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USS Mongolia


Mongolia was owned and operated by the Pacific Mail Steam Ship Company and had a capacity of 1,818 passengers. She was built in 1903 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey. Her speed was 16 kn and she had a displacement of 26,700 tons. She was 616 feet in length and her beam was 65 feet. Her Sister ship was the SS Manchuria. She was built for the San Francisco-Honolulu-Hongkong service. Mongolia went aground on the western side of Midway Island on September 16, 1906, but succeeded in getting off again even before the arrival of the ships Buford, Iroquois, and Restorer, which went to her aid from Honolulu.


USS Mongolia in her war time paint.

In 1915 when the Allies were in such great need of ship tonnage to carry food and munitions across the Atlantic, she was bought by the Atlantic Transport Line and made the passage around Cape Horn in December of 1915. She was then operated between New York and London. When the Imperial German Government placed into effect the famous submarine blockade in March of 1917, the Mongolia was armed with three six-inch guns manned by 2 crew of one officer and twenty-two enlisted men. She was the first ship to sail after the Kaiser's proclamation of the barred zone, and on April 19, 1917, the Mongolia encountered and engaged a German submarine in the English Channel, seven miles southeast of Beachy Head, which apparently ended disastrously for the submarine. This was the first American shot fired on the high seas after the declaration of war. The Mongolia completed the first trip to France and back in twenty-eight days, covering a distance of 7,006 miles.

In March of 1918 she was chartered by the U. S. Army to carry supplies. On April 29, 1918,she was taken over by the U.S. Navy and fitted out as a troop ship. On May 26, 1918, having taken on a full load of troops she proceeded to the rendezvous to await the assembling of the convoy, and later got under way in company with the Henderson, Siboney, America, Mallory, Tenedores, Mercury and Huron, with the Cruiser North Carolina and Von Steuben as escort.

In 1917 she became an armoured troopship for the US Navy. When the United States entered WW I on April 6, 1917 there were 403 Army nurses on active duty including 170 reserve nurses who had been assigned to duty with Gen. John J. Pershing's 1916 expedition on the Mexican border. One month later on 8-19 May 1917, six base hospitals with more than 400 Army nurses sailed on 5 transport ships for France for service with the British Expeditionary Forces. Edith Ayers and Helen Wood, nurses with Base Hospital 12 from Chicago, were killed en route when a ship’s gun exploded aboard their transport ship, the USS Mongolia. The following is a list of the ships and the units that sailed on the 8-19 May, 1917:

Ship Name Sailing date Units Officers Nurses Civilians Enlisted men Totals
Orduna 8 May, 1917 Base Hospital No. 4 and Reserve Nurse Corps 34 98 4 156 292
Saxonia 11 May, 1917 Base Hospital No. 5 28 76 0 157 261
St. Louis 12 May, 1917 Base Hospital No. 2 29 65 6 153 253
Mongolia 19 May, 1917 Base Hospital No. 12 29 70 14 151 264
St. Paul 19 May, 1917 Base Hospital No. 21 28 65 0 149 242
Base Hospital No. 10 27 64 4 157 252
Orthopedic Unit 22 0 0 0 22


The aft deck gun of the Mongolia that took the first action against Germany. This gun was named "TEDDY" by the gun crew in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt.

In the first month of the war, hundreds of North Carolina men volunteered for the Marines, Navy and the Army air corps, which were seen as either more manly, or more romantic and gentlemanly than the general infantry. In fact, it was a North Carolina sailor who took the first official hostile action against Germany after the U.S. entered the war. James Goodwin of Edenton, North Carolina, a gunner's mate aboard the U.S.S. Mongolia, was credited with sinking a German submarine. On May 26, 1918 Mongolia again carried troops to France. On that trip she carried 6 Officers and 23 enlisted men of the HQ Co., 159th Infantry Brigade, 80th Division also 109 Officers and 3,408 enlisted men of the 317th Infantry, 80th Division, and 10 Officers with a Detachment of the 313th Field Artillery. Her third trip across the Atlantic was on 11 September, 1918 when she carried 233 casual officers and 67 civilian cadets that were probably Aero Cadets. They reached Liverpool, England on 1 October, 1918.

