USS Kaiser Wilhelm II

For other ships of the same name, see List of ships named SS Kaiser Wilhelm II.

SS Kaiser Wilhelm II
Career (Germany)
Name: Kaiser Wilhelm II
Operator: Norddeutscher Lloyd
Route: Germany–New York City
Builder: AG Vulcan, Stettin, Germany
Launched: 12 August 1902
Completed: 1903
Maiden voyage: 14 April 1903
Fate: Seized by the United States, 6 April 1917
Career (USA)
Name: USS Kaiser Wilhelm II (ID-3004)
Commissioned: 21 August 1917
Decommissioned: August 1919
Renamed: USS Agamemnon, 1 September 1917
USAT Monticello, 1927
Struck: 27 August 1919
Fate: Sold for scrapping, 1940
General characteristics
Type: Ocean liner / Troop transport
Tonnage: gross tonnage (GT) of 19,361
Displacement: 25,530 long tons (25,940 t)
Length: 706 ft 3 in (215.27 m)
Beam: 72 ft 3 in (22.02 m)
Draft: 29 ft 10 in (9.09 m)
Depth of hold: 40 ft 2 in (12.24 m)
Propulsion: Steam quadruple expansion engines, 2 propellers
Speed: 23.5 knots (43.5 km/h; 27.0 mph)
Capacity: 1,888 passengers
Complement: 962 officers and enlisted
Armament: • 4 × 6 in (150 mm) guns
• 2 × 1-pounder guns
• 2 × Colt Lewis .30-cal. machine guns
• 10 × depth charges

The second SS Kaiser Wilhelm II, was a 19,361 gross ton passenger steamer built at Stettin, Germany, completed in the spring of 1903. The German ship was eventually seized by the U.S. Government during World War I, and subsequently served as transport ship. A famous photograph taken by Alfred Stieglitz called The Steerage as well as descriptions of the conditions of travel in the lowest class have conflicted with her otherwise glitzy reputation as a high class, high speed trans-Atlantic liner.

German career

Designed for high speed trans-Atlantic service, she won the Blue Riband for the fastest eastbound crossing in 1904. In the years before the outbreak of World War I, she made regular trips between Germany and New York, carrying passengers both prestigious (in first class) and profitable (in the much more austere steerage). Kaiser Wilhelm II was west-bound when war with Britain began on 4 August 1914 and, after evading patrolling British cruisers, arrived at New York two days later.

United States military service

She was seized by the U.S. Government when it declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917, and work soon began to repair her machinery, sabotaged earlier by a German caretaker crew, and otherwise prepare the ship for use as a transport. While this work progressed, she was employed as a barracks ship at the New York Navy Yard.

The U.S. Navy placed the ship in commission as USS Kaiser Wilhelm II (ID-3004) in late August 1917. Her name was changed to Agamemnon at the beginning of September and active war work commenced at the end of October, when she left for her first troopship voyage to France. While at sea on 9 November 1917, she was damaged in a collision with another big ex-German transport, USS Von Steuben (ID-3017), but delivered her vital passengers to the war zone a few days later. Following return to the United States in December and subsequent repair work, Agamemnon again steamed to France in mid-January 1918 and thereafter regularly crossed the Atlantic as part of the massive effort to establish a major American military presence on the Western Front. The routine was occasionally punctuated by encounters with real or suspected U-boats and, during the autumn of 1918, with outbreaks of influenza on board.

In mid-December 1918, just over a month after the Armistice ended the fighting, Agamemnon began to bring Americans home from France. She made nine voyages between then and August 1919, carrying nearly 42,000 service personnel, some four thousand more than she had transported overseas during wartime. USS Agamemnon was decommissioned in late August and turned over to the War Department for further use as a U.S. Army Transport. Laid up after the middle 1920s, she was renamed Monticello in 1927 but had no further active service. Monticello was considered too old for use in the Second World War, and thus the ship was sold for scrapping in 1940.


  • This article incorporates text from the here.

External links

  • Photo gallery of USS Agamemnon (ID-3004) at NavSource Naval History
  • Description of passenger conditions in the steerage and second class passenger compartments on the Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1905
  • on The Great Ocean Liners
  • photo gallery at Naval Historical Center
Preceded by
Atlantic Eastbound Record
1904 – 1907
Succeeded by

nl:Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse
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