .
    When we headed out into the open ocean it didn’t take long for the giant waves to start pushing the ship from side to side while the swells caused a rollercoaster motion .
    Needless to say I was seasick for most of the voyage .
    We had to secure everything in our cabin and the chairs in the dining rooms and lounges were tied backwards around the tables when not in use . Going up on deck was totally out of the question .
    As an adult I spent a lot of time on boats and never got sick , not even queasy !! To this day I thank the old girl for my baptism by fire .
    By the time we sailed into New York harbor I had recovered and was in total awe at the size of those skyscrapers and the cosmopolitan aura of my new home . Sixty-three years later I still remember it like it was yesterday .
    With air travel one could never experience anything like that and that’s sad .

  6. Bernd Groß

    I left NY on March 13th 1969 to Bremerhaven
    with my Mother, I was 16 years old, I still have a passenger list. Never forget this time.
    Bernd Groß

  7. Lainie Fastman

    I was a young bride from the Netherlands when my new husband, an American, and I sailed from South Hampton England to New York in December 1956. My husband had already booked this trip in the early spring of 1956 for himself alone. . By the time we had found each other and decided on our marriage, there was no single cabin available for either of us. Both of us shared a third class cabin with three other guests. It was a strange honeymoon! We encountered quite a storm in the Atlantic with waves the size of an apartment house. Many guests, including my husband, and even crew members were seasick. The dining room was ed, but I showed up and I ate. Our emergency evacuation drill brought us in contact with privileged first class guests who had to mingle with the “ordinary” folks. Our arrival after five days sailing, very early in the morning, in New York harbor, as the winter sun was just rising and while passing Miss Liberty, took my breath away. We disembarked on the bustling West Side and I fell in love with New York City and I like to think it was mutual. I never changed my mind – now 3 children and 11 grandchildren and so far 13 great grands later, I think I am a lucky former traveler on that great ship

  8. Monika Traeger

    My parents and I sailed Tourist Class from New York to, I think Amsterdam on the SS United States in the summer of 1965. I figured out how to enter the 1st Class scheduled timing for the little indoor pool area, by going up and down all kinds of stairs and halls. That was the best part of the trip for me. Also a spot for children to hang out, listen to music and dance with other kids. Love those memories! My parents have both passed already, and as I have been going through photo albums I came across their Passenger Fares booklet and found that we stayed on Deck B in room 127, and they paid $780.00. So going to keep this. I used to have a deck of cards with a photo of this ship on the back sides.

  9. Scott Kaufman

    I was almost six years old when we left Southampton on the United States with my mom and dad and younger brother in June of 1956. On June 30 I turned six and recall releasing balloons from the deck to celebrate the occasion. We must have arrived in New York in July. I’m hunting for the passenger records to see if I can find our names.

  10. Joanna Roy

    My dad was a Foreign Service Officer. My mom was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my brother. I was 8 years old. We traveled from New York (most likely) to Bremerhaven (probably, as our ultimate destination was Copenhagen) in January 1955.
    I remember being told it was the ship’s maiden voyage, but from what I’ve read recently, I think it was not. I’ve searched online for information about the January 1955 sailing but have not found anything.
    I was told that we passed through a hurricane north of Scotland and my mother stayed in the room the whole time. I remember walking to the dining room holding onto the railings and, one time, vomiting before getting to the dining room. In the dining room the tablecloths were wet so the dishes would not slide off the tables. I remember having a paper model of the ship. My brother was born February 7 in Copenhagen.
    I’ve been living in Philadelphia since 2016 and have seen the ship here. I look forward to the day when it is restored and would love to visit it at that time.

  11. Cindy Thurston

    My husband and I lived in Frankfurt for 3 years. After he got out of the military we traveled throughout Europe for 6 months. We decided to take the last Atlantic crossing of the SS United States, leaving from Hamburg, stopping in South Hampton, and then on to New York. It was early November and the sea was very rough. We were in cabin class, but we were able to move in and out of all the different classes, enjoying entertainment and meeting people from all over the world. Our dining was luxurious, but unfortunately, I was the last member eating at our huge table by the 2nd evening, as I recall. Staff rushed into our room in the middle of the night, shutting the portholes, as a rush of gushing water splashed into our room. People were sick everywhere, my husband included. I took some dramamine, drank beer, and read each day in the bar! We were kept offshore when reaching the coast as the storm was wicked and I remember the waves swelling to great heights. It was a memorable six days. We were young and everything was exciting. Today, 50 years later I look back with a smile at an experience of a lifetime.

  12. Larry Driscoll Post author

    From page 268 of the BIG Ship by Frank Braynard, ” With the November 9 cruise canceled it became obvious that the October 25 th departure (1969) from Bremerhaven would be the ship’s last voyage.”

  13. Ron

    Info on the Last voyage from New York to Bremerhaven Germany in 1969

    My Mother, Sister and Brother were on the last voyage from New York to Bremerhaven Germany 5O years ago on the SS United States.

    My sister is going to have a day in Bremerhaven to celebrate the date when she left the SS United States ship to live in Germany.

    She is not sure of the exact when the ship docked in Bremerhaven in November.

    My sister thinks it was on the 6th of November 1969.

    Also is there a way to get the passenger list of the last voyage from New York to Bermerhaven.

    Or who I can contact to get that info??

  14. Ingrid Friedman

    I sailed on the this beautiful ship from Bremerhaven to New York, leaving my home for new adventures in a foreign country. My father- in-law met me in Manhattan upon arrival. That was the end of April, 1968.

  15. Twila Batie

    I can’t remember the year because I was young, but I do have some memories of when my family and I went to Germany on the SS America. It was between 1968 and 1972.

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