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USS Nansemond, WWI Troopship

USS Nansemond

Nansemond, 13,333 gross ton passenger-cargo ship, was built in 1896 at Belfast, Ireland, for civilian employment. 579 (bp) feet long; 62 feet wide. Steam quadruple expansion engines, twin screw. Service speed was 13 knots. She carried 2,724 passengers (162 first class, 180 second class, 2,382 third class). Built for Hamburg-American Line, German flag, in 1896 and named Pennsylvania for the Hamburg-New York service. Prior to World War I, she was the German steamship Pennsylvania. Interned in the United States during the first part of the conflict, she was seized when the U.S. entered the war. She was renamed Nansemond by the U.S. Shipping Board, and the Army Cargo and Transport Service used her until shortly after the fighting ended. Transferred to the Navy in January 1919, she was commissioned as USS Nansemond (ID # 1395) and made several voyages to and from Europe as a cargo carrier and troop transport. Nansemond was decommissioned in September 1919 and returned to the Shipping Board. The ship was scrapped in 1924.

Hamburg-American Line Pennsylvania during her pre-war days.

A group of officers from the 23rd Engineers aboard the Nansemond in July of 1919. This photo was shared by Pat Larkin who's father was Captain Francis Dulude Larkin of the Illinois 23rd Engineers shown above the 4th man from the left kneeling in the front row. The 23rd Engineers had returned from France on this ship in July of 1919 - probably the last trip of the Nansemond. Captain Larkin was discharged from the army and went to live in Cleveland, Ohio in 1920 - where he married Ethel Delaney and had two children, Patricia "Pat" and sister Barbara. He died in 1958 at 70. He had been in the ROTC at the University of Illinois and so was one of the first to be called up in late 1917.

List of USS Nansemond Sailings

Sailing Date
Arival Date
St. Nazarie, Fr.
Newport News, VA
53rd Artillery CAC
74th engineers
56th engineers
55th ammunition train
cement mill company for Camp Meade
casual companies 151 Ohio, 160 Iowa, 161 Kentucky, 161 Arkansas, 163 Colorado, 166 Illinois, 170 Kentucky, 174 Arkansas, 176 Wisconsin, casual officers, 2; civilians, 2; convoy detachment of 405 men. Total, 5,427
Hoboken, NJ
12th Veterinary Hospital
23rd Engineers

This article was printed in the 11 March 1919 edition of the Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia:

Largest Troopship in Port's History is Bringing Joyous Warriors Home

The transport Nansemond, the largest troopship yet arriving at this port will dock here this morning at 8 o'clock, it was announced at naval transport headquarters last night. The big ship will arrive on the day she was scheduled, in spite of bad weather at sea, and will bring five thousand warriors home, the largest contingent of overseas forces to arrive here on one ship.

This big consignment of troops left St. Nazaire two weeks ago, and in their number are many units that participated in the heat of the last few weeks of fighting. Many casuals are on board, men separated from their proper regiments through the various fortunes of war, and all assembled at the debarkation camps according to the states and sections of the country they represent.

Among the units expected on this big transport are: 53rd coast artillery, 74th engineers, 56th engineers, 55th ammunition train, cement mill company for Camp Meade, casual companies 151 Ohio, 160 Iowa, 161 Kentucky, 161 Arkansas, 163 Colorado, 166 Illinois, 170 Kentucky, 174 Arkansas, 176 Wisconsin, casual officers, 2; civilians, 2; convoy detachment of 405 men. Total, 5,427.

The Buford, delayed for several days in a terrific battle with the elements, was towed into port here Sunday morning and unloaded 1,027 war veterans, members of units that had fought all the way through France. The transport had a bad time of it, making the trip in 21 days and finally being crippled off Cape Henry Saturday night when her steering gear went bad and she had to send a call for help to this station. The tugs brought her in easily, and she has been sent to the shipyards for repairs.

She had on board ten casual companies, members of whom could be found to tell graphically of experiences in every big battle in which the American forces engaged. Several Virginians were among the passengers, one of whom, Lieutenant James E. Jordan, of Smithfield, had seen much fighting with the 115th infantry, a Maryland regiment that distinguished itself in the drive that ended the war. The men were marched through the city to casual camp at Camp Hill, where they will be separated according to states and localities, and sent to their proper camps for demobilization.