On 30 June, 1918 the Mongolia made her 4th trip across the Atlantic with troops going to France. They were:
2 Officers and 79 enlisted Casuals
15 Officers and 502 enlisted men of the 28th Engineers, Company C & D
13 Officers and 509 enlisted men of the 57th Engineers, Company A & B
34 Officers and 1,594 enlisted men of the 66th Engineers
94 Officers of a school detail of the 79th Division
4 Officers and 154 enlisted men of the 227th Aero Squadron
3 Officers and 154 enlisted men of the 255th Aero Squadron
16 Officers and 888 enlisted men of the 531st Service Battalion

On the 14th of December, 1918 the 74th Artillery had orders to move out for the trip back home. That day they sailed from Brest, France aboard the transport USS Mongolia along with thier sister regiment the 73rd Artillery. On December 22, 1918 they reached New York and on the 23rd went ashore and went to Camp Mills, New York for a short stay and then moved to Ft. Totten, New York.

After the war she made 12 complete turn around trips carrying troops back to the States. She had the fifth best average turn around time of the 39 transports used after the war. Her average turn around time was 34 days. The Siboney had the best turn around time of 29.8 days followed by the Orizaba, Calamares and Leviathian and then the Mongolia.

In 1919 she was chartered to American Line for the New York to Hamburg route. After she finished her war time service she was transferred in 1923 to the Panama Pacific Line, New York for the New York to San Francisco run. In 1929 she was sold to the Dollar Line of San Francisco for Round the World service and renamed SS President Fillmore. In 1931 laid up in New York and in 1940 sold to Cia Transatlantica Centroamericana, Panama, a company owned by German Arnold Bernstein and was renamed Panamanian. She kept this name until she was scrapped. In 1946 she was scrapped at Hongkong.

December at sea in the cold Atlantic. This is a view of the troops aboard the USS Mongolia on the return trip from France with the 73d and 74th Artillery Regiments. Note the many wooden crates. These are box life rafts that would be used to throw over and be lashed together for the men to climb on to and hopefully save them from the cruel icy waters of the Atlantic.
Again another view of the return voyage on the USS Mongolia 14 December - 22 December 1918


A Jewish Welfare Board Post Card of the Mongolia during her WWI trooping days.


USS Mongolia's Wheel House and ships compass.
A view amidships of the Mongolia.
The music room of the Mongolia.
The officers' ward room of the Mongolia.
Deck Gun of the Mongolia.
The Sick Bay of the Mongolia.
The Operating room of the Mongolia.
The Detention Brig of the Mongolia.

Panoramic photo of the USS Mongolia as she arrives in Boston on 6 July 1919. Her war time dazzle paint has been replaced by the standard navy grey paint and she shows many streaks of rust giving evidence of her many trips across the Atlantic returning troops to the States. This photo was taken by the Pyle Photo Company of Waltham, MA. This photo was shared with me by Jim Weaver. His grandfather, who was in Company A, 601st Engineers was aboard when this photo was taken.


The Crews Muster

As I find names and information of men who served on the Mongolia I will list them here in this section. If you have a relative who served on this proud old ship please let me know and I will add their names with the others below.


Seaman 2c Eugene Shawley

Seaman 2c Eugene Shawley, served on the Mongolia during WWI. This was submitted by his grandson Mike Chilson. Mike relates that his grandfather was born in 1896 in Oklahoma. Eugene had a brother named Dewey Shawley that was also in the Navy and it was known by the family that the brothers both served on the Mongolia. Dewey's rating was a cook. Eugene's first wife was Eliza and they were married for 12 years and then divorced. His second wife was named Emma Marie Hall and she was born in Kansas. According to the 1930 Federal Census Eugene was working as a salvage labor man.

