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USS Princess Matoika


SP2290: Displacement: 10,911 gross tons; Length: 544 ft. 11in.; Beam: 61 ft.; Draft: 29 ft. 6 in.; Speed: 16 k.-twin screws; Passengers: 327 1st class, 103 2nd, 80 3rd class, 1,700 steerage; Crew: 230; Armament: four 6-inch deck guns.


USS Princess Matoika soon after she was taken over by the US Navy.

Her intended name was Borussia until October of 1899, when her name was changed again in November of 1899 to Teutonia. But when she was launched at the Vulcan Yards, Stettin, Germany on September 14, 1900 her name had again been changed to Kiautschou. She was completed on December 14, and sailed December 22, 1900 on her maiden voyage on the Hamburg-Far East mail service. Kiautschou made one round trip transatlantic voyage, February 5, 1902, on the Hamburg-Southampton-Cherbourg-New York route. The Hamburg America Line withdrew from the Far East express mail service after differences with NDL in 1903, continuing with cargo service only.

In early 1904 the Hamburg America Line decided to trade the Kiautschou to their competitors the North German Lloyd Company of Bremen. The trade was made, Kiautschou for five North German Lloyd freighters and her new owners changed her name on February 20, 1904 from Kiautschou to Princess Alice, after Queen Victoria's granddaughter. Her new duties were on the Bremerhaven-Far East service route. But from April to June 1904 she was assigned to sail on the Bremen-New York service. From 1905 through 1910 she sailed roughly May through July on New York service and the rest of the year on the Bremen-Suez Canal-Far East route.

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, and as the growing tensions between the European nations was growing into an ever-widening conflict this brought the German Flagged Princess Alice into this fight. In late July of 1914 Princess Alice was steaming near Hong Kong, which was her intended destination, with a quantity of Indian gold. For fear of being interned in the British port of Hong Kong she steamed quickly on and made port in Manila where she off-loaded the gold to the German Consul and then left the port quickly. She set a course for the Philippine Sea and the Palau Islands group where she rendezvoused with the German light cruiser SMS Emden in the waters off Angaur Island in late August 1914. It is not known what the exact reason for this meeting was but being that the Emden was a German surface raider, Princess Alice may have re-supplied the Emden. It is also known that during this same time the Emden did disguise herself by adding a dummy fourth smokestack in order to closely resemble the British cruiser HMS Yarmouth, so it is possible that the Princess Alice had some role in this event.

Because of her German Flag she may have been in danger of being sunk or captured if she tried to return to Germany so Princess Alice sought relative safety in the neutral port of Cebu, Philippines. There she remained interned until seized by United States Government on April 6, 1917. The U.S. Navy quickly pressed her into service after repairs to be used as a troopship as they were desperate for ship tonnage to transport the Army across the Atlantic to the war in Europe. The United States Navy renamed her USS Princess Matoika, in keeping with the naming schemes, then in place of using American Indian names for the German converted troop transports. The name Matoika, or sometimes-spelled Matoaka, is the Powhatan Algonquian Indian name of Pocahontas, which means “Little Wanton.” Pocahontas and Powhatan had also been used for ship names and now the navy selected Matoika to be used. Pocahontas or Rebecca Rolfe as she was known later in life when she married John Rolfe on April 5, 1614, died in Gravesend, England and today is buried in St. George’s Church on March 21, 1617.

On May 10, 1918 Princess Matoika was part of a large convoy of 13 ships sailing Eastbound across the Atlantic transporting her first load of troops to Europe. The other ships in the convoy were: Antigone, Kursk, Duca d' Aosta, Pastores, President Lincoln, Caserta, Lenape, Wilhelmina, Covington, Devinsk, Rijndam, and the Dante Alighieri. She was under the command of William Daniel Leahy, who was awarded the Navy Cross as commander of Princess Matoika while transporting troops to France. Leahy later became the Governor of Puerto Rico, and the Ambassador to France in 1940.

On the 15th of June 1918 she sailed again eastbound with 25 officers and men of the 57th Infantry Headquarters Company, 102 officers and 3,416 enlisted men of the 113th Infantry and 321 casual troops of the 27th Division. On her second day out at 11:28 in the morning on 16 June she sighted a periscope at a range of 100-yards off her port quarter. Her armed guard crew opened fire at the target as Captain Leahy took evasive maneuvers, which broke off the attack. The gunnery officer aboard the Princess Matoika reported that at least one shot probably hit the periscope of the U-boat.