Other Virginians included in the Buford's passenger list were:

First lieutenant Albert A. Stone, Roanoke, air service; First lieutenant R. E. Timberlake, Richmond, medical corps. And the following colored troops: William Davis, Randolph, 338 labor battalion; Eugene Lee, Arlington, 368 infantry; Charles Mason, Norfolk; Moseley Phill, Buckingham county; Norman Wells, Denbigh, 369 infantry; James White, Danville; Phillip Bentley, Richmond; Sterling L. Dix, Roanoke.

If schedules are adhered to this week is to be a big one for the transportation officials, at least four big ships being expected. The battleship Ohio, which was due here March 5 with 778 men on board is on her way, although she has not been heard from yet. She is believed to be near this side of the Atlantic, and it is thought she will dock this week. Among the ships due within the next ten days are the following:

Battleship Ohio, due March 5, sailed from Brest February 20. 1st anti-aircraft section, casual companies 380 Texas; 922 Colorado; 931 Georgia; 272 North Carolina; 25casual officers; 2 civilians; total 778.

De Kalb, due March 13, sailed from St. Nazaire February 23. 111th trench mortar battery, Camp Bowie; detachment 104th field artillery, Camp Bowie; headquarters detachment 61st field artillery brigade, Camp Bowie; St. Nazaire convalescent detachment 57,82, 83, 84, 85, 87. Seven attendants, 9 casual officers, 2 civilians. Total 1226.

Zeelandia, due March 14, sailed from St. Nazaire February 28: 48th coast artillery. St. Nazaire convalescent detachments 88 to 93, inclusive; 19 attendants; 43 casual officers; 3 civilians. Total 1834.

Suwanee, due March 14, sailed from St. Nazaire February 28; convoy ordnance detachment; casual company 178, Ohio; 2 casual officers; total 147.

Arcadia, due March 17, sailed from St. Nazaire March 1; 111th ammunition train, Camp Bowie; casual company 180, Texas; 1 casual officer, 1 civilian. Total 987.

Battleship South Carolina, due March 17, sailed from Brest March 5; 5th air park; casual companies 372, Virginia; 903 Texas; 953, unlisted; 954, Maryland; 957, Indiana; 958, Illinois; 969, Ohio; 2 civilians; total 1434.

Battleship Louisiana due March 17, sailed from Brest March 5: Balloon Wing Companies D, E, and F, Langley Field, Virginia; mobile surplus unit (number not readable); casual companies (number not readable), Illinois; (number not readable) Michigan; (number not readable) Minnesota; 934 Missouri; (number not readable) Wisconsin; 1411 Texas; 11 casual officers, 3 civilians; total (number not readable).

This article was printed in the 12 March 1919 edition of the Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia:

Fort Monroe Organization In Fifty-third Coast Artillery

"When do we eat!" echoed back to the hundreds of cheering welcomers yesterday from five thousand happy warriors who landed here on the big troopship Nansemond and were paraded through the city to their camps nearby. This was the biggest ship that has returned to this port with soldiers fresh from the war, and the largest group of fighters ever to arrive here on one ship. The greeting they received was as hearty as hundreds of people could make it, and they were greeted with all the fervor and admiration their presence summoned and their records merited. Lee Turner of this city returned on the Nansemond.

The 53rd Coast Artillery, of which Battery D, at Fort Monroe was a part, were the first to walk down the gang-plank, and they were followed by the 53rd Coast Artillery ammunition train. The 53rd looks back on a wild and continuous excitement, having been in France for over a year and up in the lines most of that time. They are a regular army aggregation, but in their number are many men who enlisted just as war broke out, and while they played the game so well that they have been widely commended, still they declared yesterday they wanted to go home now, and were done with war and "soldiering" for all time.

The 53rd used the big French guns, and brought into play also, the huge American naval guns that had to be rolled about on railroad tracks. They hurled thousands upon thousands of pounds of steel and iron into the lines of the Hun, and were able, at times, to secure a range of upward of 20 miles. They were ladened with war trophies, German officers' helmets, guns, pistols, canteens, and every description of salvaged memento that can be imagined. Many of them displayed three gold stripes on the left arm, and their faces and bearing showed that they were not new to the soldier game.

The 54th Engineers, the only searchlight projecting organization in the American Army, operated all over the front, using their powerful lights to ferret out the dangerous and sneaking Gothas and Zeppelins coming to drop bombs on them and on hospitals and ammunition trains. Their tales of this hunt in the sky are varied and thrilling and they smile with a sort of justified satisfaction when they recall incidents of throwing their lights on these mechanical vultures, then hearing the answering whirl of our planes as they gave pursuit, until something streaked the air with flame and sputtering, and they knew another Hun was about to face the "Got" they do famed with their flouted Kultur.