Cook Dewey Shawley

Cook Dewey Shawley, brother to Seaman 2c Eugene Shawley above. Together with his brother Eugene and Dewey crossed the Atlantic 13 times on the Mongolia.

Gun Pointer 1c, Richard "Otto" Clark

Gun Pointer 1c R. "Otto" Clark. According to his son Richard Clark, Raymond Otto Clark was born in Garden Grove, Iowa, January 28, 1898. After enlisted into the Navy in 1917, Clark went to Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago. He was assigned to duty on the USS Mongolia and remained on the ship until after the war was over. He recalls his dad saying that it was a sad sight to see soldiers packed like sardines in that old tub. Many were seasick and it seems all were understandably depressed. He said anyone caught complaining about the food would have to do KP duty. He remembered one guy who yelled, "Jesus Christ those beans are salty... But that's just the way I like 'em!" Fortunately, he enjoyed sleeping in a hammock fastened on the ships wall. When Richard was a child, his dad had several postcard photos of the Mongolia and the Arizona that he was also aboard for a short stint. The photos were of Otto standing with several others by a gun, but does not know if it was on the Mongolia or the Arizona. Those photos have long since disappeared. Otto had to stand watch on many occasions, and he spoke of a certain fish that would swim straight toward the ship, and looking like a torpedo. But the fish would suddenly reverse its direction before making contact. A great relief! When the Mongolia arrived home from France, the war was over, so Otto simply got off the boat and went back to Iowa where he was born and raised. Somehow, the Navy took a dim view toward that decision. In 1961 Richard Clark managed to restore his fathers discharge to honorable, and he received his pension. Otto Clark died at Blaine, Washington, August 10, 1973.

Gun Pointer 1c R. "Otto" Clark, USS Mongolia. On his sleeve can be seen the rating badge of the Gun Pointer First Class (the star and the circle crosshair) and another marking below which may be the Expert Rifleman badge.

Harry Moats

Harry Moats was born on May 3, 1892 on a farm in Hoosier Township in Kingman County, Kansas to Richard and Myrtle Moats. Harry’s father Richard was a farmer and was born in Illinois in November of 1861 and his mother Myrtle was born in Crawford County, Ohio, (near Bucyrus) in December of 1865. Richard and Myrtle were married in 1887 and their first daughter Della was born in April of 1888. Then in August of 1890 Anna was born and Harry followed in May of 1892. Myrtle had given birth to 5 children but only Della, Anna and Harry were living as of June 1900. Richard Moats died of a heart attack in Meade County, Kansas in June of 1919. He is buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery in Kingman, Kansas. Richard and Myrtle's daughter, Anna who died in 1916 while giving birth, is buried in the same plot in Walnut Hill Cemetery.

As America was entering into the World War, Harry registered in the first Draft on 5 June 1917 in Meade, Kansas. Harry at the time was working for himself as a farmer in Meade County, Kansas. Harry was married at the time he registered for the Draft and he was of medium height and build with brown eyes and black hair. Harry’s son Richard H. Moats relates about how “it was never spoken about in the family but we did believe my father [Harry] was married to a woman from Kansas when he went into the Navy. My family was rather secretive about some of the events in their lives. Maybe with good reason!”

Harry’s War Service Certificate that his son now has shows that Harry was in the Navy from 14 December 1917 thru 10 March 1919 and indicates he was on the USS Mongolia. When Harry entered the Navy he took his basic training at the Great Lakes, Illinois Naval Training Center. His son Richard states that Harry “made at least one trip to France, because I remember him talking about being there.” His War Service Certificate also mentions the North Light Station, so he may also have been stationed there.

