USS Zeppelin


Displacement 21,753 Tons, Length: 550 feet, Beam: 67' 2", Draft: 26' 6", Speed: 15.5 K

Zeppelin - a steamer constructed in 1914 by Bremer Vulkan at Vegesack, Germany, for the North German Lloyd Line and was planned to be used on the Germany to Baltimore route. Her launching was attended by Count Zeppelin who had sailed to the U.S. in 1861 when the Civil War began, had met President Lincoln, and did studies on dirigible balloons.

The "Zep" During her trooping days.

On January 21, 1915 she was laid up because of WWI. When war was declared on Germany she was seized by United States officials at New York soon after the countries entry into World War I and turned over to the Emergency Fleet Corp. The Navy did not acquire her until the spring of 1919, well after the end of the war. She was placed in commission at New York on 5 March 1919, Comdr. William W. Galbraith in command. On March 28, 1919 she was delivered to the Shipping Controller, London, operated by White Star Line, taking some 1,850 troops and nurses from Brest to New York. Assigned to the New York division of the Transport Force (not to be confused with the Naval Overseas Transportation Service), Zeppelin made two round-trip voyages between the United States and Europe, returning 15,800 Americans soldiers back home. Among these passengers returning back to the United States was a future United States President, Captain Harry S. Truman. Her third voyage took her back to Europe, however, she did not return to the United States. Instead, she was decommissioned on 25 November 1919 and returned to the United States Shipping Board, which, in turn, transferred her to the British on December 27, 1919.

Zeppelin was then under command of a seasoned White Star Line Master named Captain Frank Briscoe Howarth. Under his command, Zeppelin left Liverpool, England in April of 1920 bound for Bombay, India. On her 2nd voyage in June of 1920 Howarth was again in command but these were the only two voyages in which he was her master. Howarth who was born on August 11, 1864 in Stockport, England went to sea in 1881 at the young age of 16. His first ship under sail was the Balaklava and in the summer of 1892 the White Star Line hired Howarth. In 1898 Howarth passed his Extra Master's Certificate-Square-rigged (highest marine qualification of his day) and his first steam ship was the Coptic. The Coptic was then employed on the Australia to New Zealand run. After the Coptic Howarth was then made First Mate aboard the Majestic. Incidentally, the master of the Coptic in 1902 and again on the Majestic in 1903 was Captain Smith of Titanic fame or notoriety. Howarth served under Captain Smith on both ships. It was from the Majestic after serving as First Mate that Howarth was given his first command aboard the Armenian as Master. Howarth served in the Mediterranean with the Royal Navy, commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserves and by 1912 Lloyds notes him as Lt. Cdr RNR. Captain Howarth went on at the pinnacle of his career, to be the Master of the RMS Olympic. From the Olympic in February of 1925 he would retire form a career spanning over 45-years at sea. According to John Anderson, who is the great-nephew of Captain Howarth, family stories of the Captain told of his remarks that of all the ships he has commanded his command of the RMS Homeric in 1922 was his favorite ship. Captain Frank Briscoe Howarth passed away on June 20, 1944 and was buried in Brockenhurst, which is near Southampton, England.

In late 1920 the Orient Steam Navigation Co., Ltd., acquired the Zeppelin for the London to Australia route. In 1921 Zeppelin was renamed SS Ormuz and served under that name until the latter half of the 1920's. In April of 1927 Ormuz was bought back by Norddeutscher Lloyd Line and renamed Dresden (2). She was rebuilt to 14,690 GRT, with 280 First Class cabins, 288 Tourist cabins and 280 III Class cabins. On August 5, 1927 Dresden (2) made her first trip under her new name on the Bremerhaven-New York route. There was another ship owned by the Norddeutscher Lloyd Line named Dresden (1). This was the first ship named Dresden and was built in 1888 and was 4,527 grt and 390.5 feet in length and 46' 8" across her beam.

On June 20, 1934 during a Norway cruise trip under charter for KDF/Deutsche Arbeitsfront, doing Nazi cruises "Strength through Joy", she ran aground off Utsire/Norway, capsizing the day after, 4 passengers were killed, the Norwegian steamer Kong Haakon taking on board 537 passengers and crew. Dresden (2) was sold for scrap at Stavanger in August of 1934.