On July 1, 1918 the USS Princess Matoika was steaming in a westbound convoy of eight transports, escorted by seven destroyers, some 150-miles southwesterly from Brest, France, bound back to the United States after having delivered more fresh troops for the fighting on the Western Front. The Transports in this convoy were Dekalb, Covington, Mercury, George Washington, Rijndam, Lenape, Dante Aleghieri, Princess Matoika and Wilhelmina. The escorting destroyers were Little, Conner, Cummings, Porter, Jarvis, Smith and Roe. The sea was calm with good visibility, and all ships were zigzagging with lookout positions and guns manned as a precaution against the always-present menace of German submarines. The threat made its presence known at 9:12 PM, when a torpedo launched from U-86 detonated against the port side of the Covington, which was steaming second from the left in the convoy's first row of five transports. The torpedo hit below the Covington's forward smokestack, blew open the ship's forward boiler room, and she soon came to a halt as the rest of the convoy split up and continued on.

In October 1918 the Princess Matoika made another crossing to France, and among the troops on that trip were some radio operators. Two of the radio men, Arlo F. Moore and O. E. Smith, had met while training at Ft. Leavenworth, KS and had become friends. Sadly Moore had died shortly after arrival in France of what was likely the Spanish Flu and Smith had written a letter to Moore's wife telling of what had happened. This is a transcript of his letter that was published in the April 3, 1919 edition of The Protection Post newspaper.

FROM A FRIEND OF ARLO F. MOORE
The letter which we reprint below was received a few days ago by Mrs. Arlo Moore from a radio operator who was in the same school with Arlo and who was also placed in the same unit and departed for France on the same boat (USS Princess Matoika). Here is the letter:

Dear Mrs. Moore,

I am a very poor letter writer, and even worse penman, but as I am anxious to give you ever bit of information that I possess, am going to ask your indulgence for this typewritten letter.

Last summer Arlo and I met at Ft. Leavenworth for the first time. We had both been railroad telegraphers and happened to be in the same school, same company, same barracks training as radio operators. During the few weeks there, we worked wireless sets together a great deal, and became very close friends. About the first of September, he and I were among a class of about fifty radio men selected as qualified to go overseas, and were put into a battalion of "special" men to go to France to replace causalities in Combat divisions. After we left school, and joined the new battalion, we became even greater friends than ever, because nearly all of the boys were strangers to us, and naturally the few of us that had gone through school together felt like old friends.

Our trip to Camp Merritt, N. J., was uneventful, and we enjoyed it very much. We had expected at least two weeks preparation before embarking, but upon arrival at Merritt, found that we were to embark almost immediately. Arlo and I were assigned the task of making out naturalization papers for five or six boys in our battalion who had to become citizens of the U. S. A. before they could be permitted to go overseas. This occupied our time for the two days we were in camp, and we had a lot of fun in doing it.

Finally everything was ready, and one morning about 1:30 a.m. we were quietly assembled and started to hike over the Hudson River, about five miles away. We carried full packs, and not being used to them the trip proved a tough one on all of us, and when we finally arrived at the Hudson River (where we boarded a ferry boat direct to our ship at Hoboken Docks) several of the boys were about "all in." by daylight we were going up the gang plank of the Princess Matoika, the transport that was to take us to France. A few hours later we were out to sea.

As soon as we got settled on the boat, Arlo complained to me of having very bad abdominal pains, and expressed the fear of carrying his pack over to the river had caused a reoccurrence of an old trouble. He reported to the Sick Bay on the ship at once, and the Medical Officer put several mustard plasters on his abdomen, but I do not believe that did much good.

Conditions on the ship were terrible. The meals were very poor, and only two a day. Sleeping conditions were inadequate and very crowded. Arlo and I occupied adjoining bunks on the entire trip, and spent almost the entire day together. Time dragged very heavy on our hands, and we felt quite lonesome, and we both thought and talked a great deal of the "girl we had left behind."

When we had been at sea ten days an epidemic of measles, spinalmengitis and pneumonia broke out on the ship and almost half of the soldiers on board were sick. A great many of them died, and for the balance of the trip (6 days) we had burials at sea every day. Arlo and I were both half sick and very despondent, and one day made an agreement that if anything happened to one of us, that the other would send the word back home. In addition to having what I now know was influenza, but what the doctors thought was something else, Arlo still had those terrible pains.