After Harry was separated from the Navy in March of 1919 he returned to Kansas and Sometime during 1919 married his second wife. Her name was Mabel Finke and she was born July 23, 1896 in Brooklyn, New York to Oscar Finke and Albertina Voges Finke. Oscar was a German immigrant, and Albertina's father, Gustav Voges, was also a German immigrant. Not long after the death of Harry’s father in June of 1919, Harry and Mabel, his mother, Myrtle, and his sister, Della, moved to Western Oregon, where Myrtle's mother, and some of her brothers and sisters lived.

Mabel and Harry had their first son Richard H. who was born on 26 September 1919 on a farm in the Scoggins Valley, just a few miles from Gaston, Oregon. Gaston was a small farming and logging town then, and it still is a small town in a farming community in Washington County, Oregon.

Richard had a younger sister named Betty J. who was born on a farm near Dayton, Oregon in Yamhill County, on July 16, 1921 and just passed away on March 1, 2006. Richard related of his early life in Oregon and the move to Washington; “In November of 1926 we moved to Washington, eventually settling on a farm in the Skookumchuck River Valley, about 7 miles from the town of Tenino in Thurston County. On March 9, 1933, my Dad [Harry Moats] died suddenly after a short illness. The doctor's diagnosis was complications of quinsy, but I suspect he may have had a heart attack. He and my mother worked very hard on the farm, trying to make a go of it in the midst of the Depression. My Dad was a proud man, so he only sought government help for food one time, and he worked to pay back for it. On Harry’s WWI Draft Card it mentioned that he was of medium height, but even for those days he was short. In fact, he became stuck with the nick-name, "Shorty" My mother was also diminutive and she stood about 4' 9" and probably never weighed over a hundred pounds in her life, but she worked right along with my Dad, doing as much as she could.”

As America was being pulled into the Second World War, Harry’s son Richard Moats joined the Army and served overseas with the 3rd Infantry Division in 10 campaigns in North Africa, and Europe.

Mess Attendant 1st Class, Rigaude Prout,

Rigaude Placide LaTrobe DeMontalt Prout was born in St. George, Barbados, B.W.I, in 1893.  He spent his early years on the nearby island of St. Lucia, B.W.I., where his father, Alexander Prout, was stationed as a  policeman.  His two younger brothers, Alexander McMahon and Grandville Kitchener Prout were born in St. Lucia.  In 1904 his mother, Sarah Louisa Forster,  died and the family eventually returned to Barbados.

When he was eighteen “Placide,” as he was called, left Barbados on the S.S. Rio de Janeiro and arrived in port of New York on July 31, 1911.  He initially lived in Brooklyn, New York but  moved to the upper westside.  Placide worked as a clerk until 1918 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was called to serve on board the USS Mongolia. While on the Mongolia Placide kept a diary from April 12, 1918 to July 13, 1918 with details of his time on the Mongolia.

Prior to going overseas he married Edith Edmunda Nurse, from Christ Church, Barbados, B.W.I..  The couple had two daughters, Marjorie Eloise and Gloria Edith Prout.  After WWI, Placide worked as a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service in the Bronx, New York until he retired.

He and his wife moved to Rockaway Beach, New York once he retired.  This enabled him to be close to the sea.  On August 10, 1972 “Placide” died of complications suffered after a fall from a jetty while he was fishing.

Photos and story of Rigaude Prout shared by his granddaughter Andrea Ramsey.

Rigaude Prout posing on one of the Mongolia's three, Six-inch deck guns. While in the navy Riguade kept a diary and wrote small glimpses of what life was like for him in the navy at the time. The diary is very torn and tattered today but it speaks to us who read it these many years later. There are basically 5 written pages and the last two were written in lead pencil and are quite hard to read. I have did my best to transcribe what was written.

Below is the transcript of the diary Rigaude kept while in the navy. The entries date from April 13, 1918 thru the middle of July 1918.

April 13, 1918: I enlisted in the U.S.N.R.F.

May 4, 1918: I was notified to report for active duty at the Federal Rendezvous. Foot of 52nd St., Brooklyn, NY.

May 7, 1918: I reported for active duty.