One of the "Zep's" Cooks

Petty Officer 1st Class Louis Fitzgerald, a jovial and articulate farm boy from Wisconsin, was trained as a cook at Great Lakes Naval Training Station and served on sub-chasers in the North Sea until the Armistice when he was transferred to the USS Zeppelin. Just a bit more trivia; he was the cousin of brothers Bob and Bing Crosby (through their grandmother Kate Harrigan) and a 4th cousin to John 'Honey-Fitz' Fitzgerald, the mayor of Boston and maternal grandfather of the Kennedy brothers.

This photo of Lou (seated) is with his young ship-mate Turk Dinton from his days on Sub-Chaser, SC110, before the Zep, from Minneapolis, MN who once, during their Shore Patrol duty, followed Lou into a bar where British and US sailors were getting 'into-it' and Lou was 'taken-out' within seconds of entering. When he came 'to' he was propped up in a chair in front of the bar with Turk Dinton (the kid from Minneaplolis) twirling a set of brass knuckles around his index finger who told grandad that the swabbie who took him 'out' with 'these'-refering to the knucks, was taken out by THIS-pointing to his billie club! And after grandad cleared his head they had a laugh and a confiscated pint.

Left is an old version of a composit photo of Lou 'on leave' (in his civies) thinking about his dream girl. (Lou's fiance and future wife, Marie, my grandmother).

Lou's favorite horse's name was Goldie

Mike Fitzgerald gave me this information about his Grandfather who was a cook aboard the USS Zeppelin and a crewmen on the Sub Chaser SC110.

Above composite photo was shared with me by Mike Fitzgerald. He emailed it to me in 3 parts and I formed it back into one file using Photoshop. Here the "Zep" is being maneuvered in New York Harbor by 3 US Army tugs. The detail is quite good in this photo even with all the age cracks. In the lower left side is written; "USS Zeppelin New York 1919 The Ship That Brought Us Home. Head-Mayberry, New York 488 - 7th Ave." The photo was from his grandfather Petty Officer 1st Class Louis Fitzgerald (see story above). Mike relates; "It measures 12" x 23.5" and the photo is curled up in a nearly, permanent brittle scroll that some years ago I marginally protected (on the back) with swaths of 3M tape to shore up the cracks (it's one of those old photos that are almost cardboard consistency). The photo was in an old wooden chest of memorabilia and old keepsakes. The only thing remarkable about the chest (an old wooden version of a small footlocker) is that it was the chest in which my grandmother's mother (my maternal great-grandmother) brought her possessions to the 'new world' from Ireland MANY moons ago..."

This photo of the Zeppelin was submitted by Jim Ray. The photo is hanging on the wall of his Great Aunts house. This is a photo of the USS Zeppelin that Jim Ray's Great Grandfather returned to the United States on during WWI.

SS Dresden

A undated photo of the Dresden (2) supplied by Andrew Tompkins,

The Dresden's Passengers

Helene and Elfriede Muller

Andrew Tompkins had two great Aunts who sailed on the Dresden in 1928. Andrew writes: "Two of my great aunts, Helene (30 years old) and Elfriede (17 years old) Muller, came to New York aboard the Dresden from Bremen, Germany. The Dresden departed Bremerhaven on October 11, 1928. They traveled third class and Helene listed her profession as a nurses aid and Elfriede listed her profession as maid. (My German grandfather Hermann (their brother) left a year earlier to work on his cousins ranch in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the SS Crefeld, eventually moving to New York to be with his sisters.) My great aunt Elfriede is still alive and lives in Manhattan. She married a German baron and World War I hero, Rittmeister Eberhard Freiherr von Schroetter, who was 20 years her senior. He was a holder of the Malta Cross, Iron Cross First Class and Iron Cross Second Class, as well as many other citations. I have his Iron Crosses and other medals. He fought all four years of the war on the Eastern and Western Fronts and was wounded in France. After emigrating to New York after WWI he became the president of the German War Veterans of New York Society. I'm in the process of receiving a signed letter by Kaiser Wilhelm II that congratulates him on becoming president of the society from my great aunt! (But all that is another story.)..."

Date this page was last updated Sun, Sep 20, 2009

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