On the seventeenth day, we came in sight of St. Nazaire, France, and we all began to feel jubilant again. Arlo felt better than he had felt on the whole trip and though he would be all right when he got on land again. However there was delay getting in the harbor, and we did not really start to unload until about 2 a.m. Many of the boys (probably a thousand) were in no physical condition to march and carry their packs, so word was passed around that only those who felt able to carry their packs need to try it, and that ambulances would be provided for the balance. In the meantime, Arlo had felt quite sick, and I prevailed upon him not to try to make the hike, but to go up to the Camp in an ambulance, and he finally consented.

So about 2 a.m. on Oct. 17th, I bade Arlo farewell, and went off the ship and started to march for our new camp with the battalion. Arlo's condition must have become much worse, for the ambulance took him direct to Base Hospital No. 101, during the morning, instead of direct to our camp as we had both expected. All day I expected him to arrive, but when he did not show up, I made inquiry and found that he had gone to one of the many hospitals, nobody could tell me at the time, which one, and we being in strict quarantine, prevented me from going to each Hospital to make a search. I knew however, that the hospitals were all the best that could be provided, and felt he was well being taken care of. We boys at the camp were having new troubles and hardships, it rained ever since we landed, and we were sleeping on the ground in very poor pup tents, something entirely new to us.

Finally on Oct. 12th, the quarantine on us was lifted and preparation was being made to move us up towards the front, so I got permission to make a trip to each hospital, and then learned that it was to base Hospital No. 101 that Arlo had gone, St. Nazaire, France, and that he had passed away at 4:15 a.m. Oct. 10th, 1918 of pneumonia. Burial with full military honors had taken place the day previous to my visit, in the beautiful and peaceful military cemetery over looking the Harbor of St. Nazaire on one side, and the historic old Loire River on the other.

It was with a heavy heart that I stood beside the little wood cross bearing the name of "CORPORAL ARLO FRANCIS MOORE" and realized that you had lost a good and true lover, and I, a noble and gallant comrade. Our battalion left St. Nazaire that same day, and we journeyed on to the Front, where we remained until the end of the War, and where I lost many more brave comrades.

We arrived back in New York about ten days ago, and I was discharged immediately, coming directly home. It is needless to say that I am mighty happy to be back again. Base Hospital No. 101 is an excellent one, and I know that Arlo received every attention there until the end. Mrs. Smith joins me in extending our profound sympathy to you in your great sorrow.

Sincerely yours, O. E. Smith

With the fighting at an end, the task of bringing home American soldiers began almost immediately. Princess Matoika did her part by carrying home 30,110 healthy and wounded men in eight roundtrips. On December 20, 1919 some 3,000 troops boarded her and departed France for Newport News, and arrived there on January 1, 1919. Among those carried were Major General Charles T. Menoher, the newly appointed chief of the air service, and elements of the 39th Infantry Division along with the 43rd Artillery, CAC. The Matoika arrived with another 2,000 troops on 11 February.

In March of 1919, Princess Matoika and Rijndam raced each other from Saint-Nazaire, France to Newport News, Virginia in a friendly competition that received national press coverage in the United States. Rijndam, the slower ship, was just able to edge out the Princess, and cut two days from her previous fastest crossing time, by appealing to the honor of the soldiers of the 133rd Field Artillery (returning home aboard the former Holland America liner) and employing them as extra stokers for her boilers.

On her next trip, the veteran transport loaded troops at Saint-Nazaire that included nine complete hospital units. After two days delay because of storms in the Bay of Biscay, Princess Matoika departed on 16 April, and arrived at Newport News on April 27 with 3,500 troops. One of these 3,500 army troops she carried was a man by the name of James Gordon Lambert, who was the brother of an officer of the Princess Matoika, Lt. B. W. Lambert, USN. Also aboard on that trip was Sergeant Major Loren Berry of the Evacuation Hospital No.1. He had served in France from 1917 until 1919 when he returned. The troops in his unit were marched off the ship upon docking to a local warehouse where they were served a full meal, which was the first real meal they had had for sometime. All of them had stuffed their pockets with hard boiled eggs from the Princess Matoika before getting off the ship because they believed that the States didn't have a lot of food either. After eating thier fill the garbage cans near the door were full of hard boiled eggs.

Shifting south to Charleston, South Carolina, the Matoika embarked 2,200 former German prisoners of war (POWs) and hauled them to Rotterdam. This trip was followed up in May with the return of portions of the 79th Infantry Division from Saint-Nazaire to New York.

