Kaiser Wilhelm II


Kaiser Wilhelm II

Troop Carrier

S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm II An Allied Troop Ship

By James Donahue

There is a certain irony in that the German passenger liner S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm II happened to be on route to New York when the First World War broke out in Europe. After 12 years of regular service as a fine passenger ship, this would be the vessel’s last trip in this capacity.

The news that the world was at war rippled around the world and had a big effect on the ships at sea. The master of the liner evaded British patrols and got his ship safely to New York. After that, the liner remained moored at New York, unable to venture back out to sea. Remember that the United States was a neutral nation during the early part of that war.

Once the United States entered the war, the Kaiser Wilhelm II was seized by the military. While anchored at New York, German saboteurs slipped aboard and caused extensive damage to the ship’s machinery. It was rebuilt and put back in service as the transport ship USS Agamemnon.

Transport At Sea

Changing the ship’s name was quite necessary. There is a certain humor in the thought of the confusion that allied naval skippers would have if she had continued operating under the name of the German emperor who helped trigger the war.

Operating as an allied troop carrier, the Agamemnon carried an estimated 42,000 American soldiers home after the war. In August, 1919, the Agamemnon was decommissioned and sold to the United States Army for use as a transport ship. It was given a third name, the Monticello, in 1927.

During its career, this vessel was sunk at least twice and was involved in at least two collisions.

The liner was launched in 1902 and made its maiden voyage from Bremen to New York in the spring of 1903. The ship experienced a vibration problem so a newly designed propeller was installed. The Kaiser Wilhelm II not only smoothed her performance, but set new speed records for Atlantic crossings.

The record shows that the liner sank at its pier in Bremerhaven while taking on coal. In June 1914 she was involved in a collision off the Needles. While operating as a troop ship under the name Agamemnon, she was struck amidships by her sister ship, the former Kronprinz Wilhelm, then another seized American troop ship, the USS Von Steuben. Four months after that, she sank again while taking on coal. Then in 1918 the vessel was laid up for major repairs after taking damage in rough seas.

Released from military service in 1920, the Agamemnon was never used again. She was laid up in the Patuxent River to await a refitting and return to passenger service for her new owners, the United States Shipping Board. During that time the ship acquired a third name, Monticello, in 1927.

Her only voyage under that name was in 1940, when she was taken to Baltimore for scrapping.


Great And Lost Ships Of The World