May 8, 1918: Blood test was taken.

May 12, 1918: The Board of Health reported favorably on my blood and I got my equipment. Federal Rendezvous. 52nd St. Brooklyn, NY. The treatment over here very firm, everything that goes to make one comfortable is here, being treated fine.

A day at the Armory.

Reveille 5:30 A.M. Bugle call all hands out of bed.
6 A.M. Bugle Call, Monkey Drill (or morning exercising) which lasts until 6:30 A.M.
6:31 Stand by to scrub and wash clothes (or take clothes off the line)
6:50 Bugle Call for chow (or breakfast)
8:30 A.M. Assembly call. Inspection etc. Drilling etc.
10 A.M. Rest Period.
10:15 Fall in at your cots. After inspection, lecturers or drilling until 11:30 A.M.
11:50 Afternoon chow.
1:30 P.M. Assembly Call.
3:00 P.M. Rest Period.
3:30 Assembly call.
4:30 P.M. The end of the day.
4:50 P.M. Evening chow.
9:00 P.M. Bed Taps all hands in bed by 9:15 P.M.

June 8, 1918: I was transferred the Receiving Ship. Co W Morse at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

June 10, 1918: I was transferred to Ellis Island (Segregation)

June 11, 1918: I was sent in a work party to the USS Leviathan.

June 13, 1918: I was transferred to the USS Great Northern.

June 15, 1918: Left USS Great Northern for Ellis Island.

June 16, 1918: Liberty from 4 P.M. to 7:20 A.M. 17 June.

June 26, 1918: Drafted to go on the USS Mongolia.

June 27, 1918: Left for the Mongolia.

June 30, 1918: at 10:30 A.M. left Hoboken on the USS Mongolia for France.

June 30, 1918: 1:30 P.M. Very wavy, fog boat had top stop and await it’s clearing.

June 30, 1918: 2:30 P.M.: All hands ordered to put on life jackets. We are being convoyed by 4 destroyers and 2 battleships. A fleet of 12 troopships.

July 1, 1918: Was inoculated at 10:45 A.M., 1:30 abandon ship drill. 2:45 P.M. Abandon ship drill. 7:45 P.M. Abandon ship drill. 3:55 A.M. Abandon ship drill.

July 2, 1918: At 7:40 P.M. sighted submarine about 900 yards off. Destroyer opened fire and submarine submerged.

July 9, 1918: Sighted submarine at 1:45 A.M. Abandon ship drill at 2 A.M. and 4 A.M. am having a severe headache. 1:25 P.M. destroyer sighted submarine and gave chase but got out of sight. Abandon ship drill.

July 10, 1918: Abandon ship drill at [?] A.M., Lost notebook. General Inspection in P.M., 1 colored soldier 572nd Engineers died of Pneumonia.

July 15, 1918: Abandon ship drill at 3:40 A.M., Lost our convoy a fleet of 3 destroyers. Notebook found and returned to me at 9:20 A.M. by a soldier.

July 17, 1918: Abandon ship drill at 3:20 A.M., Sighted land at 6:00 A.M., Arrived at Brest, France at 7:45 P.M.

July [?] 1918: [unable to read diary] at 3:20 A.M., Had misunderstanding with Naval Ensign.

Lt. Ephriam W. Higgins

Ephriam Willis Higgins was born in Eastham, Massachusetts on January 21, 1875. He was the youngest child of Orin and Eliza Higgins of Eastham. Orin and Eliza had 8 children and in 1880 the Higgins family consisted of eldest son Joshua, Mary E., Herbert E., Edgar A., Orin W., Lizzie D., Ione E., and finally Ephriam W. All together Orin and Eliza had 13 children, five of which had not lived into childhood.

Ephriam’s father Orin was a fisherman and in 1880 he and his eldest son Joshua fished together and this is where Ephriam got his calling to the sea. As a young boy growing up in Eastham, which is Located on the lower Cape, the town is bounded on two sides by land, the other two by water, the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay, Ephriam likely would have joined his father and older brother on many fishing trips.

