The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces
U.S. Navy Insignia
TRANSPORTING THE AEF
The U.S.S. Leviathan Departs for France
SEALIFT FOR THE AEF
By Walter Kudlick
More than 2 million American soldiers and 7.5 million tons of cargo were
transported to France during the nineteen months the United States was involved
in World War I. The initial challenge America faced was to find the ships to move a huge army and its supplies across the Atlantic.
Click here to see a month-by-month summary of the troops and cargos shipped to France
The Transport Fleet
A start was made by chartering a few U.S. Flag ships and by
July, 1917 there were in service seven troop ships and six cargo
ships with a total dead weight capacity of 94,000 tons. From this
small beginning came a great transport fleet which totaled almost
3.25 million tons of shipping by the end of 1918. The tonnage was
distributed 0.66 million deadweight tons for troops and 2.57 million
tons for cargo.
A significant portion of this fleet was made up of seized
German ships, which came into service in the Fall of 1917. The U.S.S. Leviathan pictured above was formerly the German liner Vaterland. Dutch,
Scandinavian and Japanese tonnages also helped swell the fleet, as
did the nearly one million tons of new ships turned out by the
Emergency Fleet Corporation
U.S.S Mt. Vernon and Crew
There was a similar growth in the shipping used to transport
the AEF across the English Channel to France. That fleet began
with 7,000 tons in October, 1917, and grew to more than a third of
a million tons by the end of 1918.
Sources of Shipping
While the cargo fleet was almost exclusively U.S. Flag,
ships of various nations were used to transport the American
Click here to see a summary list of the nations providing ships for the AEF.
The first shipment of cargo to support the AEF was made in
June, 1917, and amounted to 16.000 tons. By the last month of the
war, this figure had grown this had grown to over 800,000 tons.
U.S.S Yale Takes on Cargo [Pre-War Photo}
The table which can be accessed below, shows that nearly one-half of the cargo
was destined for the Quartermaster Corps (largely food and
clothing) with the Engineers and Ordnance Corps in second and
Click here to see a table of the cargo shipped for various military supply services.
Troop Sealift Between the United States and France
The Doughboys left principally from 6 U.S. ports and 4
Canadian with New York (including Hoboken and Brooklyn)
handling more than three-quarters of the the men. European ports
of arrival were even more numerous than those of the embarkation
from North America. Liverpool, with 884,000 men arriving, was
the single busiest port, with Brest, where 791,000 Americans
landed, in second place. The arrivals were almost equally divided
between France and England.
Ship Board Scenes
Life Boat Drill
The table accessible below shows the number of men sailing
for France and for home by month. (The data for the first six
months is approximate.) Although it is incomplete with respect to
the homeward travel and minor volumes in the in the reverse
direction are not shown, the table does illustrate the monthly
Click here to see listings of the troop traffic at various ports used by the AEF
Doughboys Arriving at St. Nazaire
Sources and thanks:
The data used above was extracted from the WAR WITH
GERMANY - A STATISTICAL SUMMARY, by Leonard P.
Ayres, Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1919.
Much of the material in this article originally appeared in revised form in the October 1996 issue of CAMARADERIE, the newsletter of the United States branch of the Western Front Association. It has been edited and rearranged, with the contributor's approval, for presentation on this web site.
Photos courtesy of regular DBC contributors Ray Mentzer and Mike Iavarone. MH
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