USAT Monterey

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USAT Monterey
SS Monterey.jpg
SS Monterey 1.jpg
After being renamed to Matsonia in 1956
Name SS Monterey
Owner Oceanic Steamship Company
Builder Fore River Shipyard, Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp.
Launched 10 Oct 1931
Completed April 1932
In service 3 Jun 1932
Out of service 21 Oct 2000
Fate sunk 21 Oct 2000
General characteristics
Type Passenger Liner
Tonnage 18,017
Length 632 ft (193m)
Beam 79 ft (24m)
Propulsion 2 steam turbines
Speed 22.8 knots
Capacity 3,300 plus troops (701 passengers in civil use) Crew of 360.


Monterey was built to promote travel to Hawaii and for Pacific Ocean liner service including regular stops in ports along the West Coast of the United States, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. In World War II Monterey served as a fast troop carrier, often operating alone so she would not be slowed by formation navigation in a convoy. The United States Maritime Commission chartered her in 1941. Requisitioned in February 1942 with transfer of title to the War Shipping Administration on 25 September 1942.

Often referred to as USAT Monterey although she was never Army operated, rather it operated under a bareboat agreement as USAT Monterey. The ship made 13 round trips to Australian ports from the west coast of the US. On 6 November 1943 in an action off Cape Bougaroun, Algeria, 25 aircraft attacked the convoy. Monterey shot down an enemy bomber which passed over the ship and tore away the radio mast before crashing into the ocean.

Following the end of hostilities on 16 February 1946 she departed Sydney with Australian war brides for San Francisco, stopping along the way at Suva, Fiji and Honolulu and Hawaii. Sent to be refitted for civilian use in September 1946, only a small amount of the work required was completed before money ran out, and she sat idle for 5 years until purchased by the US Government who put her in their mothball fleet. In February 1956 she was bought back by the Matson Lines who renamed her SS Matsonia. She returned briefly to passenger service until the early 1960s when she was anchored indefinitely in San Francisco Bay when passenger numbers slumped badly.

However, her sister ship SS Lurline which had continued to sail suffered a major equipment failure in February 1963, and Matsonia was brought back to life, re-christened as SS Lurline and began services again on 6 Dec 1963. By 1970 passenger numbers were again very low and the ship was sold to the Chandris Lines and renamed SS Britania who increased her capacity to 1,655 passengers and after three years on the UK to Australia run, used her as a cruise ship until late 1994.

In November 1994 the Britania was chartered to the US Government to serve at Guantanamo Bay as a floating barracks for military personnel. Following an electrical fire she was repaired by the US Government and again laid up in late 1996. Sold again, this time to a company that sought to recoup their outlay by selling her to scrappers, her demise was delayed as scrap steel prices had plunged. A year later, while named SS Belofin-1 she was under tow to Indian scrappers when she began to take on water south of Cape Town until she sank on 21 Oct 2000.

Soldiers carried

Fremantle to Adelaide 27 Mar - 1 Apr 1942


The Matson liner, operating as a troopship, is sometimes erroneously seen as USAT Matsonia. A much smaller ship, official number 232021, 5,236 GRT, ex Puerto Rico, ex Hati built by Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia, is also seen in most registers with a 1932 date. This smaller ship was also acquired by WSA on 26 September 1942, allocated to the U.S. Army under bareboat charter and did operate as USAT Monterey.