Ephriam’s early education came from local schools on Cape Cod but later he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

By June of 1900 the only Higgins left living in the family home was Orin and his wife Eliza and Ephriam who was now a 25-years old single man. Orin was still working as a fisherman and Ephriam worked as a farm laborer. During this time in Ephriam’s life he went by his middle name and was more commonly known as Willis Higgins.

By 1906 Ephriam had married to Linnie Burton of Boston, MA. She was born about 1881 in Canada where she immigrated to the States in 1898 and was granted citizenship in 1901. Ephriam and Linnie’s first and only child a daughter named Harriet Burton Higgins was born on March 25, 1907. During 1910 the Higgins family was living at 28 Lexington Avenue in Somerville, Massachusetts. Ephriam was working as a provisions storeowner.

As America entered into the First World War Ephriam joined the Navy. He may have already had several years at sea before the mast and was selected to become an officer in the US Navy. On May 1, 1918 Ensign Ephriam W. Higgins reported for duty aboard the USS Mongolia. She had the distinction of sinking the first German U-Boat of the war and was already a veteran of several Atlantic crossings and had seen action with the enemy at sea when Ensign Higgins reported aboard. While on the Mongolia he was advanced through the ranks from Ensign to Lieutenant Junior Grade and finally to full Lieutenant by the time he was released from the Mongolia on September 11, 1919.

Ten years later in 1920 Ephriam, Linnie and Harriet were living in a rented home located at 21 Park Place in Newton, MA. And at the time Ephriam was working as a Mate on a steamship. Like his father and oldest brother before him Ephriam was making sea life his life.

This may have taken a toll on his marriage as on the 1930 Federal Census Linnie B. Higgins is listed as living in Arlington, Massachusetts and was listed as divorced. She was living with her 23-year old daughter Harriett who was working as a Legal Secretary and at the time she was single. Ephriam was at the time a Sea Captain working for the United States Steamship Lines.

It was known that for six and a half years he was the master of the United States Lines flagship the SS Leviathan. She was a German ship that was taken over during WWI. Captain Higgins retired from active service with the United States Lines in 1941. By the time of his retirement from sea service he had completed some 150 crossings of the Atlantic.

During WWII Higgins was called to duty for his country again. Now in his middle sixties Ephriam Higgins was made Marine Superintendent of the US Army base in Boston, MA. He served in this capacity for the five years. After the war he was associated with the American Stevedore Corporation for a time. Higgins later in life was a member of the Boston Yacht Club, the Stone Horse Yacht Club in Harwichport, and the Harwhich-Dennis Rotary Club. He was a member of the Federal Lodge AF&AM in New York City.

Higgins together with Roscoe H. Prior, who was active in the Boston Port affairs, together purchased the Schooner D. J. Lawlor that had been built in 1896 in Gloucester and was the Boston Pilot boat until she was retired in 1934. It is not known when he and Prior purchased the D. J. Lawlor but in 1989 Heather E. Braging-Smith made an oil painting of the D. J. Lawlor.

During his retirement he moved back to his beloved Cape Cod area. This was the area he was born into and it would be the place he would pass away. In his obituary printed in a local newspaper it states his wife Mrs. Loretta Higgins survived him. According to this he must have re-married after his divorce from Linnie his first wife.

On March 7, 1959 Captain Ephriam W. Higgins passed away in Harwichport, Massachusetts and was buried in the Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston.


The Mongolia's War Time Passenger

Below is listed information on passengers who sailed aboard the Mongolia.