In mid-July, Princess Matoika delivered another load of 1,900 former German POWs from Charleston to Rotterdam; most of these prisoners were officers and men from interned German passenger liners and included Captain Heinler the former commander of Vaterland. One former POW, shortly after debarking in Europe, presciently commented that "this [was] no peace; only a temporary truce". After loading American crews of returned Dutch ships, Princess Matoika called at Antwerp and Brest before returning to New York on 1 August.

The ship departed New York on August 8, 1919 for her final roundtrip as a Navy transport. She departed Brest on August 23 and returned to New York on September 10, 1919. She was decommissioned there on September 19, and handed over to the War Department for use as a United States Army transport. During World War I, she transported some 50,000 troops to and from France.

As her career as an Army transport began, Princess Matoika picked up where her Navy career had ended and continued the return of American troops from Europe. After returning to France she loaded 2,965 troops at Brest—including Brigadier General W. P. Richardson and members of the Polar Bear Expedition, part of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War—for a return to New York on October 15. In December, Congressman Charles H. Randall (Prohibitionist CA), and his wife sailed on the Matoika to Puerto Rico and the Panama Canal.

On April 5, 1920 Princess Matoika carried a group of 18 men and three officers of the U.S. Navy who were to attempt a transatlantic flight in the rigid airship R38, being built in England for the Navy. Several of the group that traveled on the Matoika was among the 45 men who were killed when the airship crashed on August 24, 1921.

Two views of flag draped coffins of American soldiers who had beed killed during the war being loaded nto the Princess Matoika for return to the States. The photos are not dated but it is assumed they were from the May 1920 voyage.

In May 1920 Princess Matoika took on board the bodies of ten female nurses and over 400 soldiers who died while on duty in France during the war. The ship then transited the Kiel Canal and picked up 1,600 U.S. residents of Polish descent at Danzig, all of who had enlisted in the Polish Army at the outset of the war. Also included among the passengers were 500 U.S. soldiers who had been released from occupation duty at Koblenz. The ship arrived at New York on 23 May with little fanfare and no ceremony; bodies returned but not claimed by families were buried at Arlington National Cemetery. On July 21, Princess Matoika arrived in New York after a similar voyage with 25 war brides, and many repatriated Polish troops among its 2,094 steerage passengers, and the remains of 881 soldiers. In between these two trips, the Belgian Ambassador to the United States, Baron Emile de Cartier de Marchienne, sailed from New York to Belgium on board the Matoika. It was, however, Princess Matoika's next trip to Belgium that was the most infamous.

When she finished her trooping duties for the Army she was chartered to the United States Mail Steam Ship Company in 1920 European passenger service. In July 1920, she was a last-minute substitute to carry a large portion of the United States Olympic team to the 1920 Summer Olympics held in Antwerp. Unfortunately, because the water polo team came from all over the country, practice was virtually impossible and the first time the team actually trained together was in a 12' by 9' swimming tank specially constructed on the deck of the Princess Matoika.

The ship that was carrying the United States Olympic Team to Antwerp was the USS Northern Pacific, an up-to-date, fast-moving passenger liner, which had been damaged on her voyage to New York. The Princess Matoika was a last moment stand in and she was ancient, slow moving, and far from ideal, but there were no other options for the Olympic Committee. The athletes learned of the change at the farewell meeting hours before embarking and were told to accept the difficulties "in the spirit of sportsmanship and of making the best of things." As the American star of the Games, winning three gold medals in swimming, and a WWI veteran and war hero, Norman "Moose" Ross was the chosen leader of the successful post game strike against the Princess Matoika, a ship that was in his words "dirty, vermin-ridden, especially with rats, with poor service, poor quarters, and insufficient sanitary arrangements and incompetent crew." From the perspective of the Olympic team, the trip was disastrous and a majority of the team members published a list of grievances and demands to the American Olympic Committee in an action known today as the "Mutiny of the Matoika."

After the contingent of athletes debarked at Antwerp on August 8, 1920 Princess Matoika made one more voyage of note while under U.S. Army control. The Matoika sailed for New York on August 24 and arrived on September 4 carrying a portion of the returning Olympic team, and American Boy Scouts returning from the International Boy Scout Jamboree in London, along with the remains of 1,284 American soldiers for repatriation.


