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USS Europa (AP-177) on 24 March 1946
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Class: EUROPA (AP-177)
Design: Passenger, 1928
Displacement (tons): 43,407 light, 55,000 full
Dimensions (feet): 940.6' oa, 888.1' wl x 101.7' x 33.6'
Original Armament: None
Later armaments: --
Speed (kts.): 27.5
Propulsion (HP): 105,000
Machinery: Blohm & Voss turbines, 4 screws
||8 May 45
||Blohm & Voss S&E
||1 Aug 28
||25 Aug 45
||2 May 46
||5 Jun 46
||8 Jun 46
No FY assigned. In the late 1920s the major shipping companies on the North Atlantic began to consider new ships to replace their aging flagships, many of which dated to before World War I and most of which had been designed to carry huge numbers of steerage-class immigrants from Europe to the United States. With the U.S. having closed the door to most immigration in the early 1920s, the new ship designs focused on carrying middle class tourists in elegance and at high speeds. The German BREMEN and EUROPA were early examples that were followed by the British QUEEN MARY, the French NORMANDIE (see AP-53), and a few others. Just before the delivery of EUROPA a mysterious fire broke out on board and the ship had to be scuttled on an even keel to extinguish it. On her maiden voyage, which began on 19 Mar 30, she took the westward transatlantic speed record from her sister BREMEN.
On the day of Germany's surrender, 8 May 45, a Navy reconnaissance party led by two lieutenants found EUROPA in almost perfect condition at a berth in the Kaiserhafen III at Bremerhaven, took possession of her as a prize in the name of the U.S. Navy, and posted a guard on the ship. The Germans had surveyed her in 1940 for use as a transport but had not pursued the project and soon laid her up. Her sister, BREMEN, which had been destroyed by a fire set by an arsonist, lay in three pieces in the harbor nearby. On 3 Jun 45 a Navy prize master and crew were appointed and placed on board the ship. On 16 Jun 45 EUROPA was towed out of the Kaiserhafen III and drydocked in the Kaiser Dock II. Restoration of the ship to operation and fitting her to carry about 10,000 troops was conducted there by WSA in concert with the Army and Navy. On 10 Jul 45, in its last wartime report, the Auxiliary Vessels Board noted that on 30 Jun 45 CominCh had approved a VCNO recommendation of 27 Jun 45 that the Navy man the ship. On 17 July the ship was undocked and moved to the nearby North German Lloyd repair yard which carried out the remainder of the conversion. The Board noted that part of the crew for EUROPA was to be provided for by replacing the Navy crew of MONTICELLO (AP-61) with Coast Guard personnel. The Board recommended that the ship be assigned by WSA to the Navy and commissioned as a naval transport without prejudice to her ultimate disposition. EUROPA underwent dock trials on 2 August and was commissioned on 25 Aug 45 in the Kaiserhaven III as USS EUROPA (AP-177). She moved to Bremerhaven's Columbus Quay on 7 Sep 45 and sailed from there on 11 Sep 45 for the U.S. via Southampton, where she embarked troops for the voyage home. The capacity of the partially-converted ship on this voyage was about 4,500 passengers.
After drydocking at Bayonne, N.J., and further repairs by the New York Navy Yard, EUROPA departed New York on 11 Nov 45 on the first of two Magic Carpet voyages to Southampton, completing the second on 17 Dec 45. She was then taken out of service at New York, partly because the need for troop transports was less urgent and partly because of concern over cracks that had been discovered in her hull. The United Nations Reparations Commission, responsible for distributing enemy tonnage among the Allies, allocated EUROPA to the French, who had the biggest need for a passenger liner after they lost the NORMANDIE (see LAFAYETTE, AP-53) in New York Harbor in 1942. EUROPA sailed from New York on 15 Mar 46, arrived at Bremerhaven on 24 Mar 46, and was decommissioned there on 2 May 46. On 8 Jun 46 the Navy transferred the ship to WSA (MC) which simultaneously transferred her to the French Government.
The French renamed the ship LIBERTE and between 12 and 14 Jun 46 took her from Bremerhaven to Le Havre for conversion for civilian service. On 9 Dec 46 she broke her moorings during a storm, collided with the wreck of the French liner PARIS, and was sunk to prevent capsizing. The ship was raised and, after extensive repairs and reconstruction (interrupted by a severe fire), .. entered service with the French Line on 17 August 1950. She was given many of the interior fittings of the NORMANDIE, which had thankfully been warehoused in New York before the latter burned. LIBERTE was withdrawn in 1961 upon the entry into service of the new FRANCE and completed scrapping at La Spezia, Italy, in June 1962.
||Ex German EUROPA (completed 22 Feb 30). Taken as prize by USN 8 May 45, reactivated by the North German Lloyd yard at Bremerhaven. To France 8 Jun 46, in service 1950 as LIBERTE. Out of service 1961, scrapped 1962.
Compiled: 14 Jun 2009
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2009