Sgt. Gamache
Sgt. George E. Gamache, Co. D, 36th Machine Gun Battalion, 74th Infantry, 12th Division. Doug Belknap contacted me about his Grandfather George E. Gamache who returned to the United States on the Mongolia after the end of WW1. George was a sergeant in Company "D" 36th Machine Gun Battalion, 74th Infantry, 12th Division stationed at Camp Devens. The 12th never made it overseas but his Grandfather did. Doug had some notes from his grandfathers plus his boarding passes for both his departure on the SS Balmoral Castle and his return trip on the USS Mongolia. Sgt. Gamache was selected to attend Officer Candidate School in England and France when the war ended. Sgt. Gamache sailed for England on 27 October 1918 aboard the SS Balmoral Castle and arrived in Liverpool and then went to Camp Knotty Ash, England. After the war he left England 12 November 1919 to Cherbourg, France. Unfortunately the next thing his grandson could document was his return on the USS Mongolia where he was assigned to compartment 4J, Berth Number 194. According to the known sailings of the Mongolia he may have sailed on the 14th of December 1918 along with the 73rd and 74th Artillery, C.A.C.

The Civilian Crew and Passengers

Beatrice Elizabeth Moore and Henry G. Moore

Cherry Tiffney shared with me that she believes her great-grandmother, Beatrice Elizabeth Moore worked on board the Mongolia, presumable after WWI. She possibly was a female purser but that's only word of mouth, so she could not be sure in what position. Beatrice left Australia, together with four of her children and settled in San Francisco. One of her sons, Henry G. Moore, was also believed to worked on board the Panama run. Henry who later lived in New York city, had something to do with the convoys during WWII. During WWII the CIA investigated him & his wife prior to this job.

Yee Hong Pon

Susan Yu shared with me that her grandfather, Yee Hong Pon who came to the United States from China in 1915 on the SS Mongolia.

Susan relates about her grandfather, "My grandfather, Yee Hong Pon came to the United States from Lo Bak San, Toisan, Canton, China in 1915 on the SS Mongolia. I did some research several years back when there was so much less information on the web. I was quite surprised and delighted to find all the additional information and pictures on the Mongolia. My grandfather's Certificate of Identity, dated November 4, 1915 states he arrived in San Francisco October 27, 1915, so this was must have been the last Pacific voyage before the Atlantic Transport Line bought the Mongolia. He went to the Pittsburgh, PA area and ran a laundry there with other Yee relatives. He went back to China in 1928 and stayed a year, then bringing back my 10 year old father, Quin Shen Yu on the SS President Madison in 1929, again landing in San Francisco and then traveling by train to Pittsburgh. When my Dad came with my granddad in 1929 they came through Angel Island. A lot of the Chinese immigrants had to go through a lot of tests and questions before being allowed in the US. Many languished there for months or years. My Dad said he had to stay there for six weeks by himself. Meanwhile my grandfather had to get a lawyer and pass some money to people to get him out. Imagine being a 10 year old kid, a long ocean voyage, by yourself in a strange place. But, what a country and what a life he was able to have here. Sadly, my grandfather died in 1934 in Pittsburgh of a carbuncle, a serious staphylococcal infection. My Dad said he refused to go to the hospital because it would have cost too much money. My Dad never saw my grandmother again, who starved to death in China in 1946. My Dad stayed in Pittsburgh, graduated from Duquesne High School and started at Carnegie Tech but went back to China as a civilian to help with the war effort working for GM on the Burma Road. He met my Mom Helen there and came back to Pittsburgh in 1944 where he graduated from Carnegie Tech and worked for US Steel for the rest on his career as a mechanical engineer. He died November 5, 2003. He was a mensch (a mensch is Yiddish. I always use it to mean someone you can look up to or aspire to be like). I never knew either of my grandparents, but I really think about them a lot and about the sacrifices my family made so I could have a better life. There were probably another million stories about the Mongolia before and after the war. That old ship had quite the history!"

Yee Hong Pon's Certificate of Identity



Photo of the Mongolia as she looked during her Panama Pacific days sometime between 1923-1929 on the New York to San Francisco, California via Havana, Cuba and the Panama Canal route.


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This page was created on 8 February, 2004 and last modified on: Fri, Mar 13, 2009

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