A mid-August 1920 port side fiew of the fo'c'sle of the Princess Matoika as the sea spray falls upon several Boy Scouts looking on. The Boy Scouts were being transported from England back to New York coming from the 1st World Scout Jamboree that was held from July 30 to August 8, 1920 and was hosted by the United Kingdom at Kensington Olympia in London. 8,000 Scouts from 34 nations attended the event, which was hosted in a glass-roofed building covering an area of 6 acres. The Olympia arena was filled with a foot-deep layer of earth, which was turfed over, enabling the Scouts to pitch tents within the glass-roofed hall. However, around 5,000 of the Scouts were encamped at the Old Deer Park in nearby Richmond. The Scouts rotated in and out of Olympia to give them all the opportunity to participate in the events there. The Thames River flooded the campsite at Old Deer Park one night and Scouts had to be evacuated.

After a major reconstruction Princess Matoika was changed to 350-cabin class, 500-third class and her new gross tonnage was altered to 10,421-tons. Her first voyage under this new configuration was on the New York-Naples-Genoa service on January 19, 1921 under agreement with United States Shipping Board for the provision of a Mediterranean service. On February 24, 1921, while on a voyage from Naples to New York, Princess Matoika struck an iceberg. Her steerage passengers were told that the ship had just stopped to greet another vessel and that there was no alarm, however, lifeboats were being readied. Princess Matoika was disengaged from the iceberg and continued to Boston instead of New York.

Princess Matoika made six Atlantic crossings during 1921 the first three from Mediterranean ports to New York the last three from Bremen, Germany to New York. The United States Mail Steam Ship Company began to have financial troubles in August 1921, which resulted in the seizure of the Princess Matoika. The United States Mail Steam Ship Company assets were divested and the Princess Matoika was then assigned to the newly formed United States Lines and resumed passenger service. Princess Matoika sailed from New York to Bremen, Germany under the new United States Lines on September 15,1921. In January 1922 she arrived in the USA from Danzig and Bremen via Plymouth, England.

For sake of uniformity with other ships of the United States Lines Princess Matoika was renamed President Arthur in the Spring of 1922, to match the names of the new 535-foot type vessels. President Arthur continued Atlantic service between Danzig - Bremen - Cherbourg - Plymouth - Queenstown to New York route until she sailed into New York on November 1, 1923, which was her last voyage for United States Lines. Because of changes in U.S. laws that severely curtailed the number of immigrants that could enter the country in the early 1920s, the President Arthur was laid up in Baltimore.

In 1925 President Arthur was sold to American Palestine Line of New York and refitted for New York - Palestine service. Her intended name was White Palace but her name remained President Arthur. Her first voyage under the American Palestine Line, was on the New York - Naples - Haifa service on March 12, 1925, returning to New York from Levant, Lebanon May 8th. On her maiden voyage to Palestine, she reportedly became the first ocean liner to fly the Zionist flag at sea and the first ocean liner ever to have female officers. After only three voyages the ship was withdrawn from service due to low patronage and poor freight loads and was laid up at Staten Island, New York. In December of 1925 the assets of the company were auctioned to C. L. Dimon, New York.

In 1926 she was acquired by the Los Angeles Steam Ship Co. and sailed through the Panama Canal to be fitted out as a luxury liner at the San Pedro Shipyard of the Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Corp. Her new gross tonnage was again changed to 10,860-tons and her new passenger accommodations were: 445-First class, 50-third class, and a crew of 260. She was refitted with new boilers, which gave her engines an estimated 11,000-horsepower that propelled her at a speed of 17-knots.

On June 4, 1927 President Arthur was again renamed City of Honolulu, and was placed in the Los Angeles - Hawaii service with fleet mates the City of Los Angeles (her distant relative a former NGL Liner and the formerly named USS Aeolus) and Calawaii. She proved popular and successful until May 25, 1930 when a serious fire in Honolulu destroyed a large portion of her passenger accommodations. The fire appeared to have begun in the hair saloon, of an unknown cause. Without injuries, the ship sank at her berth but was raised and it was found that her machinery was still functioning. October 30, 1930 she sailed back to Los Angeles under her own power, on one engine, without passengers and was laid up there. Repair was considered but later abandoned due to high cost, and world wide depression she was declared a total loss and she was laid up for the last time. On August 24, 1933 she was sold to ship-breakers in Osaka, Japan and arrived under-tow from her fleet mate Calawaii on December 11, 1933.


USS Princess Matoika in her war time dazzle paint.


Princess Matoika in Hampton Roads, Virginia in May of 1919.