The 74th Engineers, not attached to any division, but wandering over the western front at the beck and call of those who needed them worst, operated the sound throwing and signaling devices, moving from place to place in all sorts of situations and conditions, until they became known side by side with the "phantom regiments" of France, always appearing in the nick of time, where they were not expected but greatly needed. All these men are veterans of the hardened sort, upon whom the hardships of the "parley voo" land had little effect except to make them more hardened to the rough life.

The 55th Ammunition train, trained to serve the big gins with "chow", where never in action, members of the organization said, but were ready to go into it when the armistice came and they agreed to call it off. Many Virginians were in this organization as in all others.

In addition to these regular units, there were several casual companies made up of men whose commonplace experiences over there will be so long remembered that for generations the firesides will be made a happy place when they tell of things they did. They are the boys that were wounded and had to drop out of the fight. Several ambulances met the big ship and carried to the hospitals those unable to walk or sit up in trucks. They smiled, however through their uncomfortable situation, and waved back to the crowd the greetings that were given them.

The Nanemond had a comparatively pleasant trip, making the run in fourteen days, which is almost a record trip for this month. The sea was rough, but she is a big vessel, and her combat with the waves was entirely successful. She left yesterday afternoon for Norfolk, where she will sail again in a few days for France, to bring another load of fighters home.

The troop movement officials of the railroad stated yesterday that before the week was over they would have all of the Nansemond's passengers out of the local camps and on their way "home". They will be distributed throughout the country, and for the most part will be demobilized shortly.

The battleship Ohio, overdue here, is on her way, it is said, while the New Jersey is also expected at any time. The Aeolus, bringing over a thousand more veterans here, has been diverted to New York and is expected to land there this week. Among Virginians on board the Nansemond were:

Major William F. Tomkins, 56 Engineers, Richmond; First Lieut. Clyde H. Jacobs, 314th Infantry, Norfolk; First Lieut. Saunder Wright, Richmond; John R. Buchanan, 310th Casual regiment, Spottswood; George H. Snider, Headquarters first army Louisa; Sergeant Robert L. Thomson, 210 Labor Battalion, Missville; Corporal Benjamin F. Hobday, veterinary corps, Danville; G. S. Hobbs, 307th Infantry, Suffolk; William C. Cox, Wytheville; following of 53 coast artillery: Captain William H. Starbuck, Richmond; Robert A. Early, Broadway; First Lieut. W. K. Barnett, E. Radford; provisional detachment Camp Meade, Second Lieutenant Jno. Forrest, Norfolk; First Sergeant Fred Sellin, Phoebus; Radio Sergeant Sterling Parker, Phoebus; Warren P. Crump, Richmond; Andrew B. Collier, Manassas; Frank W. Millirons, Poplar Hill; Levi Hall, Catawba; George T. Hutson, Axton; Sergeant Robert E. Parham, Blackstone; Owen H. Norvell, Alexandria; Isaac J. Thomas, Phoebus; Evert D. Thompson, Poplar Hill; William Bredon, Phoebus; Camp Upton Detachment, Sergeant George A. Parker, Rice; 55th ammunition train, Lowry Keller, Abington; Gibson P. Vance, Abingdon; Harold Pearn, Roanoke; Walter T. Belt, Richmond; Sergeant Guy Bishop, Glade Hill; Allen E. Cloyd, Dublin; Frans Hage, Portsmouth; Austin L. Powell, Virginia Beach; Ben Monger, Elk Town; M. C. Headley, Kinsale; 74th Engineers, D. E. Heblett, South Hill; Milton Ellott, Rosslyn; L. N. Crabtree, Benhama; Robert Witt, Pittsylvania; Arthur D. Rucker, Richmond; Joe Schaeffer, New Market; Raymond Estes, 519 Pool street, Norfolk; Corporal Robert Walker, Stevensville; Harry N. Witt, Richmond; Lee E. Turner, Richmond; Cecil M. Peters, E. Radford; Henry Oppenheimer, Richmond; Carroll Speights, Richmond; Joseph S. Watkins, Troutville; Sergeant Paul J. B. Murphy, Staunton.

This page owned by Joe Hartwell © 2005-2018. This Page was last updated on September 19, 2018

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