Wartime Hospital Ship

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Algonquin Remembered As Wartime Hospital Ship

By James Donahue

Many injured troops during World War II remember the steamship Algonquin as a vessel of refuge . . . a floating hospital protected by its white paint and large red cross that was respected even by the enemy.

This vessel bearing the name Algonquin was originally one of four liners built in 1925 and 1926 for the old Clyde Steamship Company for excursions from New York to the Bahamas. The sister ships were the Mohawk, Seminole and Cherokee. All were almost identical, at 402 feet in length. The Mohawk was sunk in a collision with a freighter off New Jersey in 1935.

During its years as a passenger carrier, the Algonquin was involved in one serious collision at sea in 1929. On December 18, she collided with and sunk the Fort Victoria in Ambrose Channel, New York, in dense fog. The Fort Victoria, with 269 passengers and a crew of 165 had just left the port for a cruise to Bermuda when the accident occurred.

The Algonquin and two of the other sister ships became part of the military’s wartime merchant fleet during World War II. They were enrolled as troop transports, but both the Seminole and Algonquin were converted for service as hospital ships and both survived the war. The Cherokee was torpedoed and sunk in 1942.

The Algonquin was acquired by the United States Army for conversion to a hospital ship in 1943. She was sent to the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company in Mobile that July and the work was completed in January, 1944. The ship then operated for a time out of Charleston, South Carolina, making several trips to Italy and back.

In August, 1944, Algonquin and 11 other hospital ships, including Seminole, were involved in the Normandy Invasion. During this assignment a bomb exploded a few yards away from the Algonquin, but the ship escaped damage.

After the war, the Algonquin was laid up in the James River Reserve Fleet. She was moored there until 1956 when she was sold for scrap.

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