Below is a list of crossings that the Princess Matoika made during WWI

This list is only of the known crossings and units that are known to have sailed on her. As I find other recorded voyages I will add them to this list.
Sailing Date Unit Name
Officers
Enlisted Men
10 May 1918, East bound HQ, 7th Inf. Brig. (4th Div.)
7
23
HQ & 2nd & 3d Bns., 47th Inf. (4th Div.)
71
2362
Automatic Replacements, Engineers
1033
Casuals Officers
10
15 June 1918 East bound HQ 57th Inf. Brigade (29th Div)
4
21
113th Infantry (29th Div.)
102
3416
27th Division Casuals
6
315
20 December 1918 West bound HQ 30th Artillery Brigade C.A.C.
9 March 1919 West bound 37th Engineers
April 1919 West bound Unknown units
5,000
20 July 1919 West bound E.A.C. No. 8
4th Co. 166th Depot Brigade
Elements of the 161st Infantry

Crew Profiles of the Princess Matoika

Navy Corpsman VanBuren Lamb, Jr.

Van Buren Lamb, Jr. was born on November 1, 1898 and passed away on February 3, 1991. He was a Navy Corpsman serving aboard the troop transport USS Princess Matoika during WWI. He had ensilted into the United States Navy on November1, 1917 and was honorably discharged on October 18, 1919. During WWII he again enlisted into the navy and served from January 23, 1942 through May 6, 1944.

In 2006 I was contacted by Gene Morgan who was a former Marine from 1961-64 and served aboard 7 different ships. His grandmother was May DeLong Norris and he has a few of her scrap books that contained the below article relating to the USS Princess Matoika. Gene stated that he is a genealogist of 12 years now, tracing my family tree. He went on to say, "During the course of this research I have come into possession of my Grandmother's (May DeLong Norris') scrap books as well as my own mother's. Above are two pages of a newspaper clipping that I found related to the USS Princess Matoika. Curious as I am, about ships and history, I did a google search for the Matoika, and found your web site. There I found your email and decided to send you this two page news article in hopes that it would be of interest to you. The township of Barrington, which is mentioned, is in the County of Yates, New York State. Mrs. Nettie DeLong was my grandmother's sister. Mrs. William Hill was Nettie Anna (Norris) Hill, my grandmother's aunt. There is no date with the article, but I estimate it to be about 1919. It could, however, be much later as Nettie didn't die until 1932, and Ella died in 1936."

The following is a transcript of the article that was printed in the unidentified newspaper:

RED CROSS QUILTS IN SERVICE

Made by Barrington Women and Used on Hospital Ship

Some time ago, Mrs. Nettie DeLong and Mrs. William Hull, of the town of Barrington, pieced two quilts of a somewhat intricate pattern, and donated them to the Barrington Red Cross. These quilts were sent out in the regular way. Each one had pinned to it a card bearing the name and address of the maker. A few days ago, Mrs. DeLong received the following letter, which tells where the quilts went and the service, which they are performing. It must be gratifying to these women to know that their labors are appreciated.

USS Princess Matoika,
Somewhere on the Atlantic,
Dear Mrs. DeLong,

Have you and Mrs. Hill wondered if your cards were ever found? They were, and the pin in yours very violently said it was there. The quilts are the prettiest we have and I know just what tiresome work it is to make one for I have a silk one my great-grandmother made, the same pattern. I did not believe ladies of today had patience enough to make one. War penetrates even to one's disposition, patience, etc.

Now you wish to know what work the quilts do. They keep the sick and wounded warm. We have two-dozen Red Cross quilts here (the hospital of the Princess Matoika) and at present they are all doing their bit. We have seventy-four sick and wounded soldiers whom we are taking back to the States. This includes two Red Cross nurses and some medical corpsmen (like myself) who were wounded while in a hospital. No one is safe. The quilts were brought aboard when this ship was first put into commission as a transport. This is the third trip across. We missed New York both times, but I hope this trip will terminate there for my home is in New Haven, CT. Each time in France we landed at [censored], and unloaded our four thousand troops.

I am sure all the crippled soldier boys who have set out on deck in the steamer chairs, thank the makers of these quilts, for it has been very cold at times.

At night, for I am night corpsman in the ward, the fellows tell me many stories of trench life. One fellow told me after he was wounded he lay in a shell hole four days before his wounds were dressed. He is paralyzed from the hips down. It makes me long to be doing first aid work in the trenches instead of just caring for them when they are nearly well.

We landed in [censored] and very luckily I received a seven-day furlough. Have had a wonderful time.

Yours sincerely.
VanBuren Lamb, Jr.,
USS Princess Matoika
c/o Postmaster, New York


This page was created on 15 August 2004 and last updated Sun, Mar 16, 2014

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